This summer, panda conservation efforts reached a major milestone: the population of pandas in zoos and breeding facilities reached 300 individuals. This goal number, one set years ago by a group of international scientists, is believed to be the point at which the captive population will be a self-sustaining entity capable of acting as a buffer against whatever difficulties might be experienced by the wild members of the species. Three hundred individuals should provide the panda with the resilience to survive even if the wild population disappears.
Archive for the 'Conservation' Category
I recently spent several days in the dry forest of Lambayeque in Peru working with our collaborator Robyn Appleton and her field crew from the Spectacled Bear Conservation Society and with Dr. Meg Sutherland-Smith, a veterinarian from the San Diego Zoo. Our goals were to reinforce and enhance the field crew’s training in bear immobilization and, with luck, to illustrate everything by immobilizing a female Andean (or spectacled) bear and placing a GPS collar on her. The field crew had recently discovered the den at which a female bear (Pepa) had given birth. This is the fourth den found at this field site, and only the fifth ever described of wild Andean bears (one den was recently discovered in the cloud forest of Ecuador).
I spend almost all of my time working in Australia on the San Diego Zoo’s koala project (see previous post, Koala Fieldwork: Helping Hands), but I have recently been introduced to other unique Australians. This week I traveled to east Arnhem Land in northern Australia to the home of the Wanindilyakwa people: Groote Eylandt. This large island (about 30 miles or 48 kilometers across and 50 miles or 80 kilometers long) lies in the Gulf of Carpentaria, and it is some of the most remote country in Australia. The island is home to the unique local indigenous people as well as one of the only intact natural populations of the critically endangered northern quoll Dasyurus hallicatus.
Bai Yun has long had the nickname of “Teflon bear,” because she always looks so white and clean. In their early days at the San Diego Zoo, our male Shi Shi would be dirty and covered with grit, while our then-young female appeared freshly bathed. It didn’t much matter if it was raining or if the yard was mostly dirt or if she had just finished a play bout. Grime just never seemed to stick to our girl. Bai Yun was always camera ready.
Well, so much for that.
It is not always easy for me to convince people that what we are doing is hard work. Our island site is warm and pleasant at this time of year, surrounded by beautiful ocean and inhabited by wonderful koalas. Fortunately, I am having many visitors to my study site, which means I have many more hands on deck, which means we can do even more!
Wild brown and black bears are facing a bleak time of limited food availability in the coldest months of the year. For this reason, late in fall they engage in hyperphagia, compulsively eating anything they can get their paws on. This builds layers of fat that will be essential to keeping them warm and healthy through the upcoming winter. (more…)
I am on another airplane, I believe somewhere over Venezuela. The plane seems full of excited Brazilians all eagerly awaiting our landing in Miami. The aisles are crowded with chattering friends and young couples with clasped hands whispering of their awaiting adventures. I’ve plugged my music into my noise-canceling headphones to escape my surroundings for a few fleeting moments. I hope to cocoon myself in my favorite music from my undergraduate days. I’m tired; no, I am near exhausted.
Our director of the reproductive physiology has provided some more answers to questions regarding panda pregnancies.
We are so pleased to learn of the birth of Zoo Atlanta’s newest panda cub. The 3-D pictures of Lun Lun’s cub in utero certainly were amazing. This advanced imaging is normally used in humans to detect skeletal and cardiovascular defects, but has become popular among human parents-to-be for getting a “sneak peek” at what their baby may look like at birth. Should our own Bai Yun become pregnant again, it is possible that we will also invite a local expert to help us obtain 3-D images of a cub (or cubs), as we do not currently own equipment that allows us to capture these images. In our case, 3-D imaging would not replace our routine 2-D ultrasound scanning to monitor the growth of Bai Yun’s fetus(es).
In September, conservation practitioners and environmental educators from across the Philippines, as well as the Pacific island of Pohnpei, gathered to participate in the Island Species-Led Action (ISLA) course run by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, which was held in association with Iligan Institute of Technology, Mindanao State University, Philippines. The 10-day course was designed to teach participants proven and practical approaches to manage endangered species and habitats on islands, thereby enhancing existing knowledge and expertise and ultimately developing the local skill base and resources for conservation measures and initiatives.
October was Kids Free Days at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Our Institute for Conservation Research staff shared their interactions and connections with nature at a young age and how these connections put them on their career paths. Read a previous post, Desert Memories.
It’s a little sad to see Kids Free month—and our renewed focus on getting kids and their families out in nature—come to a close. Every day of every month should be kids in nature day! That’s how I remember my childhood—the long summer days spent exploring the local creeks and woods, the afterschool afternoons spent building forts and treehouses, the weekend camping trips to the beach and the mountains. I grew up in suburban North Carolina, but there was plenty of nearby nature to sink my muddy feet into. The thing is, you don’t need a National Park to experience nature, you just need a canyon, a creek, or a vacant lot to cultivate some nature rituals.