Leader instrumental in conservation role of U.S. zoos receives prestigious award


Charles Bieler, the man who served as executive director of the Zoological Society of San Diego (now San Diego Zoo Global) for 12 years and set the stage for a new-century approach to conservation, was awarded the Conservation Medal Advocate award at a ceremony held Aug. 7 at the Hotel Sheraton and Marina. Bieler was recognized in a ceremony replete with zoo aficionados and experts, including Joan Embery and a host of others.

During Bieler’s tenure with the organization, the Zoological Society of San Diego took a leadership role in conservation; in partnership with noted scientist Kurt Benirschke, Ph.D., he founded the Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species (now the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research). Bieler was also instrumental in starting the San Diego Zoo’s koala population, and he set the stage for ground-breaking conservation efforts with California condors and pandas.

Bieler served as executive director of the Zoological Society of San Diego from 1973 until 1985. After 1985, he continued his work to support the organization, meeting with influential people in San Diego and developing a network of support for its continued efforts.

The San Diego Zoo Global Conservation Medal has a long history of recognizing significant efforts to protect endangered species and their habitats. In past years, the Zoo has honored Betty White, Joan Embery, Jane Goodall, George Schaller, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and E.O. Wilson.

Photos by Vincent Andrunas.