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Zhang L.,Mississippi State University | Jiang W.,Shaanxi Institute of Zoology | Wang Q.-J.,Shaanxi Institute of Zoology | Zhao H.,Shaanxi Institute of Zoology | And 5 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2016

Captive rearing and reintroduction / translocation are increasingly used as tools to supplement wild populations of threatened species. Reintroducing captive-reared Chinese giant salamanders may help to augment the declining wild populations and conserve this critically endangered amphibian. We released 31 captive-reared juvenile giant salamanders implanted with VHF radio transmitters at the Heihe River (n = 15) and the Donghe River (n = 16) in the Qinling Mountains of central China. Salamanders were monitored every day for survival from April 28th 2013 to September 3rd 2014. We attempted to recapture all living individuals by the end of the study, measured their body mass and total body length, and checked for abnormalities and presence of external parasites. Two salamanders at the Heihe River and 10 animals at the Donghe River survived through the project timeline. Nine salamanders were confirmed dead, while the status of the other 10 animals was undetermined. The annual survival rate of giant salamanders at the Donghe River (0.702) was 1.7-fold higher than that at the Heihe River (0.405). Survival increased as individuals were held longer following surgery, whereas body mass did not have a significant impact on survival rate. All salamanders recaptured from the Donghe River (n = 8) increased in mass (0.50 ± 0.13 kg) and length (5.5 ± 1.5 cm) after approximately 11 months in the wild, and they were only 7% lighter than wild animals of the same length (mean residual = -0.033 ± 0.025). Our results indicate that captive-reared Chinese giant salamanders can survive in the wild one year after release and adequate surgical recovery time is extremely important to postrelease survival. Future projects may reintroduce older juveniles to achieve better survival and longer monitoring duration. © 2016 Zhang et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Kersey D.C.,Western University of Health Sciences | Aitken-Palmer C.,Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute | Rivera S.,Zoo Atlanta | Willis E.L.,Memphis Zoological Society | And 3 more authors.
Theriogenology | Year: 2016

Reproducing giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) remains the most challenging aspect of managed care of this species. However, advancement in knowledge stemming from basic science research on the giant panda has facilitated a growth in the population. Here, we report the successful application of reproductive technologies, including noninvasive hormone monitoring, behavioral/morphometric observations, ultrasonographic evaluations, and acute phase protein assessment, in an individual female. By applying these approaches to one female, we report the practicality and usefulness of a multidisciplinary approach to reproductive care of the species. In addition, the utilization of various technologies across multiple physiological states also provided us an opportunity to record previously understudied events, such as maternal response to weaning and growth of a conceptus. © 2016 Elsevier Inc.

Williams C.L.,Mississippi State University | Williams C.L.,Institute for Conservation Research | Dill-McFarland K.A.,University of Wisconsin - Madison | Vandewege M.W.,Mississippi State University | And 8 more authors.
Frontiers in Microbiology | Year: 2016

Dietary shifts can result in changes to the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) microbiota, leading to negative outcomes for the host, including inflammation. Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) are physiologically classified as carnivores; however, they consume an herbivorous diet with dramatic seasonal dietary shifts and episodes of chronic GIT distress with symptoms including abdominal pain, loss of appetite and the excretion of mucous stools (mucoids). These episodes adversely affect the overall nutritional and health status of giant pandas. Here, we examined the fecal microbiota of two giant pandas' non-mucoid and mucoid stools and compared these to samples from a previous winter season that had historically few mucoid episodes. To identify the microbiota present, we isolated and sequenced the 16S rRNA using next-generation sequencing. Mucoids occurred following a seasonal feeding switch from predominately bamboo culm (stalk) to leaves. All fecal samples displayed low diversity and were dominated by bacteria in the phyla Firmicutes and to a lesser extent, Proteobacteria. Fecal samples immediately prior to mucoid episodes had lower microbial diversity as compared to mucoids. Mucoids were mostly comprised of common mucosal-associated taxa including Streptococcus and Leuconostoc species, and exhibited increased abundance for bacteria in the family Pasteurellaceae. Taken together, these findings indicate that mucoids may represent an expulsion of the mucosal lining that is driven by changes in diet. We suggest that these occurrences serve to reset their GIT microbiota following changes in bamboo part preference, as giant pandas have retained a carnivorous GIT anatomy while shifting to an herbivorous diet. © 2016 Williams, Dill-McFarland, Vandewege, Sparks, Willard, Kouba, Suen and Brown.

Wiedower E.E.,Texas A&M University | Kouba A.J.,Memphis Zoological Society | Vance C.K.,Mississippi State University | Hansen R.L.,Memphis Zoological Society | And 2 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

Giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) monitoring and research often require accurate estimates of population size and density. However, obtaining these estimates has been challenging. Innovative technologies, such as fecal near infrared reflectance spectroscopy (FNIRS), may be used to differentiate between sex, age class, and reproductive status as has been shown for several other species. The objective of this study was to determine if FNIRS could be similarly used for giant panda physiological discriminations. Based on samples from captive animals in four U.S. zoos, FNIRS calibrations correctly identified 78% of samples from adult males, 81% from adult females, 85% from adults, 89% from juveniles, 75% from pregnant and 70% from non-pregnant females. However, diet had an impact on the success of the calibrations. When diet was controlled for plant part such that "leaf only" feces were evaluated, FNIRS calibrations correctly identified 93% of samples from adult males and 95% from adult females. These data show that FNIRS has the potential to differentiate between the sex, age class, and reproductive status in the giant panda and may be applicable for surveying wild populations. © 2012 Wiedower et al.

Ganswindt A.,University of Pretoria | Brown J.L.,Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute | Freeman E.W.,George Mason University | Kouba A.J.,Memphis Zoological Society | And 6 more authors.
Biology Letters | Year: 2012

Hormone analysis is a precise and widely accepted tool formonitoring reproductive function and responses to stressors. Although hormones are present and can be measured in various biological matrices, non-invasive methods have gained popularity over the past 30 years as a more practical approach for assessing ovarian, testicular and, more recently, adrenocortical activity in intractable wildlife species. Noninvasive hormone monitoring also has been key to understanding biological mechanisms related to observed behaviours of captive and free-ranging animals. Despite the increasing popularity of this research field, wildlife endocrinologists have not had a specific forum for sharing and discussing their latest findings, technical developments and common challenges. To provide such a communication platform, the International Society for Wildlife Endocrinology (ISWE) was established in 2010, followed by an international meeting held on 3-4 November 2011 at the Toronto Zoo, Canada. Over several sessions, keynote speakers and participants discussed recent developments of new and innovative methods for hormone monitoring, as well as the latest advances in basic endocrinology as applied to adrenal function, reproductive physiology, animal health, ecology and evolution. Here, we introduce ISWE to the scientific community and discuss how this new society will serve as a resource for wildlife endocrinologists worldwide. © 2011 The Royal Society.

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