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Category — Red panda

The Power of Connections: Endangered Species Day

Guest blogger: Kristina Meek, Wild Encounters

There are currently 16,306 plants and animals listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). That’s more people than visit our Zoo on a typical spring day.

It’s Endangered Species Day, so you might hear a lot of shocking numbers like this, which could understandably put a damper on your day. If you wanted to make a difference, which of the 16,000+ would you even choose to start with? Well, you don’t have to choose. All plant and animal life is interconnected, which means that by taking small actions that support a healthy ecosystem, you can benefit all species, including our own!

If you’re visiting our blog, you’re probably passionate about animals and the environment. That passion gives you power. Let’s look at how you can harness your power to make Endangered Species Day the start of significant change.

What does “endangered” actually mean?

It’s a good idea to first understand what we mean by the term. In the 1990s, the IUCN developed the Red List of Threatened Species™, widely recognized as the standard for evaluating a plant or animal’s risk of extinction. They rank species along a continuum from “least concern,” to “vulnerable,” followed by “endangered,” the more serious “critically endangered,” and finally, “extinct.” Watch this video to learn more.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also maintains a list of endangered species, as do state and local agencies. Around our Zoo and others, you might see signs that display an animal’s IUCN classification. For example, you’ll see that the red pandas are considered “vulnerable,” while the black rhinos are “critically endangered.”

Black rhino (Photo: Cassandre Crawford)

Black rhino (Photo: Cassandre Crawford)

Taking action

As we’ve said, one positive environmental action holds the potential to affect a lot of different areas. We’re all living on the same planet, so shopping with reusable bags here in Cincinnati really does have ripple effects for polar bears in the Arctic!

Here at the Zoo, you can bring us your old cell phone for recycling, which reduces the need for mining metals in endangered gorilla habitat to make new ones. Go a step further by collecting phones at your school or around your neighborhood.

Western lowland gorillas (Photo: Mark Dumont)

Western lowland gorillas (Photo: Mark Dumont)

You can also support our many conservation field efforts. Cheetahs, western lowland gorillas, and keas are just a few of the species we’re actively involved with conserving in the wild. When we work to protect these animals’ habitats, we also benefit countless other species with whom they share space.

You don’t need to limit your choices to those you can carry out at the Zoo. Change can begin in your own backyard…literally. Plant native plant species in your yard. They’ll attract native insects which, in turn, will attract other native species that eat them, and native species that eat them. More pollinating insects means more native plants and, you see, the cycle really gets going!

Good news

As a team, organizations accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), like ours, have made strides in restoring more than 30 species to healthy wild populations, including the American bison, the California condor and a variety of aquatic species. (Read more about AZA efforts here.)

There has been good news just over the past year. In 2015, the IUCN moved the Iberian lynx from “critically endangered” to the less severe “endangered.” The Guadalupe fur seal went from “threatened” down to “least concern.” The global community has taken new interest in restricting trophy hunting thanks, in part, to the publicity surrounding Cecil the lion’s tragic death. Change can happen.

And just last week, we received good news for a critically endangered species that is near and dear to our hearts, the Sumatran rhino. A female rhino calf was born on May 12 at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) in Indonesia. The calf’s father, Andalas, was born here at the Zoo in 2001 and moved to the SRS in 2007. With fewer than 100 Sumatran rhinos left on the planet, this birth is significant for the species, and we are proud to have played a part in it.

Ratu and her newborn calf (Photo: Stephen Belcher)

Ratu and her newborn calf (Photo: Stephen Belcher)

There are infinite choices you can make to promote positive change, but you’ll be most successful if you start with one or two that really speak to you. You’ll help ensure that currently endangered animals are still around for your children and grandchildren to enjoy and, more importantly, you’ll improve life on Earth for all of us.

And be sure to tell your friends and family. The power of your passion is contagious!

“The quality of our life on this earth is dependent on how we treat the rest of life on Earth. We have a moral responsibility to look after the rest of the world, the future of which now lies in our hands.”  –David Attenborough

May 20, 2016   2 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

Saving Red Pandas

Co-written by Shasta Bray and Crissi Lanier

What is this frosty-faced beauty of ringed tail and rust-colored fur? A raccoon? A bear? Actually, the red panda is neither of these and is indeed a PANDA!  It is its own species unrelated to the others. This beautiful auburn-colored mammal is native to Central Asia and is designed for a life in the trees. Pandas are expert climbers with sharp claws and hair on the bottom of their feet that keeps them from slipping. They are great jumpers, too, able to jump up to five feet in one leap.

Check out the claws on one of our male pandas, Rover.

Check out the claws on one of our male pandas, Rover. (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

Currently, the Zoo is home to six red pandas – three males named Homer, Rover and Toby and three females named LiWu, Bailey and Lin.  Lin, daughter of Bailey and Toby, is the youngest and recently celebrated her first birthday on June 16th, which she shares with Rover who turned nine years old.

Lin has small white tufts sticking out of the bottoms of her ears, making her easy to identify among our pandas. (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

Lin has small white tufts sticking out of the bottoms of her ears, making her easy to identify among our pandas. (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

We breed our pandas in accordance with the Red Panda Species Survival Plan (SSP) managed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The SSP keeps a studbook of all the red pandas in North American zoos, determines which animals should be mated, and develops long-term research and management strategies for the species. Our very own Zoo Registrar, Mary Noell, is the Program Leader for the studbook.

Baby Lin soon after she was born

Baby Lin soon after she was born

The red panda exhibit is just beyond the Children’s Zoo entrance in the center of the Zoo. Two yards sit side-by-side so make sure to look on both sides, especially high up in the trees where they spend much of their time hanging out. Red pandas tend to be more active at dawn and dusk, and at the Zoo, during the 2:15pm Red Panda Animal Encounter when they get yummy treats like apples and other fruits. In the wild, they eat mostly young tender bamboo shoots and leaves, as well as some grasses, roots and fruits.

Lin receives treats from her keeper, Lissa, during an Animal Encounter (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

Lin receives treats from her keeper, Lissa, during an Animal Encounter (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

Want to meet our pandas up close and personal? Sign up for an Endangered Excursion where you’ll get to watch our talented red pandas create a one-of-a-kind canvas painting for you to take home and enjoy. That’s right, our pandas are painters! And you can purchase these unique masterpieces in the Zoo gift shop as well. Here’s a sneak peek of LiWu painting.

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. Proceeds from the Endangered Excursions and the sales of red panda paintings support the Red Panda Network’s efforts to protect red pandas and their bamboo forests in the wild through the education and empowerment of local communities. The Red Panda Network’s immediate goal is the creation of Panchthar-Ilam-Taplejung Red Panda Protected Forest, located in Eastern Nepal, which will be the world’s first protected area dedicated to red panda.Red Panda Network

Next time you’re at the Zoo, be sure to stop by and visit our fuzzy faces!

See you soon, says Rover! (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

See you soon, says Rover! (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

July 31, 2014   1 Comment