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Category — Saving Species

Paws Up for Polar Bears! Celebrating International Polar Bear Day

Today, let’s celebrate International Polar Bear Day with some fun facts illustrated by some of our own bears, past and present.

Polar bears are survival specialists in an extreme environment—the Arctic, where winter lasts six months and temperatures average -30ºF. Their large body size, thick fur coat and several-inch layer of blubber provide insulation from the cold, in and out of the water.

(Photo: Bud Hensley)

(Photo: Bud Hensley)

Here we can certainly get an idea of just how big a polar bear can be. Reaching weights up to 1,500 lbs, a large male can reach heights of more than 10 feet when standing up on its hind legs.

(Photo: Deb Simon)

(Photo: Deb Simon)

Check out those paws! Each one is the size of a dinner plate! They act like snowshoes, spreading out the bear’s weight as it walks across the snow and ice.

(Photo: Cassandre Crawford)

(Photo: Cassandre Crawford)

Polar bears have super sniffers. The polar bear can sniff out seals, their favorite prey, from miles away and even detect seals that are hiding underneath several feet of snow.

(Photo: DJJAM)

(Photo: DJJAM)

Their streamlined shape, partially webbed front paws and buoyant layer of blubber make polar bears champion swimmers. In the wild, bears are able to swim for hundreds of miles at a time between ice floes, from which they hunt seals. As our global climate warms, the sea ice continues to shrink, making it increasingly difficult for polar bears to hunt seals and reproduce.

(Photo: ChengLun Na)

(Photo: ChengLun Na)

The Zoo partners with Polar Bears International as an Arctic Ambassador Center to help save polar bears and their habitat by reducing carbon emissions to curb climate change and encouraging our supporters to do the same. Here at the Zoo we are doing our part to use energy more efficiently by generating renewable energy through solar panels and geothermal wells and employing green building practices.

Solar canopy over the Zoo's main parking lot

Solar canopy over the Zoo’s main parking lot

We also have a brand new Red Bike Station located at the Zoo’s entrance. Next time you come to the Zoo, consider riding a bike to save on fossil fuels (once all this snow and ice is gone, of course). Check out some other ways you can take action for polar bears suggested by Polar Bears International.

Red Bike Station at the Zoo

Red Bike Station at the Zoo

Learn how the Zoo’s Center for Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) is also working to save polar bears with science.

 

 

February 27, 2015   2 Comments

Uma, Kya, Willa and their Wild Lion Cousins

Uma, Kya and Willa (Photo: Wendy Rice)

Uma, Kya and Willa (Photo: Wendy Rice)

As we prepare to introduce our visitors to John and Imani’s cubs – Uma, Kya and Willa – this spring, we are also celebrating the success of our efforts to support wild lion populations. We work with the Maasai communities in Kenya’s South Rift Valley to promote the coexistence of lions, people and livestock. A partnership with SORALO (South Rift Association of Land Owners), the Rebuilding the Pride program is based out of two communal ranches, or conservancies, called Olkirimatian and Shompole.

The South Rift Valley in Kenya is sandwiched between Maasai Mara and Amboseli National Parks.

The South Rift Valley in Kenya is sandwiched between Maasai Mara and Amboseli National Parks.

In 2014, the lion populations on Olkirimatian and Shompole continued to grow and thrive with 16 cubs born in 2012 and 2013 surviving to adulthood. Two radio-collared lionesses that the program monitors, Nasha and Namunyak, also recently gave birth to new litters of cubs. Just like Imani, Namunyak has a trio of cubs tagging along behind her. Namunyak’s cubs have not yet been given names as it is Maasai tradition to wait until they are at least a year old.

Namunyak's cubs (Photo: Guy Western)

Namunyak’s cubs (Photo: Guy Western)

As the lion population grows, so does the area across which they range, resulting in reports of lion sightings in new areas. In response, the Rebuilding the Pride team has added two new local Maasai resource assessors and a mobile monitoring unit. This allows the program to expand the area it covers and reach even more remote regions. The role of the mobile monitoring unit, equipped with tents, cameras and GPS, is to track lion and livestock movements, identify conflict hotspots, share this information with livestock herders and report cases of lost livestock to the rapid response team, which then addresses the situation.

Rebuilding the Pride's Mobile Monitoring Unit (Photo: Rebuilding the Pride)

Rebuilding the Pride’s Mobile Monitoring Unit (Photo: Rebuilding the Pride)

In 2013, the team began developing a lion identification (ID) database, allowing for photographic documentation and identification of individual lions based on whisker spots. Much effort was put into updating and improving the ID system over the past year. To date, the team has created individual photographic IDs for 35 of the 60-70 lions, which is about half the population in the Olkirimatian and Shompole regions. Being able to recognize individual lions greatly enhances the team’s ability to gain new insight into the lion population.

ID photos for Muchezo (Photo: Rebuilding the Pride)

ID photos for Muchezo (Photo: Rebuilding the Pride)

Whisker spot ID information for Muchezo (Source: Rebuilding the Pride)

Whisker spot ID information for Muchezo (Source: Rebuilding the Pride)

Rebuilding the Pride isn’t just about increasing the number of lions, however. Improving the livelihoods of the local people is critical to promoting coexistence. In addition to building local capacity as resource assessors, the Olkirimatian Women’s Group continues to manage the Lale’enok Resource Center that serves as Rebuilding the Pride headquarters. They also sell beadwork and solar lanterns and have begun a new enterprise this year – beekeeping. Several apiaries were established and the first harvest took place in November.

Maasai women involved in the beekeeping enterprise (Photo: Rebuilding the Pride)

Maasai women involved in the beekeeping enterprise (Photo: Rebuilding the Pride)

These are just a few highlights from the past year. WCPO.com recently interviewed me about Rebuilding the Pride so check out the article, if you’d like to learn more.We look forward to continued development and success in 2015, and can’t wait to watch both Imani’s and Namunyak’s cubs grow over the coming year.

 

February 12, 2015   No Comments

Gorilla Group Update and Travel Opportunity

I have really enjoyed sharing stories with you about our gorilla program throughout 2014. A lot has gone on including the continued integration of superstar Gladys into our gorilla family, the birth of little Mondika this summer and the excellent care she gets from her new mom Asha, the arrival of the impressive young silverback Harambe and the fantastic surrogacy project with baby Kamina. Although Kamina did not find a surrogate gorilla mother here the effort put forth by our fantastic surrogacy team has successfully instilled confidence and the skills she will need to join a gorilla family in Columbus. All good stuff!

That’s what the Cincinnati Zoo strives to do. Share our inspirational stories with all of you and connect people with wildlife everyday. I’m really looking forward to posting more about our gorillas here at the zoo and our efforts to help conserve wild gorillas throughout 2015.

 

Witness the Great Migration with me in Tanzania this May.

Witness the Great Migration with me in Tanzania this May. – Trip Details

One opportunity that I am really looking forward to is leading a trip to Tanzania this May to see the great migration with a potential side trip to Rwanda to see the critically endangered mountain gorillas. I would love to share this adventure and even more fun stories about our work here at the zoo with you there. Please have a look at this link. Should be an experience of a lifetime! Join me for a free trip preview on February 10, 2015, here at the Zoo.

Thanks again for your wonderful interest in what we do here and stay tuned for more!

January 12, 2015   No Comments