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American Burying Beetle Reintroduction

On May 24th The Cincinnati Zoo will be releasing over 100 pairs of American burying beetles (ABBs) at the nearby Fernald Nature preserve. These beetles were reared at the Cincinnati Zoo by insectarium staff, interns, volunteers and students. They are the offspring of wild collected beetles from Nebraska. The ABB was once found everywhere in the eastern United States but because of a handful of issues (habitat destruction, increased scavenger populations, etc.) they are now only found in a few counties in a few states. The Cincinnati Zoo has partnered with the US Fish & Wildlife service and the Fernald Nature Preserve to help bring this strange but important, endangered insect back to Ohio.

A Zoo Academy student helping to rear the endangered American Burying Beetle!

A Zoo Academy student helping to rear the endangered American Burying Beetle!

This is the 4th year of reintroductions held at Fernald. We are also planning a second release of about 50 pairs of ABBs in early July. After this year we will have placed over 600 adult ABBs at Fernald in an attempt to found a wild population. 

This is a brand new beetle raised at the Cincinnati Zoo

This is a brand new beetle raised at the Cincinnati Zoo

When we release the beetles we actually set them up to breed right away so that each pair of beetles can create up to 40 offspring. It’s called a burying beetle for a reason! These ABBs will locate small animal carcasses and bury them a foot deep overnight and then raise their young on the carcass. Check-ups and post release monitoring have shown us that the beetles are breeding and creating hundreds of larvae, but unfortunately we have yet to find any adult ABBs that have over-wintered on site at Fernald. That may sound dismal, but it is my opinion that they are just dispersing beyond our ability to survey for them. These beetles can fly up to 2 miles in one night! This year however we are holding two separate reintroductions to see if it will affect their over-wintering success and their dispersal rate. We also hope to partner with neighboring parks and wildlife areas to expand our survey efforts.

The rearing facility at the zoo. Each container houses a single beetle. Pink for girls and blue for boys.

The rearing facility at the zoo. Each container houses a single beetle. Pink for girls and blue for boys.

Join the Cincinnati Zoo on June 18th from 2pm-4pm at the Fernald Nature Preserve’s Visitor’s Center for a presentation about all things ABB! I’ll be bringing specimens and going over the animal’s natural history and the reintroduction efforts. We will also be hiking out to a pit-fall trap to see what we caught overnight with crossed fingers that there might be an American burying beetle waiting in the trap!

The release site at the Fernald Preserve

The release site at the Fernald Preserve

Click here to learn more about ABBs.

May 16, 2016   No Comments

Exploring a World of Learning at the Zoo Academy

Guest Blogger: Zoo Academy Junior, Kadriesha Glover

Hi, my name is Kadriesha Glover! I’m a junior at The Zoo Academy and I’m so happy that I get the opportunity to be here and learn and work with so many amazing people in this friendly, peaceful environment. Last year I went to a non-Cincinnati public school that I had planned on graduating from, but it closed. That summer, my dad decided to sign me up for Hughes High School where I was placed in the Zoo Academy program. I’m so happy that I was put in the Zoo Academy program because, so far, it has been the best experience! At the Zoo Academy I get to explore a world of learning that’s different and exciting and actually makes me want to get out of bed for school.

I know you’re probably wondering if students at the Zoo Academy have “normal” classes too. Yes, we do. We have “A” day and “B” day classes. This means, in the morning on an “A” day, we have a zoo and aquarium class, reading, and a plant and horticulture class. On the morning of a “B” day, we have College and Career, history and math. In the afternoons on both “A” and “B” days, we have lunch and then go out into our labs (I think this is the best part of the day!). In our labs, we get to choose a department in the Zoo to help out. It’s like a class that is more hands-on and also like a work experience. I’ve gotten to work with the Horticulture, Children’s Zoo, and Commissary departments and now I get to work with the Education Department (where I get to learn new things like how to write a blog post and create activities for children who come to Zoo classes). The staff members will give us evaluations at the end of our lab to say how well we did in that lab and then we get graded for the work we do.

My favorite part of the Zoo Academy labs is that I get the opportunity to not just look at the animals and the plant life here at the Zoo but to learn things about them as well as help care for them. I used to be scared of most animals, but participation in labs means meeting and holding some animals that I never thought that I would touch or even want to be near! To have a school that helps me overcome these fears is amazing.
Kadriesha turtle pic

Another reason that I love being at the Zoo Academy is the Zoo’s botanical garden. I love flowers and plants. Before I even came to the Zoo for the Zoo Academy, I always admired their tulips in the spring. They were so beautiful and I always wondered how the Zoo planted so many and why they grow only in the spring. Then, my first lab was with Horticulture and I got to plant those same tulips. I can’t wait until they blossom in the spring! In the horticulture classes I have on “A” days, I get to learn about all of these great plants, how they make their own food, how they survive during harsh times, how long they live, and answers to other questions like that. Not only do I get the answers to those questions in class, but I get to also work hands-on with the plants and see and those processes first hand. All of this information amazes me and makes me want to learn more and more.
zooblooms_header

Although when I graduate I plan on going to college to major in interior design, the Zoo Academy still teaches me the 21 century skills that I need such as time management, people skills, etc. These are very helpful no matter what job your planning on going into. The Zoo Academy isn’t just one of those schools that only focus on one thing. These labs help us explore the various careers that are out in the world. Every department has a different role that they play in making sure that the Zoo is put together, the animals are taking care of, the public is educated and people are having fun when they come.

I think that no matter who you are or what you want to become when you graduate high school the Zoo Academy can give you the skills you need to do the job of your choosing. What I’ll take from the Zoo Academy when I graduate is not just knowledge of all animals and all plants, but also the knowledge I need to be successful in life. So if you’re looking for a school that gives you knowledge AND experience, then the Zoo Academy is a great place to come.

March 24, 2016   1 Comment

Saving the Kea

Hello! My name is Ke’Yasha Lumaine and I am a senior at the Zoo Academy. That’s right, the ZOO ACADEMY! I have been fortunate enough to actually go to school at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden my junior and senior years of high school. It has been an amazing life experience. There is a particular memory at the Zoo Academy that I will always think of fondly – my first encounter with the kea.

keyasha kea

During my senior year, I had the chance to do a lab rotation in the Aviculture (bird) department. It was the coolest experience that I have had with any department at the Zoo. Lab is where we spend two hours every day taking care of animals or maintaining Zoo grounds. I’ve had lab in Night Hunters, Maintenance, Commissary, Conservatory, Manatee Springs, Reptile House, Education and Education Interpretive Collection, yet no lab compared to the Aviculture department. At the time of my lab rotation, I had the chance to go into the Flight Cage which has kea, lorikeets, pigeons, and geese that are free to fly around the whole exhibit. To me, the most exciting birds in the exhibit were the kea. When Kim (an Aviculture keeper) and I walked into the enclosure, they all came wobbling towards us. They can look very intimidating with their long, sharp beak, strong claws and are pretty big in size for a parrot. I was a little uneasy about this at first but I felt sort of safe since Kim was there. They just swarmed around and played with us, climbing on my boots and following me around. They were like puppies, just with large beaks and wings! After my lab rotation, I learned that kea are the world’s only alpine parrot, that they live in the mountainous regions of South Island, New Zealand and that they were almost hunted to their extinction. Between the years of 1870 and 1970, it is estimated that 150,000 kea were killed by hunters who were paid bounties by the local government. Keas were hunted because their actions indirectly killed sheep. They would bite the backs of sheep and eat the fat stored near the kidneys. The sheep would often die later of an infection. The kea did this because, in the harsh winter months, the food that they would normally eat it is hard to find. One hundred years after the hunting began, a wildlife census found that there were only 5,000 birds left in the wild. After this, keas were granted partial protection until 1986 when they were given full protection under the Wildlife Act of 1953. Now, there are estimated to be 1,000-5,000 keas in the wild, making them a nationally endangered species. The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden has teamed up with the Kea Conservation Trust (KCT) with the hope that they can successfully increase kea populations. They use population research using vhf video tracking, nest monitoring devices and kea repellents to reduce human-wildlife conflict. The Zoo also sponsors KCT staff attendance at Human Wildlife Conflict Collaboration which enables the KCT personnel to enhance their skills of first response human-wildlife emergencies. In addition, the Cincinnati Zoo has the largest collection of keas in North America and is committed to their conservation. At the time of my lab rotation, the keepers had successfully bred a pair and their chicks were a few months old. After learning about kea and interacting with them, I wanted to find out what I could do to help them. I learned that there are numerous ways that we can help spread awareness and conserve their natural habitat. It can be something as simple as telling someone about kea, donating money to the Kea Conservation Trust, or placing change in the interactive enrichment puzzle at their exhibit. Every small contribution adds up to make a huge impact. Next time you come to the Zoo make sure that you make a stop by the flight cage and visit the kea. They really love interacting with new people!

kea

June 11, 2015   4 Comments