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Category — Saving Species

Take the Plunge for Polar Bears and Lower your Thermostat by Two Degrees

Join us in celebrating International Polar Bear Day by taking Polar Bear International’s Thermostat Challenge to save energy for polar bears—and then make it a habit.  At the Cincinnati Zoo, we believe in being responsible with our natural resources, which includes reducing our carbon emissions on behalf of future polar bear – and human – generations to come!


Did you know that heating and cooling account for roughly half the energy consumption in an average home? If every American adjusted their thermostat by just one degree, it would save as much energy as the entire state of Iowa uses in a whole year!

Berit the polar bear takes a plunge of her own! (Photo: Jeff McCurry)

Berit the polar bear takes a plunge of her own! (Photo: Jeff McCurry)

When we burn fossil fuels like coal and gas for energy, those activities release more and more carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. This buildup of carbon acts like a thickening blanket around the earth, trapping in excess heat and disrupting our climate. As global temperatures rise, the amount of sea ice available for bears is continually reducing. Polar bears require sea ice for efficient hunting of their primary prey, seals. On average, it takes 45 seals a year to feed one adult polar bear. Without sea ice, polar bears will decline in range and numbers, making them vulnerable to extinction in the future. The key here is that our community’s daily activities have an impact on the Arctic and the animals that live there. In order to ensure that these wildlife and wild places will be thriving years down the road, it is our responsibility to take action now and reduce the amount of carbon our societies create.

Berit the polar bear thanks you! (Photo: Mark Dumont)

Berit the polar bear thanks you! (Photo: Mark Dumont)

So join us in saving polar bears by turning your thermostat down two degrees this winter, and encourage your family and friends to do it, too. It will give you a good excuse to pull that Snuggie out of the closet and wear those new fuzzy slippers you got over the holidays.

February 27, 2016   No Comments

Bom dia from Brasil!

Lindsey Vansandt, post-doctoral scientist at CREW, with tigrina kitten at AMC. (photo: Bill Swanson)

 For more than 20 years, Dr. Bill Swanson (CREW’s Director of Animal Research) has been working in Brazil to conserve Latin American felids (animals in the cat family). I was fortunate to get to travel with him to Associação Mata Ciliar (AMC), a non-profit organization that promotes the conservation of over 300 plant and animal species. AMC’s Centro Brasileiro para a Conservação Dos Felinos Neotropicalis (Brazilian Neo-Tropical Feline Conservation Center) is the largest feline conservation center in the country, which houses eight of the ten cats endemic to Latin America. Habitat loss and poaching have threatened most of these species with extinction in all or part of their natural ranges. Specifically, we’ve come to AMC to work with jaguars and tigrinas, but more on that later.

(photo: Lindsey Vansandt)

(photo: Lindsey Vansandt)

The Associação Mata Ciliar is a non-profit organization founded in 1987 dedicated to developing projects for conservation. CREW has been partnering with AMC for 16 years to conserve Latin American Felids.

The eight wild cat species of Brazil. (photos: Associação Mata Ciliar):

Jagur & Puma

Jagur & Puma

Jaguarundi & Geoffroy’s cat

Jaguarundi & Geoffroy’s cat

Ocelot & Margay

Ocelot & Margay

Tigrina  & Pampas cat

Tigrina & Pampas cat

Also under the AMC umbrella is the Centro de Reabilitação de Animais Silvestres (Wildlife Animals Rehabilitation Center), offering medical treatment and care to injured wildlife from all over the São Paulo region. Many of the injuries are the result of vehicle strikes, wildfires, or hunting. Other animals come to the center because they were confiscated from wildlife traffickers. AMC gives these animals a chance to return to their natural habitat and contribute to the survival of their species, a powerful tool for the imperiled wildlife of Brazil.

Stay tuned for more updates from Brazil!

AMC often cares for wild-born kittens that are confiscated from wildlife traffickers or displaced from their homes due to habitat loss.

Mila (ocelot)

Mila (ocelot) (Photo: Lindsey Vansandt)

Haika (jaguarundai)

Haika (jaguarundai) (Photo: Lindsey Vansandt)

Jade (tigrina)

Jade (tigrina) (Photo: Lindsey Vansandt)












February 9, 2016   2 Comments

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.


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