Susan A. Mainka

05 March 2012 | Article

 It is with great sadness we report the passing of Dr. Susan Mainka. Susan graduated from Ontario Veterinary College in 1980, and worked in companion animal practice with special interest in exotic animals at Associate Veterinary Clinics in Calgary. Sue accepted employment at the Calgary Zoo in 1980s and1990s, eventually becoming lead veterinarian.

Along with her regular duties, she was involved in the design of the new zoo hospital, and was instrumental in the arrival and care of pandas during the 1988 Winter Olympics. Dr. Mainka receive her American College of Zoological Medicine accreditation in 1991. Mandarin was added to her list of languages spoken.

Sue’s career then changed focus to wildlife conservation. In 1993, Sue accepted a three year position with World Wildlife Fund in Wolong Reserve near Chengdu, China ,advising and assisting staff with panda survival and conservation issues. These were interesting times: isolation, a new diet, a new culture, a female in a position of authority,Tiananmen Square, pollution, rising environmental awareness and rapid industrialization.

Sue was appointed as WWF China Program Coordinator with duties involving panda conservation, tropical rainforest conservation and agroforestry in Xishuangbanna, wetlands conservation, Yangtse dolphins,conservation education in China, liason with government officials within and outside China., From 1994, Dr, Mainka also served as a conservation consultant commissioned by such organizations as the European Commission, WWF China Programme, TRAFFIC International, and TRAFFIC East Asia, travelling to Central China, Bhutan, Hong Kong,,and Vietnam.

Dr. Mainka joined International Union for Conservation of Nature ( IUCN) headquartered in Geneva in 1997 as Deputy Coordinator of the Species Programme becoming Coordinator in 2001. In 2004, she transferred to the Global Programme Team as one of three Senior Programme Coordinators. In 2009, Sue was promoted to the position of Head – Science and Knowledge Management in the Policy, Programme and Capacity Development Group. Her specific areas of responsibility were to promote science generation; learning, sharing and knowledge dissemination; ensure science quality; and serve as IUCN's science champion and facilitator. Tributes to Sue’s influence in wildlife conservation can be found on the ICUN website.

The abrupt appearance of intestinal cancer brought five months of therapies, and an encouraging remission by Christmas, sadly followed by a relapse in January. Sue faced her struggle with cancer with the same determination, spirit and attitude that she used in all her endeavors, but passed away February 12, 2012.

All those fortunate to have known and worked with Sue will attest to her humble demeanor, engaging personality, and wry sense of humor. Sue’s wealth of experience, knowledge, her unique charm, and love for spirited discussion made her a most welcome guest and earned her an army of friends. She will be deeply missed.

Gerry Olynyk.