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San DIego Zoo Global

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First-of-Its-Kind Collaboration Brings Animal Kingdom to the San Diego Public Library

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Rio, the double yellow-headed Amazon parrot, and his sidekick Zookeeper Rick captivated young children during the launch of San Diego Zoo Kids—an innovative closed-circuit television broadcast channel that features entertaining ad educational programming about unique and endangered animal species.

Animals and kids were brought together today (Monday, Sept. 14) at the San Diego Central Library to unveil a pioneering collaboration, designed to entertain and educate children and their families about wildlife. Mayor Kevin Faulconer, San Diego Zoo Global, and the San Diego Public Library announced the arrival of San Diego Zoo Kids—an innovative closed-circuit television broadcast channel that features entertaining and educational programming about unique and endangered animal species—funded through a generous gift by businessman and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford.

“When the idea came to my attention, to have the San Diego Zoo Kids channel available at the Library, I jumped at the opportunity to collaborate with the Zoo,” said Misty Jones, director of the San Diego Public Library. “I’ve seen the magic and excitement for learning on the faces of children who watch the programs. Having San Diego Zoo Kids on site also opens many other programming opportunities to connect children to nature and instill in them a passion for stewardship of our planet.”

San Diego Zoo Kids offers up-close video encounters with popular animals, all hosted by San Diego Zoo’s national ambassador Rick Schwartz and San Diego Kids host Lauren Ayres. Viewers can observe clips from the Zoo’s famous Panda Cam and other online cameras, as well as content from zoos across the country.

“San Diego Zoo Global has a wealth of animal stories to tell,” said Rick Schwartz, San Diego Zoo’s national ambassador. “Through the generosity of Denny Sanford, we are able to bring these stories to kids who visit the San Diego Public Library, and hopefully inspire a new generation to help in the fight against extinction.”

The channel will be shown in the storytime area of the Sanford Children’s Library, and a future location will be added in the I Can Too! Center for children with special needs.

San Diego Zoo Kids debuted in 2013 at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. Since then, it has been added at 16 other children’s hospitals and Ronald McDonald House centers across the country.
About the San Diego Public Library

San Diego Public Library, which is the largest library system in the region, serves a population of more than 1.3 million people. Its mission is to inspire lifelong learning through connections to knowledge and each other. The Sanford Children’s Library is a fun and engaging Dr. Seuss-themed library with primary and intermediate grade collections, child-sized and specialized computer work stations, and colorful spaces for storytime, crafts and programs. Learn about other programs and events at the San Diego Central Library @ Joan Λ Irwin Jacobs Common and 35 community branch libraries, find links to numerous additional resources, or search for materials in the Library’s online catalog at sandiegolibrary.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 on-site 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 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.

Photo taken on September 14, 2015, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Global

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

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Celebrating 40 Years of Leadership

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We’re celebrating our success using science to help save species. (Pictured: Bai Yun with Su Lin,  her third cub.)

It was overwhelming, inspiring, and at times emotional. A group of conservationists gathered at the Beckman Center Thursday, September 10 and heard from leaders in wildlife conservation, who took the podium and described their life’s work to the crowd. The theme of every talk was doing the “new,” the perceived “impossible,” to save species.

It has been 40 years since Kurt Benirschke, M.D. began the conservation science department of San Diego Zoo Global, which developed into today’s San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Today, conservation researchers met to celebrate this milestone by sharing their work and their plans for the future.

Each speaker had a story to tell of challenges, tears, and success. Mike Wallace spoke about condors, about protesters demanding that we let them “die with dignity,” about administrators fighting for the right to save this iconic bird species, and then about finally seeing condors flying free again in the wild—a recovered species that still needs human management and protection. Don Lindburg, Ph.D. spoke about the challenge of getting pandas, the skepticism of those who did not believe we could work successfully with pandas, and the joy of the first baby panda birth. And, of course, Barbara Durrant, Ph.D. and Oliver Ryder, Ph.D. reviewed the work they have done with assisted reproduction, with the Frozen Zoo®, building hope for the future without knowing for sure what we would need—and now that work is needed so much to save a species on the brink: the northern white rhino.

It was a celebration of 40 years of history, of leadership, of going down the road less traveled (and, really, a road that everyone said couldn’t be traveled) to make a difference for the future. And it was such an honor to be here.

Christina Simmons is the public relations manager for San Diego Zoo Global.

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‘Insurance Population’ of Rare Bird Successfully Started through San Diego Zoo Global Program

Global_logo_color webFourteen fledglings flutter about in San Diego Zoo Global’s aviaries in Hawai‘i, under the care of conservation biologists. These young birds represent hope for a small Hawaiian bird species known as the ‘akikiki. The group represents the first of this species to be reared in a captive environment and the beginning of a breeding program designed to save this species from extinction.

“The ‘akikiki has shown steep declines over the past 10 to 15 years, and now numbers fewer than 500 birds,” said John Vetter, Forest Bird Recovery Coordinator of the State of Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources’ (DLNR) Division of Forestry and Wildlife. “A panel of experts in Hawaiian forest bird conservation was convened to identify steps needed to preserve this species, and ranked the initiation of a captive breeding population as one of the highest priorities for its survival.”

‘Akikiki eggs were brought to the San Diego Zoo Global facility earlier in 2015 through a collaborative effort with the Kaua‘i Forest Bird Recovery Project (KFBRP), Hawai’i’s DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office (USFWS-PIFWO). Very little is known about this species, and these birds have not been raised in a zoological setting before. However, conservationists with San Diego Zoo Global have worked successfully with a number of other similar native Hawaiian birds and are using these techniques to ensure that the species will thrive.

“Using another species that we previously worked with as a model, we were able to successfully rear these 14 ‘akikiki at our centers in Hawai‘i,” said Bryce Masuda, Conservation Program Manager, San Diego Zoo Global. “This group of young birds will start a breeding population, protected in captivity from the threats bringing this species to the brink of extinction in the wild. Their presence provides insurance that we can protect this species now, for future generations.”

The ‘akikiki is a species of Hawaiian honeycreeper found only on the island of Kaua‘i. This species has been severely affected by introduced diseases such as avian malaria, loss of native forest habitat, hurricanes, and the introduction of non-native predator species in the wild.

“We are currently working with partners to address the threats to ‘akikiki in the wild, in order to ensure a successful reintroduction in the future,” said Michelle Clark, Biologist, Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office.

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.

KFBRP is a collaboration between the Pacific Studies Cooperative Unit of the University of Hawai’i and the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife. KFBRP’s mission is to promote knowledge, conservation of Kauai’s native forest birds, with a particular focus on the three endangered species: Puaiohi, ‘Akikiki and ‘Akeke‘e. For more information, please see www.kauaiforestbirds.org. The mission of the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife is to responsibly manage and protect watersheds, native ecosystems, and cultural resources and provide outdoor recreation and sustainable forest products opportunities, while facilitating partnerships, community involvement and education.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The mission of the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office is to conserve and restore native biodiversity and ecological integrity of Pacific Island ecosystems for the benefit of present and future generations through leadership, science-based management, and collaborative partnerships.

For more information, visit www.fws.gov/pacific, or connect with us through facebook.com/USFWSPacific, twitter.com/USFWSPacific/, tumblr.com/blog/usfwspacific, flickr.com/photos/usfwspacific/ and youtube.com/user/USFWS.

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Terns, Plovers, and People: Living in Harmony

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This beach on Naval Base Coronado is one site where field biologists are studying California least tern and snowy plover populations (U.S. Navy photo by S. McLaughlin, SDZG)

As field biologists, we are lucky to have some of the most beautiful offices in the world. Every day, my coworkers and I get to enjoy long walks on the beach, warm sunshine and the occasional passing dolphin pod. Of course with views like the one in the photo, we are working alongside many other people enjoying a day at the Pacific Ocean. It’s wonderful to see people appreciating the beach habitat we all love so much, especially when it’s done in a respectful and responsible way. So, here are a couple of thoughts from a field biologist.

Both the California least tern and western snowy plover are sensitive to human disturbance. While some bird species will remain on their nest until you are very nearly upon it, terns and plovers seem to hop off at the first sign of danger. Plovers can be seen in the vicinity of the nest, performing the broken-wing display to draw perceived predators away from their nest. Terns take a more aggressive approach, screeching at and dive-bombing anyone that approaches their nest; sometimes several members of the colony will join in to drive the threat away. With the numbers of terns and plovers at critically low levels, it’s important that the birds are able to spend their energy caring for their young, instead of chasing off disturbances.

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With chicks this cute and helpless, it’s easy to see why we want to protect California least tern populations. (U.S. Navy photo by S. McLaughlin, SDZG)

The most common instances of disturbance we see out in the field are people walking through the colony and dogs being allowed off leash in areas with nesting birds. In addition to upsetting the adult birds, these types of disturbances can result in trampled eggs and chicks, and stressed-out young. Luckily for all the recreational beach users out there, avoiding creating a disturbance is very easy! The most important step to take is observing and abiding by posted signs. If you are ever approached by a game warden or field biologist, don’t be afraid to ask questions. We love to talk about the terns and plovers, and outreach is an important part of our jobs!

The beaches of southern California and the birds that live there offer amazing opportunities for people to engage with nature. If we enjoy these resources respectfully and responsibly they will hopefully be here for many more years to come.

 

Stephanie McLaughlin is a research associate at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.

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Endangered, Captive-bred Tadpoles Reintroduced into Native Habitat

Debra Shier (left) and Nicole Gardner from the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research release frogs into Fuller Mill Creek in the San Bernardino National Forest. The frogs were hatched at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center for Conservation Research in Escondido, Calif., as part of the recovery program for the Southern California mountain yellow-legged frog (Rana muscosa)—one of the most endangered frogs in North America. The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, along with its partners, has been working to save this species from extinction since 2006. This year, the program, which includes captive breeding, resulted in more than 5,600 eggs laid and the most viable embryos in a single season: nearly 1,800. On Aug. 6, 200 tadpoles that hatched this year, along with 27 metamorphs from last year’s breeding season, were released into Fuller Mill Creek. In addition to breeding the endangered frogs, the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research participates in the field monitoring of the species, led by the U.S. Geological Survey. The monitoring is critical to determining if the releases are successful, and documenting population declines and increases in this native Southern California species. The mountain yellow-legged frog is a species watched over by a team of scientists, land managers and regulators, while it maintains a perilous toehold in the mountains of Southern California. Mountain yellow-legged frogs in Southern California live in perennial streams in portions of the San Gabriel, San Bernardino, and San Jacinto Mountains.

Debra Shier (left) and Nicole Gardner from the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research release frogs into Fuller Mill Creek in the San Bernardino National Forest.

Just before dawn on Thursday, Aug. 6, a team of staff and volunteers from the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research was preparing to load and transport young frogs and tadpoles from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center for Conservation Research in Escondido, Calif., to release them into the wild at Fuller Mill Creek in the San Bernardino National Forest. The process is part of the recovery program for the Southern California mountain yellow-legged frog Rana muscosa—one of the most endangered frogs in North America. The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, along with its partners, has been working to save this species from extinction since 2006.

This year, the program, which includes captive breeding, resulted in more than 5,600 eggs laid and the most viable embryos in a single season: nearly 1,800. On Aug. 6, 200 tadpoles that hatched this year, along with 27 metamorphs from last year’s breeding season, were released into Fuller Mill Creek.

The animals were moved into buckets with a few inches of chilled water, and kept cool with ice packs underneath the buckets. Water temperatures in the buckets were kept close to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, to match the facility where the frogs were hatched and the wild streams where they would be released later that morning. Buckets with frogs and tadpoles were transported to the release site in a temperature-controlled vehicle.

The release site was surveyed by staff from the Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey, who looked for the deepest pools with some overhangs where the frogs naturally like to live. The deep-water locations with banks are also the least likely to dry out before fall, when rain is expected. The team carried the buckets to three pools that had been selected as the release site, and measured the temperature of each pool.

Water from the pools was added to each bucket—about one-half inch to one full inch—to slowly bring the temperature and pH level of the bucket water into alignment with the creek water. Staff gave the frogs five minutes to acclimate before adding more creek water. This process continued until the temperature and pH levels of the water in the transport buckets matched the creek. Then, staff slowly poured the frogs into the pools.

“We vaccinate the frogs before release, to provide some resistance to the Chytrid (Chytridiomycota) fungus once they are released into the wild,” said Debra Shier, associate director of Applied Animal Ecology at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. “Our goal with captive breeding and reintroduction is to facilitate species recovery by increasing the numbers of mountain yellow-legged frogs in the wild, as well as buying the species time to evolve resistance to the fungus.”

In addition to breeding the endangered frogs, the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research participates in the field monitoring of the species, led by the U.S. Geological Survey. The monitoring is critical to determining if the releases are successful, and documenting population declines and increases in this native Southern California species.

The mountain yellow-legged frog is a species watched over by a team of scientists, land managers and regulators, while it maintains a perilous toehold in the mountains of Southern California. Mountain yellow-legged frogs in Southern California live in perennial streams in portions of the San Gabriel, San Bernardino, and San Jacinto Mountains. The upper-elevation stream segments inhabited by the frogs are generally 1,214 to 7,546 feet above sea level.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the mountain yellow-legged frog in Southern California as endangered in 2002, and fewer than 200 of the frogs remained by 2003. Efforts to boost the species’ population have included captive breeding, reintroducing captive offspring to historic habitat, regular surveys to assess the species status and conducting scientific research into the causes of the species’ decline.

Myriad factors have influenced the species’ decline, including introduced trout and bullfrogs, pesticides, large wildfires that bury the species’ stream habitats in ash and debris, and recreational activities that can impact frog recovery by damaging egg sacs when people swim or cross streams. And, while land managers are making headway on removing some of these threats, there is an even more serious one that cannot be removed: a fungus called Chytridiomycota. Chytridiomycosis, a disease that occurs when an amphibian is infected with a large amount of the fungus, is a serious threat to thousands of frog species in the U.S. and around the world, and will never be removed from the wild.

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 on-site 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 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.

Photo taken on August 6, 2015 by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Global

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

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Female Northern White Rhino Dies in Czech Republic: Only Four of These Rhinos Remain Worldwide

Global_logo_color webThe Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic has announced that an elderly northern white rhinoceros, Nabiré, has passed away. The female rhino was born in 1983 and died July 27, 2015 from complications with a pathological cyst. Her death leaves only four northern white rhinos remaining in the world: an elderly female at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, named Nola; and three under human care at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in the African nation of Kenya: a male, Sudan; and two females, Najin and Fatu.

“Our condolences go out to the Dvur Kralove Zoo for this particularly difficult loss,” said Randy Rieches, curator of mammals for the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “Watching this wonderful subspecies move one step closer to extinction breaks the hearts of all of us who have worked with and love rhinos.”

Northern white rhinos are at the brink of extinction because of poaching in Africa. Only a few have lived in zoological settings, and those animals have been largely non-reproductive.

San Diego Zoo Global is working to save the genome of this rhino subspecies through the collection of genetic material. Samples of 12 northern white rhinos are currently preserved in the Frozen Zoo® at the San Diego Zoo Global Institute for Conservation Research.

San Diego Zoo Global just received a $100,000 grant from the Ellen Browning Scripps Foundation to continue this research and rescue effort.

“After hearing about the plight of the northern white rhino, I shared San Diego Zoo Global’s plan for a genetic rescue of the species with the Scripps family,” said Doug Dawson, executive director of the Ellen Browning Scripps Foundation. “Instantly, we unanimously and enthusiastically agreed this is where we wanted to commit Miss Ellen’s philanthropic investment this year!”

In addition to the genomic research at the Institute for Conservation Research, a rhino rescue facility is being built at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park to house a colony of white rhinos, to ensure the preservation of the species. Those who want to contribute toward San Diego Zoo Global’s work to end extinction of the white rhino can visit www.sandiegozoo.org/rhino.

In the wild, rhinos are killed for their horns—a unique physiological feature made up of keratin, the same material that forms human hair and fingernails. Many cultures erroneously believe the rhino horn has medicinal value, so sadly, the illegal market in horns taken from poached animals continues to thrive.

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 on-site 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 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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No Ligers Here

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San Diego Zoo Global is dedicated to helping to preserve—physically and genetically—endangered species like these Malayan tigers.

“What are you drawing?”

“A liger.”

“What’s a liger?”

“It’s pretty much my favorite animal. It’s like a lion and a tiger mixed…bred for its skills in magic.”

Napoleon Dynamite

I began working for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research in the Reproductive Physiology department in 2003. After about a year, I noticed the most commonly asked question from kids touring the lab was: “Do you make ligers here?” I think we can thank the hit movie Napoleon Dynamite for that, but as the years have gone by, the question still arises often in many different forms. I think we all are fascinated to hear about animal hybrids—the mixing of two animals of different breeds, species, or genera—but what do hybrids mean to conservation and why do we not use our advanced reproductive technologies to create them in the lab?

There are many types of hybrids that exist such as intrasubpecific hybrids between two animals of different subspecies (like Bengal and Siberian tigers), interspecific hybrids between two animals from different species (for example, lions and tigers, resulting in a “liger” or “tigon”), and intergenic hybrids between animals of different genera (as happens when sheep and goats breed, resulting in a “geep” or “shoat”). While hybridization is often thought of as a man-made phenomenon, natural hybridization does occur. Most of us are familiar with mules, which are the product of a female horse mated with a male donkey. Mules are prized for their great strength and endurance, but all male mules and most female mules are incapable of producing offspring. This is common in hybrids because their genetic material is not perfectly matched. There is also a hybrid animal called the beefalo (prized for its meat) that is the offspring of a North American bison and a cow.

Those last two examples are domestic animal hybrids that possess traits valued by humans, yet there are many issues that occur when non-domestic animals hybridize. Wild animals have evolved over millions of years through natural selection, a process that increases the probability of survival and reproduction. Hybridization, however, can result in the loss of a morphological or behavioral trait that may be necessary for survival.

An example of this is when a mule deer that uses a “stotting” escape strategy breeds with a white-tailed deer, which employs a galloping escape strategy. The hybrid offspring inherits a slow and inefficient gait, making it vulnerable to predation. And in cases where domestic cats that have gone feral breed with wild cats, the offspring are not as genetically strong and this can affect their resistance to disease.
As climate changes occur and humans modify animal habitats, wild hybridization may become common. One such example is the “grolar bear”—the offspring of a grizzly and polar bear—that was seen in Canada. This hybrid could occur more frequently as polar bears, driven from their typical range due to melting sea ice, spend more time in grizzly territory.

If hybridization sometimes seems to create a more “fit” animal or occurs in the wild occasionally, why don’t we use our laboratory skills to create them? We have the ability to inseminate the egg of one animal with sperm from another closely related species and grow an embryo that could be placed into a host female of either species. But we don’t, simply because San Diego Zoo Global’s mission is to save species worldwide by combining our expertise in animal care and conservation science with our dedication to inspiring passion for nature. We are in the business of saving species not creating new ones.

There are exceptions to this rule, such as when a population becomes so small that it can no longer sustain itself. In this case, scientists may agree that hybridization with a closely related subspecies is the only chance for survival. This has been attempted with the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit and its close cousin, the Idaho pygmy rabbit. The Florida panther population was brought back from the brink of extinction by releasing female Texas cougars into the habitat for hybridization—the result was a three-fold increase in the number of Florida panthers, and the hybrid offspring were genetically healthy, stronger, and longer-lived.

So, I am afraid you will not see any ligers or grolar bears being created in our lab but that is because we are working hard to help tigers, lions, polar bears, and grizzly bears maintain or grow their populations. We think they are pretty amazing just the way they have evolved.

Nicole Ravida is a research laboratory technician at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read her previous blog, No Scientist is an Island.

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Leeches and Wild Tigers: Randy Rieches’s Indonesian Adventure For Tiger Conservation

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s curator of mammals, Randy Rieches, has had a fruitful career breeding, protecting, and conserving wildlife here at home as well as in the wild. His latest project to help establish a tiger field conservation project led him all the way to Indonesia, where the situation for tigers is grim. I was able to ask Randy a few questions about his adventure and quickly learned that it was no walk in the park, proving once again that wildlife conservation, while incredibly important, isn’t always glamorous work.

1. What was the purpose of your trip?

I was sent to attend a meeting with Sumatran tiger and rhino conservationists working in Indonesia to find out who we could best partner with in Sumatra on our Sumatran tiger conservation work, which includes setting camera traps to monitor the tiger and rhino populations and studying behavior to better understand where to focus our efforts.

Camera Trap

Camera traps that we are placing in the forest to monitor the Sumatran tigers and the Sumatran rhinos as well as the prey base for tigers. They have to have the metal framework on them to protect them from elephants.

2. What kind of wildlife did you encounter on your trip?

Most of the trip was in the city, however, when we flew to Sumatra we went out to SRS and saw the Sumatran rhinos at the center, which was incredible. In the mornings as we walked on the edge of the forest we were serenaded by primates watching us from the tree tops and even had a very spooky encounter with a Sumatran tiger. As we walked down a path at 6:30 in the morning, we heard a low, guttural growl, which stopped all three of us in our tracks. We listened for a little while when we heard it again right off of the path in the forest. We started backing away very slowly all the while listening to see if it was following us. Luckily, it was not, and we moved off quite quickly. Most likely it was a female with cubs that was telling us not to come any closer, otherwise I am sure we would have had a worse encounter.

We took a boat on the river to Get out to the sites in the forest where we will be setting camera traps. Unfortunately, it started raining while we were out hiking which brought out all of the leeches. I stopped counting at 30 leeches on me during the hike. Not one of my favorite things on the trip. Fortunately, as they say with leeches it means that it is a healthy forest as the leeches must have wildlife to live on, and I must say the leeches are thriving.
The bird and primate life is doing very well in the forest as well as the deer and reptiles.
Boat trip

Out on the river going to check camera traps with the rangers

3. What kind of challenges did you face in the wild of Sumatra?

It is quite hot and humid and when it rains in Sumatra, it’s like someone turned a garden hose on you. However, I still think the leeches were the most challenging part of the trip.

4. What was the most memorable moment of the trip?

Seeing the Sumatran rhinos at SRS was incredible, but I will never forget the encounter with the tiger on our morning walk.

Sumatran rhino

Sumatran rhino out in wild habitat at SRS (Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Way Kambas)

5. What did the trip accomplish, or what do you hope it will accomplish in the future?

We met some dedicated conservationists working in the field that we will be working with us to set camera traps to look at the number of Sumatran tigers, the prey base that they feed on, and also get a count on rhinos as well. Overall, the best accomplishment was meeting tiger people and building relationships with them which will streamline our efforts in the region.

Randy & friends at SRS

Randy and the staff that are doing the tiger work in Sumatra

 

Matt Steele is senior social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous blog, Myths About Rhino Horn That Need to Go Away.

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Annenberg Foundation Grants San Diego Zoo Global $200,000

Global_logo_color webThe Annenberg Foundation is helping San Diego Zoo Global work toward its goal of ending extinction and supporting the distribution of the San Diego Zoo Kids Network to children’s hospitals and Ronald McDonald Houses across the country. A recent grant of $200,000 from the Los Angeles-based organization will be divided between two projects: one that assists researchers in finding breeding alternatives for the northern white rhinoceros and one that delivers children’s educational programming, filled with animal interactions and animal stories, to promote well-being of young patients.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park near Escondido, Calif., is home to one of only five remaining northern white rhinos in the world. Because of the scientific expertise of researchers at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research and the animal care facilities at the Safari Park, the Annenberg Foundation has granted $102,000 to the organization, to be used toward the genetic rescue of the Northern white rhino—including developing techniques to reliably reproduce this species.

The remaining $98,000 of the grant is given to assist in delivery of San Diego Zoo Kids to 14 children’s medical facilities. San Diego Zoo Kids is a closed-circuit television broadcast channel that gives children the opportunity to see animals 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The channel combines videos of animals at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park, along with conservation fieldwork, footage from live animal cams, and interviews with keepers and scientists. These videos provide entertaining and enjoyable stories for children and their parents.

The channel also provides content from partner zoos around the country. To date, San Diego Zoo Kids features stories from the Los Angeles Zoo, the Denver Zoo, Utah’s Hogle Zoo, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, and the Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum of Natural History in Sioux Falls, S.D.

The creation and development of San Diego Zoo Kids was made possible by a founding gift from businessman and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford.

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 on-site 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.

About the Annenberg Foundation

The Annenberg Foundation is a family foundation that provides funding and support to nonprofit organizations in the United States and globally. The Foundation and its Board of Directors are also directly involved in the community, with innovative projects that further its mission of advancing a better tomorrow through visionary leadership today. The Foundation encourages the development of effective ways to share ideas and knowledge.

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

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Breeding Strategies: Secretive Plovers & Gregarious Terns

Presenting food to a mate potential  mate is part of the least tern's courtship ritual.

Presenting food to a mate potential mate is part of the least tern’s courtship ritual. (Photo: Rachel Smith, SDZG on MCB Camp Pendleton)

Both least terns and snowy plovers are ground-nesting birds that nest on barren to sparsely vegetated beaches, but they employ quite different breeding strategies. Over the past couple of months, I have been able to observe and compare these strategies while searching for and monitoring their nests.

Least terns are colonial nesters, using a “safety in numbers” approach, whereas snowy plovers use a strategy of nesting separately and being physically cryptic and secretive in behavior. Unlike the least terns, which have bright yellow bills and prominent black caps on their heads, snowy plovers have pale brown upper parts and blend in far better to their sandy surroundings making their nests less conspicuous and less likely to be discovered by predators. This also makes it much harder for us to find snowy plover nests!

If they didn't occur in such concentrations, least tern nests would be a challenge to find.

If they didn’t occur in such concentrations, the least tern’s well-camouflaged nests could be a challenge for us to find. (Photo courtesy Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton)

On a good day my crew members and I might find about a dozen snowy plover nests, whereas during the peak of least tern nesting we can—and have—easily found over 200 least tern nests in one day! On a particularly busy day this season, we could hardly walk more than 20 feet without discovering a new least tern nest. Calling out the nest count sounded a bit like we were bidding at an auction; sometimes several nests were found almost simultaneously with one crew member exclaiming “I’ve got nest 500!” only to be quickly followed by “501!” and a few seconds later by “502!”

Because least terns nest in large colonies of up to several hundred individuals, their nests are much more obvious, but there is a lower probability of a particular individual’s nest becoming the victim of a predator. Being in a colony also offers the additional protection of having many adults present that can mob predators. Having walked through an active least tern nesting colony, I can personally attest to the protective nature of the adults. They have threatened me with their harsh “zwreep” alarm calls, flown inches from the top of my head while dive-bombing me, and even defecated on me and my data sheets in an attempt to drive me away from their nests!

Monica Stupaczuk is a research associate with the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. You can learn more about this project by reading A Day in the Life of a Beach Biologist.