Maunder heads east

Mike MaunderMike Maunder, well known to many of you as executive director of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, is to become director of botany and landscapes for the new $1 billion, 2,000 acre Al Ain Wildlife Park in Abu Dhabi.

The new wildlife park will contain botanic gardens, wildlife exhibits, safaris, hotels and shopping, with the first part to be completed in 2010. The world renowned San Diego Zoo signed an agreement with the Abu Dhabi government in May to help create the park.

Maunder will coordinate the distinct desert ecosystems, including the native plants and animals, from the United Arab Emirates, Arabia, Africa, Asia, Australia and America.

Maunder joined Fairchild as director of research in 2003 and was named executive director a year later. Before that he had worked at the National Tropical Botanic Garden in Hawaii and for 18 years at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew following a doctorate in conservation genetics.

In four years as executive director, Maunder has extended Fairchild's reach around the world. His research team has made expeditions to Cockpit Country in Jamaica discovering new species and rediscovering some thought to be extinct. The garden also has a staff member in East Africa, a cooperative program in Madagascar and Mike has sat on IUCN panels selecting plants for endangered status. Exhibits at Fairchild directly relate to this important work on the ground.

Mike's thoughts on the future and importance of botanic gardens were published in the October issue of Nature, where he wrote, "during the past 20 years, botanic gardens have found a vibrant sense of mission as translators of environmental science to millions of people of all ages".