Horticulture Goes to New Guinea
In 1985, staff members from the San Diego Zoo Horticulture Department were invited by the Office of Environment and Conservation in Papua New Guinea to take part in a unique wildlife salvage project to collect plant species, especially rare orchids, that were in danger of extinction. Deforestation by lumber and mining interests using slash-and-burn techniques, coupled by increasing habitat loss to ranches and farms, was taking a severe toll on the wildlife of the area, much of which was only found in those locations. In conjunction with staff from the New York Zoological Society and representatives from U.S. government agencies, the Zoological Society of San Diego was given permission and permits to evaluate the selected areas and to salvage and collect plants to take back to San Diego and propagate at the Zoo, in order to prevent the extinction of little studied or even unknown species. It was an exciting—although also grueling, backbreaking, and at times anxious—expedition that brought back many rare species, and it would turn out to be the first of several to save as much as possible in these areas before they were wiped out for good.