SCHROEDER, Charles Robbins

From Islapedia

SCHROEDER, Charles Robbins (1901-1991), New York born wildlife zoologist and zoo administrator. Schroeder earned his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine in 1929 from Washington State University. He launched his veterinary career with Lederle Laboratories in Pearl Island, New York, by developing various antibiotics and vaccines. In 1932, Schroeder was hired by the San Diego Zoo as a pathologist. By the time he left the zoo five years later, he had grafted the role of zoo veterinarian to that of pathologist and also assumed the responsibilities of "bacteriologist, virologist, serologist, grounds manager, clinician, research director, forage buyer, and poultry pathologist for the county. he assumed the position of veterinarian of the New York Zoological Society (popularly known as the Bronx Zoo) in 1937.

Lured back to the San Diego Zoo in 1939 by zoo founder Dr. Harry Wegeforth, Schroeder remained at the zoo for only two years when, owing to economic reasons, he returned to Lederle Laboratories. He became Lederle's production manager until 1953 when he left that position to assume the directorship of the San Diego Zoo, a position he would hold until his retirement in 1972.

Schroeder published popular and scholarly scientific papers, and served as the presidents of the San Diego Natural History Association, the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums, and the International Union of Directors of Zoological Gardens. He died at age 89.

Mister Zoo: The Life and Legacy of of Dr. Charles Schroeder, The World-Famous San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park's Legendary Director by Douglas G. Myers with Lynda Rutledge Stephenson, San Diego: San Diego Zoological Society, 1999.

Island Collections~
Santa Catalina Island C. R. Schroeder SDNHM May 20, 1937 SDNHM-26934 Crotalus viridis Herps
Santa Catalina Island C. R. Schroeder SDNHM May 20, 1937 SDNHM-26935 Crotalus viridis Herps

In the News~

March 22, 1991 [LAT]: “Dr. Charles Schroeder, the father of the San Diego Wild Animal Park and renowned throughout the international zoo community, died Thursday from complications associated with cancer of the liver. He was 89. Schroeder, a longtime Escondido resident who lived in a rambling ranch house not far from the park, had held several positions with the San Diego Zoological Society since he became the zoo veterinarian in 1932. He was remembered Thursday as a tireless professional who combined hard work with a willingness to speak his mind — even when it wasn't popular.

"Dr. Schroeder is a true legend in San Diego and in the zoo community worldwide," said Douglas Myers, executive director of the San Diego Zoological Society, which encompasses the Wild Animal Park and the zoo. "His cheerfulness and boundless energy inspired many and accomplished great things. . . . He was a wonderful person to know, dearly loved here, and will be dearly missed."

During the late 1950s, when directors around the country were looking for ways to improve, their zoos, Schroeder had a wild idea: developing a huge animal farm — a "country zoo"— where rare and endangered animals could have space to stretch their legs and, ideally, to breed. His own board of directors scoffed at the notion, saying it would cost too much. Some directors threatened to fire him if he didn't shelve the project. But Schroeder persisted, and, in 1972, the 1,800-acre park in the San Pasqual Valley opened its doors. The San Diego Zoo also benefitted from Schroeder's talents — especially his business sense. It was Schroeder who chose Joan Embery to be the zoo's ambassador, a public relations move that won the zoo much attention when she appeared regularly on national television. He also led the movement to replace the bars surrounding the zoo's exhibits with moats.

"The San Diego Zoo as we know it and the San Diego Wild Animal Park are Dr. Schroeder's legacy," Myers said Thursday.”