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Rare and endangered species, such as golden lion tamarins, Sumatran tigers, and sarus cranes, breed and raise their young – showing the success of the zoo's conservation and research programs.
The zoo's research team studies animals both in the wild and at the zoo.
By an act of Congress in 1889, for "the advancement of science and the instruction and recreation of the people" the National Zoo was created.
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.
Because it is a part of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Zoo receives federal appropriations for operating expenses.
A new master plan for the park was introduced in 2008 to upgrade the park's exhibits and layout.
Founded in 1889, its mission is to "provide engaging experiences with animals and create and share knowledge to save wildlife and habitats".