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Small Cat Conservation Gets a Big Boost with a Federal Grant

You probably already know that the Cincinnati Zoo is committed to the conservation of lions, tigers and cheetahs, but did you know that we are also leading the way in small cat conservation? And our Small Cat Signature Project just got bigger! Our Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) recently received a Museums for America Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to improve our ability to maintain healthy captive populations of five small cat species across the country—the Brazilian ocelot, the Pallas’ cat, the black-footed cat, the Arabian sand cat and the fishing cat.

Ocelot (Photo: Cassandre Crawford)

Ocelot (Photo: Cassandre Crawford)

Pallas' cat (Photo: Mark Dumont)

Pallas’ cat (Photo: Mark Dumont)

Black-footed cat (Photo: Kathy Newton)

Black-footed cat (Photo: Kathy Newton)

Sand cat (Photo: Mark Dumont)

Sand cat (Photo: Mark Dumont)

Fishing cat (Photo: Kathy Newton)

Fishing cat (Photo: Kathy Newton)

Unfortunately, none of these small cat populations are considered sustainable through natural breeding alone. That’s where Dr. Bill Swanson, CREW’s Director of Animal Research and the world’s leading expert on small cat reproduction, comes in. Working in partnership with Dr. Jason Herrick of the National Foundation for Fertility Research and the Species Survival Plan coordinators for each species, Dr. Swanson will direct the project with a focus on three goals: 1) Collect and freeze semen from the most valuable cats for each species, 2) Produce viable offspring using artificial insemination in recommended breeding pairs that fail to reproduce naturally, 3) Produce offspring with frozen-thawed semen from genetically valuable or under-represented males.

CREW Scientists perform an artificial insemination procedure on a Pallas’ cat. (Photo: Shasta Bray)

CREW Scientists perform an artificial insemination procedure on a Pallas’ cat. (Photo: Shasta Bray)

Arabian sand cat kittens produced through artificial insemination and embryo transfer.

Arabian sand cat kittens produced through artificial insemination and embryo transfer.

Building on CREW’s decades of ground-breaking research on small cat reproduction, successful completion of this project will greatly enhance the sustainability and stewardship of small cat collections in AZA zoos. Now that’s big news!

October 9, 2014   1 Comment

A Giant Step Forward for Sumatran Rhinos in the Wild

The Zoo has been committed to saving the Sumatran rhino for 25 years. We work closely with the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry, the Indonesian Rhino Foundation, the IUCN Asian Rhino Specialist Group and the International Rhino Foundation, to protect this species in the wild, and also propagate Sumatran rhinos in captivity. Despite the devastating blow of the loss of our female rhino, Suci, back in March, the Zoo continues to work to conserve and protect the species.

Considered the most endangered of all rhino species, and perhaps the most endangered large mammal on Earth, it is estimated that no more than 100 Sumatran rhinos remain in Indonesia. The primary cause of the species’ decline is the loss of forests due to oil palm, logging and human encroachment, even in some national parks, and poaching for its horn, which some Asian cultures believe contains medicinal properties.  Today, there are only nine Sumatran rhinos living in captivity worldwide.

Andatu was the latest calf born in captivity. He was born at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia in 2012 to mother, Ratu. His father, Andalas, was the first calf to be bred and born in captivity in over a century, which occurred here at the Cincinnati Zoo.

Andatu was the latest calf born in captivity. He was born at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia in 2012 to mother, Ratu. His father, Andalas, was the first calf to be bred and born in captivity in over a century, which occurred here at the Cincinnati Zoo.

Just last week, a Debt-for-Nature deal was struck between the United States and Indonesia. In return for lowering the debt Indonesia owes to the United States, Indonesia will commit nearly $12 million towards the conservation and protection of critically endangered species, including the Sumatran rhino, and their habitats over the next seven years. The debt swap was made possible by a contribution of about $11.2 million from the U.S. government under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act and $560,000 from other organizations funneled through Conservation International. The Zoo was proud to help secure this funding by pledging a major gift.

Exactly how the funds will be distributed and applied over the next five or so years is yet to be determined, but the strategies are likely to include 1)establishing intensive management zones in national parks, 2) translocating any rhinos that remain outside of protected areas, 3) integrating high-tech methodologies for rhino censusing and anti-poaching efforts, 4) engaging local communities in intelligence operations and 5) providing economic benefits to communities through environmentally- farming practices.

This Debt-for-Nature swap comes at a critical time in determining the future of Indonesia, its wildlife and its people. One of the most bio-diverse regions on the planet, Indonesia also has one of the highest human populations, placing its habitats and inhabitants under tremendous pressure.

One of Sumatra's last protected forests in Kerinici Seblat National Park (Photo: Luke Mackin)

One of Sumatra’s last protected forests in Kerinici Seblat National Park (Photo: Luke Mackin)

October 6, 2014   1 Comment

Cincinnati Zoo is Ready to Celebrate World Rhino Day!

Over the past year, Zoo staff and volunteers have been getting ready to celebrate World Rhino Day.  This year’s festivities will be held from 10 am to 4 pm on Sunday, September 21.  The goal for this event is to raise funds for rhino conservation and increase the public awareness of the major challenges faced in protecting wild rhino populations.  The Zoo is proud to exhibit three species of rhino; the African black rhino, the Indian rhino and the Sumatran rhino.  Zoo visitors can take part in family activities, animal demonstrations, keeper encounters and a rhino-riffic raffle.  The day will start with the official announcement of the winners for our Save the Rhinos poster contest.  The day will no doubt be a Rhinotastic success!

Zoo visitors get to meet our Rhino Mascot.

Zoo visitors get to meet our Rhino Mascot.

Be sure to check out the Rhino Marketplace outside Manatee Springs!

Be sure to check out the Rhino Marketplace outside Manatee Springs!

This little Zoo visitor learns how BIG a rhino footprint is from Keeper Wendy Shaffstall.

This little Zoo visitor learns how BIG a rhino footprint is from Keeper Wendy Shaffstall.

Rhino activity stations, like this one about rhino habitat, will be located throughout the Zoo on World Rhino Day.

Rhino activity stations, like this one about rhino habitat, will be located throughout the Zoo on World Rhino Day.

The raffle items this year include rhino-themed gift baskets, a one-year membership to the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Rhino Rembrandt paintings artistically designed by the Zoo’s African black rhino ‘Seyia’ and Sumatran rhino ‘Harapan’, a one-of-a-kind Sumatran rhino footprint casting created by keeper and artist Lindsay Garrett, and an amazing print of Sumatran rhino ‘Harapan’ as designed and painted by artist Ali Armstrong as part of her ‘Scarce Project’.

Cincinnati Zoo Keeper and artist Lindsay Garrett shows off the Sumatran rhino footprint casting that will be up for raffle.

Cincinnati Zoo Keeper and artist Lindsay Garrett shows off the Sumatran rhino footprint casting that will be up for raffle.

Another raffle item includes this Sumatran rhino 'Harapan' print by artist Ali Armstrong

Another raffle item includes this Sumatran rhino ‘Harapan’ print by artist Ali Armstrong

Be sure to also come out to the Zoo on Monday, September 22, from 7-9 pm to hear the State of the Rhino Lecture by CREW Rhino Scientists Dr. Terri Roth.  Tickets to Dr. Roth’s lecture can be purchased online.  A rhino marketplace will take place in the lecture hall before and after the talk and another rhino raffle occur.  In addition, renowned children’s book author Mary Kay Carson and photographer Tom Uhlman will be available before and after the lecture to sign copies of their critically acclaimed book, Emi and the Rhino Scientist.

Come one, come all to help us celebrate rhinos!

WRD Words

September 19, 2014   1 Comment