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Category — Conservation

Parades, Painting and Protecting Penguins in the Wild

Penguins, Penguins, Penguins! Here at the Zoo, we celebrate our sea-faring feathered friends every day. We care for and display five species of penguins – little penguin, Magellanic penguin, rockhopper penguin, African penguin and king penguin. You can see them in the Children’s Zoo and the Wings of the World bird house, and even in the summer Wings of Wonder Bird Show.

Penguin Days at the Zoo

Throughout January and February, it’s Penguin Days at the Zoo. In addition to half-price Zoo admission, we invite guests to march with our king penguins during daily Penguin Parades. Waddle with our kings and their keepers from the Wings of the World building to the outdoor exhibit in Children’s Zoo at 11:00am and then back to the building at 2:30pm.

The best parade in town! (Photo: Mark Dumont)

The best parade in town! (Photo: Mark Dumont)

 

What’s Black and White and Red All Over?

One of our talented penguin artists creating a one-of-a-kind canvas painting for you to take home and enjoy! Offered March through October, our VIPenguin Experience is the perfect gift for your favorite penguin lover. You’ll even get to join our penguin keepers in the Wings of the World bird house to prepare and hand-feed meals to the penguins on exhibit. Register here.

Guests enjoying a VIPenguin Experience

Guests enjoying a VIPenguin Experience

Giving Penguin Chicks a Chance

Funds raised by the VIP Penguin Experience and our Saving Species program help save African penguins through the support of SANCCOB (the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds). SANCCOB is a leading marine non-profit organization which has treated more than 90 000 oiled, ill, injured or abandoned endangered African penguins and other threatened seabirds since being established in 1968.

African penguin (Photo: SANCOBB)

African penguin (Photo: SANCOBB)

Every year between October and January, hundreds of small fluffy African penguin chicks are abandoned by their parents when they start their annual moult. During this time, the parents replace their old, worn-out feathers with a brand new set of waterproof feathers and are unable to hunt for fish and feed their young during the three to four week moulting process. As a result, the chicks that have yet to fledge are abandoned and face starvation unless SANCCOB and its conservation partners intervene.

African penguin chick (Photo: SANCOBB)

African penguin chick (Photo: SANCOBB)

This year, a total of 570 abandoned African penguin chicks have been rescued from the penguin colonies and admitted to SANCCOB’s seabird rehabilitation centres. The chicks spend between 6 to 12 weeks undergoing careful rehabilitation. Once they are at a fledging age, the correct weight, healthy and their feathers are waterproof, they receive the final nod of approval from the veterinary team and get released back into the wild. SANCCOB hopes to successfully rehabilitate and release the last of this year’s chicks in the next three to four weeks.

African penguins (Photo: SANCOBB)

African penguins (Photo: SANCOBB)

With less than 2% of the original African penguin population remaining, the hand-rearing of ill and abandoned chicks is a crucial conservation intervention to help bolster the wild population.

Just by coming to the Zoo and participating in our special experiences, you are helping us save penguins across the globe!

 

January 20, 2015   No Comments

CREW Works to Enhance Fertility in White Rhinos

White rhino with calf (Photo: James Temple)

White rhino with calf (Photo: James Temple)


In September, the Zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research (CREW) was awarded a National Leadership Grant from the Institution of Museum and Library Services in support of a Rhino Assisted Reproduction Enterprise (RARE) initiative for Indian rhinos and African white rhinos. Dr. Monica Stoops will be the Project Director for the grant work and will be working in partnership with Dr. Justine O’Brien from the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Reproductive Research Center (SWBGRRC), which includes a state-of-the-art sperm sorting and cryopreservation laboratory.  CREW will undertake the project to expand access and build capacity for African and Asian rhino reproductive care within North American zoological facilities. Eight zoos have committed to building a Rhino Assisted Reproduction Enterprise (RARE) in collaboration with CREW.  This project will help 1) contribute to the genetic management and propagation of captive Indian rhinos through artificial insemination (AI); 2) enhance southern white rhino fertility through exogenous hormone administration prior to natural breeding or AI; 3) build upon national rhino gamete rescue centers at CREW and SWBGRRC; and 4) provide collaborating facilities with individualized training and/or support in rhino assisted reproductive technology (exogenous hormone protocols, ultrasonography, endocrine analysis, AI, and sperm collection, sorting and cryopreservation).

One part of the proposed research will be to continue and expand upon a preliminary CREW investigation conducted to develop an exogenous hormone protocol to initiate reproductive activity in previously acyclic southern white rhinos. The African white rhino remains the most popular rhino species held in U.S. zoos (although we do not currently house them here in Cincinnati). Although captive breeding has been successful and a sufficient number of calves are being produced to consistently maintain the population, the proportion of breeding recommendations resulting in offspring is quite low. It is estimated that <30% of all wild born and <20% of captive born African white rhinos have reproduced in captivity. These numbers reflect a major impediment to achieving a sustainable captive breeding program for this species.

White rhino with calf at one of the partnering institutions, Lowry Park Zoo (Photo: Matthew Paulson)

White rhino with calf at one of the partnering institutions, Lowry Park Zoo (Photo: Matthew Paulson)

A primary reason for the low reproductive rate is that a vast majority of females display long periods of acyclicity. Significant progress has been made in initiating reproductive activity in acyclic white rhinos in Europe using exogenous hormones. However, many drugs used overseas are not commercially available in the United States. Therefore, it became necessary
to develop novel hormone protocols using U.S. drugs to similarly promote a resumption in reproductive activity for acyclic white rhinos.

CREW scientists, in partnership with several North American zoos, embarked on a preliminary exogenous hormone trial in which four acyclic female white rhinos were treated. Females responded by growing preovulatory follicles, but did not stand for breeding by a male and required an additional hormone to ovulate. This initial hormone protocol may be adequate should artificial insemination be performed, but CREW scientists and partner zoos are working to develop an alternative hormone protocol that will result in natural mating so that more individual rhinos and institutions will benefit. By enhancing the fertility of captive African white rhinos, CREW is helping to ensure the sustainability of this rhino population.

 

January 14, 2015   1 Comment

Dog Log: Puppies, Puppies and More Puppies!

A very pregnant Imara

A very pregnant Imara with mate Brahma

It’s official folks! Our pair of African painted dogs, Imara and Brahma, are now a pack! Early on Monday, January 5, keepers observed Imara having contractions. Eight minutes later, the first pup was born and the new mama didn’t stop until almost 10pm that night. Normal time intervals between each birth are 30-90 minutes and Imara followed that almost exactly.

Two-year-old Imara came to Cincinnati this past summer from the Oglebay Good Zoo in Wheeling, West Virginia and eight-year-old Brahma, came to us from Zoo New England in Boston. The first time parents have done an exceptional job taking care of all the little ones. It’s a bit of a surprise considering neither of our dogs had a “traditional” upbringing.  Imara was hand reared when her mother didn’t take care of her litter and Brahma had spent the majority of his life with just his 2 brothers.

Brahma entering the box

Brahma enters the den to check on Imara and pups

We are ecstatic that these 2 dogs have taken to parenthood so quickly and easily. Captive African painted dog females aren’t necessarily well known for being the best mothers, but when they do what they are supposed to, they are phenomenal parents. What’s even more special is that although the males will help in varying degrees, for example guarding the nest box and bringing the female food, Brahma went above and beyond what would be considered typical male behavior. He actually groomed almost every single puppy as Imara delivered them and aided her with the removal of the placenta (which normally the females handle all by themselves).

I must admit, when we introduced Imara and Brahma, it was so anticlimactic that I wondered if they would just be buddies. You could tell that they would get along fine, but Brahma was way more into Imara than she was into him. Just because you put a male and female together, it doesn’t guarantee they will breed. In the wild, the alpha female will choose a mate, giving him breeding rights and alpha male status within the pack. In captivity, the females don’t always have the option. However, it is very clear that these 2 dogs were meant to be parents. And fantastic parents at that!

We still have a long road ahead of us. The first couple of months are the most critical. African painted dogs are a sensitive and somewhat fragile species, but if the last few days are any indication, this litter will help increase the number of dogs in the captive population and also increase their genetic diversity. At this time, when captive African painted dog numbers (in North America) are low, every dog counts. These puppies will grow up to be ambassadors to their wild counterparts and will hopefully inspire people to help save this endangered species. For now, we will enjoy the dog pile, or in this case “squirming puppy pile”, as they continue to grow and learn from Imara and Brahma how to be the charismatic African painted dogs they were meant to be!

Imara and pups

Imara and pups

January 12, 2015   7 Comments