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Category — General Zoo

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.

roadkill

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

Do You Know the Potto?

Everyone is familiar with primates like gorillas, monkeys and even lemurs, but not too many people know of the potto. So what’s a potto, you say? Pottos are prosimians, which are primitive primates, not as highly evolved as monkeys but sharing many of the same characteristics (fingernails and toenails, stereoscopic vision, forward facing eyes, etc.). Some other prosimians include lemurs, lorises, bushbabies, tarsiers and aye-ayes.

gabriel_fia

Gabriel the potto. Photo by Sophia Cifuentes

The Cincinnati Zoo is one of very few zoos around the world to exhibit pottos, not because they are endangered, but more because of their nocturnal way of life. Many zoos do not have a building like our Night Hunters exhibit in which the day / night light cycle is reversed. This allows us to exhibit nocturnal creatures under subdued blue lighting during the time our guests visit and then fill the exhibits with white lighting when our guests have left.

In early 2014, there were only 16 pottos in four zoos in the United States—Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Milwaukee County Zoo, Franklin Park Zoo and Cincinnati Zoo, of course. We have maintained pottos in our collection since the mid-1960s when we first opened the former Nocturnal House. We have been one of the top breeders of these African primates and we currently have seven pottos at the Zoo. Recently, it became clear that if we wanted to keep these charismatic animals in U.S. zoo collections, then we needed to have a plan to maximize the potential of our small population with regards to breeding and to also recruit more zoos to commit to exhibiting them as the potto population grew.

Baby potto

Baby potto

The Mammal Curators of the zoos holding pottos were all on board with the desire to continue to work with this species. The pedigree information of the U.S. population of pottos was run through a computer software program that provided us with the best possible pairings from our small group in order to maximize genetic diversity. From that information it became clear that in order to achieve our goal, 12 of the 16 pottos needed to move in order to create the pairings recommended. We also needed one more facility to join us to provide the extra space needed to ultimately put together the seven potential breeding pairs indicated by our “computer dating” service. The Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska stepped up to become the fifth zoo in the U.S. to maintain pottos.

potto_gabriel

By mid-summer, the five zoos had committed to making the necessary moves to have all the transfers completed before cold weather might become an issue for transportation. Of the six animals we originally had here in Cincinnati, four have transferred to other zoos while five new pottos arrived. We now have three pairs as well as a young male who will serve as a companion animal to an aging bamboo lemur. The other zoos involved with pottos will either have one pair (Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and the Henry Doorly Zoo) or two pairs (Franklin Park Zoo). The Milwaukee County Zoo, which is now holding a single young female potto, is attempting to import a young male potto from Africa, which will provide new genetics to our population as well as provide us with yet another pair of animals for breeding.

It has been very gratifying to see how well the five zoos have worked so quickly and cooperatively towards our common goal to maintain a healthy potto population. Though the potto may not be an endangered species, we would hate to lose this charismatic creature from our collections. Many Cincinnatians have met our potto, Gabriel, at the Zoo or at events around the city. I like to think that it’s because of this ambassador animal that more Cincinnatians know what a potto is than people in any other part of the country.

October 9, 2014   No Comments