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Category — CREW

We Love our Volunteers

Clara Madge Thane

Clara Madge Thane

This year marks the 40th anniversary of National Volunteer Week and is also the 40th year that two dedicated ladies by the names of Madge Van Buskirk and Clara Dantic have volunteered at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.  Volunteers are an essential part of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden team and these two ladies demonstrate the enduring importance of recognizing our volunteers for their vital contributions.

Madge with gorilla baby 70's

Madge with gorilla baby 70′s

Madge and Clara were fundamental in establishing the Zoo Volunteer Observer (ZVO’s) program that is still in existence at the Zoo today.  They coordinate a team of 50 individuals to conduct birth and behavioral watches as needed for animals in our collection. They have been busy lately scheduling ZVO’s for the giraffe birth watch and polar bear reproductive behavior watch.  The inception of this program began in 1974 to help ensure the safety of gorilla moms and babies.  The fruits of their labor can be seen today in the many offspring that have been successfully born at our Zoo- including a bonobo named ‘Clara’ who still resides at our Zoo and a gorilla named ‘Madge’ who now is living at the Dallas Zoo.

If you don’t find Madge and Clara at the Zoo, you will be sure to find at the ball park- they attend every home game for the Cincinnati Reds!

To all our Zoo volunteers, a big THANK YOU for everything you do to help make us successful!

April 10, 2014   3 Comments

Breeding North American River Otters

north_american_river_otter_ faceCharismatic and curious North American river otters are so much fun to watch, but to get them to breed? That’s a whole lot trickier! North American river otters, as their name would suggest, live as far south as the Florida everglades, throughout most of the lower 48 states all the way north to the sub-arctic regions of US (Alaska) and Canada.  For these otters, when to breed and give birth needs to be timed so the pups are born when it’s not too cold and there are plenty of resources for mom and pup(s) to thrive.  Basically, otters in the south give birth and breed much earlier in the season than otters living further north.

In addition, female otters undergo a process known as delayed implantation. Fertilized otter eggs start developing into embryos, but stop developing for 7-10 months until they are eventually triggered to implant into the uterine wall and develop once again. The female otter gives birth (litter size 1-4 pups) approximately 70 days after implantation starts. Delayed implantation is what, in part, helps river otters time when they give birth.  So how does one know when implantation has occurred and when their otter may give birth? — By monitoring the hormones in their poop!

Each year starting usually November through January/February, US Zoos send otter fecal samples to CREW hoping to figure out if their otter may be pregnant and when she may be due. This season we monitored fecal samples from 11 river otter females and we were able to determine 8 of these females were possibly pregnant and 6 of those have already given birth {for example: pueblo zoo, buffalo Zoo}, making it a banner year for river otter babies!

Pueblo Zoo Otter Pup

Pueblo Zoo Otter Pup

However, the story doesn’t end there. Our research has shown that female otters born further south and moved to another zoo much further north, don’t always respond to the environmental cues encountered at their new latitude and adjust when they should breed and give birth – making it hard to know when to pair otters for breeding – but those fecal hormones have also proven useful in determining when to pair up otters as well {North Carolina}.

Publeo Zoo Pups – On Zooborns

Buffalo Zoo Pups – On Facebook

North Carolina Pups – News Article

March 28, 2014   2 Comments

Zoo Volunteer Observers

Our Zoo Volunteer Observers (ZVO) are a great asset to the Zoo &  our Carl H. Lindner Jr. Family Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) – being our eyes (and ears sometimes) when keepers go home at night.  They have been busy lately monitoring polar bear breeding activity and watching our pregnant giraffe via web cam 24-hrs-day for signs of labor.

nancy_donna.jpg

Volunteers Nancy W. and Donna M. watching the polar bears.

The ZVOs have been monitoring the polar bears daily to look for signs of impending estrus/breeding behavior. Their diligent observations are helping CREW researchers learn more about polar bear reproduction and reproductive behavior.

Thank you ZVOs!

March 21, 2014   2 Comments