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Category — General Zoo

Assisted Flamingo Chick Hatch

Wild Encounter program flamingos walking through the Zoo.

Wild Encounter program flamingos walking through the Zoo.

Everything in a flamingo’s world needs to be a social occasion!  Their lives are built around doing whatever everyone else is doing when everyone else is doing it.  This includes all aspects of their breeding cycle – from courtship displays all the way to building their mud nests to rearing their chicks.

After successfully hatching and fledging four chicks on exhibit this season, the Cincinnati Zoo’s greater flamingo flock started to become a little antsy.  Even those birds that were still incubating eggs were starting to spend more time off their nests…wanting to do what the majority was doing… and that was walking around.

Thus, we decided to pull the last three eggs under the parents to place in an incubator.  We then “candled” the eggs (placing them in front of a bright light) and found one was infertile, one was a late-term death, and the third contained a growing, active, vibrant embryo!  This egg was monitored for several days and seemed to be well on its way to hatching just fine.  On the morning of June 30, we found chick had “pipped” (broken through) his outer shell and was calling regularly.  (Parent birds and their chicks often “talk” to each other pre-hatch.)

After an incubation period of about 30 days, a flamingo egg usually takes 24-36 hours to hatch (from initial pip to total freedom from shell), so we were not too worried that not much progress had been made on the morning of July 1.  However, as the day went along with little change, we began to consider that we were not exactly sure what time it pipped (was it late 6-29 or early 6-30?) and that an assisted hatch might be in order.

I first pulled a little of the outer shell away from around the pip mark and determined chick was very dry and likely stuck.  What follows is a series of photos taken during the assisted hatch on the evening of July 1, 2014.

Below is a photo of the chick on Day 12!  It is currently being hand-reared with a slightly older flamingo.  These two are destined to join the group of four that takes part in the Wild Encounters programs marching around the zoo and greeting our guests on exhibit in Africa.    The more, the merrier with flamingos!

Flamingo chick - 12 days old.

Flamingo chick – 12 days old.


July 15, 2014   1 Comment

American Burying Beetle Release – Round Two

On July 1st, 2014 the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden released over 100 critically-endangered American Burying Beetles (ABB for short) at the Fernald Nature Preserve. This was the second of at least five years of releases planned at the preserve. As you might have read in previous blog posts I have been working closely with Fernald and the USFWS for the past four years to ensure that this species has an opportunity to make a comeback. This six-legged beauty has a very bazaar yet important role as a decomposer. Pairs of ABBs raise their young on the carcasses of small mammals and birds that they literally bury. While this might sound gross, these beetles and other decomposers are vital to the health of the ecosystem. Animals like these act like nature’s garbage men, removing and re-using things that no one else wants to deal with.

ABB being released at the Fernald Nature Preserve

ABB being released at the Fernald Nature Preserve

When the beetles were released last week they were provided with rat carcasses and methodically placed in the ground to breed. The release sites were carefully marked and protected from scavengers with layers of fencing. Next week we will return to check on the success of this year’s release by digging up about 20% of the carcasses. We will count any larvae and place them back in the soil to finish out their life cycle which will take about two more months.

ABB release site at Fernald

ABB release site at Fernald

This fall I will perform a post-release survey to check for any new adult ABBs at the preserve. The survey consists of setting and baiting pit-fall traps around the preserve that attract and trap live ABBs and other related beetles. So what exactly do you bait these traps with? I’m glad you asked! Inside each of these traps we place a container of steamy, foamy, week old, rotten chicken!



I assumed this aspect of the job would be pretty unpleasant when I signed up for it, but WOW did I underestimate the lingering, ghastly stench of rotten poultry. It works like a charm though. Within minutes these traps attract all sorts of carrion beetles. If ABBs are in the area, this level of stink will certainly attract them.

Inside a pitfall trap at Fernald

ABB relatives inside a pitfall trap at Fernald

ABBs are capable of flying over two miles a night, and Fernald is roughly one square mile. Our survey efforts are limited to the preserve; therefore it can be hard to gauge the overall success of these reintroductions. While we have not yet recaptured any ABBs at Fernald, other reintroductions in the US have yielded positive results, so we remain hopeful. I truly believe that efforts by the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden and other involved institutions will have a positive impact on this species’ general population status.

Staff and volunteers at the American Burying Beetle release.

Thanks to everyone involved with this year’s American Burying Beetle release!

July 11, 2014   1 Comment

June 23 – 27, 2014, Summer Camp Podcasts

Learn about manatees, snow leopards and Komodo dragons from our 6th – 8th grade Working with Wildlife Summer Campers!


Snow Leopards

Komodo Dragons

July 4, 2014   No Comments