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Category — General Zoo

The Bug Days of Summer

This has been a busy year for the American Burying Beetle reintroduction program at the Cincinnati Zoo. On June 2nd 2015, 53 pairs of federally endangered beetles were set free to reproduce in the wild at the nearby Fernald Nature Preserve. This marks the 3rd year of reintroductions held at the preserve. A post-release check-up at the release site informed us that 75% of the released pairs did in fact breed in the wild and produced an estimated 320 larvae! This brings our 3 year totals to 432 reintroduced beetles that have produced over 1600 larvae in the wild!

release area

ABB release site at the Fernald Nature Preserve.

In addition to holding our 3rd release earlier this year, we have also partnered with institutions in Nebraska and Oklahoma to expand our captive breeding population. This year we received several pairs of wild-caught American burying beetles (ABBs) from a thriving natural population in Nebraska. These beetles were driven all the way to Cincinnati where we have begun to breed them at the zoo! The offspring from this group of beetles will breed again in captivity and their offspring (the grandkids of the wild-caught beetles) will be released at Fernald during our upcoming 2016 release. Our breeding facility is filling up quickly – we already have about 200 beetles in the first generation! Each beetle gets fed twice a week and is housed in its own container which gets cleaned out twice a week. This adds up to a LOT of work for our Insectarium staff and Volunteers!

group shot

Our 2015 ABB volunteers! Thank you for your help!

It is necessary to house these beetles separately for a number of reasons, but most importantly each beetle needs to have its own serial number. This serial number tells us information about their pedigree. Unlike many other captive populations of insects, inbreeding is a major concern for ABBs. After just a few generations of inbreeding ABB populations will collapse in captivity. Therefore we use serial numbers to track parentage information for each beetle.


Individual ABB containers with labels and serial numbers.

The American Burying Beetle (ABB) was placed on the endangered species list in the late eighties and since then programs like ours have been implemented to help bring this small but charismatic bug back from the brink. The ABB belongs to a family of beetles (Silphidae) that specialize in eating dead stuff (i.e. carrion). In case you’re wondering why this one is called a burying beetle it’s because the adult beetles literally bury small animal carcasses in order to raise their young on them! That might sound gross to you and me, but decomposers are very important to the ecosystem. They recycle nutrients to be used by plants and they prevent waste and dead animals from piling up. Check out this page to read a little bit more about the ABB program at the Cincinnati Zoo. Stay tuned for more updates and details about the 2016 ABB release.

ABB being released at the Fernald Nature Preserve

ABB being released at the Fernald Nature Preserve

September 25, 2015   No Comments

Coming Up: Rhino Awareness Days and Bowling for Rhinos

Rhino Awareness Days

World Rhino Day falls on a Tuesday this year, September 22, so the Zoo is going to celebrate Rhino Awareness Days, free with regular Zoo admission, the following weekend. From 10:00 to 3:00 on September 26 and 27, guests are invited to learn more about rhinos and how we can help save them in the wild.

World Rhino Day logo

CREW Volunteers will be on hand at the Sumatran rhino exhibit to tell Harapan’s story, the last Sumatran rhino on exhibit in the United States. Here guests can catch a last glimpse of Harapan before he leaves for Indonesia and wish him well on his journey. With less than 100 Sumatran rhinos left on Earth, Harapan will move to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary where he will have the opportunity to breed and contribute to his species’ survival. His departure marks the end of an era for the Cincinnati Zoo’s Sumatran rhino breeding program, the only captive breeding program in the United States to produce calves for this critically endangered species. An exact date for Harapan’s departure has not been set, but the Zoo is pushing for the move to happen this fall. Until then, guests can visit him in Wildlife Canyon daily from 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., weather permitting.

Speaking of Harapan’s departure, there’s exciting news about his brother, and Cincinnati Zoo born Sumatran rhino, Andalas. The critically-endangered Sumatran rhino population will soon increase by one.  In a species with fewer than 100 individuals left on the planet, one is a significant number. Andalas and Ratu are expecting a calf in May 2016. Learn more and see ultra sound images here

We're going to miss Harapan's adorable face and hope the females in Indonesia find him irresistible!  (Photo: Kathy Newton)

We’re going to miss Harapan’s adorable face and hope the females in Indonesia find him irresistible! (Photo: Kathy Newton)

On the other side of the Zoo, guests can engage with Volunteer Educators at the CREW Wild Discover Zone to learn more about all of our rhino research programs. CREW is currently undertaking a project to expand access and build capacity for African and Asian rhino reproductive care within North American zoological facilities. The Zone is set up next to the Indian and black rhino exhibits where guests might get the chance to say hello to our newest rhino resident, a black rhino male named Faru.

Faru is doing great here in his new home and his training is going very well. The keepers are working with him to present both sides of his body  on cue and open his mouth to allow them to check his teeth and tongue. This allows them to perform basic foot care, daily baths, and administer medical care when needed with minimal stress to Faru. He and the female, Seyia, are still getting to know each other, and the hope is to put them together for breeding later this fall.

Welcome Faru to the Zoo! (Photo: Mark Dumont)

Welcome Faru to the Zoo! (Photo: Mark Dumont)

The keepers are also working with CREW to determine the reproductive cycle of our one and only Indian rhino, Manjula, using ultrasound and urine analysis. Manjula is chute-trained, target-trained, and she will hold her mouth open while they shine a flashlight inside to check everything. This training has been essential to administering the hormone to help her ovulate and also give the anesthetics used for her standing sedation procedures- both of which she does willingly and cooperatively! The plan is to artificially inseminate Manjula. The keepers are also currently working on blood draw training and teaching Manjula to stand her rear feet in rubber tubs for a foot soak. (Indian rhinos are prone to foot issues.)

Manjula, Indian rhino (Photo: Kathy Newton)

Manjula, Indian rhino (Photo: Kathy Newton)

Bowling for Rhinos

What else can you do to help save rhinos? Go bowling! The Greater Cincinnati Chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers is holding its second annual Bowling for Rhinos event on October 17 to raise awareness and funds for rhino conservation.To be held from 6:00 to 8:30 at Stone Lanes in Norwood, the event is sure to be tons of fun! In addition to bowling, there will be t-shirts for sale, a silent auction and a raffle to meet a rhino at the Cincinnati Zoo! Buy your tickets online now before they sell out!

Bowling for Rhinos 2015 flyer

September 24, 2015   No Comments

140 Years of Inspiration

Today is the 140th anniversary of the opening of the Cincinnati Zoo.  Established in 1873, the Cincinnati Zoological Garden opened its gates to the public on September 18, 1875. Modeled on the Victorian era zoos they remembered from Germany, zoo founder Andrew Erkenbrecher and his colleagues wanted to recreate that same sort of lush garden filled with animals from around the globe, and provide a place for cultural events and family outings for city dwellers.


And now, nearly a century and a half later, their vision lives on in the very same park they founded up on the hill in Avondale.  Our gardens are grander, our animal exhibits are bigger and more naturalistic, and goodness knows, we have cultural and family events of every stripe.  But the role of the Cincinnati Zoo for families of our region is much the same today as it was in our early days.  We provide a beautiful park that serves as a respite from urban life, and we inspire our visitors with the wonders of wildlife.


I have always been heartened over the years with stories told to me by older Cincinnatians of their fond memories of visiting the zoo – tales of grand balls at the Clubhouse on Swan Lake, hearing Placido Domingo in his American debut at the Cincinnati Summer Opera, or how important Susie the gorilla was to them when she lived in what is now our Reptile House.


Of course, we do a great many things better today than we did in our early days.  Our science, conservation, veterinary medicine, animal husbandry, horticulture and education programs have all been on a steady improvement curve for decades.


Today, the Cincinnati Zoo plays a key role in our community and around the world.  And all of this is made possible because the people throughout our area really love this zoo.  It is with their support we pay our bills, and through them how we make a difference.


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September 18, 2015   2 Comments