Category — General Zoo
Many households in America cannot imagine their home without the four-legged member of their family. In a lot of cases, that member happens to be a dog. And while most dog owners take wonderful care of their dogs, many would be surprised to hear that their dogs would still benefit from and appreciate additional mental stimulation. If fun challenges are not provided for a dog, most will decide to create their own. And unfortunately, owners and dogs tend to disagree on what is classified “fun.” Many dogs want to naturally use their senses to hunt and forage for food and this simple instinct is commonly taken away from them because most pets tend to be fed out of bowls.
Contrary to popular belief, I personally think that no dog should be fed out of bowl (unless medically necessary).
How on earth do you feed your dog if you can’t use a bowl???
Here at the Cincinnati Zoo the amazing keepers spend much of their time trying to find creative ways of keeping our animals mentally and physically satisfied, through enrichment. This can be a very difficult task with some of our extremely intelligent animals, however, it’s also one of the most entertaining and satisfying parts of a keeper’s job.
Daily feeding time is one of the easiest ways to enrich our animals. Some animals will get their breakfast scattered or hidden throughout their enclosure, while others are given toys that they have to play with to get their breakfast to fall out. That being said, enrichment is not just for zoo animals – many people forget that they can enrich their pet’s life too!
“Chester”, our Andean spectacled bear, is a wonderful example of an animal that loves his puzzle feeder. Several days a week Chester’s favorite treats and breakfast items are given to him from inside a simple feeder toy. Solving the puzzle feeder can sometimes take him 45 minutes of constantly moving and thinking to get his breakfast. Chester uses his natural instincts to hunt and forage and this satisfies many of his desires - simply through taking one additional step to feed him.
When it comes to your pets at home you can do the same thing we do with Chester. You can feed your dog or cat from a puzzle toy. There are many that are wonderful, such as all of the Premier Pet Products, Starmark, and Kong to name a few. Place your pet’s dry kibble into the feeding toy and place the toy in whichever room you prefer them to eat in. I prefer it to be on a hard surface, so they don’t get kibble and saliva on the carpet. But, it is up to you.
Some toys can be difficult so it’s important that you start with a fairly easy toy, so your dog is rewarded (with food!) more often. Gradually, you can work up to a more difficult toy. This activity should take your dog 20-40 minutes of constantly moving and thinking before it is complete. If it’s easier than that, you should probably look at other toys or more unique ways to feed your dog (some ideas will be covered later on this blog).
If you need more ideas please feel free to comment and tell me about your issues/concerns. I hope you enjoy spending time with your pet and choosing to more thoroughly enrich their lives.
September 13, 2013 1 Comment
As we described in a previous post, several samples stored in the Frozen Garden of CREW’s CryoBioBank are going to be removed during the next months in order to examine their viability. And, here are results from the first ones: Coming to life after being stored for 15 and 20 years in the ultra-low temperatures of liquid nitrogen (-321 F!!)! And the most interesting result…they germinated as fast and as well as they did the day they were frozen!
These are seeds from poplar trees. Seeds from poplars, and also from most willows, germinate very fast because in their natural habitats they have enough water available when they are shed, but also because they must germinate in a short window of time. These trees grow very close to water courses and floodplains where there are frequent disturbances of the substrate in which they grow. The most common disturbance is flooding, which in most cases removes the soil and washes away the seeds and seedlings that are not established. Moreover, during winter, water in the soil can freeze, damaging any ungerminated seeds that remain completely wet along the river banks. For these reasons seeds are shed at the end of the spring and beginning of the summer, when temperatures are warm enough and water availability optimal. Thanks to their fast germination (within 24 hours!) poplars and willows can grow quickly in the summer days, establishing small trees that will be big and strong enough to survive flash flooding and the cold and dry winter. However these seeds are very short lived, and die at ambient conditions in just 2 or 3 weeks if they do not germinate. In the Frozen Garden of CREW at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden we have preserved their initial viability and rate of germination for several years; including some samples stored up to 2 decades!! Thanks to these experiments we have demonstrated that seeds from endangered poplars and willows can be preserved for long periods of time, in order to keep them alive for our future generations!
Along with poplars and willows, orthodox seeds of several species were removed from liquid nitrogen in June. Orthodox seeds are those seeds that naturally dry during their maturation in the fruit, and thus they can be frozen in seed banks, keeping their initial viability and vigor. So, we could say that they have a “natural” predisposition to be stored at the low temperatures of liquid nitrogen. We have chosen these samples since they do not have special requirements for their recovery and germination, as other samples stored in the frozen garden have (as shoot tips, etc). Germination is the easiest way to analyze seed viability, and, at the same time, it produces seedlings that can be grown to produce plants for future use.
In order to recover seeds from the Frozen Garden, the cryovials with seeds were carefully removed, since dry seeds at very low temperatures are very brittle and we didn’t want to damage them. Then the cryovials were thawed at room temperature for 1 hour. Seeds were re-hydrated in a moist, saturated environment over night to avoid any imbibitional damage, which is damage that can be produced by rapid water uptake when seeds are very dry.
Some of the seeds have special requirements for germination because they are dormant. One of these special requirements is a “moist/cold stratification” for several weeks in order to break the dormancy and stimulate germination. It is as if the seeds were resting in the soil of winter! Seeds that did not require stratification were sown in petri dishes on blue filter paper particularly designed for seed germination. Then they were put in a controlled temperature and light growth chamber, and germination was monitored daily.
Seeds from several species have germinated very well after storage in ultra-low temperatures for several years, including the short lived seeds of the endangered plant, native to eastern North America, Plantago cordata (heartleaf plantain). The heartleaf plantain is threatened or endangered in 11 states including Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky because populations have declined or disappeared almost everywhere. The heartleaf plantain is a wetland plant with highly localized distribution which makes it very sensitive to habitat destruction, particularly that occurring for urbanization. We have stored their seeds for 14 years without any decline in their initial germination.
More samples will be removed soon! We will keep you updated with the most interesting findings!
September 9, 2013 1 Comment
In August, CREW staff traveled down to Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky to accompany the US Forest Service in their annual survey of our Cumberland sandwort experimental outplanting. The Cumberland sandwort is a small, delicate plant that clings precariously to the sandy soil of sandstone rock formations in the Cumberland Plateau of southern Kentucky and northern Tennessee. It is endangered, in large part due to trampling by hikers and people scavenging for Native American artifacts. CREW has been working with the US Fish & Wildlife Service to help preserve and protect this little plant.
Using seeds collected in 1994 from Pickett State Park in Tennessee, CREW established 10 genetic lines of the Cumberland sandwort in our tissue culture lab, and we banked each line in liquid nitrogen in our CryoBioBank. In 2005, to test whether the plants grown by tissue culture could be used to re-establish a population if needed, CREW and the US Forest Service planted 77 plants from our tissue culture lab in a sandstone cave in Daniel Boone National Forest that had a habitat similar to the native habitat of the sandwort. On our August 2013 trip to that experimental outplanting, we counted 160 plants!
It looks like our experimental outplanting is flourishing in its new location, so now we want to look at the genetic diversity of the outplanting. Genetic diversity in a population is important because it allows the population to adapt to changing environments, or to survive and develop resistance to disease. Although we had started with 77 plants, they were all clones of the 10 original genetic lines established in our tissue culture lab. On our trip, we collected leaf samples from 35 individuals to analyze using microsatellite markers. For comparison, we also traveled down to the two locations in Pickett State Park that our original seeds were collected from and collected about 150 total leaf samples from the two large populations. Now we’re working on extracting DNA from the nearly 200 leaf samples collected this August. We should be able to compare the amount of genetic diversity generated in the experimental outplanting with the amount of genetic diversity naturally found in the original populations. This study is part of a larger study where we are evaluating the genetic stability of tissues that have been stored in liquid nitrogen for up to 20 years – a project that is supported in part by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, as well as CREW’s Eisenberg Fellowship. It should give us insight into how to manage and protect threatened and endangered plant populations more effectively. Keep an eye out for our results!
September 3, 2013 No Comments