Both the New York Times & CNN seem to be reading the Zoo Peeps blog. I’m so flattered. I won’t distract you with my thoughts, but readmy article on the re-branding of African wild dogs and other endangered species. The new field of conservation marketing and brand development is taking off.
Even though advances in veterinary preventive and clinical health care have extended the captive lifespan of so many animals, it’s kind of touching to hear that an animal ambassador that brought so much joy to visitors and staff, passed on to bear heaven in his sleep. We all would like to go as peacefully as this magnificent animal did. I don’t know the individual bear, but when you consider what awaits us as humans and animals alike as we enter the fourth quarter (so elegant) , we as humans at least, recognize, hopefully, how lucky we are to live in an era where our quality of life is likely to be sustained beyond what nature ever intended. Today, zoo medicine is much about geriatric veterinary medicine and it’s most impressive how zoos delicately handle issues concerning aging collections. I don’t have much to add except that I may cross -post this on the The Bear Keepers Forum.
When I first embarked on doctoral research study it was clear that climate change had a great impact on amphibian decline as did disease along with pollutants (toxicants). Although I eventually transferred from a program that would allow me to investigate such issues, the topic will continue to warrants a lot of attention. I wanted to do work on a project that had interested me as a zoo keeper and one that I thought, at least at the time would be very applicable to carnivore preventive medicine. I still found the topic of examining synergistic effects of pathogens, global warming, and toxicants on herpetile health to be really interesting, but creating a model to study these factors seemed a lot more difficult when I set out to mimic nature and modify it in a lab. In fact, this post may dissuade or encourage you to pursue an advanced degree. In graduate school they don’t spoon feed you information and many advisors work with students on projects that are beyond their scope of expertise. This is not at all uncommon. I came in with some background studying helminth parasites in plethodontid salamanders (don’t get too excited now) and was hoping to develop a related project with ambystomatid salamanders (e.g., tiger salamanders, spotted salamanders, etc.). The one thing about mole salamanders is that your field season is abbreviated as in a couple of days long and if you miss the mass migration to vernal pools where mole salamanders breed, you have to wait another season. Migration is triggered by several factors (i.e., ground and ambient temperatures, humidity, barometric pressure, and light/darkness). Hence, the movement of these explosive breeders is somewhat predictable to the seasoned herpetologist, but expect the unexpected. The second objective was to find a model pathogen that I could use to infect a laboratory population of wild caught spotted salamanders and then introduce variations in the photoperiod through the use of artificial light. Finally, I was planning to find some pollutant that was a known toxicant. Not too long ago an interesting study had been published on the effects of toxicants on salamander spot patterns. If you didn’t know spotted salamanders normally have two symmetrical rows of dorsal yellow spots on a dark dorsum (back), you do now. Stress from toxins or lack of water due to warming temperatures are considered potential etiologies for these aberrant dorsal spot patterns. This may be a subtle anomaly compared to additional limbs or something more bizarre, but it’s a great indicator of ecosystem health. Anyway, I established that I would select malaria, a vector-borne disease which effects non-human animals including species of mammals, and birds as well as amphibians. I was just ready to go out and collect specimens when the opportunity to work on a zoo project was made available. As much as it sounds “insensitive” that scientists continue to conduct laboratory studies that require sacrificing wild caught specimens, it’s occasionally imperative to conduct these investigations for the benefit of the species. I must say that I certainly prefer working on projects that do not involve terminal procedures and fortunately I have had other opportunities.
Short Note: A friend just shared this article with me and it is particularly timely following my post concerning the branding of uber-iconic mega-fauna. The African Wild Dog has been “re-branded” by conservationists as the painted hunting dog or painted dog in hopes of drawing more attention to the plight of this endangered canid which is also known as the Cape Hunting Dog, the Spotted Dog, and the Painted Wolf, among other names. This is not unlike the practice of re-branding Spectacled Bears as Andean Bears. Both names have been used, but it may enhance conservation efforts to use a name that conveys a zoogeographic or faunal group designation. These bears were formerly called spectacled bears in most zoos, but now “Andean bear” is the preferred common name among conservationists, collection managers, and educators. Similarly, the Siberian tiger is now referred to as the Amur tiger, along with other species whose range is now confined to an area along the Amur river in Eastern Siberia & Northern China (Amur-Ussuri region) such as the Amur leopard formerly known as the Manchurian leopard. Likewise, the Amur falcon (formerly called the Eastern Red-footed Falcon), breeds in the Amur region. Although the raptor may not be particularly endangered (Least Concern- IUCN), the bird that winters in Southern Africa may benefit from the zoogeographic descriptor. Perhaps the Manchurian brown bear will be re-branded as the Amur brown bear.
Please read my post on the State of the Wild (WCS 2010). The white-headed langur like the Indo-Chinese tiger and other tiger subspecies has been driven to near extinction in-part because of wildlife trafficking. Traditional Chinese Medicine continues to promote the practice of zootherapy. Zootherapeutic agents include parts and derivatives of whole carcasses, tissues and byproducts of wildlife. There are approximately 100 white-headed langurs left in the wild. One subspecies occurs in Cat Ba Island, Vietnam and the other in Guangxi, China. This partially albinistic langur was considered a subspecies of Francois’ langurs as recently as 1995. One day I may share my experience with captive Francois’ langurs. If I had to pick a favorite Old World monkey, I might just pick Francois’ langurs.