February 6, 2023

Chuck Bieler used five many years assisting direct the San Diego Zoo. Not negative for a male who walked in not recognizing a lion from a tiger.

He was there in 1972 when the Balboa Park-based zoo opened the 1,800-acre Wild Animal Park in close proximity to Escondido and a few yrs afterwards when the organization created what became one particular of the major zoo-based investigate facilities in the earth.

In the years that adopted, Bieler helped condition the masterplan changing outdated concrete grottos with bioclimatic habitats — and cajoled the correct patrons to support fund it.

Now 87, his tale is outlined in a 2022 reserve titled “Heart of the Zoo: How San Diego Zoo Director Chuck Bieler Attained his Stripes” released by the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Press.

The 314-site e book is about additional than Bieler’s zoo profession, author Kathi Diamant said in a new job interview. It is a multi-layered adore tale.

“There’s the love tale involving Chuck and his beloved (wife) Judy, and in between Chuck and practically everybody he labored with,” she mentioned. “But most vital to the good results of the San Diego Zoo was the amazing adore affair involving the Zoo and the citizens of San Diego.”

Diamant credits Bieler with major the zoo into the 21st century — a legacy she admits she did not know even with her several decades hosting the early morning talk demonstrate SunUp San Diego on KFMB-Television and later operating as a freelance writer, which bundled assignments for the zoo’s member magazine.

“As a freelance journalist in the early 1990s, I wrote a lot more than a dozen ZOONOOZ posts, totally informed of the breathtakingly positive improvements getting area inside the Zoo but I by no means understood that Chuck Bieler was the gentleman who produced them come about,” she claimed in an e-mail.
Bieler was employed in late 1969 to lead team gross sales following leaving a occupation at Basic Motors. He had no zoological background and understood minor about animals when he started off — anything that turned very clear in his initial week (and motivated the book’s title.).

Joan Embery — later on effectively acknowledged as a zoo ambassador who commonly brought animals to satisfy Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show” — was top a large cat on a leash around the zoo, and she urged Bieler to greet the animal.

Afterward, he explained to a coworker he had in no way petted a lion ahead of. “Chuck, I know you’re new at the Zoo,” his colleague replied, “but you should really know — the cats with stripes are tigers.”

Children’s Zoo attendant Mary Lieras and a pygmy goat with Chuck Bieler in entrance a bus employed to transportation people to the Wild Animal Park during the fuel disaster in 1979.

(Ron Garrison / San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance )

In 1973, Bieler turned the director overseeing the zoo and the Wild Animal Park, now identified as San Diego Zoo Safari Park. He held the job for a dozen years in advance of the board of trustees of the Zoological Society of San Diego — now acknowledged as San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance — identified as for a adjust in leadership. Doug Myers took in excess of as govt director and Bieler stayed on, finally having charge of the zoo’s improvement department, concentrating on fundraising. He helped increase hundreds of thousands for zoo priorities. Do we know why they known as for a adjust in management?

Explained Diamant: “He carried on, without the need of bitterness or resentment, in no way permitting ego cloud his watch and by performing so, Chuck has served protected the Zoo’s fiscal balance into perpetuity.”

In accordance to the ebook, Bieler proven intercontinental partnerships that eventually introduced koalas and big pandas to San Diego. He oversaw the business for the duration of complicated financial problems, particularly immediately after the zoo took on the cost of operating a 2nd facility.

“There had been occasions early on when we experienced to market some animals to meet up with the payroll,” Bieler recalled in an job interview. “Not a great deal, but 1 or two. That was in the course of the electricity disaster and just after we opened the Wild Animal Park.”

Bieler helped grow the zoo’s membership rolls, bringing a steady stream of revenue, and expanded its merchandising efforts. “People would say, Bieler, why are you constructing a gift store, we want the income for the elephants. And I explained, ‘You’re correct, but we’ve obtained to create the present shop so we get the income for the elephants.’ ”

The ebook lightly touches on the rise of animal-rights activism that emerged in the 1970s, which includes criticism leveled at the zoo pursuing animal fatalities. It explained how Bieler faced allegations of mistreatment right after a zebra died while remaining transported to Mexico in 1977 and then two a long time later following three tamarin monkeys in a breeding method died throughout a warmth wave in 1979.

In an job interview, Diamant stated no subjects have been considered off the desk as she wrote the reserve.

The position performed by Bieler’s late wife, Judy, in supporting the zoo also was highlighted. She came from a well known San Diego County household — the Goodwin family — which put down roots in nearby real estate in 1896. Her family members contacts aided open up doors. “It was form of the Chuck and Judy clearly show. So it labored out authentic effectively,” Bieler recalled in an job interview.

The few made use of the family’s Corte Madera ranch around Pine Valley to host staff members, donors and influential close friends. They wooed people, Diamant writes, “with open-pit BBQs, Bloody Mary brunches, and weekend getaways” and their hospitality in the house “proved to be a magic essential to opening crucial doorways.”

They designed near friendships with lots of of the philanthropists who went on to donate substantial sums to support zoo priorities, which includes Audrey Geisel, widow of children’s e-book writer Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel Joan Kroc, widow of McDonald’s Corp. founder Ray Kroc and Helen Whittier Woodward, whose father aided acquire Beverly Hills.

Bieler, who is even now on the zoo’s payroll functioning a single working day a 7 days in donor relations, explained he’s most very pleased of how he helped stabilize the zoo’s funds. Diamant reported his position prolonged significantly further than that — influencing the institution of professional and ethical standards at zoos all-around the state and helping change the San Diego Zoo from currently being a living museum to concentrating on conservation.

For his component, Bieler said he tremendously savored chatting with Diamant as she investigated the reserve. “To seriously consider about your lifetime, how you lived it and what you did, has been the most satisfying thing,” he mentioned.