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Celebrating Efforts in Cincinnati and Beyond to Save Rhinos on World Rhino Day

On World Rhino Day, we celebrate the combined rhino conservation efforts of zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). Over the past five years, AZA zoos have invested over $5.1 million in rhino conservation, taking part in more than 160 field conservation projects benefiting all five rhinoceros species: black, white, greater one-horned (Indian), Sumatran, and Javan.

Black rhino (Photo: Mark Dumont)

Black rhino (Photo: Mark Dumont)

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is proud to be a part of this larger effort. Today, I’d like to highlight just two of the amazing efforts we support to help save rhinos in the wild. One takes place right here in Cincinnati and involves community members like you. The other is happening on the other side of the world in Zambia and Vietnam.

Bowling for Rhinos

For the third year in a row, the Greater Cincinnati Chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers (GCCAAZK) is holding a Bowling for Rhinos event to raise awareness and funds for rhino conservation. Proceeds from the event support rhino conservation efforts in national parks and wildlife conservancies in Kenya, Java, and Sumatra. This year’s event will take place from 5:00 to 10:00pm on October 1 at Stone Lanes. Even though tickets to bowl have already sold out, all are welcome to stop by and participate in the rest of the activities. There will be a silent auction and raffle as well as t-shirts and other merchandise for sale. It’s always a great time!

Fun times at last year's Bowling for Rhinos event!

Fun times at last year’s Bowling for Rhinos event!

Can’t make it to the actual event, but still want to support rhinos? AAZK is seeking lane sponsors for the event. For $100, you will have your name (or that of your business) displayed prominently above one of the bowling lanes at the event.  Your name or logo will also be displayed on our “Event Sponsors” poster at the event, and GCCAAZK will highlight you or your company as a sponsor with a post on its Facebook page. And because AAZK is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, your donations are tax deductible. If you would like to become a Bowling for Rhinos sponsor, please contact Jenna at [email protected].

Using Dogs to Combat Rhino Poaching and Trafficking

Rhino poaching for horns is at an all-time high and rhino populations are declining pretty much everywhere they are found. One way to combat poaching and trafficking of rhino horns is to increase the risk of getting caught engaging in these illegal activities, and dogs have the sniffers to do just that.

Working Dogs for Conservation (WDC) is leading the way in the use of dogs’ extraordinary sense of smell to protect wildlife and wild places. Dogs have been trained to detect everything from wild animal scat to poaching snares to assist with field research and conservation. A well-trained dog and its handler are powerful weapons against wildlife crime.

A detection dog team with Working Dogs for Conservation (Photo: The Wild Center)

A detection dog team with Working Dogs for Conservation (Photo: The Wild Center)

Through the Zoo’s Internal Conservation Grants Fund, we are currently supporting WDC in the creation of dog-handler teams to combat rhino trafficking specifically in Zambia and Vietnam. In North Luangwa National Park, the only remaining home for black rhinos in Zambia, dogs are trained to search vehicles leaving the park for rhino horn and other illegal wildlife products. In Vietnam, considered to be the world’s largest market for rhino horn, dogs are trained to search for illegal wildlife products in international airports and seaports.

Dogs are able to quickly check vehicles and shipping containers. They are also mobile, allowing the checkpoints to be moved unpredictably, which makes it more difficult for smugglers to anticipate checks. This combination of efficiency and mobility makes dogs more versatile and useful than humans or even x-ray machines. Seizures will increase the costs and risks of poaching and provide critically important intelligence for the fight against rhino poaching.

 

September 22, 2016   No Comments

What is a Pirate’s Favorite Parrot?

Co-written with Chelsea Wellmer, AmeriCorps Visitor Engagement Member 

The scarrrr-let macaw, of course! Forgive us for the corny joke, but it is Talk Like a Pirate Day. Terrible jokes aside, the scarlet macaw is a very colorful and charismatic parrot often kept as a pet, especially in its range countries. Although international trade is banned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), illegal trade still continues.

Scarlet macaw (Photo: David Ellis)

Scarlet macaw (Photo: David Ellis)

To combat the negative effects of nest poaching and habitat loss on scarlet macaw populations in the wild, the Zoo is proud to support the Scarlet Macaw Reinforcement Program conducted by the Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Association (ARCAS), a rescue and research center in Guatemala.  This is an effort the Zoo has supported for years through our Internal Conservation Grant Fund, featured in previous blog posts.  The Zoo has contributed funds for medical screenings, post-release monitoring, and environmental education and awareness-raising activities in the local communities.

Transporting scarlet macaws to the release site (Photo: ARCAS)

Transporting scarlet macaws to the release site (Photo: ARCAS)

The scarlet macaw is one of the most important species in the Maya Biosphere Reserve, located in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala.  It is a representative of Mayan culture and a keystone species for its ecosystem.  However, only 300 to 400 individuals remain in this region, about 150 of which live in Guatemala.

In October 2015, ARCAS released nine individuals in the Sierra Lacandon National Park in the northern Peten region of Guatemala—the first ever release of scarlet macaws in the country. These macaws were captive bred at the rescue center from birds that had been confiscated from the illegal pet trade. The chicks were raised by their parents so they would be less likely to become imprinted on humans and will have a better chance at surviving in the wild. They were fed wild food so that they know what to eat once they were released. Before release, laboratory exams were carried out to confirm the health of the birds and prevent the spread of illnesses into wild populations.

The objective of this release was to reinforce the local scarlet macaw population that currently exists within the national park. Five of these individuals were fitted with satellite transmitters, which enabled ARCAS to track their movements and gauge their success in adapting to the wild.

Scarlet macaws flying free (Photo: ARCAS)

Scarlet macaws flying free (Photo: ARCAS)

Ten months after the release, ARCAS reports a known 60% survival rate of the five collared macaws, which represents a huge accomplishment for ARCAS and the scarlet macaw population! (No information is known about the survival of the non-collared individuals.) These birds survived a summer with a severe drought as well as a late start to the rainy season and the fruiting season. They have moved significant distances every month, indicating successful adaptation to the environment.

The Zoo is thrilled with the accomplishments of this first release, and we “arrrr” excited to see the positive impact this program will continue to have in the future.

September 19, 2016   No Comments

International Red Panda Day: Zoos Make a Difference for Red Pandas

Guest blogger: Kristina Meek, Wild Encounters

Happy International Red Panda Day! It’s virtually impossible not to smile when you watch this fuzzy Asian mammal frolic. It’s no surprise that two years ago a video of our red pandas playing in the snow went viral and made international news.

Red panda (Photo: Mark Dumont)

Red panda (Photo: Mark Dumont)

Of course, there’s a lot more to red pandas than just being cute. Like so many animals, they face daunting, often human-made threats to their existence. Red pandas are classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, which means they face a high risk of extinction in the wild.

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is proud to help save red pandas through research and breeding as well as through support of Red Panda Network, the conservation organization behind International Red Panda Day.

“While Red Panda Network’s primary focus is on conservation efforts in native red panda habitat in Nepal, zoos in other parts of the world are some of our most important allies in the fight to save this wonderful animal. Deforestation and poaching now sadly mean that home is not safe for these animals, and keeping a population in a managed habitat monitored and protected by people has become necessary for some of them. These captive populations allow researchers and keepers to observe the animals’ behavior. The more we know about how these animals act, the better we can develop effective conservation strategies.” – Red Panda Network

Red panda (Photo: Mark Dumont)

Red panda (Photo: Mark Dumont)

Scientists at the Zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) have devoted years to studying red panda reproduction. They’ve produced data that support the theory that red pandas can display “pseudo-pregnancy,” or a false reading based on hormone levels previously used to diagnose pregnancy.

Over the past few years, our researchers have successfully diagnosed red panda pregnancies using trans-abdominal ultrasound. Although the procedure requires animal training and comes with a high price tag, it has proven more accurate than hormone tests. In 2015, we bred the first red panda cubs with birth dates accurately predicted using a combination of ultrasonography and hormone monitoring.

Currently, we have a pair of cubs, Harriet and Hazel, born to mom, Lin, in June. At three months old, they are just starting to venture out on exhibit. Our red panda exhibit also houses two adult females, and soon we’ll receive two new males for future breeding. Stop by their exhibit and look for them; you might spot them in the trees. And go ahead, say it: “They’re soooo cute!”

Harriet and Hazel the red panda cubs (Photo: Angela Hatke)

Harriet and Hazel the red panda cubs (Photo: Angela Hatke)

Not in Cincinnati and want to know where you can go to see red pandas near you? Check out this worldwide search tool.

September 17, 2016   No Comments