(repost because this is the most common blog to turn up in search engines and my friend just became head vet at DWA)
Isla Escudo is home to this pygmy sloth, one of four species of three-toed sloths. These folivores (suborder: Folivora), also known as Escudo sloths are not only smaller than mainland species, but they are considerably more docile. They are threatened by the loss of mangrove habitat, and are consumed by local fisherman. The fisherman will camp out on the island and cut down mangroves for fire. They feed on these xenarthrans when fishing is deemed unsuccessful. By the way, the brown-throated three-toed sloth may still be the only publicly displayed three-toed sloth in the US. You can see one at the Dallas World Aquarium and Zoo, Texas. Although sloths are known for their menacing claws I do remember a colleague who was seriously bitten by a two-toed sloth.
It goes without saying that if you work in a zoo you are most inclined to be an ‘animal person.’ A gift from a zoo the other day, a publication of the institution’s history, reminded me of something that is not necessarily an important distinction, but it might reflect a cultural change or shift, if you will. I remember a time when there were more zoo historians among the cohort of animal care professionals and educators. There still may be, it’s just that most of the classically diagnosed cases of zoophilia were reported in people who I know to be enjoying retirement right now. I categorize animal care and zoo educators as either ‘zoophiles’ or more general animal enthusiasts (philotherians). By my definition, ‘zoophiles’ are individuals who seem to be fascinated with all- things- zoo: History; exhibits; the evolution of living collections; zoo and aquarium culture; and the generations of personnel who have worked in these facilities. Others are not zoos aficionados per se. For instance, when on vacation they would be just as likely to be found eco-touring, horseback riding or playing with a local, domestic canid. Others would most certainly make it a point to visit the zoo first. Some would do both, but I think that there are two kinds of zoo people and they both are just as dedicated to their careers. However, one is much more interested in the zoo, beyond the living collection, while the other may be more focused on animals in general. Perhaps, the differences are not quite so discrete. I found it interesting that people sometimes presume that because I found the zoo environment so enticing that I would feel the same way about a dog shelter or alternative livestock farm, or wholesale pet breeding facility. Hopefully some of you can relate to what I hope not to be a novel concept. You can be a generalist, but it depends on the context.
Dr. Jordan Schaul, Zoo Keeper Emeritus
Click on Zoo Peeps Gravatar (above) to Link to Bio. Click on Bear Keepers’ Forum Banner (above) to visit revised website (under construction). Click on Zoo Talkin’ Radio Banner (above) to access guest schedule for the program.
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.
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.