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Shannon Kachel (left), University of Washington doctoral candidate, and Ric Berlinski (right), a veterinarian at Toledo Zoo, radio collar the first snow leopard in Kyrgyzstan More Scientists have captured new images of a snow leopard being collared in Kyrgyzstan. The move marks the first time that one of these elusive creatures has been collared in the remote Central Asian nation. The gorgeous, white-coated creature is a female in the prime of her life, between 6 and 7 years old. She was collared in the Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve in eastern Kyrgyzstan, near the border with China. The collaring — which was conducted by Panthera, a global wild cat conservation organization, as well as partner organizations and government agencies — could help researchers understand how the endangered creatures live. [Rare Photos: Snow Leopard Babies in Dens] "Each and every snow leopard we collar gives us invaluable new insights into the conservation of the entire species as well as the high mountain habitats they need to survive," lead researcher Shannon Kachel, a doctoral candidate in environmental and forest sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, said in a statement. "Each collared animal teaches us new lessons about how snow leopards interact with their habitat and prey, with one another, and with us — lessons which ultimately help us protect this beautiful and elusive species and the landscapes that it depends on." Snow leopards (Panthera uncia) are the shaggy ghosts of the mountains. The camera-shy creatures live throughout the rugged, mountainous reaches of 12 different countries in Asia, yet even many locals who live among these big cats have never seen a trace of them. The majestic Himalayan creatures are perfectly adapted to their snowy climate. They sport thick fur coats that help them brave the frigid temperatures, and wide paws for padding silently through the snow. But herders hoping to protect their flocks have often hunted down the big cats. Poachers seeking their warm fur coats and internal organs, which are used as ingredients in traditional Chinese medicine, have also set their sights on the majestic beasts. As a result, the snow leopard population has declined by 20 percent over the last two decades, according to Panthera. Because the elusive snow beasts are so hard to spot, estimates of the population range from 4,500 to 10,000 adults, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature considers the snow leopard an endangered species. In recent years, conservationists have stepped up their efforts to learn more about the mountain dwellers by collaring them and tracking their movements; placing camera traps throughout their habitat; estimating the number of their prey, such as blue sheep and Asiatic ibex; and even analyzing the DNA in their poop, according to Panthera. They've also recruited Buddhist monks to help protect the endangered cats Copyright 2015 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Rainwater K.L.,Wildlife Conservation Society | Sykes J.M.,Cornell University | Sapienza J.S.,Toledo Zoo
Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine | Year: 2015

A review of avian cataracts at the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo between 1992 and 2011 was conducted. Ninety cataracts in 54 birds from 42 species were identified. Cataracts were found primarily during examination for ocular abnormalities (29/54, 53.7%) or opportunistically (13/54, 24.1%) and were most commonly diagnosed as mature (22/90, 24.4%). Systemic medical conditions diagnosed in these birds included West Nile virus (4/54, 7.4%), head trauma (3/54, 5.6%), plumbism and Salmonella Pullorum (1/54, 1.9%), Marek's disease (1/54, 1.9%), leukocytosis (1/54, 1.9%), and hyperglycemia (1/54, 1.9%). Cataracts were progressive in seven birds of four species. Unilateral enucleation was performed in 2/54 (3.7%) birds, and 12/54 (22.2%) underwent cataract removal (phacoemulsification in 16 eyes and standard extracapsular cataract extraction in 2 eyes). Concurrent ocular abnormalities, such as corneal scarring and lens-induced uveitis, were seen in 2/18 (11.1%) eyes preoperatively in the group undergoing cataract removal, 2/2 (100%) eyes preoperatively in the group undergoing enucleation, and 33/70 (47.1%) of eyes that did not undergo surgery. For birds undergoing cataract removal, complications included successfully treated cardiorespiratory arrest intraoperatively (1/12, 8.3%) as well as postanesthetic complications of acute respiratory distress and tracheal stricture (2/12, 16.7%). The most common postoperative ocular abnormalities included posterior capsular opacity (4/18 eyes, 22.2%) and corneal scarring (2/18 eyes, 11.1%). Lens cortical regrowth and marked posterior lens capsular opacity occurred in one eye of one bird after phacoemulsification, necessitating a second ocular surgery. A successful outcome, as determined by improved postoperative visual acuity, was seen in 10/12 (83.3%) birds undergoing cataract removal, and 5/12 (41.7%) of these birds were alive >3 yr after surgery. The results of this review will aid clinicians in identifying common stages of cataracts, determining eligibility for cataract surgery, and managing postoperative complications in avian patients. © Copyright 2015 by American Association of Zoo Veterinarians.

Bowen L.,U.S. Geological Survey | Miles A.K.,U.S. Geological Survey | Waters S.,U.S. Geological Survey | Meyerson R.,Toledo Zoo | And 2 more authors.
Polar Biology | Year: 2015

Polar bears in the Beaufort (SB) and Chukchi (CS) Seas experience different environments due primarily to a longer history of sea ice loss in the Beaufort Sea. Ecological differences have been identified as a possible reason for the generally poorer body condition and reproduction of Beaufort polar bears compared to those from the Chukchi, but the influence of exposure to other stressors remains unknown. We use molecular technology, quantitative PCR, to identify gene transcription differences among polar bears from the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas as well as captive healthy polar bears. We identified significant transcriptional differences among a priori groups (i.e., captive bears, SB 2012, SB 2013, CS 2013) for ten of the 14 genes of interest (i.e., CaM, HSP70, CCR3, TGFβ, COX2, THRα, T-bet, Gata3, CD69, and IL17); transcription levels of DRβ, IL1β, AHR, and Mx1 did not differ among groups. Multivariate analysis also demonstrated separation among the groups of polar bears. Specifically, we detected transcript profiles consistent with immune function impairment in polar bears from the Beaufort Sea, when compared with Chukchi and captive polar bears. Although there is no strong indication of differential exposure to contaminants or pathogens between CS and SB bears, there are clearly differences in important transcriptional responses between populations. Further investigation is warranted to refine interpretation of potential effects of described stress-related conditions for the SB population. © 2015, US Government.

King R.B.,Northern Illinois University | Stanford K.M.,Northern Illinois University | Stanford K.M.,Ohio State University | Jones P.C.,Northern Illinois University | Bekker K.,Toledo Zoo
PLoS ONE | Year: 2016

Body size, and, by extension, growth has impacts on physiology, survival, attainment of sexualmaturity, fecundity, generation time, and population dynamics, especially in ectothermanimals that often exhibit extensive growth following attainment of sexual maturity. Frequently, growth is analyzed at the population level, providing useful population mean growth parameters but ignoring individual variation that is also of ecological and evolutionary significance. Our long-Term study of Lake ErieWatersnakes, Nerodia sipedon insularum, provides data sufficient for a detailed analysis of population and individual growth.We describe population mean growth separately for males and females based on size of known age individuals (847 captures of 769males, 748 captures of 684 females) and annual growth increments of individuals of unknown age (1,152 males, 730 females). We characterize individual variation in asymptotic size based on repeated measurements of 69males and 71 females that were each captured in five to nine different years. The most striking result of our analyses is that asymptotic size varies dramatically among individuals, ranging from 631-820 mmsnout-vent length in males and from 835-1125mm in females. Because female fecundity increases with increasing body size, we explore the impact of individual variation in asymptotic size on lifetime reproductive success using a range of realistic estimates of annual survival.When all females commence reproduction at the same age, lifetime reproductive success is greatest for females with greater asymptotic size regardless of annual survival. But when reproduction is delayed in females with greater asymptotic size, lifetime reproductive success is greatest for females with lower asymptotic size when annual survival is low. Possible causes of individual variation in asymptotic size, including individual-and cohort-specific variation in size at birth and early growth, warrant further investigation. © 2016 King 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.

Earlier, he had growled at the Milwaukee County Zoo's other tigers. While human zookeepers could only guess, his furry striped compatriots knew exactly what he was saying. And it was all captured on a small recorder with a microphone pointed toward the zoo's new male tiger, who arrived in Milwaukee two months ago from the Toledo Zoo. Chuffs, roars, growls and whines - they all mean something in Strannik's vocabulary as well as in the voices of Milwaukee's three female tigers, Amba, Tula and Nuri. The recordings of their sounds will be used by researchers to more accurately count the endangered animal in the wild. "As zookeepers, we want to have an impact on the wild population, but there's not a lot we can do for animals in the wild," said Amanda Ista, a zookeeper in the Milwaukee zoo's Florence Mila Borchert Big Cat Country. "With this project, though, we can have an impact." The Milwaukee zoo is joining other American zoos participating in the Prusten Project, which collects recordings of captive tigers in an effort to determine vocal fingerprints of individual animals. Researchers hope to use the information to build a computer program that will identify specific tigers in the wild for a better census of the majestic but often elusive animals. The idea is to place the same recorders that are being used at the Milwaukee zoo in India and Sumatra to eavesdrop on tigers and figure out how many are still living in the wild. Sort of like a telephone party line in the jungle. Prusten Project executive director Courtney Dunn was an intern at the National Tiger Sanctuary in Saddlebrooke, Mo., in 2011 when she met a very vocal tiger known for her strange sounds. Dunn began to wonder if tiger sounds could help save the species just as the Whalesong Project has helped whales. For her master's thesis, Dunn studied how tiger vocalizations can be used to identify individual animals. By using a software program that turns sounds into visual spectrograms and noting the exact frequency at which a tiger's vocal cords vibrate, Dunn can determine a tiger's gender with a high degree of accuracy. Her research focused on tigers' long calls, a very deep roar that can carry as far as three miles and which is mainly used for mating and marking territory. Dunn learned that female tigers are easier to identify individually because they have a wider variety of vocalizations. "Males sound similar. They're unique in that you can tell individuals apart, but their vocalization frequency ranges are very similar," Dunn said in a phone interview. "Maybe the ladies over the years have chosen partners because of their vocal ranges. It might pinpoint certain characteristics that make them an ideal mate." Recorders cost $600 to $900 each plus shipping, and the nonprofit Prusten Project relies on donations, research grants and fundraising. Dunn, who was recently accepted into a Ph.D. program in quantitative biology at the University of Texas at Arlington, plans to travel to Sumatra later this year or next year to set up recorders in the wild. In the meantime, Dunn and volunteers are listening to recordings made of approximately 50 tigers at 15 zoos in the United States, including Milwaukee, the only zoo in the Midwest that is participating. Other zoos in the U.S. have offered to participate and are waiting until a recorder can be sent. Milwaukee zookeepers learned of the Prusten Project a few years ago and waited to request a recorder until the arrival of Strannik, whose name means pilgrim or wanderer in Russian. The Milwaukee Zoo hasn't had a male tiger for a number of years, and officials are hoping Strannik, who is toward the end of his mating years and has sired three litters, will pair with Amba, who has produced a couple of litters, including her daughters Tula and Nuri, said Katie Kuhn, big cat area supervisor. Kuhn worked at Utah's Hogle Zoo when Strannik was born there 13 years ago. Zookeepers are gradually introducing Strannik to his fellow tigers in Milwaukee. Before they even set eyes on him, the female tigers knew of his arrival. While he was in quarantine, Strannik could be heard roaring from the other side of the zoo. As he sat in an enclosure not accessible to the public last week, he and the human zookeepers could hear Tula and Nuri. They were pounding on the other side of a metal door with their paws. Strannik appeared to take no notice, probably because it was meal time. "He's very talkative. He's actually very laid back as tigers go," said Ista, as she sprinkled scents that Strannik finds attractive - allspice, apple pie spices and cloves - in his compartment. Ista held her hand up and called "open" - prompting Strannik to open his mouth and gulp down his breakfast, the tiger's big pink tongue curling around the ground beef and making a chuffing sound of contentment. Then it was time for Strannik to head into the indoor observation area as families and kids excitedly pointed at the massive cat and snapped his picture with their cellphones. Explore further: Rare Sumatran tiger gives birth to three cubs

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