World Elephant Day

World Elephant DayToday, August 12, is World Elephant Day!

World Elephant Day focuses on raising awareness to help elephants. African and Asian elephants face many threats including poaching, habitat loss, human-elephant conflict, mistreatment in captivity, and more.

According to the World Elephant Day site:

World Elephant Day asks you to experience elephants in non-exploitive and sustainable environments where elephants can thrive under care and protection. On World Elephant Day, August 12, express your concern, share your knowledge and support solutions for the better care of captive and wild elephants alike.

African elephantWhat can you do to help elephants?

  • Learn about elephants and the important role they play in the ecosystem. (See our article, African elephant, to read more.)
  • Participate in eco-tourism whose operators treat elephants with respect. Boosting Africa’s economy through eco-tourism helps placate local residents who view elephants as pests.
  • Never buy, sell, or wear ivory.
  • Write to your politicians to speak out against poaching. (Americans can write a letter to the Secretary of State on the Wildlife Conservation Society website.)
  • Encourage the ethical treatment of elephants in captivity. Boycott circuses, whose unethical treatment includes chaining elephants up by their feet and trunks, as well as beating them frequently. Urge zoos to create environments similar to African elephants’ native habitat.

See the World Elephant Day’s page, How to Help Elephants, for more ideas.

VIDEO: Bonobos and Kindness

Much like humans, bonobos show kindness to strangers.  Through experiments and observation, researchers have seen bonobos demonstrate empathy and go out of their way to help others.

Watch a video below about bonobos, kindness, and their unfortunate predicament in the wild:

Source: National Geographic.

Learn more about bonobos in our bonobo facts article.

Honk! Honk! Trumpeter Swan Cygnets Arrive at Lincoln Park Zoo

Trumpeter swans

Four trumpeter swans were born this week at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Photo by Todd Rosenberg / Lincoln Park Zoo.

Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago welcomed four baby trumpeter swans (called cygnets) on June 2 and 3 to two sets of parents. The cygnets are already exploring the zoo’s McCormick Swan Pond with their parents.

The young swans will learn all the necessary survival skill at the zoo, including swimming and feeding independently on seeds, grains, wetland plants, insects, and small fish. Then, in the fall, the swans will be released into the wild in Iowa as part of a collaborative reintroduction program with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“It’s amazing to see how resilient this species truly is,” said Hope B. McCormick Curator of Birds, Sunny Nelson. “Twenty years ago these birds were nearly extinct and are beginning to make quite the comeback, due in part to reintroduction collaborations such as with the Iowa DNR.”

Trumpeter swan cygnets

Photo by Todd Rosenberg / Lincoln Park Zoo.

Trumpeter swans are the largest waterfowl in North America. They are easily identified by their black bills, white plumage, and 8-feet wingspans. Usually, trumpeter swans mate for life.

For more info, see the Lincoln Park Zoo website.

VIDEO: How Wolves Change Rivers

As we discussed in our gray wolf facts article, gray wolves are keystone predators. They help maintain a healthy ecosystem by preying upon weak animals, thereby strengthening the herd as a whole.

In this video, George Monbiot reveals how the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park after a 70-year absence not only changed the ecosystem of the park, it also altered the physical landscape.

Amazing Close-Up Photos of Bees

Closeup of a bee face

A close-up portrait of a type of bee called Osmia georgica. Photograph by Sue Boo / U.S. Geological Survey Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab.

The U.S. Geological Survey Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab has been studying the decline of bees over the past ten years. According to Sam Droege, who heads the lab, there are 4,000 bee species in North America, but most people can’t identify the different species.

“We [needed] really high-definition pictures that people can drill into and say, ‘You know the pattern of the crosshatching between the pits on the skin of the upper part of the bee is really different than this one.'”

Side view of the Osmia georgica. Photograph by Sue Boo/ U.S. Geological Survey Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab.

Side view of the Osmia georgica. Photograph by Sue Boo / U.S. Geological Survey Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab.

So Droege developed a system of taking high-definition photographs of the bees in order to document their specific features. Using a high-quality 60 mm macro lens and a device called a StackShot Rail, he takes a series of photos in increments where various parts of the bee are in focus. He later uses program called Zerene Stacker to combine the photos into a single, high-def photo all in focus.

You can learn how to take your own high-resolution photos of insects by watching the video below:

For more information, see NPR’s “Beauty is in the Eye of the Bee-Holder”.

See more high-def bee photos on the U.S. Geological Survey Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab’s Flickr page.

Baby Rhino Makes His Public Debut

Eastern black rhinos

King, with his mother Kapuki by his side, makes his public debut. Photo by Todd Rosenberg/Lincoln Park Zoo

Newly-named Eastern black rhinoceros calf, King, made his public debut today at the Lincoln Park Zoo. The baby rhino, who already weighs in at 200 pounds, thrilled zoo-goers as he trotted out into the Harris Family Foundation Black Rhinoceros Exhibit, exploring the sights and scents. He and his mother Kapuki had been bonding behind the scenes since his birth on August 26.

In the wild, Eastern black rhinos are critically endangered due to poaching. It is estimated that there are only 5000 left in the wild in Africa.

King and Kapuki, rhinos at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

After a few timid steps, King gained confidence in the outdoor exhibit, taking in all the new sights and scents. Photo by Todd Rosenberg/Lincoln Park Zoo.

“Breeding programs at zoos are of crucial importance to the survival of these remarkable animals, particularly as the numbers in the wild continue to dwindle,” said Lincoln Park Zoo Curator of Mammals Mark Kamhout. “King will serve as an excellent ambassador for his species.”

For more information, see the Lincoln Park Zoo website.

Endangered Black Rhino Calf Born at Lincoln Park Zoo

Black rhino calf

The healthy male black rhino calf at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Photos by Todd Rosenberg / Lincoln Park Zoo.

The Lincoln Park Zoo happily welcomed the birth of a critically-endangered black rhinoceros calf on August 26. The male calf weighed in at 60 pounds.

“Mother and baby are both doing wonderfully,” said Curator of Mammals Mark Kamhout. “The calf divides his time between nursing, following mom around, and napping, and that is exactly what a baby rhino should be doing.”

With only 5,000 black rhinos alive in the wild, the species is considered at high risk of extinction. They are threatened primarily by poachers, who kill the rhinos for their horns. In some cultures, black rhino horns are considered very valuable for medicinal purposes.

The Lincoln Park Zoo worked hard to conserve this species through the Rhinoceros Species Survival Plan, an initiative of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

Black rhino mother and calf

Mother Kapuki and her calf will be bonding behind the scenes for the next couple of weeks.

“This birth is cause for great celebration here at Lincoln Park Zoo and has been much anticipated” said Kamhout. “The gestational period for rhinos is 15-16 months, and they have incredibly small windows for conception. Together with the zoo’s endocrinologists, we worked to pinpoint the exact window for Kapuki and Maku to get together for breeding. The whole zoo family is delighted at this successful outcome.”

For more information, see the Lincoln Park Zoo website.

Endangered Pond Turtles Released to the Wild

Western pond turtles

Endangered western pond turtles about to be released to the wild. Photo credits: Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo

The Woodland Park Zoo and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife released over a hundred endangered western pond turtles to their native habitat in an effort to restore the population.

Western pond turtles once commonly inhabited the western coast of the United States. But several threats, including predation by the non-native bullfrog, disease, and habitat loss, put them on the bring of extinction since the early 90s.

In 1991, the Western Pond Turtle Recovery Project was established. Each year, recovery workers monitor adult female western pond turtles during the nesting season. They protect nesting sites with wire cages to prevent predators from eating the eggs. Then in the fall, the eggs and hatchlings are transported to the Woodland Park and Oregon Zoos where they can grow in safety.

“We return the turtles to their homes every summer once they reach a suitable size of about 2 ounces, a safeguard against the large mouths of bullfrogs,” explained Dr. Jennifer Pramuk, Woodland Park Zoo’s reptile curator.

Western pond turtle being released

Over a hundred western pond turtles were released to the wild by the Woodland Park Zoo and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Photo by Kirsten Pisto.

For more photos, see the Woodland Park Zoo’s blog.

Collaborating to Save Tigers

Camera trap technology helps identify key habitats tigers use to hunt and breed in the Taman Negara region. Tracked with modern software, the data allow rangers and researchers to map routes for effective anti-poaching patrols. (Credit: Ruben Clements/Rimba)

Camera trap technology helps identify key habitats tigers use to hunt and breed in the Taman Negara region. Tracked with modern software, the data allow rangers and researchers to map routes for effective anti-poaching patrols. (Credit: Ruben Clements/Rimba)

Woodland Park Zoo has joined forces with Panthera to continue the battle to save tigers in the wild. The group will focus on saving tigers in Malaysia, where habitat loss and poachers have decimated the population. The ten year project will provide hands-on training and financial assistance to help save these tigers.

Learn more about Woodland Park Zoo here.

Learn more about Panthera.