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Category — Exhibits

There’s Something Abuzz at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

Guest blogger: Cole Soldo, Sustainability Intern

The Cincinnati Zoo is a haven for innovative techniques in conservation, education and research, advocating for and performing wildlife conservation in all corners of the globe. Whether it is strategically breeding red pandas to develop a self-sustaining captive population or facilitating the rescue, rehabilitation and release of sloths in Costa Rica, we support conservation efforts in areas where wildlife needs our help. We do tremendous and impactful conservation work throughout the world, yet there’s one area where we could have even greater impact. Home.

One night on the way home from work, I listened to Zoo Director, Thane Maynard, on his 90-Second Naturalist radio program. He was discussing the environmental impacts of logging in Malaysia. Maynard was struck with grief and helplessness as he realized that, despite wanting to help improve the environmental situation in that part of the world, it simply wasn’t feasible for him to do so.

So he and Zoo staff got to thinking…how could they help improve the world right here in Cincinnati, Ohio? What could they do to address a local issue and have an initiative readily accessible for residents in the community?

The answer lay in pollinators, more specifically, creating refuges for local pollinators such as bees, butterflies, bats, hummingbirds and an assortment of other insects that feed on flower nectar and carry pollen from plant to plant.

Honeybees (Photo: JP Goguen)

Honeybees (Photo: JP Goguen)

Why are pollinators important? Well, pollinators such as honeybees contribute to one out of every three bites of food we take! Pollination leads to the production of fruits that we eat and seeds that will create more plants. They are extremely important, but often they are overlooked and underappreciated. And on top of that, they’re also in trouble.

You may or may not be familiar with the woes plaguing our pollinators, but the truth is that, at least for bees all around the world, their populations are in critical decline. The rapid and detrimental decline of bee populations was first documented in 2006, and has come to be known as Colony Collapse Disorder, (CCD). CCD has been identified as a result of a possible combination of parasites, bacterial diseases, viruses, pesticide use, shrinking habitat and nutritional deficits. Recent years have seen losses of an average of 33% of colonies.

Sounds disheartening, complex and out of control, right? Well, the answer to that is…sort of. But the last three reasons mentioned for CCD? We can do something about those, and, in fact, the Zoo has been working hard to combat these issues and give our winged friends some help.

Within the last month, Zoo staff, folks from the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District and eager volunteers helped establish 13 honey bee hives at the Zoo’s EcOhio Farm to help restore native pollinator populations. They also planted pollinator gardens to restore habitat and proper nutrients for the colonies.

Zoo staff build bee hive boxes

Zoo staff build bee hive boxes

ecohio farm logoThese hives are managed by Pollen Nation, a group of Zoo staff who have dedicated themselves to learning the way of the honeybee, so to speak. They are a collection of dedicated individuals who recognize the rapid loss of these valuable species and are moving ahead to do what they can to help preserve them.pollen nation logo

Pollen Nation education table

Pollen Nation education table

You can come learn about the value and importance of these incredible creatures during your next visit to the Zoo. Come to the Pollination Station near the World of the Insect. Here you can learn about the process of pollination, participate in discussions about which animals are considered pollinators and understand why pollination is important to both the ecosystem and to our food production! On Thursdays, stick around for our Bee Chats at 2 pm. Presenters discuss the beehives we have on Zoo grounds and talk about different conservation methods such as building mason bee houses and what to plant in your own pollinator gardens. Also, stop by the Go Green Garden for fun pollination-themed activities and games as well as participation in the nationwide citizen-science initiative, BeeSpotter!bee spotter

Get ready, Cincinnati! Let’s #BringBackTheBees!

June 13, 2016   2 Comments

International Migratory Bird Day: Get Outside and Go Birding!

Each year, International Migratory Bird Day is celebrated on the second Saturday in May, just as the orioles, warblers, tanagers and hummingbirds are returning to Cincinnati. About 200 bird species fly south to Central and South America in search of nourishment during the winter. In the spring, they return to the United States and Canada to breed and raise a family when the days are long and our backyards are bursting with insects, flowers, and fruits to eat. Some stay in Ohio for the summer, but many just stop to rest and feed along the way.

Chestnut sided warbler (Photo: Dave Jenike)

Chestnut sided warbler (Photo: Dave Jenike)

What better way is there to celebrate the return of our migratory birds than to get outside and go birding? Birdwatching is a great way to connect with nature and learn more about the wildlife around you. Grab some binoculars, a field guide and a notebook to record your sightings and get outside!

Birding is a great family activity!

Birding is a great family activity!

In addition to our local parks, wetlands and woodlands, the Zoo is a fantastic place to see native birds. Our lushly planted grounds, featuring a diversity of native trees and plants, attract plenty of winged wonders from warblers to waterfowl to raptors. Last year, I even personally witnessed a bald eagle flying over the Zoo. Be on the lookout especially along the edge of Swan Lake, by the Native Plants Garden, and in the Wolf Woods exhibit area. Who says the Zoo is just for viewing exotic wildlife?

Mama wood duck and her ducklings on Swan Lake (Photo: Jeff McCurry)

Mama wood duck and her ducklings on Swan Lake (Photo: Jeff McCurry)

Migratory birds face many challenges along their journey, one of which is finding safe places to rest and refuel on the way. Why not make your space a more bird-friendly place? Whether you have a large backyard or just an apartment window, you can make a difference. For example, you can go wild by landscaping your yard with native trees, bushes and flowers or simply offer native plants in window boxes. Set up bird feeders and baths, and keep your cat indoors (these non-natural predators kill billions of birds every year).

Goldfinch at a bird feeder

Goldfinch at a bird feeder

Here at the Zoo, we have embarked on a two-year process of renovating the public space within the Wings of the World exhibit (aka Bird House) to enhance our ability to connect guests to nature through our feathered friends and encourage them to become better bird neighbors. Though you won’t see any permanent changes to the building until next spring, we are well into the research and planning stages, and we’d love to hear from you.

  • How would you describe your connection to birds?
  • Do you have a great bird story to share?
  • What do you think we could do in the bird house to arouse your interest in birds and motivate you to become more aware of what’s going on in the bird world around you?

Your feedback will help us create the best experience possible!

(This project is made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.)

May 14, 2016   No Comments

Dog Log: Chapter 9 – Updates from Cincinnati and Tanzania

Co-written by Dana Burke & Shasta Bray

Here at the Zoo

It’s been six months since our African painted dog boys made their way south, and they are doing great. They especially love watching all of the different hoof stock they get to see while on exhibit. Their keepers tell me they really enjoy watching the waterbuck, but I digress.

Imara and the girls, who are now 15 months old, have been doing well as an all girl group. Imara still tends to let them rule themselves, but will step in if she feels it is necessary. There have been some rumblings among the ranks within the juveniles (as you would expect with all females), but nothing major. Selina is still the alpha with Quinn as her second. These two have been the top two dogs since the females developed their hierarchy when they were very young. Next is Ivy and Lucy follows as the bottom dog.

Selina (Photo: Dana Burke)

Selina (Photo: Dana Burke)

Quinn (Photo: Dana Burke)

Quinn (Photo: Dana Burke)

The plan to move three of the juveniles is finally moving forward. As per the African Painted Dog Species Survival Plan, Selina and Quinn will be transported to the Wilds in Columbus. It is our hope that Selina will breed with a male that they are getting from another zoo. Ivy will be shipped to Honolulu to breed with a male that they house. That leaves Lucy here with Imara.

The reasons why we are shipping which dogs where is a well thought out process that takes into account the status, relationships and personalities of the individuals. Since Selina and Quinn have been bonded for most of their lives, we feel that their best chance for success is to move them together. Quinn has the capability of being a great helper and babysitter if Selina produces a litter. Of course, moving the dogs to a new facility could cause change between the sisters, but with Selina being a true alpha, we expect her to retain her status. Quinn has never really challenged her and moving to a new space will most likely result in her looking to Selina for guidance. All of these factors should lead to a smooth introduction to the male in a best case scenario.

Ivy (Photo: Dana Burke)

Ivy (Photo: Dana Burke)

We chose to move Ivy as a single dog because of her personality as well. In the last few months, Ivy has become a more confident dog. That being said, with her increase in confidence, she has also become more of a trouble maker and has challenged all of her sisters at some point. Ivy likes to stir the pot so to speak. Again, because of these traits, we feel that she would make a great alpha all on her own with a single male.

That leaves Imara and Lucy here in Cincinnati. Imara, who did a beautiful job raising the 10 pups we had in January last year, is not the most confident when it comes to being alpha. Lucy on the other hand, even though she is the bottom dog at this point, has the potential to be a pretty good alpha herself. Truth be told, Lucy is a bit of a wild card.

Lucy (Photo: Dana Burke)

Lucy (Photo: Dana Burke)

Within the next couple months, we will be receiving two male dogs. They will be quarantined and then we will set up for introductions. This is where things can get tricky. An introduction with two males and two females is one of the more challenging scenarios you can encounter with this species; however, the pay-off is a truly social pack that reflects those in the wild. Still, this is where things can get tricky. The keepers and animal manager will plan out each step of the process in order to set up the dogs for ultimate success. There will most likely be some fighting, whether it’s between the males or the females or each other, is impossible to guess. There’s even a chance that Lucy could end up alpha over Imara. Genetically, she is technically more valuable than her mother due to being Brahma’s offspring so we are fine with any outcome.

We collected information about the males from their current keepers, but it will be very important to observe them while in quarantine to confirm their hierarchy with each other. The introductions themselves will be done inside the building and once started will be complete in just a few hours. It may take them minutes or days to settle their social structure, but once they do, only the alphas will breed and produce pups. We have a lot of changes coming and are all really excited for what the future holds for this species. We will be sure to keep everyone updated on what is happening and how things are progressing.

Across the Globe in Tanzania

We may be wrapping up with our April showers here in Cincinnati, but they were nothing like the rains that El Nino dumped on our field partners with the Ruaha Carnivore Project (RCP) over the past few months.  Flooding of the Ruaha River caused all kinds of transportation problems.

The Ruaha River overflowed its banks and made travel dangerous in the region. (Photo: Ruaha Carnivore Project)

The Ruaha River overflowed its banks and made travel dangerous in the region. (Photo: Ruaha Carnivore Project)

The good thing about using remote-triggered cameras to monitor wildlife in the region is that the cameras continue to take pictures even when you have trouble reaching them. Fortunately, only a few of the cameras floated away during the heavy flooding.

Painted dogs caught on camera (Photo: Ruaha Carnivore Project)

Painted dogs caught on camera (Photo: Ruaha Carnivore Project)

RCP works to secure a future for large carnivores such as African painted dogs, lions and hyenas in and around Ruaha National Park in Tanzania. This region is home to the third largest population of painted dogs in Africa. Check out RCP’s latest update from the field to learn more.

May 4, 2016   2 Comments