Guest blogger: Sophie Williams, Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP) student and consultant on the Passenger Pigeon Memorial renovation
The reason we study the story of the passenger pigeon is not to be sad about its loss, but to be aware. Humans have a great capacity to do good, but we also have the ability to exhaust seemingly endless riches. It is important to recognize the impact we as humans can have on our environment, and take steps to conserve natural resources, both species and habitats, while we can.
The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is at the cutting-edge of conservation research and action. From genetic research conducted at the Zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) to the Zoo’s Go Green initiatives you can participate in both at the Zoo and at home, the Cincinnati Zoo is committed to saving endangered plants and animals from extinction in North America and around the world. Here are just a few examples.
Sumatran Rhino Conservation
The Sumatran rhinoceros is one of the most endangered animals on the planet, with only about 100 individuals left. CREW’s Signature Sumatran Rhino Project has been a leader in captive breeding efforts for this critically endangered animal since 1997. In 2001, the first Sumatran rhino calf to be born in captivity in 112 years was born at the Cincinnati Zoo, thanks to CREW’s breakthrough research. Since then, two other calves have been born at the Zoo, and in 2007, the Zoo’s first-born rhino calf, Andalas, was relocated to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) on the island of Sumatra to serve as the catalyst for a breeding program in the species’ native land. A few years later, Andalas’s mate, Ratu, gave birth to a healthy male calf, a huge success for the species!
In addition to its leadership role in the Sumatran rhino captive breeding program, CREW scientists partner with conservation organization Rhino Global Partnerships to protect Sumatran rhinos in the wild by helping to support Rhino Protection Units. These units are trained to protect the rhinos from poachers, the greatest threat to the species. Furthermore, financial support and CREW staff expertise are provided to facilitate the captive breeding program on Sumatra. CREW’s Signature Sumatran Rhino Project, with its international collaboration, is conservation work at its finest.
Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered in the wild, with less than 175,000 individuals. Due primarily to habitat destruction caused by logging, mineral mining, and agricultural expansion, wild gorilla numbers continue to shrink. The bushmeat trade—the killing of wild animals to be used as human food—is also a major threat to the western lowland gorilla population throughout the Central African rainforests. Over 1,000 gorillas are illegally poached for the bushmeat trade each year.
The Cincinnati Zoo supports wild gorilla conservation efforts such as the Mbeli Bai Study. The Mbeli Bai Study is the longest running research being done with wild western lowland gorillas. Through research, local education programs, publications, and documentaries, the Mbeli Bai Study is raising international awareness for gorillas and their struggle for survival.
African Lion Conservation
Another way the Zoo contributes to species conservation worldwide is through support of global initiatives to protect wildlife and minimize human-wildlife conflict. The Zoo provides funding to support Rebuilding the Pride, a community-based conservation program that combines tradition and modern technology to restore a healthy lion population while reducing the loss of livestock to lions in Kenya’s South Rift Valley.
Local Maasai research assistants track the movement of both livestock and lions in an effort to understand seasonal movements and identify conflict hotspots. Some of the lions have been fitted with Global Positioning System (GPS) collars for better tracking. The collars transmit four locations a day to a central server, giving detailed information on the exact movement of the lions. Knowing where the prides are lets herders know where to avoid grazing their livestock.
The program also deploys a Conflict Response Team to mitigate any conflicts that arise between people and lions. When herders must move through areas with lions, they call on community game scouts to accompany them for extra protection. The team also helps find and rescue lost livestock that would have otherwise fallen victim to predation.
Thanks to these efforts, lion populations in the region are growing. Once down to a low of about 10 known lions in the area, the population is now estimated to be nearly 70. The prides have been producing cubs and new lions are moving in from surrounding areas. The Rebuilding the Pride program has greatly contributed to the robustness of the lion population, minimized human-wildlife conflict, and become a strong community-based conservation program.
To read the other posts in this series, click here. Join us in April as we celebrate Earth Day and community activism!
March 17, 2014 No Comments
Guest blogger: Brianna Williams
Hey you guys! My name is Brianna Williams and I am currently a senior at the Cincinnati Zoo Academy and I am so excited to share my story with you all!
Well, for starters, I have always loved animals. Growing up I had 5 dogs, 2 turtles, and some fish. My mom grew up in a large family and she always brought home abandoned or hurt animals such as squirrels, rabbits, frogs and even birds. My mom always let me be my own person and adventure outside to be in nature and observe animals.
When I was in 8th grade my family and I began searching for a high school for me to attend and we came across Hughes Stem at a high school fair. I was intrigued by one of the programs they offered in the 10th grade called the Zoo Academy. I had never even heard of it, but I had a passion for animals and education, so I took the offer and began at Hughes as a freshman. Throughout my freshman and sophomore year at Hughes they prepared me for the Zoo Academy and I was so excited to start working with animals!
At the Zoo Academy, I have gotten to see and experience some REALLY cool things from feeding a manatee to touching a cougar!! Being at the Zoo Academy has been one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I have met so many great and amazing people here and made a lot of new friends. You feel as you’re a part of something bigger than yourself. I feel like I have another family and home here.
These are my two best friends in one of our classrooms.
Since being here it has opened so many new doors and opportunities. I have been offered several job opportunities and have the chance to be a volunteer this summer. I have also grown fond of the people I have met so far such as the wonderful crew at the Education Department. I have worked with some cool animals here such as Bonnie the Screaming Hairy Armadillo and Crystal the Ball Python.
Having fun hanging out with Bonnie, the screaming hairy armadillo
The Zoo Academy has given me a backstage view of how the animals are taken care of and handled. I have prepared food for the animals, helped clean their enclosures and even interacted with some of the animals we have here. Seeing animals such as cheetahs, cougars, elephants, and rhinos up close is something I will never forget.
The Zoo Academy teachers are also amazing and the class sizes are small so you really get to know your peers and your teachers, not just by name, but as a person. It’s not every day you get to experience the amazing things that happen at the Cincinnati Zoo. The Zoo Academy prepares its students for college, and so many careers! We also learn about conservation and what we can do as a person to help make the world a better place.
This is my environmental science teacher, Mr. Schulte.
In the future, I plan to attend Wright State University and become an educator for preschoolers. I want to continue my story through my students and teach them about the Zoo Academy and maybe one day when they are older they will attend this amazing school that is like no other! I hope that after I graduate my adventure here continues whether as a volunteer or a paid employee. I have come to love and appreciate the Zoo, the people and the animals.
Hey! Did you know that the Cincinnati Zoo is the ONLY zoo in the country that allows high school to interact with animals and work with keepers on a daily basis? Well you do now, so if your children love animals and plants, I would HIGHLY recommend the Zoo Academy. It will be one of the best decisions you will ever make.
Best of Luck, Brianna
February 25, 2014 1 Comment
John and Imani, our two African lions, are getting to know each other behind the scenes. To make their eventual pairing as successful as possible, the introduction process is slow, strategic and multi-phased.
Today we gave John some straw from Imani’s enclosure. You can see his response in the above photo. The smile-like expression on his face, called a Flehmen Response, indicates that he’s “smelling” the scent using his mouth. There is a special organ between the roof of the mouth and the palate that helps detect certain pheromones and chemical cues. Basically, John is trying to figure out if Imani is sexually receptive by smelling her urine. In the animal biz, we often call it “stink face”! It looks pretty good on John!
Imani showed far less interest in the pile of John’s straw that she received, which is not surprising since we are not seeing any estrus behaviors from her right now.
Check back for more updates on John and Imani’s introduction process.
February 21, 2014 1 Comment