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Category — General Zoo

Earth Week: Helping Birds in Your Own Backyard!

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

This week, we at the Cincinnati Zoo are celebrating Earth Week! Earth Week surrounds Earth Day, an annual worldwide event where we recognize and support environmental protection and conservation efforts across the globe. In the midst of work on the Passenger Pigeon Memorial renovation, I can’t help but think of Martha, the world’s last passenger pigeon, during this week, almost 100 years after her passing. Despite the loss of this species, Martha’s legacy and the occasion of Earth Week provide us with a great opportunity to think about how we might protect other species today.

Not only can you learn more about conservation programs at the Cincinnati Zoo, you can get involved in species conservation in your own backyard! There are many programs specifically targeted toward bird lovers, which we will highlight this week in honor of Martha.

Hummingbird (Photo: Connie Lemperle)

Hummingbird (Photo: Connie Lemperle)

Check out these great programs to get started:

International Migratory Bird Day—International Migratory Bird Day is coming up soon. This day in mid-May celebrates the migration of nearly 350 species of migratory birds between nesting habitats in North America and non-breeding grounds in Latin America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Of course Bird Day is not just a day; IMBD invites us to celebrate birds every day of the year!

Celebrate Urban Birds—We’re all close to birds, even in large cities like Cincinnati. Check out Celebrate Urban Birds for more on urban bird watching.

NestWatch—Have a nest in your yard or near your school? NestWatch, a program of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is a nationwide monitoring program designed to track nesting patterns of birds, including when nesting occurs, number of eggs laid, how many eggs hatch, and how many hatchlings survive. NestWatch is easy and is a great activity for families! Become a certified NestWatcher using the helpful tips on the organization’s site, and record your findings to help researchers and scientists gather essential information on reproductive biology of birds.

Ebird—With Ebird, you can submit your observations of birds anytime! This program, launched by Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, allows you to create maps and lists of the birds you’ve seen, and share your observations with other birders. Your observations will join those from around the world and contribute to a better understanding of bird distribution across the western hemisphere.

Get ready for next winter:

Project FeederWatch—Cornell Lab of Ornithology organizes this winter-long survey of birds that visit feeders at backyards, and other areas across North America. FeederWatchers count the birds they see at their feeders, helping scientists track movements of bird populations.

Christmas Bird Count—The Audubon Society organizes the longest running Citizen Science survey in the world, which provides critical data on population trends.

What will you see in your backyard this Earth Week?

Cardinal (Photo: Eric J. Brock)

Cardinal (Photo: Eric J. Brock)

To read the other posts in this series, click here. Join us in May as we discuss how you can make a difference and keep other wildlife from going the way of the passenger pigeon.

April 23, 2014   No Comments

Successful Fixed Time Artificial Insemination in the Fishing Cat

CREW continues to make progress in improving the success of artificial insemination (AI) for propagating endangered
cats. In recent research, we incorporated treatment with oral progesterone (Regumate) into our AI protocol for domestic cats to down-regulate ovarian function prior to ovarian stimulation. This approach allows us to control ovarian activity more precisely and conduct AI procedures on a fixed time schedule.

Dr. William Swanson performs an AI procedure.

Dr. William Swanson performs an AI procedure.

Our first attempt using this method in exotic felids involved our fishing cat named Ratana,who was incapable of breeding naturally after losing a front leg due to injury. Ratana was fed a small amount of oral progesterone daily for one month to suppress her ovarian activity and then treated with gonadotropins to induce follicular growth and ovulation. Laparoscopic AI of both oviducts with freshly collected sperm from our resident male, named Gorton, resulted in conception and the birth of a male fishing cat kitten after a 69 day gestation.

Ratana and her kitten in her nest box

Ratana and her kitten in her nest box

This kitten was the first non-domestic cat born following the use of oral progesterone for fixed time AI, and represents the fifth cat species (fishing cat, ocelot, Pallas’ cat, tiger, domestic cat) that we have produced with oviductal AI. This new approach could greatly advance our capacity to use AI for the genetic management of endangered felid species.

Fishing cat (Photo: Connie Lemperle)

Fishing cat (Photo: Connie Lemperle)

April 11, 2014   1 Comment

Breeding North American River Otters

north_american_river_otter_ faceCharismatic and curious North American river otters are so much fun to watch, but to get them to breed? That’s a whole lot trickier! North American river otters, as their name would suggest, live as far south as the Florida everglades, throughout most of the lower 48 states all the way north to the sub-arctic regions of US (Alaska) and Canada.  For these otters, when to breed and give birth needs to be timed so the pups are born when it’s not too cold and there are plenty of resources for mom and pup(s) to thrive.  Basically, otters in the south give birth and breed much earlier in the season than otters living further north.

In addition, female otters undergo a process known as delayed implantation. Fertilized otter eggs start developing into embryos, but stop developing for 7-10 months until they are eventually triggered to implant into the uterine wall and develop once again. The female otter gives birth (litter size 1-4 pups) approximately 70 days after implantation starts. Delayed implantation is what, in part, helps river otters time when they give birth.  So how does one know when implantation has occurred and when their otter may give birth? — By monitoring the hormones in their poop!

Each year starting usually November through January/February, US Zoos send otter fecal samples to CREW hoping to figure out if their otter may be pregnant and when she may be due. This season we monitored fecal samples from 11 river otter females and we were able to determine 8 of these females were possibly pregnant and 6 of those have already given birth {for example: pueblo zoo, buffalo Zoo}, making it a banner year for river otter babies!

Pueblo Zoo Otter Pup

Pueblo Zoo Otter Pup

However, the story doesn’t end there. Our research has shown that female otters born further south and moved to another zoo much further north, don’t always respond to the environmental cues encountered at their new latitude and adjust when they should breed and give birth – making it hard to know when to pair otters for breeding – but those fecal hormones have also proven useful in determining when to pair up otters as well {North Carolina}.

Publeo Zoo Pups – On Zooborns

Buffalo Zoo Pups – On Facebook

North Carolina Pups – News Article

March 28, 2014   No Comments