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Michael Dee always had an interest in reptiles. During his youth, he spent a majority of his spare time in the hills of Orange County looking for herps. Unfortunately, those great areas have since been destroyed to make way for malls and houses, an all too common occurrence.

Dee started working at the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens shortly after his 19th birthday it had only been open for 10 months at that time. Though he did not work with reptiles, he worked with an extensive variety of mammals and birds. Among the rare animals he worked with were four out of five species of rhinoceros as well as Giant Pandas and California Condors. His dedication to the care of the animals at the zoo was unparalleled. His work at the zoo allowed him to travel and be involved with a number of conservation programs. In 2008, he retired as General Curator from the zoo, though he continued to work with the zoo after retirement. In addition to his work at the zoo he was a board member of both the International Rhino Foundation, Bighorn Institute, and Herpetological Conservation International.

To honor Michael and his contributions to conservation and education The Michael Dee Conservation Grant funds select conservation, education, and research projects in line with HCI's mission statement.

The Michael Dee Conservation Grant