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Category — Horticulture

Announcing the Internal Conservation Grant Fund Awards

Each year, the Zoo provides employees an opportunity to request financial support for in-situ wildlife conservation or conservation education projects through the Internal Conservation Grants Fund. Once again, the Conservation Committee received many outstanding applications for very worthy projects.  After much deliberation, the Committee chose to award the following projects this year.  Congratulations!

Plants for Pollinators: Selecting the Best

Submitted by Brian Jorg, Horticulture Department

Pollinators are critical to a healthy ecosystem. As the Zoo continues to reestablish wetlands habitat at the EcOhio Farm, the cultivation of healthy pollinator habitat is essential. This grant will enable us to attain native plant species known for their beneficial qualities to pollinators. The purpose of the project is to increase and monitor pollinator species and native flora preferences of these species. With this information, we can then concentrate on propagating the best native plant species for our region and use them in our reintroduction efforts. This information will also be made available to growers, landscapers, designers, homeowners and others doing restoration work in our region to improve the diversity and health of our ecosystems.

Black swallowtail butterfly on a purple coneflower (Photo: Kathy Newton)

Black swallowtail butterfly on a purple coneflower (Photo: Kathy Newton)

Scarlet Macaw Population Reinforcement in the Sierra Lacandon National Park, Mayan Biosphere Reserve, Guatemala

Submitted by Jennifer Gainer, Bird Keeper

The Zoo has supported scarlet macaw breeding and release efforts of the Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Association (ARCAS) for several years. In October, ARCAS released its first nine scarlet macaws in the Sierra Lacandon National Park. Yearly releases will aim to reinforce and ensure the survival of the scarlet macaw population in Guatemala, which is estimated to be only about 150 individuals at this time. This grant will continue our support by funding medical screenings, post-release monitoring and environmental education and awareness-raising activities in the local communities.

Scarlet macaw (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

Scarlet macaw (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

Sit. Stay. Stop Rhino Trafficking. Good Dog! 

Submitted by Wendy Shaffstall, Rhino Keeper

Rhino poaching is at an all-time high and rhino populations are severely declining pretty much everywhere they are found. Reversing this crisis will require demand reduction, a halt in trafficking and increased anti-poaching enforcement. This grant will support the creation of dedicated rhino-detection dog-handler teams by Working Dogs for Conservation to combat trafficking in North Luangwa national Park, the only remaining home for black rhinos in Zambia, and principal international airports and seaports in Vietnam, considered to be the world’s largest markets for rhino horn. Seizures will increase the costs and risks of poaching and provide critically important intelligence for both on-the-ground enforcement and infiltration of international trafficking rings.

Black rhino (Photo: Jeff McCurry)

Black rhino (Photo: Jeff McCurry)

A Comprehensive Conservation Action Plan for Two Sloth Species in Costa Rica

Submitted by Sarah Swanson, Interpretive Animal Keeper

Costa Rica is home to two sloth species, both of which face threats due to human encroachment such as being hit by cars, attacked by dogs, and electrocuted on electric wires. They are one of the most common patients at wildlife rescue centers, including The Sloth Institute Costa Rica (TSI). The purpose of this project is to compare the behavior and ecology of sloths that TSI has rescued, rehabilitated and released with that of wild sloths, which will provide valuable information for determining the effectiveness of sloth rehabilitation and release programs. The study will inform future practices as well as educational programs aimed at improving human-sloth coexistence.

Two-toed Sloth

Two-toed Sloth

December 18, 2015   No Comments

Celebrate National Arbor Day by Planting a Tree through Taking Root

Growing up, my favorite place to escape was among the weeping branches of a willow that stood in the far corner of our yard. I spent hours climbing that tree, watching the ants march up and down its wrinkled bark and making crowns of its leafy branches. Still now when I return to my childhood home for a visit, I always stop by to say hello to my old friend.

In our everyday lives, we generally pay little attention to the trees that grow beside us, providing the oxygen we breathe, cleaning the water we drink and shading the homes in which we live. And when we think about deforestation and the need to protect and plant trees, we usually picture far away tropical jungles. But right here in Cincinnati, we live in the middle of what used to be one of the world’s great forests, the Eastern woodlands.

Miami Whitewater Forest

Miami Whitewater Forest

When Ohio became a state in 1803, more than 95% of its land was covered with forest teeming with wildlife including black bears, wolves and bison. As settlers moved in, they cut down forests to farm. Less than 10% of Ohio remained forested by the early 1900s. Gradually, people became concerned about protecting the environment and forests began to reclaim some of the land. Today, more than 30% of Ohio is forested and wildlife populations are the healthiest they’ve been in the last century. Many species, such as the deer and turkey, have recovered fully, while others are well along the path to success, including the river otter and bald eagle.

With exotic insects like the emerald ash borer sweeping through the region killing trees, invasive plants like bush honeysuckle choking out native species and ongoing destruction and fragmentation of woodlands, there is still much recovery work to be done, and the Taking Root campaign is asking us all to get involved.

Taking Root logo

Chaired by our one of our own horticulturists, Scott Beuerlein, Taking Root is a collaboration between the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, the Ohio Kentucky Indiana Regional Council of Governments, the Green Partnership for a Greater Cincinnati and the Green Umbrella along with many other great organizations. Founded in 2013, the campaign’s goal is to plant 2 million trees by 2020 – that’s one tree for every person in the tri-state region.

Scott Beueurlein, Zoo Horticulturist and Chair of Taking Root

Scott Beueurlein, Zoo Horticulturist and Chair of Taking Root

 

More than 83,945 trees have been planted and registered with Taking Root so far.

Mt. Airy tree planting (Photo: Scott Beuerlein)

Mt. Airy tree planting (Photo: Scott Beuerlein)

Mt. Airy tree planting (Photo: Scott Beuerlein)

Mt. Airy tree planting (Photo: Scott Beuerlein)

You can help get the numbers up by planting trees in your yard or joining a tree planting event – check the website for a calendar of events.

Last year, my family and I helped plant trees at Mitchell Memorial Forest as part of the Taking Root campaign.

Last year, my family and I helped plant trees at Mitchell Memorial Forest as part of the Taking Root campaign.

Take the Tree Planting Challenge! It’s as easy as 1-2-3.

1) Plant and register a tree on the Taking Root website, or donate to the Taking Root Tree Fund.

2) Make a video of yourself challenging friends, family, or colleagues to do the same. Check out Zoo Director Thane Maynard’s video.

3) Post your video on Facebook or other social media and link it to the Taking Root Facebook page.

You can also nominate a special tree in the tri-state region to be listed on the Zoo’s website as a Tree of Merit. Here at the Zoo, we have a particularly special red oak, Quercus rubra, that was likely here before the Zoo was even established. At more than 130 years old, it is quite impressive. It grows in the central lawn area between Swan Lake and the Reptile House. Next time you’re at the Zoo, be sure to stop by and marvel at this beautiful elder. Imagine all that has changed around it during its lifetime!

This red oak is older than the Zoo itself! (Photo: Shasta Bray)

This red oak is older than the Zoo itself! (Photo: Shasta Bray)

April 24, 2015   No Comments

Restoring Native Wetlands and Wildlife at the EcOhio Farm

This Earth Day, let’s celebrate and give thanks for one of Earth’s most diverse ecosystems – the wetland. Lands that are wet for at least part of the year such as marshes, swamps and bogs, wetlands support a diversity of wildlife and are important to the health of our environment. They are nature’s nursery, providing food and shelter for young animals, and are important rest stops for migratory birds as well. Wetlands help control flooding and purify our water, and also provide us with recreational opportunities such as fishing and bird-watching.

EcOhio wetland (Photo: Brian Jorg)

EcOhio wetland (Photo: Brian Jorg)

Ohio has lost 90% of its original wetlands. The Zoo has taken on an ambitious wetlands restoration project to bring back some of what Ohio has lost. In 1995, a 529-acre farm in Mason, Ohio, now called the EcOhio Farm, was willed to the Zoo with the guideline that it could never be developed unless it is to further the mission of the Zoo. Over the past few years, the Zoo has worked to restore 25 of the farm’s acres from soybean and corn fields to its original state of a wet sedge meadow, providing refuge for a diversity of native wildlife.

Brian Jorg, Manager of Native Plant Program

Brian Jorg, Manager of Native Plant Program

Led by Brian Jorg, Manager of the Native Plant Program at the Zoo, restoration began in 2012 with a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program. Removing drainage tiles that had been installed by farmers allowed the groundwater to rise naturally. Since then, Brian and a dedicated team of volunteers have planted more than 200 native plant species, including spirea, long-leaf pond plants, and thousands of trees. Many of the native plants were propagated from seeds in Quonset huts built on the site.

Plants propagated on site (Photo: Brian Jorg)

Plants propagated on site (Photo: Brian Jorg)

This spring, the next phase of habitat restoration involves cultivating natural grasslands and forested fencerows along the property borders to protect the watershed. Volunteers are adding hundreds of oaks to fencerows and forested areas, as well as adding prairie plants, including milkweed, to the open grasslands.

Volunteers plant trees on site (Photo: Brian Jorg)

Volunteers plant trees on site (Photo: Brian Jorg)

The wetland is returning to its natural state very quickly. Once you return the habitat, nature will take over and do the rest. Already, the wetland has attracted 125 native bird species, including bobolinks, killdeer, sandhill cranes and even bald eagles, which would never have been there when it was a cornfield. Plenty of other wildlife from frogs and toads to snakes are also moving in and taking advantage of the new habitat.

Ringed-neck duck at the EcOhio wetland (Photo: Brian Jorg)

Ringed-neck duck at the EcOhio wetland (Photo: Brian Jorg)

Just one of the many frogs making a home at the EcOhio wetland (Photo: Brian Jorg)

Just one of the many frogs making a home at the EcOhio wetland (Photo: Brian Jorg)

Interested in getting involved with the EcOhio wetland project? Contact Brian Jorg at brian.jorg@cincinnatizoo.org. Please include any special abilities, such as planting/gardening, birding, carpentry (able to construct bird boxes), etc.

April 22, 2015   3 Comments