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Category — Conservation

Calling All Artists!!!

Artists are needed to participate in the 2nd Annual Rain Barrel Art Project, hosted by the Regional Storm Water Collaborative and the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. This joint effort continues to educate the community about water conservation and pollution caused by storm water runoff. A great way to reduce that runoff is to harness rainwater in your very own rain barrel. Typically, rain barrels are a drab color, but with the touch of the artists, they come alive with scenes of nature, wildlife, Cincinnati, and many other designs, making them much more appealing to install on the side of your home. Utilizing a rain barrel could save a homeowner up to 1000 gallons of water in just one summer.

A rain barrel painted by Lauren, a Cincinnati Zoo employee, for the 2013 Rain Barrel Benefit Auction.

A rain barrel painted by Lauren, a Cincinnati Zoo employee, for the 2013 Rain Barrel Benefit Auction.

Artists may submit their artwork ideas via SaveLocalWaters.org now through January 25th, 2014. The top 50 entries accepted will be given rain barrels provided by the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati, to bring their proposed artwork to life. The completed barrels will be displayed at our Go Green Garden Exhibit during the month of April 2014. We are thrilled to be hosting the rain barrel event once again. As the Greenest Zoo in America, we are always looking for ways to inspire our community to take action that can impact the environment in positive ways.

The grand finale to the event is the Rain Barrel Art Auction scheduled on April 24th, 2014. The painted rain barrels will be auctioned during our 5th Annual Party for the Planet Earth Day Celebration. Proceeds from the auction will be split between the Zoo and the Regional Storm Water Collaborative to further more education and awareness.

Painted rain barrels on display in the Go Green Garden during Party for the Planet, 2013.

Painted rain barrels on display in the Go Green Garden during Party for the Planet, 2013.

For more information regarding the Rain Barrel Art Project or SaveLocalWaters.org, contact John Nelson, Public Relations Specialist, at 513-772-7645 or visit the website at: http://savelocalwaters.org/rain-barrel-art-project

December 27, 2013   No Comments

Passenger Pigeon: A Catalyst for Change

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

The loss of the passenger pigeon, such a robust and omnipresent species, was, and still is, a jarring loss to the world. Despite such a loss, however, there is hope to be found in this story. As we approach the 100th anniversary of the passenger pigeon’s extinction, we recognize the importance of this story as an impetus for positive change in the world of wildlife conservation. Many other species, like the American bison and white-tailed deer, have been close to extinction, but have been pulled back from the edge by very talented and dedicated scientists, conservationists, and citizens.

In the years immediately following Martha’s death, great strides were made to protect other species in the United States and beyond, and these efforts continue today. The loss of the passenger pigeon was such a startling and significant one—mere decades before, the ubiquitous bird swarmed in flocks of billions and billions overhead—that it spurred many people into action. This extinction served as catalyst for change, from which many other species since then have reaped the benefits.

At the end of the 1800s, while numbers of passenger pigeons were quickly shrinking, the American bison and white-tailed deer were also in trouble. By the early twentieth century, unregulated overhunting and habitat loss (two of the same issues that forced the passenger pigeon into extinction) greatly threatened populations of white-tailed deer. The American bison once roamed the American west in massive herds, but, like the passenger pigeon, rampant commercial hunting and loss of habitat forced the species close to extinction. By the early 1900s, there were perhaps only a few dozen bison in Yellowstone National Park.

Towering piles of American bison skulls, circa mid-1870s (Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library)

Towering piles of American bison skulls, circa mid-1870s (Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library)

Thankfully, the sad example of the passenger pigeon had shown the American public and lawmakers that a seemingly common species could completely die out in a short span of time without proper protections. People began to take actions to protect species like these. Influential people like President Theodore Roosevelt, naturalist John Muir, and industrialist Stephen Mather were instrumental in creating many of the national parks we know today and protecting large areas of land, as well as the wildlife within them.

Bison in Yellowstone National Park (Photo: Daniel Mayer)

Bison in Yellowstone National Park (Photo: Daniel Mayer)

Immediate action was taken in the conservation of the American bison. In 1894, federal legislation protecting bison was passed. Game preserves were soon established. In an effort that continues to this day, public and private conservation groups moved small groups of bison to protected areas, and breeding and protection programs have slowly increased the numbers of bison from a few dozen to a more than 500,000 today.

Though common now, the white-tailed deer was once in danger of extinction. (Photo: Scott Bauer)

Though common now, the white-tailed deer was once in danger of extinction. (Photo: Scott Bauer)

White-tailed deer, whose numbers dropped dangerously low by the 1930s, also benefited from new protective laws, restocking of small populations into protected areas, and restoration of habitat. Had these actions not been taken so promptly, urged on by the example of the passenger pigeon, both the bison and the deer would surely have gone extinct as well.

These wildlife conservation efforts, and those we see in action today, stem in a very real way from the loss of the passenger pigeon. This loss served as a wake-up call to many, forcing us to recognize our power to threaten, but also to protect, species. As the conservation efforts of the American bison and white-tailed deer showed, the things that sealed the fate of the passenger pigeon—rampant commercial overhunting and habitat loss—do not have to dictate the fate of other species. If we use the story of the passenger pigeon as a lesson in the power of mankind, we can prevent other species from going the way of the passenger pigeon and take action to protect other vulnerable species today.

 

To read the other posts in this series, click here. Stay tuned next month for more on Project Passenger Pigeon and the Cincinnati Zoo’s role in this important effort in species conservation and habitat preservation. 

December 9, 2013   No Comments

The sniffer dog results are in….

sniffer

Elvis sniffing polar bear fecal samples.

Elvis has spent the past three weeks sniffing fecal samples from polar bears around the country, making his predictions on which bears might be pregnant. Elvis is trained to pause and sit immediately when he detects a pregnancy—and does not show interest at samples from non-pregnant bears. Last week, Elvis was presented multiple times with two separate samples (collected on 10/12/13 and 10/20/13), from the Cincinnati Zoo’s female polar bear, Berit. Unfortunately, Elvis did not show interest in either sample, indicating she may not be expecting cubs this fall.

Berit sleeping in Lords of the Arctic exhibit.

Berit sleeping in Lords of the Arctic exhibit.

The sniffer dog project is part of a larger effort to study reproduction in polar bears. Scientists at CREW have been monitoring polar bears since 2008 and have analyzed over 14,000 fecal samples from 55 polar bears living in North American zoos. In addition to the Elvis test, we’ve been measuring Berit’s fecal hormone levels and performing ultrasound examinations in attempts to gain more information about her pregnancy status. Taken together, it seems that Berit is probably experiencing a pseudo-pregnancy, also known as a false pregnancy. Pseudo-pregnancy occurs when a female’s hormones, namely progesterone, increase to levels similar to those of a true pregnancy. However, in a pseudo-pregnancy, no fetus is present. Like pregnant bears, pseudo-pregnant females often gain weight (Berit gained almost 200 pounds this season!) and may behave like they’re pregnant, building nests and spending more time in their dens.

We’re not sure why pseudo-pregnancy occurs in polar bears but it seems to be a common phenomenon in many females we’ve monitored. A goal of CREW’s polar bear research is to develop a test to differentiate pseudo-pregnancy from true pregnancy. If Elvis proves successful, the next step is to identify the specific compound in the fecal samples that Elvis is signaling on and then develop a laboratory-based method to measure it. A test that distinguishes pregnancy from pseudo-pregnancy could potentially be applicable to other species that experience pseudo-pregnancy, such as endangered cat species, otters, and red pandas.

Since the sniffer dog project is still in the testing phase, we are not making any major management changes based on Elvis’s predictions. Berit’s keepers continue to keep a close eye on her and she still has access to a den and extra bedding if she wants it. Berit has never produced offspring, so while Elvis’s predictions are disappointing, they are not a total surprise. Berit is of prime reproductive age for a polar bear (14 years) and we have not lost hope that she may have cubs next year!

November 19, 2013   No Comments