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Monday, Dec 4, 2023

TOURISM–Zoo Accepts $7.5M Grant for Endangered Species Center

Facility to Open at Wild Animal Park Tentatively by 2003

The Zoological Society of San Diego recently received the largest grant in its 83-year history, officials said.

The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation donated $7.5 million to the zoological society last month toward a new $20 million Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species.

The new facility will be built at the society’s San Diego Wild Animal Park. The society also operates the San Diego Zoo, where the current CRES facility is located.

The Irvine-based Beckman Foundation agreed to give $5 million in cash and an additional $2.5 million that must be matched within a year by other donors.

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The Zoo has agreed to match the $10 million with its own reserve funds, said Dr. Alan Dixson, who joined the zoological society last fall to lead CRES.

Dixson expects the center to open by the end of 2003. Planners are still deciding whether whether the new facility will have a viewing area for the public to watch scientists at work. It will be named for Dr. Arnold Beckman and his late wife.

The Beckman Foundation was established in 1977. Beckman, an inventor of medical and scientific equipment, founded and remains chairman emeritus of Beckman Instruments, Inc. in Irvine.

Beckman’s interest in CRES was spurred about three years ago, when he took a photo caravan tour at the Wild Animal Park, said Judy Kinsell, associate director of development for the zoological society.

Beckman had been approached about donating to the park’s new $15 million veterinary medical center, which was being built at the time and is expected to open next year. Beckman asked to see the Zoo. He and his family became particularly intrigued with CRES, Kinsell said.

“They just thought it was a well-kept secret that needed to be given more publicity,” she said.

The process illustrates what usually takes place before a large-scale donation is offered, said Charles Bieler, the zoological society’s director of development and executive director, emeritus.

“You first establish a relationship and get to know the people, bring them in, and introduce them to the different things you’re doing, and try and find a mutual interest and work towards those interests,” Bieler said.

The same was done for foundation gifts and individual gifts for the Wild Animal Park hospital, he said.

“We got to know them and introduced them to the hospital, brought them in and showed them the need and kind of allowed them to search out their area of interest,” Bieler said. “It’s been typical of our fund-raising strategies.”

Before the Beckman Foundation’s gift, the largest grant was $6 million given by local residents Victor and Lottie Lundy in 1993. The Lundy donation went toward the Heart of Africa exhibit at the Wild Animal Park, Bieler said.

For now, with the new CRES building being planned, Dixson and his department have been visiting other facilities, he said. So far, they have visited laboratories in Southern California.

Dixson wants to take a modern approach with the new center’s design, he said.

He envisions open lab space, rather than each of the center’s eight divisions set off from each other. Allowing the scientists to interact is important, Dixson said.


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