Category — CREW
It has been years since the Cincinnati Zoo has had polar bear cubs born here, 24 years to be exact. Berit, our female, and Little One, our male, have been given every opportunity to “get the job done” on their own, but their mating has not produced a cub. So, we are increasing the couple’s chances by giving Berit two small hormone injections, 90 hours apart from each other, to induce a healthy ovulation.
The first injection was scheduled to be given, appropriately, on Valentine’s Day. Because the bears were never conditioned to allow hands-on medical care, the bear line ladies (Lisa Vollmer, Debbie Loebker, Lisa Potter, Tanya Dietz) and I spent the past three and a half weeks working diligently every day, twice a day, to get Berit ready. In that time we were able to train Berit to come to us on command and present her nose and shoulders. These behaviors would allow us to administer the hormone injections without needing to use anesthesia. (See my previous post about the training.)
Yesterday was “The Day” we had all been waiting for. And it worked!!! Berit was great. She came in like we asked, leaned in, and Veterinary Technician Amy Long was able to give her the first injection. She was a bit startled and left the training session, but it didn’t take her long to come back in. When she did, we gave her all of her favorite treats to reward her. We didn’t want the last thing she remembered to be negative so it was imperative that she came back into the training den and ended on a positive note.
We’re over the first hurdle, but we still have a long way to go. We continued the training this morning and Berit came into the training den right away. She seemed a little nervous to lean in but she did and it was an absolutely wonderful session! I am so excited for Monday now and am feeling very confident that we will be able to get both injections done on time. What a good girl she is!
Now it’s up to Little One to put on the moves and have a romantic Valentine’s Day weekend planned. I talked to the keepers about playing a little Barry White or Marvin Gaye to get them in the mood! Hopefully we will continue to live up to our title of the “Sexiest Zoo in America!”
February 15, 2013 5 Comments
The American burying beetle (ABB) was listed as a federally endangered species in 1989. It was once found across 35 different states and 3 provinces, but is now only known to occur in just 10% of that range. The precise reason for the beetles’ decline is unknown. It is likely a concoction of changes in the past century that has ultimately led to such low wild populations. Such things as habitat fragmentation, habitat destruction, pesticide use, light pollution, increases in populations of scavengers, and even the extinction of the passenger pigeon have all contributed in some way to the beetle’s current status.
The ABB belongs to a family of beetles called Silphidae. The ABB and other silphids rely upon the carcasses of vertebrates to thrive and reproduce. The ABB requires carrion around the size of a rat or pigeon to reproduce. An ABB can “smell” a carcass from up to two miles away! Once a male and female have fought off other invertebrate competitors they will literally bury the carcass overnight. Amazingly, these beetles can handle carcasses up to 200 hundred times their size in a matter of hours. [Read more →]
February 8, 2013 No Comments
Several weeks ago, Dr. Terri Roth, Vice President of Conservation and Science, at the Cincinnati Zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW), mentioned that she would like to try giving “Berit”, the Zoo’s female polar bear, hormone injections to help her get pregnant. Scientists at CREW have been hoping for a polar bear pregnancy for quite some time and this is the next obvious step in helping that along. However, the typical method of injecting bears in captivity requires sedation. Knowing this, I instantly had something else in mind. I proposed that we condition Berit to accept injections on her own terms.
That we ask her to come in to her den, lean up against the training wall, and get a special treat for allowing us to inject her. This has never been done before at the Cincinnati Zoo (on polar bears) and folks had reservations, for good reasons. Fortunately, Dr. Roth was very excited as she knows it’s much less stressful on the bears to be trained to work with their keepers for something like this. So that is my (polar bear) challenge.
I have approximately one month to get Berit trained. The first injection needs to happen towards the end of February. The really exciting part is that the ladies that care for the Zoo’s bears, Lisa V, Debbie, Lisa P, and Tanya, are amazing and are on board and supportive of the training that will need to take place to accomplish this in such a short period of time.
For the next month, we will all be working together twice a day to help Berit learn to come in, target on her nose, and then target on her side. Eventually we will bring the target closer and closer to the enclosure door, so she understands to come in and turn to her side. Once we have mastered that behavior, we will work on getting her to hold still and stay against the training wall.
Everyone is working hard to make this a comfortable and fun new enrichment activity for Berit. I am happy to report that she is loving the extra attention and yummy treats she is receiving for training. It’s really wonderful to see her run down to the training wall and get so excited for the sessions. If we are successful we may not only be aiding in her individual pregnancy but also in the conservation of this amazing species. (No pressure!)
Wish us luck!!
January 25, 2013 6 Comments