Category — Saving Species
Where have the kea gone? If you’ve been to the Zoo recently, you may have noticed that the aviary home to our flock of keas (parrots from New Zealand), is undergoing renovations. We are adding two more outdoor enclosures, two private breeding enclosures, and central air conditioning to the housing building as well as giving the building a fresh coat of paint. While the work is in progress, the keas have been moved to off-exhibit holding. Before long, they will be back on display in their new and improved home.
The private breeding enclosures are especially important to continue our successful kea breeding program. Our current flock of 14 keas includes two new birds that were hatched right here at the Zoo last spring. One is an outgoing male named Arthur (wearing an orange leg band) after the Arthur’s Pass area in New Zealand where keas are found. The other is a feisty female named Marie Curie (wearing a red leg band) after the famous female French physicist and chemist. Soon we will receive a few new adult keas from other institutions to add new genetics to our breeding population, while some of our young juveniles will move onto other facilities.
In the field, the Zoo continues to support the Kea Conservation Trust’s efforts to conserve keas. Highly intelligent and curious birds, keas can sometimes be destructive to human property. KCT works with local communities to prevent and resolve conflicts that arise. Read on for an update from the KCT Conflict Resolution Coordinator.
Guest blogger: Andrea Goodman, Kea Conservation Trust
I am now well in to my second year as the Conflict Resolution Coordinator for the Kea Conservation Trust. In this year, I have encountered repeat offenders (mischievous kea turning up at more than one site!), increased my work with the forestry sector, and kept busy with phone calls, advice and visits to properties with kea present.
One of the noticeable differences from last year is the shear volume of calls. They are often from the public just letting me know they have kea visiting, causing absolutely no trouble at all. I think this is fantastic, and actually is a message the Kea Conservation Trust wants to get across. Just because you have kea visiting, it does not mean they will cause trouble. If you ignore them, and they are not fed, chances are they will move on with no drama.
An example of this was the influx of kea in the Murchison area (a small rural township in New Zealand) late last year. Up to 18 birds were arriving in the evenings and hanging around farms and the village. They were feasting on walnuts at a few properties, landing in backyards, and sometimes playing around. Generally, they were pretty well-behaved guests. The community organised a public meeting at which I gave a talk. It was a great question and answer session, myth-busting and advice forum. The kea hung around for quite awhile (probably until the walnuts ran out), but were pretty well-tolerated and left on their own accord. The community in general was really ‘stoked’ to have the kea around.
The low point for me during the year would have to be a phone call out of the blue from media asking me about an alleged shooting of kea at a forestry site. I was gobsmacked as I had no indication this had happened. I felt sick to my stomach as the alleged incident occurred at a forestry site I had previously visited. I felt a certain guilt that I had let the kea in my area down. What followed, however, was an amazing outpouring of support from locals, those further afield and the media – all equally appalled at an apparent inane act of violence. Although the shooting was never substantiated as the ‘shooter’ said he made the story up, it raised the profile of kea and highlighted the penalties for harming our native wildlife.
As I said last year, if you are having issues with kea, the best thing is to get on to it as soon as possible. The Kea Conservation Trust, with support from the Department of Conservation, does not advocate the translocation of troublesome kea. Instead, together we can look at areas where we can minimize damage and try to discourage kea hanging around. Sometimes it may be a really simple solution that can make a huge difference, or having an empathetic ear to talk to is all that is needed.
October 3, 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
It’s World Elephant Day, and we’re going BIG this year with our celebration! In partnership with the 96 Elephants campaign, we are joining more than 150 institutions in an attempt to break the Guinness World Records title for the largest display of origami elephants. The current record is 33,764. Collectively, we’re looking to fold 35,000 of them—the number of African elephants lost to poaching each year for their tusks.
Come on out to the Zoo today and fold an origami elephant with us at the World Elephant Day station set up in Elephant Reserve between 10am and 3pm. We’ll collect all of the folded elephants and send them to 96 Elephants to be part of the display. If you can’t make it to the Zoo today, you can still participate in the origami folding at home by following the directions here.
In addition to spreading awareness, the Zoo directly supports elephant conservation in the wild. In Sumatra, elephants and people often come into conflict when elephants wander into human settlements. These elephants are often relocated to a Sumatran Elephant Conservation Center. Support from the Zoo through the International Elephant Foundation provides supplies and training to ensure that the elephants are cared for properly. We also provide funds for Conservation Response Units whereby captive elephants, carrying their mahouts and forest rangers, are trained to patrol the forest to deter crime, monitor wildlife, herd wild elephants away from human settlements and conduct community outreach.
When you look at the collective impact that zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) have on elephant conservation, it’s quite impressive. Over the past five years, the AZA community invested more than $6.3 million in elephant conservation efforts, across more than 240 reported projects benefitting all three elephant species: the Asian elephant, African bush elephant, and African forest elephant. Support from AZA-accredited facilities helps organizations and campaigns such as the International Elephant Foundation, Amboseli Trust for Elephants, and 96 Elephants continue their crucial mission of fostering human-elephant coexistence, reducing pressure from the ivory trade and poaching, conducting vital ecological research on wild elephants, and furthering a variety of other on-the-ground field conservation measures.
YOU are a big part of this effort! By visiting AZA zoos, you are helping us save elephants. We couldn’t do it without your support! Sabu, Schottzie, Mai Thai, Jati and their wild counterparts thank you. Trunks up!
August 12, 2016 No Comments