Category — News
Here at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, we are embracing the honeybee, Apis mellifera. Honeybees do more than just pollinate flowers and make honey. They also pollinate a third of the world’s crops and are critical to our agricultural system. Their populations, however, are in severe decline.
Here is where Pollen Nation, the newest group of beekeepers, steps in. A diverse group of Zoo staff and volunteers, Pollen Nation was established in 2014 to promote pollinator awareness by re-wilding habitats and inspiring action while connecting the community to nature. “We’re not just beekeepers, we’re a group of people passionate about all aspects of a healthy ecological system…down to every little detail, including the honeybee,” says Melanie Evans, one of Pollen Nation’s founders.
Pollen Nation has established 18 honeybee hives on the “EcOhio Farm,” a portion of the Zoo’s 600-acre off-site property in Warren County. The hives will boost the declining honeybee population and also raise awareness about conservation action that can be taken in one’s own backyard. Though it may take a few years for the colonies to establish themselves before we can extract honey, eventually we expect to sell honey produced from the hives in the Zoo Shop.
How can you get involved and help out honeybees?
- Come see the new beehive on Zoo grounds across from the World of the Insect building. Learn more about bees during Honeybee Chats at 2:00pm on Fridays through Tuesdays. Chats will wrap up at the end of October and start up again in spring.
- Sign up for an Education Program series on honeybees that will be led by Pollen Nation members in January. Details to be posted soon at http://cincinnatizoo.org/education/.
- Help us learn more about bees in the greater Cincinnati area. Simply snap pictures of bees that you see and submit to beespotter.org/cincinnatizoo with the date and location. An expert scientist from the Entomology Department at the University of Illinois will identify the species and add it to the database, helping us to further understand bee species demographics in our area. We are currently developing an app that should launch in spring.
- Follow Pollen Nation on Facebook to learn about honeybees and keep up with our activities.
- Plant native and pollinator-friendly vegetation such as milkweed, sunflowers, bee balm, and other wildflowers for bees to pollinate in your own backyard.
- Limit pesticide use in your gardens and don’t use during mid-day hours when honeybees are most active. Consider choosing natural pesticides or home-made remedies.
What will the bees do over the winter? In about two weeks, we will winterize the hives where the bees will hunker down. We plan to stack hay bales near the hives as wind barriers and ensure there is enough honey for the bees to feed on to survive the winter. The bees themselves will make their own sort of caulking, called propolis, to seal off the hive’s seams and keep the cold air out. After that, we’ll leave them alone until it’s time to re-emerge in April and get back to work.
How can you spot a honeybee?
October 16, 2015 1 Comment
On Friday, October 2, the Zoo bid farewell to its youngest manatee, Abigail, in preparation for her release back into the wild. Upon her arrival to the Cincinnati Zoo back in 2013, Abigail weighed just 295 lbs. At three-and-a-half years old, Abigail was rescued from the Indian River system near Merritt Island in Brevard County, Florida. Suffering from cold stress, Abigail received critical care at Sea World Orlando before coming to Cincinnati.
Now up to healthy 630 lbs, Abigail is ready to go back to the wild. “The departure of Abigail brings both sadness and joy to our hearts. We will miss her but are happy to see her return home, fully recovered. She plays a vital role in the recovery of this endangered species,” said Zoo manatee keeper James Vogel. Veterinarian Dr. Mark Campbell and manatee keeper Megan O’Keefe accompanied the manatee on her overnight journey on a DHL flight to Miami Seaquarium, where she will stay until she is ready to be released into her native habitat. She will be released back into the waters in Brevard County once she becomes acclimated (at Miami Seaquarium) to the natural diet and brackish water found in that region. Her movements will be tracked via satellite for one year.
Abigail is the 14th manatee to be rehabilitated at the Cincinnati Zoo and will be the 13th to be released back into Florida waters. The Cincinnati Zoo is one of two U.S. zoos outside of Florida that participate in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Manatee Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release Program. The goal of this program is to rescue and treat sick or injured manatees and then release them back into the wild.
The Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) is a cooperative group of non-profit, private, state, and federal entities who work together to monitor the health and survival of rehabilitated and released manatees. Information about manatees currently being tracked is available at www.ManateeRescue.org. The endangered Florida manatee is at risk from both natural and man-made causes of injury and mortality. Exposure to red tide, cold stress, and disease are all natural problems that can affect manatees. Human-caused threats include boat strikes, crushing by flood gates or locks, and entanglement in or ingestion of fishing gear.
Abigail’s companion at Manatee Springs, 25-year-old Betsy, will remain in Cincinnati long term and will be joined by another manatee in need of rehabilitation in the next few months.
October 12, 2015 No Comments
“How hard can it be to track a sloth?” This was the question that I was teased with several times prior to my recent trip to Costa Rica. My honest answer was “I don’t know, probably not that hard.” Guess what? Trying to find an animal designed to camouflage itself 50 feet off the ground in dense canopy is pretty darn hard. Surveying a population of brown-throated three-toed (Bradypus variegatus) and Hoffman’s two-toed (Choloepus hoffmanni) sloths is just one of the ways that I (Head Keeper for the Interpretive Collection) and Amanda Chambers (Team Leader for the same department) helped out our colleagues at The Sloth Institute Costa Rica (TSI). TSI was established in 2014 and is a branch of Kids Saving The Rainforest (KSTR). With high hopes of becoming more involved in conservation directly, our department formed a relationship with Sam Trull, Co-founder of TSI, last year. Since then, we have helped them purchase four radio-collars to track rehabilitated and wild sloths with funds raised through our Moe’mentous Sloth Encounters, an experience at the Zoo that allows guests to meet Moe, our two-toed sloth (Choloepus didactylus). Part of TSI’s mission is to rehabilitate injured and orphaned sloths, release them back into the wild, and then collect data on the released and wild sloths in the area of the release. The other part is to educate the local community about how to peacefully coexist with native wildlife, particularly sloths!
So off to Costa Rica we went last month in search of sloths and ways we could help TSI move their mission forward. Amanda and I had never traveled to Costa Rica before and were so excited with the anticipation of seeing so many different species of animals that we’ve only seen in captivity. We were not disappointed! Costa Rica has the largest concentration of species anywhere in the world. It is truly a biodiversity hotspot! It also has reserved a full 25% of its land for wildlife. This is an impressive number. Costa Rica, as I’m sure you can imagine if you’ve never been, is unbelievably beautiful. It hosts 13 different micro-climates that include desert, cloud forest, and tropical rainforest. For all these reasons, in addition to their beautiful beaches, Costa Rica is a major tourist destination.
Now, we have a hugely diverse group of flora and fauna, lots of protection from the government, amazing scenery, and lots of people coming to see it. Here’s the issue – bisection of the habitats. To get eco-tourists into these remote areas so they can have an experience that connects them with nature, there have to be roads. There also has to be electric wires and every other form of development that comes with humans. This then causes animals to come into closer contact with humans. Sloths are particularly vulnerable to roads, electric wires, and domestic dogs. While we were at KSTR one day, a female three-toed sloth and her day old baby were brought into the clinic. The tree the mom had been in had been cut down by someone and she fell and broke her arm. The next day, she gave birth and was rushed to KSTR for help. Unfortunately, electrocutions, car strikes, and dog attacks are all too common. I’m happy to report that mama sloth had a successful surgery to repair her arm and is recovering well with baby by her side.
Currently, Sam is hand-rearing nine baby sloths, and two other juveniles have been moved into a pre-release cage in a maritime zone along the Pacific coast in Manuel Antonio. All of this makes for lots to do. TSI relies almost completely on volunteers. They help feed the sloths (2:00 AM feeds for even an adorable baby sloth wear you out), construct cages, track wild sloths at the release site, lead educational tours, and log tons of data. Amanda and I spent a morning surveying the release area for sloths. Hannah, one of the researchers, said she had logged 25 separate sloths the day before. We walked up and down hills for hours, craning our necks and looking through binoculars. We found three.
Our days were also spent constructing sloth litter boxes (sloths climb down from the canopy about once a week to deposit their waste at the bottom of the tree) for the release cage, recording data on a wild mom and baby two-toed sloth pair, going to the local farmers’ market to buy goat milk for the babies, and transporting a sick sloth to the vet clinic an hour away to get a digital x-ray. We learned a lot about what wild sloths are eating and we are hoping to plant some of those trees in the Discovery Forest exhibit here at the Zoo where Moe lives.
During our trip, the Zoo launched a successful Booster t-shirt campaign for the care and feeding of Moe with part of the proceeds going to TSI. Thank you to everyone who bought a shirt and supported captive and wild sloths! Our goal is to remain active in Costa Rica with sloth conservation. We feel that community engagement in the Manuel Antonio area as well as the larger Costa Rican community is key and it is where we hope to focus all of our future ideas and actions as a department. Our Zoo has taught us to dream big and pursue our own experiences with conservation. We could not have done this without the support of our Zoo leaders and our Interpretive Team.
If you are interested in meeting Moe, our two-toed sloth, and learning more about how to get involved in sloth conservation, be sure to schedule a Moe’mentous Sloth Encounter with us soon. Also, be sure to follow The Sloth Institute on Facebook for updates on the upcoming releases of their rehabilitated sloths!
October 6, 2015 No Comments