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Saving Scarlet Macaws in Guatemala

One of the largest and most brilliantly colored macaws, the scarlet macaw inhabits the tropical forests of Central and South America. Despite its large range, scarlet macaw populations in Central America suffer greatly from the pet trade, hunting and habitat loss. The Zoo supports scarlet macaw conservation in Guatemala through the Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Centre (ARCAS).

Scarlet macaw (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

Scarlet macaw (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

ARCAS collaborates with other organizations to ensure the survival of the scarlet macaw within the Mayan Biosphere Reserve through the Macaws Without Borders consortium. In addition to rescue and rehabilitation of wildlife, ARCAS also conducts environmental education activities as well as breeds scarlet macaws with the aim of reintroducing them to bolster the wild population, which is estimated at fewer than 150 scarlet macaws in Guatemala.

ARCAS entrance sign

ARCAS entrance sign

ARCAS initiated its scarlet macaw breeding program in 2004 at the Rescue Centre. Since then, it has successfully fledged two to four birds a year for a total of 45 so far. It has had to overcome obstacles including attacks by Africanized bees and margays, thefts and parasitic infestations of nest boxes. There are now nearly 100 scarlet macaws at the Centre (captive-bred and rescues), an important genetic stock for future reintroduction efforts. ARCAS is currently laying the groundwork to establish an ongoing release program in the Sierra Lacandon National Park where it plans to release up to six macaws per year to reinforce the severely depleted population in the park.

A breeding pair of scarlet macaws at the Centre

A breeding pair of scarlet macaws at the Centre

Flight cage at the Centre

Flight cage at the Centre

Funds supplied by the Zoo have been used to construct an incubation house for chicks requiring special care and new flight cages that enable the fledgling birds to fly and strengthen their muscles in preparation for their eventual release into the wild. The Zoo also funds field trips for local students to visit the ARCAS center and learn about the scarlet macaw program.

Scarlet macaw fledgling

Scarlet macaw fledgling

January 2, 2015   No Comments

Can Progesterone Predict Pregnancy in Red Pandas?

Scientists at CREW are studying the reproduction of red pandas and have diagnosed pregnancies via trans-abdominal ultrasound. However, performing diagnostic ultrasound imaging requires animal training, a costly ultrasound machine (and a trained ultrasonographer to use it), and is not easily performed on less agreeable individuals. The development of a pregnancy test based on fecal analysis would allow non-invasive pregnancy detection in any female and also could be applied to wild individuals.

Conducting an ultrasound

Conducting an ultrasound

In addition to performing regular ultrasounds on the Zoo’s female red pandas, Bailey and Idgie (who has since transferred to another zoo), CREW scientists are measuring fecal hormone metabolites, such as progesterone (P4), to assess their usefulness as indicators of pregnancy.

Bailey had cubs in 2012 and 2013, and both pregnancies were diagnosed via ultrasound. As expected, fecal hormone metabolite analysis showed that her P4 concentrations increased after breeding and remained elevated until she gave birth. The other female, Idgie, was observed breeding, but no pregnancies were detected. Fecal P4 analysis revealed that her P4 was actually higher than Bailey’s in both years, even though she was not pregnant.

These data support the theory of pseudo-pregnancy in red pandas, which has been suggested for years, but not yet proven. Although P4 is generally considered to be the “pregnancy hormone” and can be used to infer pregnancy status in many species, these results indicate that P4 levels alone cannot be used to diagnose pregnancy in red pandas.

Photo: Mark Dumont

Photo: Mark Dumont

December 17, 2014   No Comments

Zoo Academy is Life-changing

Guest blogger: Zoo Academy senior, Dominick Stowers

Hello, my name is Dominick and I am one of the most nonchalant seniors of this year. The reason I came to the Zoo Academy is it sounded like a really amazing experience that will take you far towards being the most renowned zoo keeper or director of a zoo. I came to better my education and I also have always had a real passion for animals of all sorts.

Although I have a passion for animals, I was not always allowed to explore that passion. There was always someone in my family that had a phobia of some kind of animal. My dad had a phobia of snakes and birds of all kinds. My mom and my two sisters and my little brother all have a phobia of insects and of any animal that they knew nothing about. For me, I am open to learning and handling any animal from insects to mammals to reptiles and birds. I just enjoy being around animals and the Zoo Academy gives me that chance to explore my passion.

Here I am handling a ball python

Here I am handling a ball python

The Zoo Academy is not just a high school or a place for work and no fun; that would be short selling the Zoo Academy. This program will allow a person to get their high school diploma and give them the chance to obtain experience in the field of animal care, nutrition and health. The students of this program are able to care for exotic animals that normally they could only see in television or in a movie and here at the Zoo Academy the students provide their services to help the zookeepers take great care of the animals from bathing to feeding. There is no other Zoo in the country that has a full time high school located on their premises, which makes the Cincinnati Zoo so fantastic and it is just an awesome opportunity to learn about rare and endangered animals.

Having the opportunity to work with these animals and these people is life changing. Once you have this experience, you will never look at life the same. The way that I use to view life and how I view life now is totally different. I did not know that life could be so peaceful inside a zoo with all those smells and noises. The zoo is so much more than just 70 acres of noisy and smelly animals; it is a place of peace and harmony which will change a person’s life if given the chance.

December 12, 2014   2 Comments