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Category — Conservation

From the Passenger Pigeon to Conservation at the Cincinnati Zoo

Guest blogger: Sophie Williams, Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP) student and consultant on the Passenger Pigeon Memorial renovation

The reason we study the story of the passenger pigeon is not to be sad about its loss, but to be aware. Humans have a great capacity to do good, but we also have the ability to exhaust seemingly endless riches. It is important to recognize the impact we as humans can have on our environment, and take steps to conserve natural resources, both species and habitats, while we can.

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is at the cutting-edge of conservation research and action. From genetic research conducted at the Zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) to the Zoo’s Go Green initiatives you can participate in both at the Zoo and at home, the Cincinnati Zoo is committed to saving endangered plants and animals from extinction in North America and around the world.  Here are just a few examples.

Sumatran Rhino Conservation

The Sumatran rhinoceros is one of the most endangered animals on the planet, with only about 100 individuals left. CREW’s Signature Sumatran Rhino Project has been a leader in captive breeding efforts for this critically endangered animal since 1997. In 2001, the first Sumatran rhino calf to be born in captivity in 112 years was born at the Cincinnati Zoo, thanks to CREW’s breakthrough research. Since then, two other calves have been born at the Zoo, and in 2007, the Zoo’s first-born rhino calf, Andalas, was relocated to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) on the island of Sumatra to serve as the catalyst for a breeding program in the species’ native land. A few years later, Andalas’s mate, Ratu, gave birth to a healthy male calf, a huge success for the species!

In addition to its leadership role in the Sumatran rhino captive breeding program, CREW scientists partner with conservation organization Rhino Global Partnerships to protect Sumatran rhinos in the wild by helping to support Rhino Protection Units. These units are trained to protect the rhinos from poachers, the greatest threat to the species. Furthermore, financial support and CREW staff expertise are provided to facilitate the captive breeding program on Sumatra. CREW’s Signature Sumatran Rhino Project, with its international collaboration, is conservation work at its finest.

Sumatran rhino with baby (Photo: Dave Jenike)

Sumatran rhino with baby (Photo: Dave Jenike)

Gorilla Conservation

Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered in the wild, with less than 175,000 individuals. Due primarily to habitat destruction caused by logging, mineral mining, and agricultural expansion, wild gorilla numbers continue to shrink. The bushmeat trade—the killing of wild animals to be used as human food—is also a major threat to the western lowland gorilla population throughout the Central African rainforests. Over 1,000 gorillas are illegally poached for the bushmeat trade each year.

The Cincinnati Zoo supports wild gorilla conservation efforts such as the Mbeli Bai Study. The Mbeli Bai Study is the longest running research being done with wild western lowland gorillas. Through research, local education programs, publications, and documentaries, the Mbeli Bai Study is raising international awareness for gorillas and their struggle for survival.

Gorillas in Congo (Photo: Thomas Breuer)

Gorillas in Congo (Photo: Thomas Breuer)

African Lion Conservation

Another way the Zoo contributes to species conservation worldwide is through support of global initiatives to protect wildlife and minimize human-wildlife conflict. The Zoo provides funding to support Rebuilding the Pride, a community-based conservation program that combines tradition and modern technology to restore a healthy lion population while reducing the loss of livestock to lions in Kenya’s South Rift Valley.

Local Maasai research assistants track the movement of both livestock and lions in an effort to understand seasonal movements and identify conflict hotspots. Some of the lions have been fitted with Global Positioning System (GPS) collars for better tracking. The collars transmit four locations a day to a central server, giving detailed information on the exact movement of the lions. Knowing where the prides are lets herders know where to avoid grazing their livestock.

The program also deploys a Conflict Response Team to mitigate any conflicts that arise between people and lions. When herders must move through areas with lions, they call on community game scouts to accompany them for extra protection. The team also helps find and rescue lost livestock that would have otherwise fallen victim to predation.

Thanks to these efforts, lion populations in the region are growing. Once down to a low of about 10 known lions in the area, the population is now estimated to be nearly 70. The prides have been producing cubs and new lions are moving in from surrounding areas. The Rebuilding the Pride program has greatly contributed to the robustness of the lion population, minimized human-wildlife conflict, and become a strong community-based conservation program.

Lions in Kenya (Photo: Lily Maynard)

Lions in Kenya (Photo: Lily Maynard)

To read the other posts in this series, click here. Join us in April as we celebrate Earth Day and community activism!

March 17, 2014   No Comments

Lessons from the Passenger Pigeon

Guest blogger: Sophie Williams, Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP) student and consultant on the Passenger Pigeon Memorial renovation

Did you know that the male passenger pigeon could fly up to 60 miles per hour? Find out what nickname this earned the pigeon from our Director of Education, Dan Marsh, as he is interviewed for Kentucky Afield. He discusses how the loss of the passenger pigeon was one of the key motivators for today’s conservation movement. Learn more about the passenger pigeon, what the skies were like when filled with these birds, and the important lessons they left in their wake.

Passenger Pigeon (Photo: J.G. Hubbard)

Passenger Pigeon (Photo: J.G. Hubbard)

 

Don’t forget, you can get involved by holding a Project Passenger Pigeon event in your community! You could download a variety of educational materials for use in your class or organization, put on an origami pigeon parade, or host a speaker in your school or community. Visit Project Passenger Pigeon’s website for more information. How will you get involved?

To read the other posts in this series, click here. Join us next month as we take a look at species conservation at the Cincinnati Zoo. 

February 7, 2014   No Comments

Saving the Blues in Bolivia

The Blue-throated Macaw, found in the tropical savanna of northern Bolivia, is considered one of the most threatened bird species in the world.  For the past three years, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden has supported an effort to enhance Blue-throated Macaw reproduction in the wild through the Bird Endowment’s Nido Adoptivo project.. Initiated in 2007, Nido Adoptivo has installed hundreds of nest boxes to supplement natural breeding.

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Nest Box Supported by the Cincinnati Zoo

 

Intensive research on the macaw’s flight and migration patterns determined placement of the nest boxes.  The box design was modeled after natural nests found in holes of palm trees where chicks successfully hatched and fledged. Nest box position, depth, vertical and horizontal lengths, and the size of access holes were studied.  Additional modifications will be implemented for the 2013-2014 season.

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Chicks in the Cincinnati Zoo-sponsored nest

 

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Nest box placed high up on the trunk of a palm tree

 

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2012-2013 was the most successful year yet. Ten healthy Blue-throated Macaw chicks hatched and fledged from the boxes.

For the first time, a breeding pair was noted with leg bands, meaning they had been hatched some years earlier in the program.

A total of 39 Blue-throated Macaw chicks have been produced in Nido Adoptivo™ nest boxes during the previous six breeding seasons.

As a consequence of the program’s ongoing successes, we continue to see the population increase in the Southern Zone, with flocks of Blue-throated Macaws now traveling between five local private ranches. This was unheard of in the area five years ago.

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is one of the 27 sponsors of the new and improved nest boxes being monitored during the 2013-2014 season which is underway.

Nido Adoptivo™ has begun the funding phase of the 2014-15 breeding season in anticipation of building upon seven consecutive years of success in Bolivia.

To learn how you can help support the Nido Adoptivo project, visit http://www.birdendowment.org/index.shtml.

January 23, 2014   1 Comment