George Mason University

News at Mason

Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation Autumn Conservation Festival Oct. 5-6

September 26, 2013

A clouded leopard at the SBCI. Photo by Evan Cantwell

A clouded leopard at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. Photo by Evan Cantwell

Please note: due to the government shutdown, the festival will be postponed.

The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, Virginia, is opening its doors during the Autumn Conservation Festival on Oct. 5-6 to give visitors a chance to see endangered and rare animals, meet the animal keepers, and discuss ongoing research.

SCBI keepers and researchers display their work and current research around the property in tents, allowing for both children and adults to talk directly with the scientists. Inside the veterinary hospital, a cute stuffed animal lies on an operating table, and visitors are encouraged to use the very tools that staff use on real animals in order to retrieve a piece of candy from the stuffed animal’s stomach, while monitors in the background show video recordings of real surgical procedures conducted at the facility.

Since fall 2008, George Mason University has had a partnership with SCBI running semester-long undergraduate programs along with graduate and professional lecture series yearly. Visitors can tour the new Gold LEED-certified facility that makes up the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation’s academic center and dining commons, G.T. Halpin Family Learning and Living Community.

SCBI is located on a 3,200-acre parcel of land that was used in the early 1900s by the U.S. Army as a base for its cavalry, supplying horses and mules to military units. In 1974, the director of the National Zoo recognized the need for a captive breeding program and research facility and developed the Conservation Research Center. Today, the SCBI is known for the successful reproduction and reintroduction of the black-footed ferret into North America after the last 18 surviving ferrets were removed from the wild in 1987. Other at-risk species located at SCBI include the red panda, clouded leopard, cheetah, Przewalski’s horse, and many more mammal, bird, amphibian, and reptile species.

The event is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days. Food options will be available, and local musicians will perform. Parking is limited. To reserve a parking permit—$30 per carload of six people—please visit to purchase tickets or email Lisa Des Jardins in Mason’s Office of Admissions at