Category — General Zoo
Contributor: Ron Evans
Continuing our celebration of National Zoo Keeper Week, we’d like you to meet Eric High, Head Keeper in the Zoo’s Primate Department. Eric has worked at the Zoo for almost 15 years, and he has an incredible work ethic. He sets a “high” bar (pun intended) for his keepers, and leads by strong example.
Eric is acutely focused on the myriad of Zoo and departmental missions and goals that have been presented to him, and is instrumental in their development, execution and long term management. Eric was key in facilitating some of the first examples of many programs we practice zoo-wide and are common today. For example, Eric helped usher one of our very first animal department comprehensive operant conditioning programs with gorillas in the early 2000s. It still stands as one of the best in the Zoo.
Additionally, he helped develop and manage one of the very first advertised keeper chats (outside of the Cat, Bird and Elephant shows) at the Zoo, complete with microphones, which at the time scared half the keepers to death to use. He knew it was important to the Zoo’s mission and that it would help set the bar for other departments.
Finally, Eric managed the complicated scheduling of staff working 24/7 during the very challenging Gladys surrogacy project and kept the rest of the Primate Center needs on track while many resources had to be diverted for Gladys.
Eric is one of the rock solid foundation keepers that allow us to maintain current programs while supporting efforts to enhance and grow new ones. If we could clone a bunch of him, we could run this Zoo with about half the staff. The productivity would go way, way up!
July 22, 2014 No Comments
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!
July 15, 2014 1 Comment
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.
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.
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.
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.
July 11, 2014 1 Comment