The Cincinnati Zoo’s female polar bear, Berit, recently had some of her white abdominal fur trimmed, exposing a small patch of her black skin. This is not the latest trend in carnivore fur-styles; instead, the purpose of this haircut is to facilitate ultrasound examinations of the 16-year-old bear to identify signs of pregnancy. Although Berit and male Little One have been together for multiple years, they have not produced any cubs; however, zoo staff has reason to hope that this year might be different.
Earlier this year, Berit failed to show signs of estrus during the normal polar bear breeding season. Rather than let another year pass with no chance of cubs, it was decided to intervene by administering hormones in an attempt to stimulate her ovaries, similar to what humans receive when they seek help with fertility issues. The two hormone injections appeared to be effective, because the pair began breeding soon after the treatment.
Berit is one of the first bears ever to undergo infertility treatments and, even if these efforts fail to help her conceive, she still is advancing scientific knowledge by helping researchers at the Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) learn more about the unique reproductive physiology of this species. In addition to twice weekly ultrasound examinations (in which she voluntarily participates), her hormone levels are being measured non-invasively by fecal hormone analyses to monitor ovarian activity and indications of pregnancy. If Berit turns out to be pregnant, she would give birth towards the end of the year.
This work is part of CREW’s Polar Bear Signature Project, which aims to study polar bear reproduction and to help overcome reproductive challenges faced by this iconic species. Click here to support CREW’s polar bear research.
October 29, 2015 No Comments
For years, the Zoo has supported scarlet macaw conservation in Guatemala through the Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Centre (ARCAS). ARCAS is pleased to announce the first ever release of endangered scarlet macaws (Ara macao cyanoptera) in Guatemala.
On October 5th, 2015, nine individuals were released in the Sierra Lacandon National Park in the Maya Biosphere Reserve in the northern Peten region of the country with the objective of reinforcing the local macaw population there. These nine macaws are graduates of ARCAS´ captive breeding program, initiated in 2004 utilizing birds confiscated in the illegal pet trade. They are the result of years of hard work, including determining the genetic origin of the founder animals, developing successful captive breeding methodologies, and establishing rehabilitation protocols. Laboratory exams were carried out to confirm the health of the birds and prevent the spread of illnesses into wild populations.
In this program, the chicks are raised by their parents so they are less likely to become imprinted on humans and will have a better chance at surviving in the wild. They are fed wild food so that they know what to eat once they are released. Five of the macaws were fitted with satellite transmitters in order to monitor their movements and success in adapting to the wild. Funds were raised for the necessary equipment for the monitoring of released birds, and an environmental education program was established in order to gain the support of local communities at the release site.
The release of these parrots can be measured in years of hard work, in hours without sleep, in days of research, and in high costs; but its real value is in boosting the population of this endangered species, which currently stands at 300 to 400 birds. ARCAS will work hard to continue monitoring the animals to determine their success at adapting to life in the wild, and the Zoo will continue to support and cheer them on!
October 20, 2015 2 Comments
Here at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, we are embracing the honeybee, Apis mellifera. Honeybees do more than just pollinate flowers and make honey. They also pollinate a third of the world’s crops and are critical to our agricultural system. Their populations, however, are in severe decline.
Here is where Pollen Nation, the newest group of beekeepers, steps in. A diverse group of Zoo staff and volunteers, Pollen Nation was established in 2014 to promote pollinator awareness by re-wilding habitats and inspiring action while connecting the community to nature. “We’re not just beekeepers, we’re a group of people passionate about all aspects of a healthy ecological system…down to every little detail, including the honeybee,” says Melanie Evans, one of Pollen Nation’s founders.
Pollen Nation has established 18 honeybee hives on the “EcOhio Farm,” a portion of the Zoo’s 600-acre off-site property in Warren County. The hives will boost the declining honeybee population and also raise awareness about conservation action that can be taken in one’s own backyard. Though it may take a few years for the colonies to establish themselves before we can extract honey, eventually we expect to sell honey produced from the hives in the Zoo Shop.
How can you get involved and help out honeybees?
- Come see the new beehive on Zoo grounds across from the World of the Insect building. Learn more about bees during Honeybee Chats at 2:00pm on Fridays through Tuesdays. Chats will wrap up at the end of October and start up again in spring.
- Sign up for an Education Program series on honeybees that will be led by Pollen Nation members in January. Details to be posted soon at http://cincinnatizoo.org/education/.
- Help us learn more about bees in the greater Cincinnati area. Simply snap pictures of bees that you see and submit to beespotter.org/cincinnatizoo with the date and location. An expert scientist from the Entomology Department at the University of Illinois will identify the species and add it to the database, helping us to further understand bee species demographics in our area. We are currently developing an app that should launch in spring.
- Follow Pollen Nation on Facebook to learn about honeybees and keep up with our activities.
- Plant native and pollinator-friendly vegetation such as milkweed, sunflowers, bee balm, and other wildflowers for bees to pollinate in your own backyard.
- Limit pesticide use in your gardens and don’t use during mid-day hours when honeybees are most active. Consider choosing natural pesticides or home-made remedies.
What will the bees do over the winter? In about two weeks, we will winterize the hives where the bees will hunker down. We plan to stack hay bales near the hives as wind barriers and ensure there is enough honey for the bees to feed on to survive the winter. The bees themselves will make their own sort of caulking, called propolis, to seal off the hive’s seams and keep the cold air out. After that, we’ll leave them alone until it’s time to re-emerge in April and get back to work.
How can you spot a honeybee?
October 16, 2015 1 Comment