U.S./China Environmental Education Exchange
Day 13: Washington D.C.
The last day of the exchange trip. There have been so many adventures, there is some sadness in its closure.
However, this day proved to be one of the best on the trip. Dr. Rebecca Spindler of the Smithsonian's Conservation and Research Center (CRC) took the group on a private tour of the National Zoo and the Center where she works.
At the zoo, the group was priviledged to receive a behind-the-scenes tour of the new exhibit where the Chinese pandas will be housed. This exhibit is not open to the public, and there was lively discussion about the care of the pandas and their habitat.
After a tour through the rest of the zoo, the group drove out to the Conservation and Research Center (CRC) where they study endangered species and try to reproduce the animals and then re-introduce them into the wild.
Jennifer Buff, an educator at the CRC, took the group on a "safari" to see the animals that are being studied there. This was a special treat as the CRC is only open to the public two days a year.
Dr. Spindler's specialty is embryotic and hormonal studies of many different species of animals. To increase the populations, they first try to get the animals to mate naturally. They do this by studying the feces and urine for hormonal cycles and stress. Many times, modifying the environment to reduce stress is enough to allow the animals to mate.
If this does not work, they study the sperm and eggs of the male and female animals. If possible, they next try artificial insemination, which is the least intrusive method. Finally, they will attempt invitro insemination. In both cases, they have developed new techniques for identifying good sperm and eggs and for performing the surgeries on small animals with minimal impact.
The day concluded with a final banquet at the Bleu River Inn, a quaint country restaurant. There were many toasts, thanks, photos, and gifts exchanged. It was a heart-warming and reflective tribute to the entire trip.
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