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Conservation

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Name Our Jaguar Cub for Conservation

The male jaguar cub at the San Diego Zoo is getting a lot of attention for his off-the-charts cute ratings, but this little boy needs a name. Animal care staff have worked together to come up with a list of possibilities and now we want to hear what you think. Vote here.

The jaguars at the Zoo are just three of the jaguars that San Diego Zoo Global is working with. Scientist Mathias Tobler, Ph.D, has spent more than 10 years working in the Peruvian Amazon. He is using radiotelemetry, GPS collars, and camera traps to study jaguars and other keystone species’ role in the Amazonian ecosystem. Tobler is using this technology to learn about how undisturbed populations of jaguars use their habitat, their movement patterns, home-range size, density, and their foraging ecology to create a baseline to evaluate future impacts on this species caused by human development. This data will help to inform conservation decisions and recommend ways to mitigate impacts to wildlife during the planning stages of development projects near the most pristine and bio-diverse terrestrial ecosystem on Earth.

Jaguar (Panthera onca)

At San Diego Zoo Global we’re working to understand jaguars, as well as pumas, peccary and tapirs, and have seen improvements in the techniques of capturing, tracking and observing animals. It has also been noticed by the Peruvian government and the research team has been asked to advise Peruvian officials on monitoring systems for animals in this area.

Studying jaguars in the Peruvian Amazon is just one example of how San Diego Zoo Global is working to #endextinction for endangered species. To find out more about this project and others please visit these resources:

Counting Jaguars in the Amazon

Looking for Jaguars in the Night

Matt Steele is senior social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous post, 11 Bellies You Really Need to Rub.

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DIY Succulent Centerpiece

If you haven’t stopped to smell (or observe) the flowers and plants at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park, your senses are seriously missing out. Inspiration is in full bloom! And today, the brains behind the stunning botanical arrangements at the Safari Park are eager to share this spring-inspired DIY project.

#DIY Succulent Centerpiece

Step 1.) Start by filling the bottom of your pot with soil mixture. For best results, your mixture should be equal parts soil, pearlite, and sand.

#DIY Succulent Centerpiece

#DIY Succulent Centerpiece

Step 2.) Loosely arrange larger succulents in your pot and fill in soil to the same height as your plants.

#DIY Succulent Centerpiece

Step 3.) You can also include pre-cut succulents in your arrangement. In fact, recycling these fleshy plants is a great way to reuse them and fill any gaps in your bouquet. Just be sure to let cut plants rest in a dry place for three to five days before planting. Once they’ve dried for a few days, simply stick a hole into the soil and insert your cut stem.

#DIY Succulent Centerpiece

Step 4.) Have fun with your arrangement and try to incorporate different succulent species for a colorful display. If you’re visiting the Safari Park, stop by the Plant Trader where you can pick up drought-tolerant plants from our own collection.

#DIY Succulent Centerpiece

Do you have any horticulture-based requests for our team? Leave them in the comments and we’ll gladly offer tips from the experts.

 

Jenn Beening is the social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, 19 Fascinating Butterfly Facts.

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Largest-Ever Approved Desert Tortoise Preserve Created by Cadiz, Inc.; San Diego Zoo Global Contracted to Assist Species Management

Global_logo_color webSan Diego Zoo Global announced that it will be working with Cadiz Inc. to manage the newly created Fenner Valley Desert Tortoise Conservation Bank. Cadiz Inc. is creating the Bank by designating up to 7,400 acres of its private land holdings in eastern San Bernardino County for permanent protection through the establishment of the Fenner Valley Desert Tortoise Conservation Bank. The Bank, largest-ever approved by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (“CDFW”), will provide permanent protection of habitat for the desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), a California State and federally listed threatened species.

“With scores of projects planned in Southern California that could place the desert tortoise at risk, we are fortunate that Cadiz is able to protect such vast territory for the benefit of this threatened animal and others,” said Ron Swaisgood Ph.D., Director of Applied Animal Ecology, San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. “It is through such actions and ongoing research at these protected lands that sustainable recovery of the threatened desert tortoise could one day be achieved.”

Under an MOU with Cadiz Inc., San Diego Zoo conservation experts will work with the Bank to assist in the development of conservation management strategies for the threatened desert tortoise and other conservation-dependent wildlife within the bank properties.

The properties enrolled in the Bank are located in the Mojave Desert near the Mojave National Preserve and the Nevada border in an area designated by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service as Desert Tortoise Critical Habitat. These properties are undeveloped and home to various threatened species in addition to the desert tortoise.

The Fenner Conservation Bank was approved by the CDFW, the public agency responsible for coordinating California’s land conservation banking program. Under the CDFW program, private lands enrolled in a conservation bank can be used to offset impacts to species or habitats that may occur outside of the bank’s boundaries. The approval of the Fenner Conservation Bank by the CDFW allows bank credits, which are associated with certain parcels of land, to be made available immediately to those projects and entities seeking to offset impacts to the desert tortoise across the Southern California desert region. It is anticipated that various projects planned for the desert, including renewable energy projects, will benefit from the credits that will be available from the Fenner Conservation Bank.

“The California desert is home to unique environmental treasures as well as exceptional industries and businesses, all of which define our greatness. I’m grateful to private landowners like Cadiz that can enter into public-private ventures such as conservation banks for the benefit of the desert environment, because without such partners our State’s ability to balance species protection with our development needs would be greatly limited,” said U.S. Congressman Paul Cook, (CA-8).

Upon sale of credits, the associated property will be permanently protected under a conservation easement and managed in perpetuity by the San Diego Habitat Conservancy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing high-quality habitat management services in undeveloped areas throughout Southern California.

“The San Diego Habitat Conservancy is excited to be participating in this first of its kind desert tortoise conservation bank. This creative, long-term resource management effort will greatly benefit the species by guaranteeing safe, sustainable habitat in perpetuity for this dangerously threatened species,” said Don Scoles, Executive Director of the San Diego Habitat Conservancy.

Veteran land conservation consultants, Michael McCollum of McCollum Associates and Barry Jones of Sweetwater Environmental Biologists, Inc., coordinated the establishment of the Fenner Conservation Bank for Cadiz. McCollum and Jones were also instrumental in the development of the state and federal conservation banking policy program and are responsible for guiding the creation of over 17 conservation and mitigation banks in California.

About Cadiz Inc.
Founded in 1983, Cadiz Inc. is a land and water resource development company that owns 70 sq. miles of property and water rights in Southern California. The Company is engaged in a combination of organic farming and water supply and storage projects, including the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery & Storage Project, a public-private partnership approved to provide a new, reliable water supply throughout Southern California. Cadiz abides by a “Green Compact” focused on sustainable practices to manage its land, water and agricultural resources and has committed to implement its projects without harm to the environment. For more information about Cadiz, visit cadizinc.com.

About San Diego Zoo Global
Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes onsite wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is made accessible to children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291
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San Diego Zoo Safari Park Conservation Corps Members Work With U.S. Navy to Protect Snowy Plover Nesting Area

Austin Smith, a member of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park Conservation Corps, hammers a sign into the sand at Naval Air Station North Island, designating a protected nesting area for the western snowy plover, a threatened shore bird.

Austin Smith, a member of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park Conservation Corps, hammers a sign into the sand at Naval Air Station North Island, designating a protected nesting area for the western snowy plover, a threatened shore bird.

Teens from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park Conservation Corps hit the beach at Naval Air Station North Island this morning not for fun in the sun, but to assist in setting up protected nesting areas for the western snowy plover, a threatened shore bird. Conservation Corps members helped to install symbolic fencing – blue stakes connected by twine – around the snowy plover nesting areas on Breaker’s Beach, asking beach-goers to avoid the area during the birds’ nesting season. The volunteer project was spearheaded by the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, at the invitation of the U.S. Navy.

“Today, we invited members of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park Conservation Corps to assist us with fencing off 15 acres of nesting habitat for the western snowy plover on Naval Air Station North Island,” stated Tiffany Shepherd, Wildlife Biologist, Naval Base Coronado. “These teens are interested in protecting wildlife and we wanted them to learn about what the Navy is doing for snowy plover conservation, hoping to motivate them to stay passionate about wildlife conservation.”

The western snowy plover is a small shore bird found on beaches along the Pacific coast from Washington to California. The small white and gray bird measures about six inches long and lays its  eggs in small indentations in the sand, making it very difficult to see the nests. The birds incubate their eggs for 24 to 28 days, but will leave their nests when threatened by people. The snowy plovers decline is attributed to loss of nesting habitat and habitat degradation caused by expanding beach-front development and recreation, human disturbance and predation.

Naval Air Station North Island is committed to maintaining a productive and pristine habitat for the birds that is properly managed as to not lose military training or conservation value over the long term, and this goal has resulted in site protection and monitoring of the species. To assist with their conservation efforts, the Navy has hired researchers from the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research to help monitor the birds’ habitat during their nesting season, March 1 through Sept. 15.

“Every day throughout the breeding season from March to September, our team members crisscross the nesting beaches, keeping an eye out for fresh eggs and newly-hatched chicks. We mark the new nests to track their progress through the incubation period,” said Katrina Murbock, research coordinator, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Applied Animal Ecology Division. “Having members of the Conservation Corps assist us with the fencing project today, allows us to provide the birds with the protected space they need to thrive and also allows the teens to feel proud they are contributing to a vital wildlife conservation project.”

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park Conservation Corps and Zoo Corps offer teens the opportunity to make a difference for wildlife. Conservation Corps and Zoo Corps are hands-on programs for high school students interested in conservation, science, public speaking and community service. Members spend one day a month teaching Safari Park or Zoo guests about animals and sharing conservation stories through the use of artifacts, biofacts, props, interactive games, and other activities. A second day each month is spent performing hands-on conservation projects making a difference for wildlife, like the snowy plover nesting project they took part in today. For more information on the San Diego Zoo Safari Park Conservation Corps program, visit sdzsafaripark.org.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes onsite wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents.  The work of these entities is inspiring children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide.  The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291

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Little Green Guards Excitement!

The Little Green Guards were excited by our surprising camera-trap discoveries. (Photo by Lei Shi)

The Little Green Guards were excited by our surprising camera-trap discoveries. (Photo by Lei Shi)

The feeling of love and empathy for animals is very much influenced by one’s culture and upbringing. How can people conserve endangered animals if they do not love them? How do people come to love and appreciate animals? These are the kinds of questions I often ponder, and I am eager to find ways to help people, especially children, bond with animals.

Over the last five years, I have been exploring the topic of love and empathy toward animals and learning how to cultivate these sentiments in children who are in my Little Green Guards program. Little Green Guards are children living in conservation priority areas that have an underdeveloped economy and education system. The goal of the program is to build a strong and lasting love for animals in children, ultimately empowering them to become conservation stewards of their natural heritage.

Because personal experience can create deep impressions, it is important to include many field trip opportunities for Little Green Guards to fall in love with animals and nature. In Fanjingshan, China, my collaborators and I recently used our camera-trap research project as a way to introduce local schoolchildren to wildlife that may be difficult to see in the nearby forest.

Before going to the field we explained the science behind our camera-trap research to the children, how the cameras have helped us understand the “secrets” of many amazing animals, some active in the day and some at night. We then tantalized the children with our best photos and the “surprises” we discovered. The children would “Ooh!” and “Aah!” as they looked at the photos—the excitement for camera-trapping was escalating!

Fanjingshan nature reserve biologist Lei Si showed children how to mount a camera trap on a tree. (Photo by Kefeng Niu)

Fanjingshan nature reserve biologist Lei Si showed children how to mount a camera trap on a tree. (Photo by Kefeng Niu)

Out in the forest, we selected a relatively flat area with a sturdy tree. We then showed the kids how to properly install batteries and the memory card, program the settings, and finally mount the camera. When all the preparation was done, the children practiced taking “selfies,” one by one, by triggering the sensor in front of the camera and saying “Qiezi!” (the Chinese version of “Cheese!”). Beyond just having fun, this Little Green Guards lesson allowed us to teach the children not only about animal biology and caring for their wildlife neighbors but also essential life skills so they can develop healthy self-esteem, despite their rural circumstances.

Two Little Green Guards inspect the camera trap,

Two Little Green Guards inspect the camera trap,

The success of the Little Green Guards program will require long-term efforts and reaching out to as many communities as possible around Fanjingshan and other protected areas in China as well as in Vietnam and Madagascar. As the citizens who live adjacent to natural habitats form the front line of defense in protecting local biodiversity, we imagine that our Little Green Guards program may have a substantial positive influence on people’s attitudes toward conservation. We hope that one day every child in the Little Green Guards program will develop affection for wildlife so that when that day comes, we can all smile and say “Qiezi!”

Chia Tan, Ph.D., is a senior scientist in the Conservation Partnership Development Division of the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read her previous post, Have Camera Trap, Will Travel.

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Watch the Birdies! Open House at the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center

Special displays allow curious visitors to understand the "why" and "how" of the program.

Special displays allow curious visitors to understand the “why” and “how” of the program.

Last December, we held our annual open house here at the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center. This is our largest public event of the year and always an exciting time for us. Although we are normally closed to the public in order to focus on breeding our rare birds, this even is our chance to open our doors to those interested in learning about our program.

Since we are located on a remote ranch, we can only accept as many people as can fit in our shuttles for each tour—and the tours filled up fast again this year! It was so encouraging to see such an outpouring of interest and support from our local, island, and global community. In addition to many local residents, we had guests this year fly in from other islands and from as far away as Montana!

Our staff met visitors at our outer gate, situated everyone in the shuttles, and then drove guests through nearly three miles of beautiful, restored native forest to the facility. Upon arrival, everyone gathered inside our main office building to learn a little of the history of the program and to admire our fantastic mural depicting the array of unique wildlife and environments found here on the Big Island of Hawaii. We talked about the species we work with—Palila, ‘Alalā, Kiwikiu, and Puaiohi—and the multifaceted pressures they face in the wild.

The author acting as tour guide for a group of interested visitors.

The author acting as tour guide, giving visitors the inside story about the birds being bred at KBCC.

 

Next, everyone gathered around the windows to get a close up and personal view of our education birds, including two ‘alalā, before heading up to one of our forest bird barns to see our species in their breeding aviaries. It was wonderful to see smiles spread across the faces of everyone, young and old, as they watched some of the world’s rarest birds go about their business.

Throughout the tour, visitors demonstrated great interest and concern for the future of these special birds, and many of our staff received excellent questions such as “What can I do at home to help?” and “Is there a way for me to help restore the forests so our birds have somewhere to go?” We encourage people in our area wanting to help to plant native species such as ‘ōhi‘a lehua, in their yards to attract endemic forest birds. Getting rid of standing water on the property is another great way to make life easier for our birds since it eliminates breeding grounds for mosquitoes, which carry dangerous diseases for both humans and wildlife.

Our entire staff was available after the tours to talk with everyone, and it was so heartening to see such passion and respect for the birds that we work with on a daily basis. Open House is an important reminder for us that the work we do is valued, but most significantly it is our chance to give back to our community for their support, interest, and enthusiasm.

For all of you reading this post, thank you. I will say to you the same thing I said to my tours: Your being here (even if it is just through the Internet!) is a vital part of our program. We could breed birds all day long, but without your interest and support it would be for naught. You are an essential part of the future of these birds, and we at the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center are proud to have your support and partnership as we move forward together to make this conservation story a success!

Chelsea McGimpsey is a research associate at the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center.

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From Conflict to Coexistence: Part 1

A mother elephant and her calf surprised the author in Kenya.

A mother elephant and her calf surprised the author in Kenya.

“Don’t worry”, came the calm tones of my passenger (and Institute colleague) Dr. Christine Browne-Nunez, as my foot pressed hard on the clutch. I had slammed the Land Cruiser into reverse, ready for a rapid retreat back through the weave of Acacia shrubs. However, not without unease, I returned to neutral and shut off the engine.

Staring at us, having emerged from the bush onto the track in front of us, was a mature female African savanna elephant Loxodonta africana and her young calf. Despite being the most massive terrestrial mammals on the planet, elephants are surprisingly invisible in dense vegetation, and momma elephants can be very protective when surprised…

Christine and I have both worked on conservation research in East Africa over the years, but our reactions to encountering elephants in the wild were miles apart. Me: “How quickly can I backup?” Christine: “Let’s be among them, and wait for them to pass.”

The elephants passed peacefully, purposefully going about the business of consuming their daily requirement of 220 pounds (100 kilograms) or more of vegetation. In that moment, we realized that our differing reactions to encountering elephants underscored a much larger conservation dynamic in the region. The very dynamic that had led us to be in the car on that track in Samburu National Reserve, Kenya.

Christine Brown-Nunez, PhD a human dimensions of conservation specialist talking about wildlife interactions with a maasai warrior just outside Amboseli National Park.

Christine Brown-Nunez, Ph.D., talks about wildlife interactions with a Maasai warrior just outside Amboseli National Park.

Christine’s prior research focused on the human aspects of elephant conservation around Amboseli National Park. When inside Amboseli’s boundaries, the elephants are well protected [thanks to the elephant researchers, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), and others]. As a result they are less stressed, and do not feel as threatened in the presence of humans as do elephants in other parts of Kenya. The elephants there accept researchers, who can approach a herd and be among them. This has allowed researchers to gather the most intimate behavioral and social portraits of elephants anywhere—vital knowledge that has informed conservation.

Thanks to the equally pioneering and long-term work of Save the Elephants, when inside Samburu National Reserve, elephants now have a growing sense of security. They know that while within Samburu they are safer from human threats.

Watchful eyes of members of an elephant family group in Amboseli National Park. We know a lot about these elephants thanks to the research of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants.

Watchful eyes of members of an elephant family group in Amboseli National Park. We know a lot about these elephants thanks to the research of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants.

In contrast, my previous experiences in East Africa are among elephants outside of formally protected areas. Where elephants face daily threats such as poaching, harassment, lack of access to resources, spears and bullets—a very negative environment. For instance, while working not far from Samburu, over in Laikipia, when I encountered elephants at such close range either in my vehicle or on foot, they’d immediately charge and I’d have to make a very rapid escape. Those elephants were stressed, feeling threatened, and so they would react in kind. What is interesting, however, is that these aren’t different animals we’re talking about. When the same, calm elephants in Samburu move into less-safe environments, they become aggressive in response to close human presence.

It’s not just elephants that act differently when they know they’re in riskier areas, overlapping with humans. I’ve experienced similar reactions in giraffes. In well-protected areas, they are less concerned about close proximity to humans and livestock, whereas outside those areas, it is hard to get within 110 to 218 yards (100-200 meters) of them, creating quite a challenge for giraffe researchers like me.

One of about 60 endangered black rhino in Lewa Conservancy. Lewa’s work has dramatically reduced poaching in the area, giving these rhino a fighting chance.

One of about 60 endangered black rhino in Lewa Conservancy. Lewa’s work has dramatically reduced poaching in the area, giving these rhino a fighting chance.

This is not to vilify the people who live among elephants and other large wildlife. Living with these giants is challenging. Elephants raid crops and can destroy a family’s livelihood (often their only income for the season) in a few hours. They also damage wells and can injure and kill people and livestock. So like the elephants, people need to defend themselves, their families, and livelihoods.

However, the more concerning threats are caused by the poachers who are responsible for the shocking decline in populations of elephants, rhino, giraffes, and other wildlife for trinkets and traditional medicine. They often mow down elephants and rhinos from a distance with automatic weapons or set neck snares for giraffe. It is these external drivers that cause the most conflict. They are also the reason for plummeting wildlife populations outside protected areas, and explain why wildlife are stressed and aggressive.

Two maasai warriors get some refreshment by the new water pump near their boma just outside Ambsolei National Park, surrounded by a wall to protect against elephant damage.

Two Maasai warriors get some refreshment by the new water pump near their boma just outside Ambsolei National Park, surrounded by a wall to protect against elephant damage.

East African pastoralists, or livestock herders, historically coexisted with wildlife. In fact over the millennia, both wildlife and human systems evolved in synch. Today, pastoralism remains a primary form of livelihood in East Africa. This complementary land use is key to successful wildlife conservation. Pastoralism leaves a porous landscape where herbivores and carnivores can live, access resources, and can travel between parks in search of resources, territory, or mates. Without such spaces and corridors, populations in protected pockets will atrophy and vanish, as isolated parks are too small for large, wide-ranging species.

The downside is that it is also in these vital areas where wildlife encounter their greatest threats, not only from poaching, but also from localized conflicts and ever-increasing habitat fragmentation.

It is in these complex settings that innovative conservation efforts are needed. As conservationists we need to understand not only what is happening with wildlife, but with the people living alongside and interacting with wildlife. This is the reason for our visit to Kenya, to move from conflict to coexistence between wildlife, people and livestock.

To be continued… Check back tomorrow to get to know the groups David and Christy met with, and what the future holds for collaborative conservation.

David OConnor is a research coordinator for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read his previous post, Understanding Wildlife Trade in Asia.

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Rocky Mountain High: Boreal toads going to a place they’ve never been before

boreal toad

boreal toad

From the window of a fancy trailer I can see the small town of Alamosa, Colorado, and laying just behind it the base of the Rocky Mountains. A gateway to all the many outdoor splendors that the Colorado wilderness has to offer, this small town bustles with the comings and goings of natives as well as passers through. However, Alamosa hides another interesting little secret. The Native Aquatic Species Restoration Facility, known as NASRF, is part of the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife dedicated to the restoration of 10 species of fish native to Colorado. Additionally (and perhaps more importantly for me), NASRF holds one of the largest collections of a single toad species in the US.

The southern Rocky Mountain population (SRMP) of boreal toad (Anaxyrus boreas boreas) is a geographically isolated population of the boreal toad (Anaxyrus boreas). Although the boreal toad is commonly found in the western part of the US, the SRMP is unique due to its limited geographical distribution, which restricts it to high elevations of montane wetland Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and southeastern Wyoming. As part of a comprehensive plan to restore and manage the SRMP, a specialized group known as the Boreal Toad Recovery Team (BTRT) was established in 1995, and a captive population has been housed at NASRF since 2001. Over 600 hundred individual toads from different localities in the wild are held and bred as a genetic assurance colony from which tadpoles are re-introduced annually.

Alaomosa

Alaomosa, Colorado

Amphibians are a curious group of animals. The diversity of physiological adaptations and environmental requirements makes breeding them in captivity difficult. Such is the case with the Boreal toads at NASRF.

One of the most interesting adaptations of the boreal toad is its ability to hibernate. Because they are found at high altitudes and latitudes they have evolved this behavior to cope with long, harsh winters. However, hibernation in amphibians is not exactly the same as in mammals. In fact, the proper term for this behavior in amphibians is brumation. Like hibernating mammals, temperate amphibians lower their metabolic rates in response to falling temperatures in fall and winter. They stop eating and reduce their activity but, unlike mammals, they do not become dormant. At the beginning of spring, as temperatures rise, boreal toads come out of hibernation and immediately begin to breed.

Although temperature appears to be a key factor influencing reproduction in the Boreal toad, we are not sure how important other factors such as light and nutrition affect adult health and reproduction. At NASRF we provide special UV lighting to emulate natural day and night cycles, a diverse diet, controlled water temperature and artificial hibernation during the winter months. In short, we do what we can to replicate the outdoors, indoors.

Sancho

Sancho

In May of 2014 I made the long 1,000 mile drive from San Diego to Alamosa to join the staff at NASRF in preparation for boreal toad breeding season. That’s not me in the photograph, that’s my trusty partner, Sancho. Seventeen hours later we arrived at our new and very swanky home where we would reside for the next 4.5 months. Now I guess I should explain why I told you all about the boreal toad in the beginning, and more importantly, where I fit into the picture. As I mentioned, during the winter months, boreal toads hibernate in the wild. To emulate this at NASRF we use giant refrigerators (the kind you find in restaurants). We box the little toads up with soft, moist sand and peat moss and put them to bed for 5 to 6 months. Odd as this may seem, this period of cold is exactly what these toads need to get them in the mood for love and romance. Emerging from hibernation is like traveling to a sunny beach destination with your partner for a romantic holiday after surviving a long winter.

So where do I come in? I am a reproductive physiologist working for the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research. About 4 years ago I moved to the US to work on amphibians as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Mississippi. During my post-doc I concentrated on the application of assisted reproductive technologies to promote reproduction in captive amphibians. When natural matings occur in boreal toads we expect to see certain reproductive behaviors such as males amplexing females. This clasping behavior may persist for days while the male stimulates the female to deposit her eggs. When breeding does not occur or a female fails to release eggs naturally, I inject females with hormone treatments designed to elicit egg deposition. I also use the same hormones to induce sperm production in males.

Boreals amplexing

Boreals amplexing

Like in humans, ultrasound helps us monitor female toad reproductive cycles by visualizing the ovary and determining the presence and size of eggs. This helps us know if a female that has not bred is ready to deposit eggs. If so, I would inject her with hormones. Once eggs have been deposited, we count the number of eggs that have been fertilized and are cleaving (dividing). Embryonic development is recorded by looking at embryos every day and cataloging different developmental stages.

We raise tadpoles in captivity until they reach a certain size and have developed back legs before transporting them to the Rocky Mountain National Park for release into the wild. This final stage of the adventure is managed and monitored by the dedicated staff at NASRF and the National Park. Saving the SRMP boreal toad is a collaborative project with the ultimate goal restoring these animals in their natural habitat.

(I’d like to thank all the staff at the Native Aquatic Species Restoration Facility for their help).

Natalie Calatayud is a research associate at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.

 

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Mitigation-driven Animal Translocations Are Problematic – Study Indicates Importance of Science-based Animal Moves to Conservation

Turtles Fitted with Transmitters Released into WildThe use of animal translocations as a means to mitigate construction projects and other human developments is a widespread animal-management tool. A paper published today, produced through collaboration of conservationists from San Diego Zoo Global, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, University of Kent UK, University of Newcastle and Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, reviews the success rates associated with these moves from a species-conservation standpoint.

“Mitigation-driven translocations outnumber and receive more funding than science-based conservation translocations,” said Ron Swaisgood Ph.D., conservation biologist for San Diego Zoo Global. “Yet the conservation benefit of the former is often unclear, since outcomes are often poor and rarely monitored. There are other, more strategic, priorities where our limited conservation resources should be allocated.”

The study, available online ahead of print and scheduled for the March issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment the study estimates that millions of dollars are spent annually on moving animals out of the way of human interference, and may not be meeting the goal of preserving the populations as intended by legislation.

“Because mitigation releases are economically motivated, outcomes may be less successful than those of releases designed to serve the biological needs of species,” said Jen Germano, lead author of the paper. “Evidence suggests that many mitigation-driven translocations fail, although the application of scientific principles and best practices would probably improve the success rate.”

An additional challenge, pointed out by the paper, is the lack of information accompanying many of these translocations.

“Just determining how many animals have been moved and to what effect is challenging, since records are not kept or are difficult to obtain,” said Simon Clulow of the University of Newcastle, Australia. “This documentation is essential if we are to learn lessons and improve our methods.”

Researchers point to successful science-based animal relocations and releases as forming good models for the future.

“We’ve learned a great deal from carefully designed, conservation-driven translocation research over recent years, and this needs to be better applied to mitigation translocations,” said Richard Griffiths of the University of Kent, UK. “Unfortunately, mitigation translocations often do not meet the legislative intent of preventing the decline of protected species. This can be changed in the future to give these species a better chance at long-term survival.”

ARC
Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC) is the UK’s leading charity working to help frogs, toads, newts, lizards, snakes and turtles. ARC owns and manages nature reserves, runs dedicated conservation projects across Britain, leads monitoring and science programmes, and presses for stronger policies to help amphibians and reptiles. For more information, see www.arc-trust.org.

The Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) is a Research Centre based in the School of Anthropology and Conservation at the University of Kent, UK. DICE focuses on interdisciplinary training, research and conservation implementation around the world. See http://www.kent.ac.uk/dice/

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s mission is, working with others, to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

The conservation biology group at the University of Newcastle provides biotechnological solutions for global biodiversity and conservation management in collaboration with government agencies, local councils and animal welfare groups.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes onsite wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is made accessible to children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

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What We’re Thankful For

Giving thanks is certainly in season, but our gratitude for the support of our members, donors, sponsors, and partners extends far beyond the holiday. Plus, we thank our dedicated volunteers for their efforts in connecting our visitors to wildlife and conservation. So while we continue to give thanks to all the people and organizations that contribute to our goal of saving species from extinction, there are a few special shout-outs we would like to emphasize this Thanksgiving.

California Condor Recovery Program

They are one of the largest flying birds and one of our greatest continuing success stories. We’ve come a long way since 1985, when California condors were 22 birds away from extinction. Today, more than 400 California condors are alive, with over half flying free in California, Arizona, and Baja California, Mexico. This year we’re especially grateful for our international partners in Baja California, Mexico and at the Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico City. With a renewed cross-border commitment to the California Condor Recovery Program, our mounting achievements will result in even more condors spreading their wings and flying free in the wild.

Southwestern pond turtle headstart to recovery program

Don’t let their tough shells fool you! According to Conservation International, 40 percent of turtle species across the globe are at immediate risk of extinction. In 2013, we gave California’s only native freshwater turtle species, the southwestern pond turtle, a “headstart” toward recovery with the help of the U.S. Geological Survey, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the San Diego Association of Governments. Five more turtles were released into the Sycuan Peak Ecological Reserve this summer, so a special thanks goes to our local conservation partners for the swimming success and enduring research.

The first full breeding season for Hawaii’s native palila was a success at the Maui Bird Conservation Center. Six healthy chicks were produced with the help of the Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program and our local partners. Watch the video to learn about a few other bird species we’ve been working with on the Hawaiian Islands.

African elephants

We are thankful to receive the 2014 Edward H. Bean Award from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) for the African bush elephant program, along with Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. We’ve also had success with our satellite herd of this species at the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson. The birth of our most recent calf, Nandi, contributed to the population of these gentle giants, and we are pleased to work with animal care staff in Arizona to further this mission.

San Diego Ronald McDonald House Tunes into San Diego Zoo Kids Network

Introducing people to wildlife is crucial for the conservation of all species. In addition to four hospitals across the United States, this year we were able to bring the San Diego Zoo Kids channel to the patients and families at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Furthermore, the educational channel was implemented into Ronald McDonald House Charities of San Diego, where children can enjoy hours of animal stories from the comfort of their own rooms.

Tull Family Tiger Trail

The opening of the Tull Family Tiger Trail was the culmination of years of planning, design, fund-raising, and construction, all made possible through the contributions of our community and the amazing generosity of the Tull Family. This adventure is proof that when we come together, we can accomplish great things for endangered species like the Sumatran tiger.

Highlighting every species and conservation success we’ve shared this year is impossible. However, on behalf of everybody at San Diego Zoo Global, our organization would like to thank all of our members, volunteers, donors, partners, and the overall community for the ongoing support and dedication. Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is our ultimate goal, but we can’t do it without you.

Join the conversation: What are you thankful for this year?

Jenn Beening is the social media specialist for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, 9 Culturally Haunting Animals.