Dr. Jake Owens.

To Save Animals

Dr. Jake Owens has been named the Zoo’s Director of Conservation, the first position in the Zoo’s history dedicated solely towards wildlife conservation. Dr. Owens joins the L.A. Zoo after spending five years in China helping save giant pandas from extinction at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.

“I am thrilled to have Dr. Jake Owens join our Zoo family as we continue to be a leader in wildlife conservation,” said Denise M. Verret, Zoo Director, Club Member. “For more than a decade, Dr. Owens has assisted in advancing the study of conservation on a wide range of animal species across the globe. It is our hope that in this new position he will lead the charge in our strategic conservation efforts, which will further our commitment to wildlife.”

The Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA) raised the funding needed to allow the L.A. Zoo to enhance and expand its conservation programs under the leadership of Dr. Owens, who has the task of creating a robust plan for the Zoo. He will also be a liaison between the Zoo and its current wildlife organization partners, develop new conservation partnerships and alliances, and assist in community engagement projects to help educate Angelenos of all ages on the work the L.A. Zoo is doing both locally and abroad to save animals from extinction.

“The Los Angeles Zoo has a deep history of conserving biodiversity,” Dr. Owens said. “Not only has the L.A. Zoo been instrumental in bringing California condors back from the brink of extinction, it has also been integral to conservation efforts of programs across the globe. I am proud to be the L.A. Zoo’s Director of Conservation and immensely excited to work with my new colleagues and members of the L.A. community to substantially increase our positive impact on the world.”

Dr. Owens previously managed the research and development of the Giant Panda Reintroduction Program at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China from 2014 to 2019. He led a comprehensive strategic plan to protect and conserve giant pandas, assisted in their captive release, successfully garnered grants and funding for research, supervised and trained a dedicated team of conservationists and researchers, and collaborated with local and government agencies to meet the program’s objectives. In 2018, Dr. Owens shared the work he has accomplished in China with the IMAX film, Pandas, narrated by celebrity animal activist Kristen Bell. The film follows a group of scientists in Southwestern China who introduce a giant panda named Qian Qian (Chen-Chen), a cub born in captivity, into a groundbreaking reintroduction program.

Dr. Owens has a wealth of accomplishments under his belt, including advanced research on a wide range of species across five continents. He received a bachelor of science degree in biology with a minor in business from Stockton University in New Jersey and a Ph.D. in environmental sciences from Drexel University in Pennsylvania. Between 2009 and 2018, Dr. Owens received several awards and grants from Primate Conservation Inc. for field research on the Bioko Island drills, a dissertation fellowship grant from Drexel University, and two postdoctoral fellowship research awards from the Global Cause Foundation.

Dr. Owens serves on the International Union for Conservation (IUCN)’s Species Survival Commission – Reintroduction Specialist Group, and is a founding member of the IUCN’s Species Survival Commission – Reintroduction Specialist Group Human-Wildlife Interactions Working Group.

In this new role, Dr. Owens will coordinate the Zoo’s conservation programs in a coordinated and intentional manner, leveraging these efforts for success and opening the eyes of Angelenos to the important work the L.A. Zoo is doing on behalf of the community. “This is a particularly exciting time to join the team with the appointments of new Zoo Director, Denise M. Verret, and GLAZA President, Tom Jacobson, and the development of a sweeping new vision plan for the Zoo that emphasizes animal welfare and conservation,” Dr. Owens said. “We are positioned to evolve into a premiere institution for global biodiversity conservation, and, with the support of this great city, I am confident that we will.”