Category — News
Co-written with Chelsea Wellmer, AmeriCorps Visitor Engagement Member
The scarrrr-let macaw, of course! Forgive us for the corny joke, but it is Talk Like a Pirate Day. Terrible jokes aside, the scarlet macaw is a very colorful and charismatic parrot often kept as a pet, especially in its range countries. Although international trade is banned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), illegal trade still continues.
To combat the negative effects of nest poaching and habitat loss on scarlet macaw populations in the wild, the Zoo is proud to support the Scarlet Macaw Reinforcement Program conducted by the Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Association (ARCAS), a rescue and research center in Guatemala. This is an effort the Zoo has supported for years through our Internal Conservation Grant Fund, featured in previous blog posts. The Zoo has contributed funds for medical screenings, post-release monitoring, and environmental education and awareness-raising activities in the local communities.
The scarlet macaw is one of the most important species in the Maya Biosphere Reserve, located in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. It is a representative of Mayan culture and a keystone species for its ecosystem. However, only 300 to 400 individuals remain in this region, about 150 of which live in Guatemala.
In October 2015, ARCAS released nine individuals in the Sierra Lacandon National Park in the northern Peten region of Guatemala—the first ever release of scarlet macaws in the country. These macaws were captive bred at the rescue center from birds that had been confiscated from the illegal pet trade. The chicks were raised by their parents so they would be less likely to become imprinted on humans and will have a better chance at surviving in the wild. They were fed wild food so that they know what to eat once they were released. Before release, laboratory exams were carried out to confirm the health of the birds and prevent the spread of illnesses into wild populations.
The objective of this release was to reinforce the local scarlet macaw population that currently exists within the national park. Five of these individuals were fitted with satellite transmitters, which enabled ARCAS to track their movements and gauge their success in adapting to the wild.
Ten months after the release, ARCAS reports a known 60% survival rate of the five collared macaws, which represents a huge accomplishment for ARCAS and the scarlet macaw population! (No information is known about the survival of the non-collared individuals.) These birds survived a summer with a severe drought as well as a late start to the rainy season and the fruiting season. They have moved significant distances every month, indicating successful adaptation to the environment.
The Zoo is thrilled with the accomplishments of this first release, and we “arrrr” excited to see the positive impact this program will continue to have in the future.
September 19, 2016 No Comments
Guest blogger: Kristina Meek, Wild Encounters
Happy International Red Panda Day! It’s virtually impossible not to smile when you watch this fuzzy Asian mammal frolic. It’s no surprise that two years ago a video of our red pandas playing in the snow went viral and made international news.
Of course, there’s a lot more to red pandas than just being cute. Like so many animals, they face daunting, often human-made threats to their existence. Red pandas are classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, which means they face a high risk of extinction in the wild.
The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is proud to help save red pandas through research and breeding as well as through support of Red Panda Network, the conservation organization behind International Red Panda Day.
“While Red Panda Network’s primary focus is on conservation efforts in native red panda habitat in Nepal, zoos in other parts of the world are some of our most important allies in the fight to save this wonderful animal. Deforestation and poaching now sadly mean that home is not safe for these animals, and keeping a population in a managed habitat monitored and protected by people has become necessary for some of them. These captive populations allow researchers and keepers to observe the animals’ behavior. The more we know about how these animals act, the better we can develop effective conservation strategies.” – Red Panda Network
Scientists at the Zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) have devoted years to studying red panda reproduction. They’ve produced data that support the theory that red pandas can display “pseudo-pregnancy,” or a false reading based on hormone levels previously used to diagnose pregnancy.
Over the past few years, our researchers have successfully diagnosed red panda pregnancies using trans-abdominal ultrasound. Although the procedure requires animal training and comes with a high price tag, it has proven more accurate than hormone tests. In 2015, we bred the first red panda cubs with birth dates accurately predicted using a combination of ultrasonography and hormone monitoring.
Currently, we have a pair of cubs, Harriet and Hazel, born to mom, Lin, in June. At three months old, they are just starting to venture out on exhibit. Our red panda exhibit also houses two adult females, and soon we’ll receive two new males for future breeding. Stop by their exhibit and look for them; you might spot them in the trees. And go ahead, say it: “They’re soooo cute!”
Not in Cincinnati and want to know where you can go to see red pandas near you? Check out this worldwide search tool.
September 17, 2016 No Comments
Guest blogger: Courtney Dvorsky, CREW Plant Lab Intern
Growing up in Cincinnati, my love for conservation research grew each time I visited the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. As a kid, I attended summer camps, and in 2008 and 2009, I was a VolunTeen. Now, seven years later, I had the amazing opportunity to be an Intern with the Zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) plant division! The project I worked on, funded by the Association of Zoo Horticulture (AZH), focused on determining if seed banking could be an option to help conserve some of the endangered trillium species.
There are many species within the Trillium genus of spring wildflowers, most of which are native to North American woodlands. With three petals, three sepals and three leaves, they are commonly called trinity flowers. Many trillium species, including the Ohio state wildflower, the white trillium (Trillium grandiflorum), still thrive in the wild. There are others, however, that are threatened or endangered such as the persistent trillium (Trillium persistens).
My first task was to set up germination trials to compare germination in soil with germination in vitro (in tissue culture) for several different trillium species. Many trillium seeds have a double dormancy, meaning they need two cold periods to germinate entirely. Thus, it takes about two years for a seed to germinate into a trillium seedling. Unfortunately, as a result, I won’t see germination while I am at CREW.
My second task was to determine if the seeds could withstand drying in order to be seed banked. Seeds that are banked must be under 20% moisture content so we began by analyzing the initial moisture in the seeds directly out of a fruit pod. We then dried the seeds to different moisture levels using air, silica gel, and three humidity levels created in containers with three different saturated salt solutions (NaCl, MgCl, and LiCl).
After the seeds were dried, we analyzed them for moisture content and viability using a stain known as TTC (triphenyl tetrazolium chloride). If the seed is still viable, it will stain red. If the seed is not viable, it will not stain at all. So far we succeeded in drying the seeds to under the 20% moisture content needed for seed banking; however, they are often not viable. CREW is running more tests to try to repeat these results in the months to come.
Unfortunately, my time as an intern has come to an end. Luckily, I will be just a short distance away working on my PhD at Miami University of Ohio, so I will be able to check in on my seeds. Here’s hoping for some germination!
August 18, 2016 No Comments