David O’Connor, M.S.


David O’Connor serves San Diego Zoo Global as a Researcher in Population Sustainability. In this role, he works with local partners in developing applied community-led conservation and research programs with numerous collaborators around the world. This approach produces sustainable initiatives that benefit local people, livestock, and wildlife and allow for co-existence into the future.

David’s research focuses on understand human-wildlife-livestock interactions in an effort to inform and develop conservation programs, primarily in developing nations. He founded and leads our Twiga Walinzi (Giraffe Guards) reticulated giraffe conservation program with pastoralists in northern Kenya. David is also involved in our conservation programs with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, Smithsonian Institution, The Nature Conservancy, Northern Rangelands Trust, Reteti Elephant Rescue Center, Sera Black Rhino Sanctuary, Ishaqbini Hirola Sanctuary, Lewa Conservancy, and Loisaba Conservancy, as well as our leopard conservation program. In southeast Asia, David works with the Community Engagement team and in-country collaborators on combatting the trade in bears and bear parts, saiga horn, and tiger parts in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, and on research to explore whether it is possible to reintroduce former working elephants back to the wild in Myanmar. Lastly, David assists collaborators in Uzbekistan and southern Russia on conservation efforts for the critically endangered saiga.

David earned his bachelor’s degree in Zoology and Earth Science from University College Cork, Ireland, his graduate diploma in Business Studies from the Smurfit Graduate School of Business at University College, Dublin, and his master’s degree in Conservation Biology from the University of Michigan. He is currently pursuing his doctorate at Senckenberg Biodiversity & Climate Research Centre and Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. David is also a consultant researcher for National Geographic Magazine, and a member of the IUCN Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group and the IUCN Bear Specialist Group.