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Category — General Zoo

Exploring the Why of a Where

What is your favorite place? If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be? I bet that when you answer those questions, you are not envisioning a dot on a giant world map. In fact, I bet that you are not picturing a map at all. What you are picturing is an experience, a sensation, a memory, or a vision of an ACTUAL place. Maybe what you picture is the vastness of the grassland savannahs where zebras roam and lions stalk. Perhaps you are recalling the smell of fall leaves crunching underfoot as you rode horseback along a wooded trail. Geography is so much more than a place on a map or a point on a globe. It is more than the names of countries, states, and capital cities. It is “the why of a where.”

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The National Geographic Explorer offshore at L’Ans aux Meadows

I got a firsthand chance to learn the why of a where this year when I was selected to travel to the Canadian Maritimes and circumnavigate Newfoundland as a 2014 Grosvenor Teacher Fellow. The Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship is a professional development opportunity for educators that is made possible by a partnership between National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions. The purpose of this fellowship is to recognize educators who have demonstrated a commitment to increasing geographic literacy in their students. Educators apply and, if chosen as a fellow, are sent on expeditions aboard the National Geographic Explorer vessel to get hands on experiences with the natural and cultural diversity of a region and bring these experiences back to their classroom. As the Lead Program Developer at the Cincinnati Zoo, that means incorporating my experiences into the programs that I create and the outreach that will be part of my fellowship journey. By doing so, I am hoping to increase knowledge about different places on our planet, help others develop an appreciation for the people and wildlife that inhabit these regions, and cultivate understanding about the global impact, for better or worse, that our choices and actions can have. I know that this trip was transformative for me and helped me better appreciate these things.

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David Boyd salting a prepared cod at Prime Berth Fishing Village, Twillingate, Newfoundland

By circumnavigating Newfoundland, we were able to really experience the geography, topography, and culture of the region. Cruising by jagged coastlines, standing on the easternmost tip of North America, and traversing fjords turned the coastlines on a map into real and tangible places that I can visualize. The cities and waters to and through which we traveled have become more than dots on a map as well. They are the places where I tasted wild blueberries, met Vikings, felt the rough, bristly needles of a black spruce, heard the snort of a startled caribou discovering it is being watched. It is where I heard the call of circling gulls while I watched the plume of mist produced by a fin whale surfacing to swim beside the ship. They are the places where I walked the streets of a fortress, watched the “disassembly” of a cod, dragged my plankton net, and saw Alexander Graham Bell’s dreams take flight.

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Showing my youngest shipmate, Connor, how to examine water samples for microscopic sea life. Photo by Sisse Brimberg – KEENPRESS

I have heard the different accents that are acquired when the Scottish meet the English meet the Mi’kmaq, Inuit, and Innu Indians. I have heard the heartbreak in a man’s voice when he speaks about the loss of the cod fishing industry and, with it, the heritage upon which Newfoundland was founded. This, all of this, is Newfoundland. This is what geographic literacy and the why of a where means to me. It is with this understanding that I will use my experience to make geography meaningful in my programs. I will help them draw connections geographically, geologically, historically, anthropologically, and biologically between areas while weaving in the intangibles of a place that speak to its essence and its roots.

I feel so fortunate to have been a part of this experience and inspired by the duty and privilege I have of sharing it with my community. We are all so much more than the place where we live. We are part of something bigger and, for me, that has never been clearer. So go and explore the wildness of a local park, contemplate the rain that falls and its journey from far off oceans to get to you, and be mindful of this planet and our place in it as well as on it. In the words of Baba Dioum, “In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we have been taught.”

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Snowy owl at Salmonier Nature Park, Holyrood, Newfoundland

 

To learn more about the Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship, click here

To learn more about how the Cincinnati Zoo’s conservation projects and how you can help conserve wildlife and wild spaces, please click here.

October 24, 2014   No Comments

Driven To Death

It’s a massacre, annually taking the lives of more animals than laboratories and hunters combined. It’s a major threat to our native wildlife but you’re unlikely to see much about it on television or read much about it in the newspaper or on the internet. There aren’t any high-profile public campaigns against it and you won’t be asked to donate money to stop it. Every day an estimated 1,000,000 animals die on American roads. And while it’s tempting to think it’s only raccoons, possum, deer and stray domestic animals that are struck down it’s not. Even the more iconic American animals such as Bison, Bald Eagles, Alligators and Grizzly Bears meet their end on our roads.

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Mink killed on local road July 2014

Animal-vehicle accidents are having a devastating impact on some of our most endangered species. In July a male Ocelot was killed on State Highway 100 in the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge of southern Texas. This refuge is one of the Ocelot’s last strongholds within the United States but in the last thirty years 40% of the refuge’s Ocelots have died on roads. Cars have proven equally dangerous for the Florida Panther. According to statistics provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission 49 panthers were struck down on Florida’s roads between January 2012 and October 2014. An incredible number considering the Florida Panther population is estimated between 125-175 animals.

Animal-vehicle accidents also have a human component. According to the US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration approximately 300,000 animal-vehicle accidents are reported annually. This number rose 33% between 1990 and 2004 despite an overall decline in vehicle accidents. The administration also reports it’s likely that at least half of all animal-vehicle accidents aren’t reported. Approximately 90% of all animal-vehicle accidents reported involve deer with an average cost of approximately $5,000 in vehicle repairs and medical care. Each year in the United States more than 200 people are killed in animal-vehicle accidents.

Every day nearly 200,000,000 drivers travel our nation’s 4,000,000 miles of roads making animal-vehicle accidents inevitable, especially given the widespread public apathy on the topic. Many of these accidents are preventable if we’re willing to take a few, simple steps;

Slow Down

Slowing down just a bit can improve the odds of avoiding an animal-vehicle accident. As an example, a car traveling at 50 mph travels over 73 feet per second. The same car, driving 5 mph slower travels just 66 feet per second. Those 7 feet can mean the difference between clipping an animal and the animal clearing the road before you pass.

Dusk, Dark and Dawn

The overwhelming majority of animal-vehicle accidents occur between dusk and dawn. This is when wildlife is most active and our vision is least acute.

Know Where You Are

An animal-vehicle accident can occur anywhere but is most likely on a country road or on a road in or adjacent to a forested area than on an inner-city street or an urban expressway.

Use Your Bright-lights When Possible

Our vehicle’s bright-lights better illuminate what’s in front of us and what’s off to the sides of the road. Depending on the animal you might even see your lights reflected in its eyes.

Look For More Than One

In the spring and summer many animals will be traveling with their young. Animals such as Deer, Coyotes, Turkeys and stray dogs can be encountered in groups regardless of the time of year. Always be aware that the animal you see might not be the only animal on or near the road.

By minimally changing our driving habits we can save wildlife from dying on our roads.

Winton E. Ray / Curator of Invertebrates

October 16, 2014   No Comments

Small Cat Conservation Gets a Big Boost with a Federal Grant

You probably already know that the Cincinnati Zoo is committed to the conservation of lions, tigers and cheetahs, but did you know that we are also leading the way in small cat conservation? And our Small Cat Signature Project just got bigger! Our Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) recently received a Museums for America Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to improve our ability to maintain healthy captive populations of five small cat species across the country—the Brazilian ocelot, the Pallas’ cat, the black-footed cat, the Arabian sand cat and the fishing cat.

Ocelot (Photo: Cassandre Crawford)

Ocelot (Photo: Cassandre Crawford)

Pallas' cat (Photo: Mark Dumont)

Pallas’ cat (Photo: Mark Dumont)

Black-footed cat (Photo: Kathy Newton)

Black-footed cat (Photo: Kathy Newton)

Sand cat (Photo: Mark Dumont)

Sand cat (Photo: Mark Dumont)

Fishing cat (Photo: Kathy Newton)

Fishing cat (Photo: Kathy Newton)

Unfortunately, none of these small cat populations are considered sustainable through natural breeding alone. That’s where Dr. Bill Swanson, CREW’s Director of Animal Research and the world’s leading expert on small cat reproduction, comes in. Working in partnership with Dr. Jason Herrick of the National Foundation for Fertility Research and the Species Survival Plan coordinators for each species, Dr. Swanson will direct the project with a focus on three goals: 1) Collect and freeze semen from the most valuable cats for each species, 2) Produce viable offspring using artificial insemination in recommended breeding pairs that fail to reproduce naturally, 3) Produce offspring with frozen-thawed semen from genetically valuable or under-represented males.

CREW Scientists perform an artificial insemination procedure on a Pallas’ cat. (Photo: Shasta Bray)

CREW Scientists perform an artificial insemination procedure on a Pallas’ cat. (Photo: Shasta Bray)

Arabian sand cat kittens produced through artificial insemination and embryo transfer.

Arabian sand cat kittens produced through artificial insemination and embryo transfer.

Building on CREW’s decades of ground-breaking research on small cat reproduction, successful completion of this project will greatly enhance the sustainability and stewardship of small cat collections in AZA zoos. Now that’s big news!

October 9, 2014   1 Comment