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Although some zoo animals had been breeding and raising young, it was not understood why some species did so successfully while others did not.In 1965, the zoo created the zoological research division to study the reproduction, behavior, and ecology of zoo species, and to learn how best to meet the needs of the animals.In 1975, the zoo established the Conservation and Research Center (CRC).

Congressional funding placed the zoo on a firmer financial base, allowing for a period of growth and improvement.Founded in 1889, its mission is to "provide engaging experiences with animals and create and share knowledge to save wildlife and habitats".The other campus is the 3,200-acre (1,300 ha) Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI; formerly known as the Conservation and Research Center) in Front Royal, Virginia.In 2006, Congress approved an additional 14.6 million dollars for renovations in both facilities.FONZ incorporated as a nonprofit organization and turned its attention to developing education and volunteer programs, supporting these efforts from its operation of concessions at the zoo, and expanding community support for the zoo through a growing membership In the early 1960s, the zoo turned its attention to breeding and studying threatened and endangered species.

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