Dr. Rebecca Snyder Cares for Pandas
The Carroll Daily Times Herald, July 10, 2006
Snyder Oversees Panda Care, Study
many people, giant pandas are creatures of wonder and amusement.
Each year, thousands of people flock to zoos for a closer look
and to learn more about the charming animals with the distinctive
For Doctor Rebecca Snyder, spending time with and
learning about the endangered pandas is something she does on
a daily basis.
The Breda native is a daughter of Clair and Myrna
[Boes] Snyder [second great granddaughter of Gerhard and Maria
Anna (Nieland) Boes]. She is a 1987 graduate of Kuemper Catholic
High School and a 1991 graduate of Iowa State University with
a bachelor of science degree in zoology.
"I went into the program at Iowa State because
I wanted to do something with animals," she said. "I
took a class in animal behavior and decided to do that."
Snyder later went on to earn her master of science
and doctorate degrees in psychology from Georgia Institute of
Technology in Atlanta.
She began working as a research associate at Zoo
Atlanta in 2000. As a doctoral student, Snyder was interviewed
by national media, including the "Today" show, when
the pandas arrived at the zoo from China. In 2001, Snyder became
a full-time employee.
She is now curator of giant panda research and management
at the zoo, The facility has two pandas, 8-year-olds Lun Lun (pronounced
loon loon) and Yang Yang (pronounced yahng yahng). The pandas
are on loan from China, and as part of an agreement between the
two, Zoo Atlanta pays China approximately $1.1 million per year
for conservation of the wild panda habitat there.
In her job, Snyder oversees three full-time panda
keepers and makes decisions regarding the charismatic creatures
such as diet, exhibits and breeding season.
In addition, Snyder oversees research on giant pandas.
At the present time, she is involved in maternal behavior research
on the pandas at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. Much of the
behavioral research on pandas is conducted in China.
Snyder said one unique thing about pandas has to
do with their biology. Although they are considered to be a kind
of bear and a carnivore, they live on a herbivore's diet, eating
mainly bamboo. According to information provided by the zoo, Lun
Lun and Yang Yang munch on bamboo between 10 and 16 hours per
day. This equals 220 pounds per day.
pandas may live to be 18 to 20 years old in the wild but can live
to be over 30 years old in captivity. Both Lun Lun and Yang Yang
were born in captivity.
Zoo Atlanta is one of four zoos in the nation to
have giant pandas. Other zoos include the National Zoo in Washington
D.C., San Diego Zoo and Memphis Zoo.
Although Lun Lun and Yang Yang haven't had any cubs,
Snyder said, zoo officials are hopeful that the female might be
pregnant now, but they don't know for sure.
In addition to her work at the zoo, Snyder
found love there. She and Dwight Lawson married Oct. 8 2005, at
Swan Lake State Park. Lawson is the vice president of animal programs
and science at Zoo Atlanta.
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