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Ambassador Mi Ton Teiow Receives a New Posting

Mi Ton Teiow explores the archaeology and classical culture of ancient Greece, which included stories and myths about bears and people.

Mi Ton Teiow explores the archaeology and classical culture of ancient Greece, which included stories and myths about bears and people.

Bear Conservation Ambassador Mi Ton Teiow was posted to San Diego Zoo Global for one year following the 22nd conference of the International Association for Bear Research and Management (IBA) in Provo, Utah, but he has now moved on to new adventures!

En route to the 23rd conference of the IBA in Thessaloniki, Greece, Mi visited some of the world-famous archaeological sites in Athens, and admired a statue of a little bear dedicated to the Greek goddess Artemis. This was a beautiful reminder that bears have played an important role in European culture since the rise of European civilization, and they still do. This point was reiterated at the conference during a special session on human-bear conflict. In addition, a session on conservation of Mongolian Gobi bears was attended by representatives of the Mongolian government, further illustrating the importance that some people around the world continue to place on bears and bear conservation.

Mi also heard updated assessments of the conservation status of the eight bear species by the IUCN’s Bear Specialist Group. Six of the eight species of bears are now considered at some risk of extinction, which is a sobering reality in a changing world. As part of the discussion of the status of Asiatic black bears and sun bears, Mi heard about ongoing efforts to reduce the impact of the harvest of these bears’ bile, which is used in some traditional medicinal practices. Mi’s previous travels have not dealt much with the issue of bear bile harvest, but Mi is now gaining much more exposure to this topic.

During the conference, a select committee of international bear biologists decided that Mi could now best serve bear conservation by traveling with Matt Hunt, Chief Executive of Free the Bears Fund, a non-profit, non-governmental organization focused on the conservation of bears in Asia. Since leaving Greece, Matt and Mi have already visited India, Cambodia, Australia, and Laos. So, although Ambassador Mi Ton Teiow has already explored bear conservation in many countries, there are many opportunities for further discovery. Good luck, Mi!

Russ Van Horn is a scientist with the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read his previous post, What to Eat When There’s Nothing to Eat.

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Feeling Better and Getting Her Nails Done: Northern White Rhino at San Diego Zoo Safari Park Gets Pedicure

Northern white rhino Nola receives a regularly scheduled pedicure at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Northern white rhino Nola receives a regularly scheduled pedicure at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Nola, a critically endangered 40-year-old northern white rhino, received some pampering and a pedicure earlier today at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. While keepers Jane Kennedy and Mary Weber-Evans gave Nola a rub down and scratched her ears, keeper Ken McCaffree trimmed the 4,000-pound rhino’s nails. The elderly Nola, who was under veterinary care for a sinus infection until recently, is feeling much better and seems to enjoy the extra-special care by her keepers.

Most rhinos wear their nails down just by walking, but Nola’s nails grow at a particularly fast rate. To provide optimal health, keepers provide Nola with nail trims about every three weeks. She is the only rhino at the Safari Park who receives pedicures. Keepers use the same type of tools to trim Nola’s nails as are used to trim horses’ hooves. Most pedicure sessions last about 30 minutes, but keepers work as long as Nola will allow. When Nola is done, she lets the keepers know by standing up and walking away.

Nola is one of just five northern white rhinos left in the world. Three other northern white rhinos are in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya and one is in the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic. The five remaining rhinos are all of an advanced age and have not reproduced. Poaching for its horn has brought the northern white rhino to such critically low numbers. 

Photo taken on Feb. 19 by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291
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Zoos Bring Animal Kingdom to Patients at Primary Children’s Hospital and Ronald McDonald House Charities in Salt Lake City

Global_logo_color webToday, a unique collaboration designed to entertain and educate patients and their families about wildlife was announced through a partnership between the San Diego Zoo, Utah’s Hogle Zoo, Primary Children’s Hospital, and Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Intermountain Area. Funded through a generous gift by businessman and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford, Primary Children’s Hospital, Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Intermountain Area, the Utah’s Hogle Zoo and San Diego Zoo Global announced the arrival of San Diego Zoo Kids in Salt Lake City.

San Diego Zoo Kids is a television broadcast channel that features programming about unique and endangered animal species. It is now available on TV monitors in every patient room at Primary Children’s Hospital and Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Intermountain Area.

“Primary Children’s Hospital is honored to be a part of this partnership with Hogle Zoo and San Diego Zoo to further enhance the healing environment for our patients,” says Katy Welkie, CEO of Primary Children’s Hospital. “The patients we care for and serve love the interaction with animals and the outside world, and our parents and families enjoy the connection to nature. This is also an important extension of our ongoing partnership with Hogle Zoo and elephant research related to cancer.”

The channel features video from the San Diego Zoo’s famous Panda Cam as well as other live, online cameras, fun and educational pieces about a variety of animals and up-close video encounters of popular animals with the San Diego Zoo’s national spokesperson, Rick Schwartz.

“We at the Ronald McDonald House are so delighted to be part of the launch of the San Diego Zoo Kids Channel. Many of the families with sick or injured children, staying at our Ronald McDonald House, have traveled to Salt Lake City from small rural towns throughout Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada and Montana for needed specialty pediatric care,” said Carrie Romano, Executive Director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Intermountain Area. “They come from communities that may not have a zoo and when they’re here for medical care for their children, the child is often not well enough to visit local sites, like our Utah’s Hogle Zoo. The Zoo Channel will bring the animals to the children and their families – along with countless smiles!”

“Connecting kids and animals – what could be more natural? Hogle Zoo is proud to partner with San Diego Zoo Global, Primary Children’s Hospital, and Ronald McDonald House Charities in launching the ‘San Diego Zoo Kids’ Network here in Salt Lake City,” said Craig Dinsmore, Executive Director, Utah’s Hogle Zoo. “We hope that providing this entertaining and educational programming will bring a little joy to kids and families who are dealing with serious health challenges.”

“We have always believed in the importance of putting people in touch with animals as a way to conserve species,” said Doug Myers, president and CEO of San Diego Zoo Global. “What we have heard from medical care professionals is that animal interaction and animal stories can also help promote well-being. San Diego Zoo Global has a wealth of animal stories and, through the generosity of Denny Sanford, we are able to bring these stories to the families at Primary Children’s Hospital and Ronald McDonald House Charities of Salt Lake City.”

San Diego Zoo Kids debuted at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego on Dec. 18, 2013, Los Angeles Children’s Hospital on February 14, 2014, Sanford Children’s Hospital on March 3, 2014, Children’s Hospital Colorado on March 5, 2014, and all three Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta hospitals on June 20, 2014.

About Primary Children’s Hospital
Primary Children’s Hospital is a free-standing children’s hospital located in Salt Lake City, Utah. The 289-bed hospital cares for children with complex illness and injury from across the western United States. Primary Children’s is the only Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center serving the intermountain region. It is part of Intermountain Healthcare, a non-profit healthcare system, and it is the pediatric teaching hospital for the University of Utah School of Medicine.

About Ronald McDonald House Charities
It’s something we see every day children – healing faster because they’re surrounded by their families. For over 25 years we have provided a comforting, supportive and healing place for families seeking medical care for their ill or injured children. Ronald McDonald House Charities® of the Intermountain Area (RMHC) provides stability and resources to families so that they can keep their child healthy and happy. Since opening our doors in 1988, we have helped over 45,000 families to stay close in a place that feels like home through our two core programs: Ronald McDonald House® and Ronald McDonald Family Room®.

There are many ways to get involved. You can make a charitable donation, volunteer with your family, company, church or other group. You can participate in the Adopt-A-Meal program, collect pop tabs, hold wish list drives, fundraisers or any other needed projects.

Your support is vital to our mission and will directly impact the lives of thousands of families each year experiencing one of life’s most heart-wrenching moments. Through your involvement, you can give families the ability to spend more precious time together. This means more hugs, more kisses and more “I love you’s.”

To find out more about Ronald McDonald House Charities in Salt Lake City and how to help families stay close when it matters most, visit www.ronaldmcdonaldhouseutah.org or call 801.363.4663.

About Utah’s Hogle Zoo
Utah’s Hogle Zoo is a Utah treasure. Located since 1931 on 42 acres in a unique canyon setting in the eastern foothills, the Zoo is Salt Lake City’s most visited paid attraction and one of the top visited attractions in the state. Utah’s Hogle Zoo is one of just over 200 facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). Look for the AZA logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. For more information visit www.aza.org

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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Teens Digging In and Making a Difference: San Diego Zoo Safari Park Conservation Corps Members Restore Native Habitat at Lake Hodges

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE FEB. 7, 2015 CONTACT: 	SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL 		PUBLIC RELATIONS 		619-685-3291 WEBSITE: www.sdzsafaripark.org DOWNLOAD PHOTO AT:  https://sandiegozoo.box.com/s/yevg436yvqu3gqxcj5py9v9tq1ee3i3o PHOTO NEWS RELEASE Teens Digging In anTeens from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park Conservation Corps dug in and got their hands dirty as they helped to plant 825 native plants at Lake Hodges in Escondido earlier today. The area was ravished by wildfires in 2007 and the teens were part of an ongoing project to restore native habitat.

The volunteer project, with the goal of planting 10,000 native shrubs across 25 acres at Lake Hodges, was spearheaded by the team from the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research Applied Plant Ecology Division, in conjunction with the San Dieguito River Park, with a Wildlife Conservation Society Climate Adaptation grant and a Climate Ready grant from the State of California Coastal Conservancy. To date, over 7,000 plants have been planted.

Coastal sage scrub is a disappearing habitat in Southern California, much of it being lost to invasive grasses, especially after fires. By restoring coastal sage scrub the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research and Conservation Corps volunteers are helping to provide habitat to much of the unique wildlife that makes San Diego County special, including the threatened California gnatcatchers, the San Diego horned lizard, and coastal cactus wrens.

Photo taken on Feb. 7 by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291
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From Conflict to Coexistence: Part 2

There are only about 3,000 of the endangered Grevy’s zebra left in the world, so it was great to see a foal at West Gate Conservancy!

There are only about 3,000 of the endangered Grevy’s zebra left in the world, so it was great to see a foal at West Gate Conservancy!

Read Conflict to Coexistence: Part 1

Christy and I spent a month traveling across Kenya at the end of 2014. We journeyed from the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro at the Tanzania border in the very south, up to northern Kenya and the Mathews Range. Our purpose was to meet with researchers and conservationists in the field who are leading the fight against extinction, battling not only poaching, but also working alongside communities to address localized conflicts and habitat fragmentation. We were inspired by their passion and innovation, and returned to San Diego to start planning several collaborative projects focusing on elephants, lions, rhinos, Grevy’s zebra, cheetah, leopard, giraffes, and other species.

We take a collaborative approach to conservation, which cannot ultimately be successful unless communities support, participate in, and benefit from it. As such, we were lucky to meet with some of the most inspiring communities, groups, and researchers that are working together in creative ways to bring success for people and wildlife. It is alongside these groups that San Diego Zoo Global will stand and partner with as we save species.

We cannot do any of this work without your continue support—thank you so much, because together we can end extinction! Become a Hero for Wildlife and join us in this important work.

Here are some of the groups we met, and are excited to be exploring conservation research partnerships with:

African Conservation Centre partners with communities on conservation initiatives, and is coordinating the Borderlands Conservation Initiative. Saving the richest wildlife populations on earth by working with communities and landowners along the Kenya-Tanzania border between the National Parks to establish viable, interconnected elephant and lion populations by strengthening community conservation capacity, generating jobs and income, and end poaching.

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy:  A 55,000-acre conservancy in northern Kenya. Initially focused on protecting rhino from poaching, it has grown as a leader in wildlife conservation, and spreads the benefits of wildlife conservation through community development programs to 40,000 people regionally.

Namunyak Wildlife Conservation Trust:  Encompassing the unique and bio-diverse Mathews Range, this million-acre Samburu community conservancy is the jewel of northern Kenya. Previously home to an estimated 3,000 black rhino and numerous other species, today wildlife are returning, including elephants, reticulated giraffe, leopards, cheetah. Sarara Camp, a glorious community-owned eco-lodge that gives guests a unique intimate experience, while generating wildlife income for the community It also partners with Samburu leaders on a number of innovative conservation projects.

West Gate Community Conservancy:  Recognizing this Samburu community’s vision for conservation and co-existence, San Diego Zoo Global has supported the 100,000-acre West Gate Conservancy since its inception. Ten years later it is a leader in community-based conservation, battling land degradation, collectively managing grazing, and runs innovative community programs benefitting local people and the growing population of wildlife. West Gate is also home to two extremely effective community-based conservation organizations: Ewaso Lions and Grevy’s Zebra Trust who use innovative, multi-dimensional approaches to conserve lions and endangered Grevy’s zebras and secure wildlife corridors in West Gate and beyond.

The Safari Collection:  Through its four world-class lodges, and in full partnership with the communities, the Safari Collection is a leader and innovator in sustainable ecotourism. At each location, the lodges provide income and employment locally and work collaboratively with community members to enact conservation and capacity-building programs. These include direct conservation research on cheetahs and rhino and community initiatives such as health clinics, education and sport programs. We met with the Owner and Community and Conservation Manager in the elegant Giraffe Manor, to plan potential exciting future conservation efforts.

Save the Elephants is the pioneer group for elephant research and conservation in East Africa. Save the Elephants continues cutting-edge elephant conservation research through its collaring program, and community conservation by reducing conflict and poaching. They are also tackling ivory poaching head-on across Africa and curbing demand in China and Asia.

The Giraffe Conservation Foundation:  Giraffes are the forgotten giants of Africa. They have declined by 40% since 1999, from 140,000 to less than 80,000 today. All nine types of giraffe are in decline, but some are in real trouble. The reticulated giraffe has declined by 80% over the past fifteen years from 28,000 to less than 4,700 today. Most of reticulated giraffe’s range is outside of protected areas, in addition to habitat loss, they are being relentlessly poached for meat, decoration and in response to a recent myth that giraffe bone marrow and brains cure HIV/AIDS. In close partnership with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, we are working to rapidly develop community-based conservation initiatives to stem this decline, before giraffes vanish.

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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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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San Diego Zoo Global Conservationist Flies to China to Examine Rare Turtle Egg

Although the female giant softshell turtle has laid numerous eggs, non have been fertile.

Although the female giant softshell turtle has laid numerous eggs, non have been fertile.

Recognized as the world’s most endangered turtle, the Yangtze giant softshell turtle is dangerously close to extinction, being represented by only four known individuals left in existence.  Two males are in Vietnam and there is one breeding pair protected under human care at the Suzhou Zoo in China - both are estimated to be between 80 and 100 years old.  Although the female  – owned by the Changsha Zoo -  has produced thousands of eggs since she was paired with the male in 2008, none have hatched.  The expertise of San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research was requested and, with the support of the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) and the Wildlife Conservation Society, a reproductive expert was sent this last summer to evaluate a recently laid clutch of eggs.

“Within days of the female Rafetus nesting, I was on my way to Shanghai,” said Kaitlin Croyle, student researcher with the San Diego Zoo  Institute for Conservation Research.  “After almost 36 hours of planes, trains, and automobiles, I arrived in Suzhou and went straight to work, as I only had one full day in China before I needed to take a flight back to San Diego.”

After an extensive examination of eggs using a newly developed technique for assessing the presences of sperm, Kaitlin reported that no sperm were present in the eggs. The new technique, called oocyte membrane-bound sperm detection (OMSD), is being developed for turtle and tortoise species by Kaitlin at the Institute with the hope of assisting in endangered species conservation.  OMSD tests for the presence of sperm in eggs that fail to develop an embryo.  This information, in combination with behavioral observations, reproductive history, and veterinary examination, can be used to make educated decisions about breeding pairs to increase the chance for future offspring.
Although disappointing, the result of the whirlwind trip allows conservationists working with the Suzhou Zoo to make an informed decision with regards to future breeding of the rare turtle.
“With only four giant soft-shelled turtles left in the world it is important to do whatever we can to help this female to reproduce,” said TSA President Rick Hudson.  “Kaitlin’s work has helped confirm the male’s probable infertility and we will work to identify other mechanisms for securing fertile eggs in the future. Our hopes likely hinge on finding another male.”
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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Elderly Northern White Rhino Passes Away at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

SafariParkA northern white rhino, Angalifu, passed away in the early hours of this morning, Sunday December 14. The male rhino, who was estimated to be 44 years of age, was under veterinary care for a variety of age related conditions. His death leaves only 5 Northern white rhinos left in the world: one elderly female at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, 1 at a zoo in Czechoslovakia and 3 in Africa.

“Angalifu’s death is a tremendous loss to all of us.” said Randy Rieches, curator of mammals for the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “Not only because he was well beloved here at the Park but also because his death brings this wonderful species one step closer to extinction.”

Northern white rhinos have been brought to the brink of extinction due to poaching in Africa. Unfortunately only a few have been preserved at zoos and these have been largely non-reproductive.

“More than two decades ago we started working with the species here at the Safari Park.” Said Barbara Durrant, director of reproductive physiology for the San Diego Zoo Institute of Conservation Research. “Unfortunately we only had three rhinos here at the Park and they were all of an advanced age. We were not able to get them to breed and we have been sadly watching their species being exterminated in the wild.”

In the wild rhinos are killed for their horns, a unique physiological feature made up of keratin (the same material in human fingernails). Many cultures believe rhino horn has medicinal value and the black-market in horns taken from poached animals continues to thrive.

Protected from the poaching that has wiped out northern white rhinos in Africa, Angalifu has been living at the Safari Park since his arrival from the Khartoum Zoo in the late 1980s. Although holding out little hope for the species, conservationists at San Diego Zoo Global continue to work to find a way to recover the species. Semen and testicular tissue from the male rhino have been stored in the Frozen Zoo with the hope that new reproductive technologies will allow recovery of the species.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the mission 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, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The important conservation and science work of these entities is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of the Zoological Society of San Diego.

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

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Helping Vaquita Porpoises

We are working with teachers and students in San Felipe, Mexico, to address the human dimension of conservation.

We are working with teachers and students in San Felipe, Mexico, to address the human dimension of conservation in an effort to help save the vaquita.

What do Sonoran pronghorn, desert bighorn sheep, and California condors have in common? They are threatened, priority species for San Diego Zoo Global conservation initiatives in Baja California, Mexico, and are united under a new community-based conservation initiative of the Conservation Education Division at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.

The extraordinary Baja California peninsula contains a unique array of biodiversity that is a nature lover’s paradise. However, much of the biodiversity is threatened due to increasing human activities, and we must place ever-more importance on working with the local people to become protectors and stewards of the land. You may have caught wind of the program “From the Ridge to the Reef” (Del mar a las montanas in Spanish) in the September 2014 issue of ZOONOOZ, as we are excited to team up with researchers working all over Baja to help address the human dimension of conservation of these important species.

Teachers work together to review a curriculum designed specifically for the region with their help and with priority species in mind.

Teachers work together to review a curriculum designed specifically for the region with their help and with priority species in mind.

There is one species, in particular, so close to extinction that we felt compelled to begin work with communities immediately. On the eastern side of the Baja peninsula in the northern Gulf of California (or Sea of Cortez) exists the most endangered porpoise in the world. The vaquita marina Phocoena sinus is inadvertently caught in nets intended for fish and shrimp, including a lot of illegal fishing, and recent population estimates are at fewer than 100 individuals.

We have begun working with teachers and students in San Felipe, BC, and our last trip to San Felipe was a huge success. Our new postdoctoral fellow, Jenny Glikman, and I conducted a teacher-training workshop with 15 teachers from 4 different schools. This involved brainstorms and discussions on current and future implementation of environmental education activities, the adaptation of curriculum developed specifically for the Ridge to Reef program, and teacher-led creation of conservation project proposals that their students will implement and share with the community. We have also begun collaborating with local organizations already on the ground and part of the community, including the Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans.

Teacher attendees of the Ridge to Reef workshop pose with facilitators while sporting a parting gift:  "Del Mar a las Montanas" hats.

Teacher attendees of the Ridge to Reef workshop pose with facilitators while sporting a parting gift: “Del Mar a las Montanas” hats.

We are working with UCSD’s Engineers for Exploration (E4E), who are developing technologies to take photo and video of vaquitas, as we have nearly none. In September, David O’Connor of Conservation Education collected water visibility measurements to get an idea of clarity where the cameras will be deployed. Read more about this in a special blog by the E4E crew themselves!

This is still the beginning of what is shaping up to be an exciting collaboration between a variety of scientists and local teachers, students, and those who make a living from fishing, and there is hope for the future of the vaquita and Baja’s treasures. You can help by sharing information about the plight of the vaquita (find out more here), supporting the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy, and purchasing products coming from sustainable fisheries (the United States is one of the largest markets for Mexican fish and shrimp). With less than 100 of these beautiful, mysterious, and ecologically important porpoises left, urgent action is required, and culturally conscious, grass roots, community-based conservation—whether local to San Diego or international—is how we’re going to make a stand against disappearing species.

Samantha Young is a research coordinator with the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read her previous post, Across the Pacific in 60 Days.