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Category — Saving Species

Happy Penguin Awareness Day!

To celebrate everyone’s favorite feathered friends, let me introduce you to all five species of penguins that call the Cincinnati Zoo home:

Penguin-cheat-sheetThe areas highlighted in yellow on the range maps show where each of these penguin species is found in the wild. As you can see, while all of our penguins hail from the Southern Hemisphere, not all of them live in cold, harsh climates. In fact, three out of the five species we have prefer the warmer weather of Africa, South America, and Australia/New Zealand. Believe it or not, there is even a tropical species that lives on the Equator; the Galapagos penguin (though we don’t exhibit that species at the Zoo).

You might think that climate change wouldn’t be a big problem for the warm weather penguins since they are already used to the heat. It’s true that the Antarctic species suffer directly from melting ice and the die-off of krill, their primary prey, but the African penguin may be in bigger trouble. Even though it lives in a warmer climate and doesn’t live on ice, the African penguin still relies on a cold ocean current to bring its favorite fish, sardines and anchovies, within reach. As the ocean temperature rises, the cold stream moves farther away from the islands off Africa where the penguins live and makes it more difficult to find enough food.

Add to that the threats of oil spills and guano collection, which disturbs natural nest sites, and you can see why the African penguin population has declined more than 60% in the past 30 years. That’s one reason why zoos are coming together to strengthen their efforts to save the African penguin.

African penguin (Photo: Mathias Appel)

African penguin (Photo: Mathias Appel)

The African penguin is one of 10 wildlife species the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) has committed to saving through the AZA SAFE initiative. Through AZA SAFE, AZA and its members will convene scientists and stakeholders to identify the threats, develop action plans, raise new resources and engage the public in saving the selected species.

A Conservation Action Plan is currently under development for the African penguin  and will focus on the following actions:

  • Develop appropriate types and numbers of artificial nests for all colonies; facilitate long-term monitoring to assess success.
  • Expand monitoring of resident and reintroduced penguin inter-colony movement, nest site fidelity, and survival.
  • Expand monitoring of penguin foraging and other movement patterns in the marine environment.
  • Measure baseline environmental and animal-absorbed contaminant levels and conduct long-term monitoring to assess changes as oil drilling increases.
  • Strengthen disaster response and penguin rescue and rehabilitation capabilities across all colonies.

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In the last three years alone, 20 AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums contributed about $95,000 to African penguin conservation efforts, but we need to do more. That requires us to partner with organizations on the ground saving penguins in the field. One such organization is SANCCOB (the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds), which the Cincinnati Zoo supports with funds raised from our Saving Species and VIPenguin Experience programs.

SANCCOB is a leading marine organization that has treated more than 90 000 oiled, ill, injured or abandoned African penguins and other threatened seabirds since being established in 1968. SANCCOB is an internationally recognized leader in oiled wildlife response, rehabilitation and chick-rearing; contributes to research which benefits seabirds; trains people to care for the birds and educates the public to appreciate this unique heritage. Independent research confirms that the wild African population is 19% higher directly due to SANCCOB’s efforts, and we are proud to work with them. Learn more about the great work they’re doing in this video.

SANCCOB releases rehabilitated penguins (Photo: SANCCOB)

SANCCOB releases rehabilitated penguins (Photo: SANCCOB)

 

January 20, 2016   No Comments

Tiger News: Changing our Stripes

If you’ve visited Cat Canyon over the past month or so, you may have noticed the absence of the Malayan tiger brothers, Taj and Who-Dey. We bid a fond farewell to these boys in November and wish them well in their new home at the Sunset Zoo in Manhattan, Kansas (where they will be known by the names Hakim and Malik).

Farewell Taj and Who-Dey! (Photo: DJJAM)

Farewell Taj and Who-Dey! (Photo: DJJAM)

While they will certainly be missed, we are excited to announce the arrival of a new pair of Malayan tigers, two-year-old female, Cinta, and 14-year-old male, Jalil.

Jalil was actually born here at the Cincinnati Zoo back in 2001. He spent a few years at the Jackson Zoo before returning to Cincinnati in 2007 and siring our most recent litter of cubs in 2009. When Cat Canyon underwent renovation in 2011, Jalil was transferred to the Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, Missouri. With Jalil’s return and recommended pairing with Cinta through the Malayan Tiger Species Survival Plan, we are excited about the prospect of having tiger cubs at the Zoo again.

Jalil (Photo: Melinda Arnold Dickerson Park Zoo)

Jalil (Photo: Melinda Arnold Dickerson Park Zoo)

That is, of course, as long as Jalil and Cinta are compatible. Cinta comes to us from Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida. This will be her first pairing. The pair is currently settling into adjacent quarters off exhibit in the Night Hunters building. The next step will be to provide them visual contact with each other, followed by physical introduction when Cinta is reproductively receptive.

If all goes well, the pair will go on exhibit together in Cat Canyon this spring when the weather warms up a bit, and we could hear the pitter patter of tiny tiger paws as soon as this summer. Keep your fingers crossed!

Cinta (Photo: Busch Gardens)

Cinta (Photo: Busch Gardens)

Meanwhile, the Zoo continues to support Panthera’s Tigers Forever initiative to study and protect tigers in the wild. Do you ever wonder who is actually on the ground in the forests where tigers roam, installing camera traps and monitoring illegal human activities? Meet Wai Yee, a young Malaysian woman who does just that in her role as a Project Manager with Tigers Forever in one of Panthera’s recent blog posts.

We are proud to play a role in maintaining a healthy tiger population in zoos while also supporting field research and conservation in the wild. And you can take pride in knowing that your support of the Zoo is helping to save tigers.

January 12, 2016   3 Comments

Keeping Up with Gorilla Conservation in the Republic of Congo

Elle, the 50th gorilla born at the Cincinnati Zoo  (Photo: DJJAM)

Elle, the 50th gorilla born at the Cincinnati Zoo (Photo: DJJAM)

Along with celebrating the 50th gorilla birth this year and announcing big plans to expand the popular Gorilla World habitat, the Cincinnati Zoo will be celebrating 15 years of wild gorilla conservation work with the Nouabale Ndoki Project (NNP) in 2016.

Mbeli Bai logo

This project, located in the Republic of Congo, umbrellas several very important efforts that help critically endangered wild western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). The Zoo’s original funding for NNP went to the Mbeli Bai Study, the longest running field research study on this species of gorilla.  Researchers gather valuable demographic information needed to define what gorillas require to survive as their threatened rainforest habitats continue to shrink. Keep up with the latest news from the Mbeli Bai study by visiting the new web site and blog, following their Facebook page, and reading the most recent newsletter.

Meet Hercules and his mother, Henna, two of the many gorillas that frequent Mbeli Bai (Photo: Mbeli Bai Study)

Meet Hercules and his mother, Henna, two of the many gorillas that frequent Mbeli Bai (Photo: Mbeli Bai Study)

Over the years, the Zoo increased its contributions to other gorilla-related projects in this area, including the “Mondika” gorilla tracking study site and an education outreach program for local communities called “Club Ebobo”. Ebobo is the word for gorilla in Lingala, the local language.

As we celebrate the expansion of our gorilla family and facility here at the Zoo, it is important we recognize and celebrate the fine work being done in the field to help conserve this flagship species.

Gladys and Mona enjoying the unseasonably warm weather we're having this month (Photo: Jeff McCurry)

Gladys and Mona enjoying the unseasonably warm weather we’re having this month (Photo: Jeff McCurry)

December 14, 2015   1 Comment