Survived by her Family and the Tamarin

Devra G. Kleiman (1942-2010) at National Zoo with Golden Lion Tamarins at National Zoo (NY Times Photo)

People Not Avatars

Examples, models and real-people, not avatars, present themselves as historic figures upon whose narratives we should integrate into our lives.  Dr. Devra G. Kleiman, who died this week, transformed zoo culture and assisted sentient beings in replenishing their species.  As Livy remarked:  “She is a model to emulate.”

Kleiman’s Procedures Relevant to American West

My blog, Sage to Meadow, focuses on the American West, mainly Trans-Mississippi West, and I worry everyday about the destruction and attenuation of not only sentient creatures, but also the sagebrush and native grassland.  Dr. Kleiman represents the scientific and emotionally best in us, Homo sapiens sapiens.  Her procedures–careful study, legal applications, conservation–can be applied anywhere in the biological environs of this planet, be it the Central Plains or the National Zoo.  Her work must be carried on by us and young men and women coming of age.  Writ small, it might be the feed you distribute occasionally to the mountain quail in Taos or establishing wildlife corridor for deer in Texas.  The caretaking of dogs and cats as Caralee Woods and Jimmy Henley in Kanab, Utah, reflect Kleiman’s outlook upon the wider biological kingdoms.  Writ large, it would be the slowing down or elimination of paved parking lots and strip malls: the culture of overconsumption.

Devra G. Keiman (1942-2010) Biologist Whose Work Transformed Zoos

Dr. Devra Kleiman worked successfully for decades to re-flourish the populations of the Gold Lion Tamarin and Giant Panda.  Her research and field crews impelled the culture of exhibition zoo-dom to restructure their entertainment and captivity culture “to concerted, scientifically informed conservation.”

Dr. Kleiman, in her work with the tamarin, persuaded zoos to give up title to the tamarin in return for the designation of  “a long-term loan from Brazil,” allowing zoo tamarins to be shuffled about the world for diverse breeding.  Her work became the paradigm for 100 breeding programs for endangered species, including the California condor and the black-footed ferret.

In 1972, when China presented the United States with two pandas, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, Dr. Kleiman and her research team begain to study the panda, holistically (social, sexual, gastronomic) in a 24-hour observation log.  Not until 2005, thirty-three years later, did the pandas produce offspring and only by artificial insemination.   The first offspring, a male by the name of Tai Shan, was later sent to China.

Please note the by whom she is survived in the quote,

Dr. Kleiman’s first marriage, to John Eisenberg, ended in divorce. Besides her husband, Mr. Yeomans, whom she married in 1988, she is survived by her mother, Molly Kleiman; a brother, Charles; three stepdaughters, Elise Edie, Joanna Domes and Lucy Yeomans; and four grandchildren.

She is also survived by the heirs of her scientific labors. When Dr. Kleiman began her work with golden lion tamarins, there were fewer than 200 alive anywhere; today, according to the National Zoo, about 1,500 live in the Brazilian wild.

Tai Shan, now almost 5, has lived since February at the Bifengxia Panda Base in China’s Sichuan Province.

I like that paragraph, “survived by the heirs of scientific labors.”  Give us legions of men and women like Dr. Kleiman.

Devra G. Kleiman, 67, Biologist Whose Work Transformed Zoos – Biography –



Filed under Life in Balance

3 responses to “Survived by her Family and the Tamarin

  1. Jack, a nice testament to a remarkable person. Yes, a good paragraph about her “survivors.” To increase so dramatically the numbers of golden lion tamarins in the world is a wonderful legacy in itself. It gave me goosebumps. Very fine post.

  2. Kittie Howard

    I finally have the free time to devote to your blog, Jack, and, as always, I’m in awe of your posts. There is so much to learn (which is why I need the time to zone out and zone in)). Minutes ago I learned about border-type fences now on ranches (and felt my blood rise), only to read about Dr. Kleiman and feel warm fuzzies about the good people do. And, you were very wise, Jack, to include the middle ground, what the ‘little’ people can do, for we’re humanity’s largest slice. Still, everyone needs someone to look up to. The work Dr. Kleiman did was monumental. Her heirs are magnificent. Truly, she was/is our angel.

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