Latest Zoo & Conservation News
Week ending July 9, 2011

Compiled by:
Talitha Matlin
San Diego Zoo Global
Associate Director - Library Services

Multiple sclerosis-like disease discovered in Japanese macaques
June 29, 2011

Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University's Oregon National Primate Research Center have discovered a multiple sclerosis-like disease in Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata). They discovered that the disease, Japanese macaque encephalomyelitis, is caused by a herpes virus, which may "give significant clues into how multiple sclerosis develops in humans."

From the article:

From 1986 through 2010, 56 of the Japanese macaque monkeys at the Oregon National Primate Research Center at OHSU spontaneously developed paralysis in their hind limbs, along with other symptoms. The monkeys were humanely euthanized because they could not have been returned to the monkey colony safely. Researchers later did necropsies on the their bodies and performed MRI scans on eight of the animals.

That work and other testing allowed researchers to discover that an MS-like disease called Japanese macaque encephalomyelitis was causing the paralysis. While the disease typically afflicted young adult animals, it also was present in juveniles and older animals, and was present in both males and females.

People working with macaques can now "move toward trying to prevent or treat the virus in monkeys, which might help scientists make progress in treating MS in humans."

Full article:

CITATION: Axthelm MK, et al. 2011. Japanese macaque encephalomyelitis: a spontaneous multiple sclerosis-like disease in a nonhuman primate. Annals of Neurology. doi:10.1002/ana.22449

Judge rules polar bears still threatened
June 30, 2011

In response to challenges by the state of Alaska and hunting groups that listing the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) as threated was "irrational", US District Court Judge Emmet Smith upheld the US Fish and Wildlife Service's "decision to protect the bear because of the melting of the Arctic sea ice." In 2006, when polar bears were added to the Endangered Species List by Interior Secretary Dick Kempthorne, they were the first species to be added "solely because of the threat from global warming." The plaintiffs in the case argued that there were already sufficient laws protecting the bears. There are currently 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears globally, although scientists believe that their habitat will shrink by two-thirds by 2050 due to rising temperatures in the Arctic.

Full blog post:

Pacific Ocean study finds plastic in 1 in 10 fish
June 30, 2011 By Tony Barboza

Researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego conducted a study that found plastic particles present in the stomachs of 10% of fish they collected. In 2009, graduate students from SIO travelled to the "Pacific garbage patch, an area of high concentration of fragments of floating garbage about 1,000 miles of the California coast," and collected 141 fish. Most of the fish collected were lanternfish, small fish that are "a common food source for larger fish". Although this study found a smaller percentage of plastic present than previous studies (some indicated that as many as 35% of fish ingested plastic), the authors stress that the conclusion is the same: "garbage is present in the food chain."

Full blog post:

Tammar wallabies produce 80% less methane than other ruminants
June 30, 2011 By Sarah C.P. Williams

Australian scientists have discovered what they believe to be the reason macropods produce less methane than other ruminants. By studying Tammar wallabies (Macropus eugenii), they were able to isolate a group of bacteria classified as Wallaby Group 1 (WG-1).

From the blog post:

When the researchers grew the bacteria in a nutrient broth, they found that the microbes produce a compound called succinate instead of methane as an end product of digestion. As succinate is not a greenhouse gas, the scientists hope that further studies on the WG-1 bacteria will help researchers find a way to modify livestock to produce less gas—methane gas, that is.

Full blog post:

CITATION: Pope PB, et al. 2011. Isolation of Succinivibrionaceae implicated in low methane emissions from Tammar wallabies. Science. doi:10.1126/science.1205760

US National Parks' cultural and natural resources threatened
July 1, 2011 By Virginia Morell

A new report titled The State of America's National Parks was conducted by the National Parks Conservation Association. In the report, which tracks a decade-long study, the NPCA cites "unchecked development, thousands of invasive species, climate change, and reduced budgets and staff" as the main threats to America's national parks. They also warn that at risk are "millions of artifacts, from Native American cultures to more recent historic events, largely because these items either are not being protected or have never been cataloged."

From the article:

"...[T]he report warns that prehistoric and historic sites, including battlefields, are suffering primarily because they receive less attention and funding than do parks known for their natural beauty. As a result, looters and vandals are rapidly destroying America's cultural treasures—and there simply aren't enough staff members on hand to protect these resources, let alone study and interpret them for visitors. Some 43 million of the National Park Service's (NPS's) 80 million museum artifacts have yet to be catalogued, the report states, while another 28 million objects are at risk of being damaged or lost.

Archaeologists and anthropologists working for the National Parks Service are not surprised by the findings, saying that they confirm what the NPS has been hearing from visitors and staff for a long time. The NPS is currently working on a "plan of action" to improve America's parks by 2016, when the service will be celebrating its centennial.

National Parks Conservation Association report:

Full article:

Adoptions and offspring swapping in Eastern gray kangaroos
July 1, 2011 By Carrie Peyton Dahlberg

Australian researchers have made the surprising discovery that Eastern gray kangaroos (Macropus giganteus) sometimes "swap" offspring, with mothers adopting other young. At the Wilsons Promontory National Park in Australia, Graeme Coulson (a zoology professor at the University of Melbourne in Australia) was able to perform extensive research on the kangaroos. According to the article, "Hundreds of animals have been collared, given ear tags and genotyped from a tissue sample taken when they are tagged. The project, which began in 2008, is a 15-year-long study of population dynamics and reproductive strategies in the Eastern gray kangaroo."

Coulson and colleagues described the first documented report of "spontaneous adoptions in the wild," with a mother kangaroo "[bending] forward, [opening] her arms, and [inviting] someome else's youngster to hop into her pouch." The adoptions all occurred when the young kangaroos were still nursing and lasted until the end of "pouch life." The researchers documented a five percent adoption rate in the kangaroo population at Wilsons Promontory. Although they are not entirely sure of the causes yet, as there are no apparent benefits to the mothers, the researchers believe that the offspring swaps might occur when mothers are startled by a predator and are too distracted to realize that the young that is approaching them is not actually their offspring. The findings were presented at a joint meeting of the American Society of Mammalogists and the Australizan Mammal Society in Portland, Oregon.

Full article:

Lincoln Park Zoo works with forest preserve to conserve smooth green snakes
July 1, 2011

The Lincoln Park Zoo and Lake County Forest Preserve District (LCFPD) are working together to conserve the smooth green snake (Opheodrys vernalis), which is considered an Illinois Species in Greatest Need of Conservation. The species population is declining due to "habitat loss, conversion of grasslands into agriculture, urbanization, and the widespread use of pesticides."

From the article:

With little chance of natural recovery, LCFPD and the zoo established a partnership in 2010 to aid the recovery process through population supplementation, translocation, and reintroduction into suitable habitat. The partnership's first challenge was to locate the snakes last summer – not an easy proposition with such a small population of tiny snakes that blend in so well with the grasses. But hard work paid off when a few adult snakes were located and brought to the zoo for breeding, and a large communal nest of more than 80 smooth green snake eggs was discovered in an undesirable location that is slated for development. The eggs were taken to the zoo for incubation and 83 neonates hatched in mid-summer 2010.

On June 30, three zoo-raised snakes were hard released into the wild, with the other three released into enclosures within the Lake County Forest Preserve. The group expects to release about 12 more snakes throughout the summer, some of which will have radio transmitters attached to aid biologists in tracking their movements and survival rates.

Full press release:

Deforestation rises in the Amazon for third consecutive month
July 1, 2011 By Gayathri Vaidyanathan

Perhaps in response to a proposed change in Brazil's Forest Law which would "reduce the amount of privately-owned land that must be maintained as forest by small landholders from 80% to 50%", Brazil's forest monitoring system has found increased logging rates for the third month in a row. This May, 267.9 square kilometers (approx. 103 square miles) were cleared, "a 144% increase on the 109.6 square kilometers cleared in May last year." Deforestation rates had been decreasing since 2004 until this year.

Full blog post:

Tanzania's road through Serengeti still on, but unpaved
July 1, 2011 By Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala

Although last week it was reported that the Tanzanian government would be halting plans to build a road through the Serengeti, the government is now saying that an unpaved road will be constructed through the national park. The revisions to the initial plan also include providing game rangers who will "control traffic to avoid disturbing the annual migration of wildebeest."

From the article:

Roads outside the national park will be paved, but roads leading to the park and those inside the wildlife sanctuary will not be. Conservationists say the road through the northern edge of the Serengeti would hinder the annual migration of two million wildebeest, one of the world's top wildlife spectacles. UNESCO has urged the international community to provide support to Tanzania, which relies heavily on tourism, for an alternative route, running south of Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The World Bank said in March it had offered Tanzania an alternative to stop the Serengeti road project.

Although the conservation community is gravely concerned about interrupting the annual wildebeest migration, some members of the Tanzanian parliament point to the need to "open up the region" for the 300,000 residents of the Serengeti. Kebwe Stephen Kebwe, the Serengeti member of parliament, said in a phone interview, "The wildlife migration pattern has been there for years ... a 52-kilometre stretch of road, even if unpaved, will not affect anything." Additionally, Kebwe stated that the Tanzanian government has made the road a "priority project" and will allocate sufficient funds in the 2011/2012 budget to construct the road.

Full article:

Chester Zoo hopes 'to create a generation of online conservationists' through social media
July 1, 2011 By Mark Kinver

The Chester Zoo has launched the Act for Wildlife website, which they hope will engage young people with conservation through "social media, video and blogs." In a survey the zoo commissioned, they found that "66% of adults felt that 10-year-olds were more interested in technology than wildlife" and that while "94% of adults felt that biodiversity conservation was important...only 15% actively helped a cause." The website will "...allow users to find out more about the effort to save species, put questions to staff working around the globe and follow their fieldwork," and will act as a way to build a nation-wide online community of conservationists.

Full article:

Blue Ventures wins $100,000 award for sustainable fisheries project
July 1, 2011 By Catherine de Lange

Excerpt from the article:

A marine conservation charity that helps coastal communities sustainably manage and profit from marine life has won a US$100,000 prize for sustainable practices.

Blue Ventures, a UK-based conservation organisation that works in Belize, Madagascar and Malaysia, took first place in the Buckminster Fuller Challenge, an international competition that rewards innovative sustainability projects, in New York, United States, last month (10 June).

The charity focuses on developing evidence-based, integrated ways to reduce the impact of fisheries on marine habitats, while accepting that local communities rely on fishing for their income.

...One pilot project that Blue Ventures has helped to set up and run, for example, is a community-based network of cucumber and seaweed farms in Madagascar. Over the next three years, the project will be scaled up and full management passed to locals, taking the pressure off natural resources while letting villagers retain control over their finances.

The charity has also recommended the seasonal closure of octopus fisheries in particularly vulnerable areas, and has helped to set up alternative businesses, based on crafts and catering, with local women's organisations.

Continue reading:

Balboa Park museums offer cool kid-friendly fun
July 2, 2011 By Emily Sorensen

The author describes some kid-friendly activities in Balboa Park, including:

Balboa Park offers free admission on Tuesdays to certain museums. To view the schedule of free admissions, visit

Full article:

Tree frogs "refresh stickiness" with every step
July 2, 2011 By Michael Price

From Science:

Trying to re-stick a piece of tape to a surface after it's become dusty is infuriating. So how do tree frogs pull it off? It turns out the arboreal amphibians, which secrete gluey mucus from pads on their feet, refresh their stickiness with every step they take. Biologists presenting at the Society for Experimental Biology annual conference in Glasgow found that the White's tree frog (Litoria caerulea) self-cleans as it climbs thanks to special channels in its feet that slime away dirt and debris. When the frog moves its limbs forward, the mucus and any accumulated gunk slip through the channels and stay behind while new sticky mucus is secreted in its place. The researchers say these findings could one day inspire such technology as self-cleaning medical bandages and self-renewing adhesives.

Original source:

Seeds of Success aims to preserve native plants
July 4, 2011 By Janet Zimmerman

Excerpts from the article:

Botanists are combing Southern California hillsides and deserts in a nationwide scramble to gather and stockpile enough native plant seeds to restore public lands destroyed by wildfires and replace endangered species' habitat lost to commercial solar development.

The idea for the harvest sprouted in 2001 after massive fires across the country, similar to those burning now in Arizona and blazes that regularly damage the Great Basin in Idaho, said Peggy Olwell. She's in charge of the plant conservation program for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, overseer of the seed collection effort. "We wanted to reseed, but we didn't have the native plant materials available on the market. We didn't have the quantity of material or the diversity of species," Olwell said.

...Botanists and volunteers from BLM offices, the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden and the San Diego Institute for Conservation Research aim to collect 10,000 seeds from each of thousands of native plant species throughout the region....Part of each seed lot is stored at the U.S. National Seed Bank as an insurance policy against future threats such as climate change, and some seeds go to native plant researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The trove also is shared with the Kew Millennium Seed Bank operated by the Royal Botanic Garden in England, which aims to save 25 percent of the world's plant species by 2020.

Full article:

Britain's richest man to build giant Arctic iron ore mine
July 4, 2011 By Terry Macalister

Steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, Britain's richest man, is planning to build a "giant new opencast mine 300 miles inside the Arctic Circle in a bid to extract a potential $23bn (£14bn) worth of iron ore."

From the article:

The "mega-mine" – which includes a 150km railway line and two new ports – is believed to be the largest mineral extraction project in the Arctic and highlights the huge commercial potential of the far north as global warming makes industrial development in the region easier.

...But the wildlife group WWF, describes the planned mine as a "game changer" and a test case that could affect all future industrialisation of the far north. "It is certainly ... of a scale that would be massive anywhere in the world," said Martin von Mirbach, a director of the Arctic programme at WWF in Canada. WWF is demanding the company proceeds with extreme caution.

Environmental impact statements have accepted that there are unique animals that would be affected by the development, including terrestrial mammals such as caribou, Arctic fox and hare; marine mammals such as polar bears, narwhals, beluga whales and blowhead whales; and migratory birds including snow geese, rough-legged hawks and gyro-falcons. Additionally, the report admits that some fish habit would be lost due to the "unavoidable" building of railway sections into the edge of several lakes.

Full article:

Rhino poaching crisis in South Africa as 200 killed in six months
July 4, 2011

South Africa has seen a surge of rhino poaching during 2011, with "almost 200 rhinos [killed] during the first half of the year," compared to 333 total killed last year in South Africa. Conservationists and government officials indicate that sophisticated crime rings are behind the increase in poaching.

From the article:

Poaching is driven by demand for rhino horn in Asia, where it is used for traditional medicine, and conservationists want to see international moves to crack down on the supply and demand ends of the chain in order to save the rhino.

In South Africa, law enforcement efforts are being stepped up in response to poaching. Figures show 20 poachers have been killed "in combat", while six have been convicted and 123 people have been arrested this year.

Conservationists are also concerned that rhino poaching seems to be spreading to other parts of Southern Africa.

Full article:

Most of 'missing species' live in known biodiversity hotspots
July 4, 2011

A new study conducted by Lucas Joppa, an ecologist from Microsoft Research in Cambridge, and his colleagues show that most of the world's undiscovered species live in areas that have already been identified as biodiversity hotspots. Conservationists have made these hotspots conservation priorities, and Joppa and his coauthors were concerned that by focusing on these areas scientists may be ignoring areas of the world with the most unknown species.

From the article:

To address this dilemma, Joppa and his coauthors created a model that incorporates taxonomic effects over time to estimate how many species of flowering plants, which form the basis of the biodiversity hotspots concept, remain to be discovered in regions around the world. They then compared those estimates with regions currently identified as global conservation priorities. The two sets matched.

Six regions already identified by conservation scientists as hotspots – Mexico to Panama; Colombia; Ecuador to Peru; Paraguay and Chile southward; southern Africa; and Australia – were estimated by the models to contain 70 percent of all predicted missing species. Only two regions with high estimates of missing species – the region from Angola to Zimbabwe, and the northern Palearctic, which encompasses parts of Europe and Asia – contained no biodiversity hotspots.

The results confirmed that the conservation community is focusing their work in most of the right places in the world, but also showed that there is "an increased sense of urgency to the global extinction crisis."

Full article:

CITATION: Joppa LN, Roberts DL, Myers N, Pimm SL. 2011. Biodiversity hotspots house most undiscovered plant species. PNAS. doi:10.1073/pnas.1109389108

Sanders pushes car-free zone in Balboa Park
July 5, 2011 By Dave Rice

Mayor Jerry Sanders is backing the plan from Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs which would "redevelop Balboa Park's Plaza de Panama into a car-free zone." The plan would "...create a bypass bridge to loop around the plaza, stopping traffic on El Prado as it crosses over SR 163 and diverting it to the right toward a paid parking garage near the organ pavilion. The garage will feature 'a green rooftop park of lawns and gardens,' and will be financed through a bond to be repaid with the parking fees generated." The plan will go to the city council on July 17, where the Plaza de Panama Committee hopes to discuss a memorandum of understanding that would help the committee begin development so the project could be completed before the 2015 centennial celebration.

Read Mayor Sanders' open letter:

Full blog post:

Captive chimpanzees show signs of compromised mental health
July 5, 2011

In a study conducted by researchers at the University of Kent, UK, captive chimpanzees were shown to exhibit signs of "mental illness," such as "self-mutilation, repetetive rocking, [and] the eating of faeces and drinking of urine."

From the article:

The research, which was conducted by Dr Nicholas Newton-Fisher and Lucy Birkett from the University’s School of Anthropology and Conservation and is published by the online journal PLoS ONE, was conducted among 40 socially-housed zoo-living chimpanzees from six collections in the USA and UK. After determining the prevalence, diversity, frequency, and duration of abnormal behaviour from 1200 hours of continuous behavioural data, the researchers concluded that, while most behaviour of zoo-living chimpanzees is ‘normal’ in that it is typical of their wild counterparts, abnormal behaviour is endemic in this population despite enrichment efforts such as social housing.

Such abnormal behaviour has been attributed to the fact that many zoo-living chimpanzees have little opportunity to adjust association patterns, occupy restricted and barren spaces compared to the natural habitat, and have large parts of their lives substantially managed by humans. Controlled diets and provisioned feeding contrast radically with the ever-changing foraging and decision-making processes of daily life in the wild.

The authors of the study hope that their research will help even "the best zoo environments" to better learn about "how the chimpanzee mind copes with captivity."

Full article:

CITATION: Birkett LP, Newton-Fisher NE. 2011. How abnormal is the behaviour of captive, zoo-living chimpanzees? PLoS ONE 6(6):e20101. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0020101

Biofuels from kelp
July 5, 2011

Kelp (Laminaria digitata) could provide an alternative biofuel source to those grown on land, especially since "marine ecosystems are an untapped resource that account for over 50% of global biomass and seaweeds themselves are capable of producing more biomass per square metre than fast growing terrestrial plants such as sugar cane." New research conducted by Welsh scientists have shed more insight onto how to most efficiently convert kelp into biofuel. By collecting samples throughout the year and performing chemical analysis, they were able to determine that July would be the best month for harvesting kelp, as the kelp then has "the highest proportions of carbohydrate and the lowest metal count" — the most efficient chemical makeup for producing biofuels.

Full article:

Flooding hinders Yellowstone River oil cleanup
July 5, 2011

An oil pipeline ruptured last Saturday, spilling between 750 and 1,000 barrels of oil into the Yellowstone River, which runs from northwestern Wyoming through Yellowstone National Park. ExxonMobil insists "that it had 'met all regulatory requirements' and that the pipeline had been inspected in December." So far the company "has deployed more than 280 people to clean up [the] oil spill...but their efforts have been hindered by flooding."

From the article:

It said cleanup activities involving absorbent pads and vacuum trucks were focused on a 19-mile stretch of the river downstream from the pipeline spill with another 222 miles under surveillance. "Daily aerial flights over the river are being undertaken to identify additional oil locations and monitor and direct cleanup activity," it said in a statement. "We are also walking the parts of the shorelines where it is safe to do so... Given the current flooding and very swift river currents, we will need to wait until it is safe to get into some areas," it added, without elaborating.

Water sampling results have not yet been published, although some local residents have reported suffering from "headaches and nausea." According to an article published in the New York Times, "wildlife-rescue teams have yet to find significant numbers of oiled birds, fish or amphibians," but they do remain concerned about the long-term effects that the oil buildup could have on the local ecosystem.

Full articles: and

Naked mole rat's genome sequenced
July 5, 2011 BY Victoria Gill

Scientists have completed sequencing the naked mole rat's (Heterocephalus glaber) genome, which they hope will provide some insight as to why the animals are so long-lived and how they apparently have "some resistance to cancer." Although most small mammals do not have a very long life span, the naked mole rat can live over 30 years in captivity. Also interesting about the mole rats is that they "have very little or no pain sensation in their skin and a low metabolic rate that allows them to live with limited oxygen" and that they exhibit complex social behaviors, living "in groups of up to 300 animals [with] a queen who can 'switch off' the reproduction in other animals." Researchers hope that the genome will help them to perform more sophisticated studies of the animals.

Full article:

Fisher decline documented in California
July 5, 2011

A new report indicates that fishers (Martes pennanti) are on the decline on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation in northwestern California. By using a mark-resight method to survey the population of the species, which is a "house-cat sized member of the weasel family and candidate for endangered species listing", the Hoopa Valley Tribe and conservationists from the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of Massachussetts reported a "73-percent decline in the density of fishers." Possible reasons for this decline are "changes in prey habitat, disease, and increases in predation," although the researchers cite the need for additional studies.

Full article:

Embedding microchips in ornamental shrubs
July 5, 2011

Excerpt from the article:

Radiofrequency Identification (RFID), or microchip technology, has been used for years in animal identification systems and is now being tested for use in plants. Researchers note that microchip techniques have varied applications for plants. The technology can be used to help guide visitors through parks and botanical gardens, to thwart theft of valuable plants, and to aid scientists and growers in monitoring plant health. For example, RFID codes have been used successfully with grapevines to create databases and to generate ''virtual gardens'' in which production, monitoring, global positioning system coordinates, and other data are archived.

Microchips have traditionally been attached externally, which can change the aesthetics of plants. Researchers in Italy have designed a new way to tag shrubs by imbedding microchips, thus minimizing damages to plants' appearance.

Continue reading:

CITATION: Luvisi A, et al. 2010. Radiofrequency identification tagging in ornamental shrubs: an application in rose. HortTechnology 20:1037-1042.

New diet for gorillas at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo helps animals with needed weight loss
July 5, 2011 By James Ewinger

The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo has had success with a new diet for two male Western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). By replacing the commercially processed biscuits that used to make up most of the gorillas' diets with leafy greens and vegetables, the zoo was able to help Bebac, 26, and Mokolo, 23, lose 20 and 60 pounds (respectively). Both gorillas suffer from heart disease, and the zoo hopes that this dietary change will help to slow the progress of the disease. The diet change has also ended regurgitation and reingestion in the gorillas, which the veterinarians believe may be caused by a high starch content in their previous food. An additional aspect of the research which is ongoing is to determine exactly what constitutes a healthy gorilla, as there is little known about the health and mortality of wild gorillas.

Full article:

CA climate: inland warmer; coast cooler and wetter
July 6, 2011 By Peter Fimrite

A study analyzing 40 years of climate statistics has concluded that coastal California regions are getting wetter and cooler while inland areas are getting hotter. Meteorologist Jan Null found that "Eureka, San Francisco, Sacramento, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego" all cooled down, with San Francisco cooling down the most by 1 degree. Rainfall increased in all coastal cities studied except for San Diego and Losa Angeles. Inland areas got drier and hotter, with Fresno's annual temperature increasing by 1.1 degree. Null indicates that the findings confirm climate change predictions, stating: "People say, 'Wait a minute, what about global warming? Shouldn't it be warmer?' " Null said. "Well, if you have more warm days in the Central Valley, you are going to have a stronger sea breeze so you will cool off the coastal areas. That certainly does not contradict any of the models about global warming. This is what is to be expected."

Full article:

Robot modelled after snail movement can move in any direction
July 6, 2011 By Jaymi Heimbuch

Researchers at the Biomechatronics Lab at Chuo University in Japan have modelled a robot after the snail because of "their strategies for using undulation and 'galloping' to move around." The motion is referred to as galloping because of how snails "[stretch] the front of the body forward, and [pull] the back of the body up to meet it." The new robot can move in all directions and changes shape based upon obstacles it may encounter.

Full article and video of the robot "in action":

Lizard smuggler gets 15 months in prison
July 6, 2011 By Kate Mather

Michael Plank attempted to "smuggle 15 lizards into the United States by strapping the squirming reptiles to his chest" in 2009 when he was passing through customs in Los Angeles after flying from Australia. Plank was caught trying to smuggle two geckos, two monitor lizards and 11 skinks from Australia. He was sentenced on Wednesday to 15 months in federal prison for the felony charge of smuggling goods into the United States. The lizards are currently being housed at the San Diego Zoo.

Full blog post:

American burying beetles to be released at the Wilds
July 6, 2011

Excerpt from the article:

In 1989, the American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) -- once found in 35 states -- became the first insect to be listed as a federally protected endangered species, according to a news release from the Wilds. Researchers at the Wilds have been working in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in an effort to re-establish this species in Ohio.

The Ohio State University and the Cincinnati and St. Louis zoos are also part of the effort to raise and release beetles for the species recovery plan.

Full article:

Annual Farm to Table Benefit at Cleveland Botanical Gardens
July 6, 2011

The Cleveland Botanical Gardens is hosting their annual Farm to Table Benefit dinner on July 18 from 5:30-9:00pm. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Garden's Green Corps program and the North Union Farmers Market.

From the announcement:

The 13th annual collaboration with North Union Farmers Market will once again bring Cleveland's top chefs together in one resplendent summer setting. As usual, you'll sample from many dishes and styles of cuisine prepared from a wide array of fresh, summer ingredients local to Ohio.

The night begins with keynote speaker, Dr. Michael Roizen, chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic and world-renowned internist. Dr. Roizen is an expert on dietary wellness and the creator of "RealAge"—a test to determine a person's true physical age based on fitness and well-being. He is a celebrated speaker and author of eight books including Cooking the RealAge Way: Turn Back Your Biological Clock with More than 80 Delicious and Easy Recipes.

The cost for members is $85 and $100 for non-members.

Full announcement:

Proposed changes in propagation rules for Bald and Golden eagles
July 6, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 129
FWS-R9-MB-2011-0020; 91200-1231-9BPP

From the announcement:

SUMMARY: We solicit recommendations on whether the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) should be included among other raptors that may be propagated in captivity under Federal raptor propagation permits.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by October 4, 2011 by either one of the following methods:
Federal eRulemaking Portal: Follow the instructions for submitting comments on Docket No. FWS-R9-MB-2011-0020.
U.S. mail or hand delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attention: FWS-R9-MB-2011-0020; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 North Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203-1610.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. George T. Allen, 703-358-1825.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Propagation of bald eagles and golden eagles has not been allowed under the raptor propagation permit regulations at 50 CFR 21.30. We are now considering whether to permit this activity. We request comments and suggestions on this topic from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry, and other interested parties.

Full announcement:

Proposed rule allowing use of raptors in abatement activities
July 6, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 129
FWS-R9-MB-2009-0045; 91200-1231-9BPP

From the announcement:

SUMMARY: We are considering promulgating migratory bird permit regulations for a permit to use raptors (birds of prey) in abatement activities. Abatement means the use of trained raptors to flush, scare (haze), or take birds or other wildlife to mitigate damage or other problems, including risks to human health and safety. We have permitted this activity under special purpose permits since 2007 pursuant to a migratory bird permit policy memorandum. We now intend to prepare a specific permit regulation to authorize this activity. We seek information and suggestions from the public to help us formulate any proposed regulation.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments or suggestions by October 4, 2011 by the following methods:
Federal eRulemaking Portal: Follow the instructions for submitting comments. We will not post duplicate comments from any entity, nor will they be put into our administrative record for this issue.
U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attention FWS-R9-MB-2009-0045; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203-1610.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Susan Lawrence at 703-358-2016.

Full announcement:

Endangered species applications for permit
July 6, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 129
FWS-R9-IA-2011-N141; 96300-1671-0000-P5

From the announcement:

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, invite the public to comment on the following applications to conduct certain activities with endangered species. With some exceptions, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) prohibits activities with listed species unless a Federal permit is issued that allows such activities. The ESA law requires that we invite public comment before issuing these permits. We also correct and reopen the comment period for a previously announced application.

DATES: We must receive comments or requests for documents on or before August 5, 2011.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Brenda Tapia, Division of Management Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 212, Arlington, VA 22203; (703) 358-2104 (telephone); (703) 358-2280 (fax); (e-mail).

Applicant: Feld Entertainment Inc., Vienna, VA; PRT-37444A (Corrected Application)
On June 23, 2011, we published a Federal Register notice inviting the public to comment on several applications for permits to conduct certain activities with endangered species (76 FR 36934). We made an error by omitting one animal in the Feld Entertainment, Inc. application, which starts at the bottom of column 3 on page 36934. The omitted animal is a captive-born tiger (Panthera tigris). All the other information we printed was correct. With this notice, we correct that error and reopen the comment period for PRT-37444A. The corrected entry for this application is as follows: The applicant request a permits to import, for the purpose of enhancement of the species through conservation education, one African leopard (Panthera pardus), one Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica), and seven tigers (Panthera tigris). The captive-born animals are being imported from
Schweiberdingen, Germany, in cooperation with Alexander Lacey.

The following applicants each request a permit to import the sport-hunted trophy of one male bontebok (Damaliscus pygargus pygargus) culled from a captive herd maintained under the management program of the Republic of South Africa, for the purpose of enhancement of the survival of the species.
Applicant: Alan Maki, Alpine, WY; PRT-43269A
Applicant: Jeffrey Rachor, Dallas, TX; PRT-43976A
Applicant: Lewis Metzger, Houston, TX; PRT-46316A
Applicant: David Cote, Morristown, NJ; PRT-43284A

Full announcement:

New rule regarding activities with U.S. captive-bred Scimitar-horned oryx, addax, and Dama gazelle
July 7, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 130
FWS-R9-IA-2010-0056; 96300-1671-0000-R4

From the announcement:

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to revise the regulations that implement the Endangered Species Act (Act). This action would eliminate the exclusion of U.S. captive-bred live wildlife and sport-hunted trophies of three endangered antelopes--scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah), addax (Addax nasomaculatus), and dama gazelle (Gazella dama)--from certain prohibited activities, such as take and export, under the Act. This proposed change to the regulations is in response to a court order that found that the rule for these three species violated section 10(c) of the Act. These three antelope species remain listed as endangered under the Act, and a person would need to qualify for an exemption or obtain an authorization under the current statutory and regulatory requirements to conduct any prohibited activities.

DATES: We will consider comments received or postmarked on or before August 8, 2011.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by one of the following methods:
Federal eRulemaking Portal: Follow the instructions for submitting comments on Docket No. FWS-R9-IA-2010-0056.U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R9-IA-2010-0056; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert R. Gabel, Chief, Division of Management Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 212, Arlington, VA 22203; telephone 703-358-2093; fax 703-358-2280.

Full announcement:

Endangered species recovery permit applications
July 7, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 130
FWS-R8-ES-2011-N139; 80221-1113-0000-F5

From the announcement:

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, invite the public to comment on the following applications to conduct certain activities with endangered species. With some exceptions, the Endangered Species Act (Act) prohibits activities with endangered and threatened species unless a Federal permit allows such activity. The Act also requires that we invite public comment before issuing these permits.

DATES: Comments on these permit applications must be received on or before August 8, 2011.

ADDRESSES: Written data or comments should be submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Endangered Species Program Manager, Region 8, 2800 Cottage Way, Room W-2606, Sacramento, CA 95825 (telephone: 916-414-6464; fax: 916-414-6486). Please refer to the respective permit number for each application when submitting comments.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Daniel Marquez, Fish and Wildlife Biologist; see ADDRESSES (telephone: 760-431-9440; fax: 760-431-9624).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The following applicants have applied for scientific research permits to conduct certain activities with endangered species under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). We seek review and comment from local, State, and Federal agencies and the public on the following permit requests.


Permit No. TE-43668A
Applicant: Gerald T. Braden, Angelus Oaks, California.
The applicant requests a permit to take (capture, handle, and release) the Stephens' kangaroo rat (Dipodomys stephensi) and San Bernardino kangaroo rat (Dipodomys merriami parvus); take (harass by survey, capture, band, color band, release and monitor nests) the southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) and least Bell's vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus); and take (harass by survey) the light-footed clapper rail (Rallus longirostris levipes) and Yuma clapper rail (Rallus longirostris yumanensis) in conjunction with surveys and population monitoring activities throughout the range of each species in California and Nevada for the purpose of enhancing the species' survival.

Permit No. TE-174305
Applicant: Department of Air Force, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
The applicant requests an amendment to a permit to take (locate and monitor nests) the California least tern (Sterna antillarum browni) in conjunction with population monitoring activities in Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, for the purpose of enhancing the species' survival.

Permit No. TE-039305
Applicant: Michael W. Kline, San Diego, California.
The applicant requests a permit to take (harass by survey) the southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) in conjunction with surveys throughout the range of the species in San Diego and Imperial Counties, California, for the purpose of enhancing the species' survival.

Permit No. TE-43675A
Applicant: Nancy W. Fox-Hernandez, Ventura, California.
The applicant requests an amendment to a permit to take (locate and monitor nests) the California least tern (Sterna antillarum browni) in conjunction with population monitoring activities throughout the range of the species in California for the purpose of enhancing the species' survival.

Permit No. TE-43944A
Applicant: Brenton T. Spies, Northridge, California.
The applicant requests a permit to take (survey, capture, handle, kill, and release) the tidewater goby (Eucyclogobius newberryi) in conjunction with research activities throughout the range of the species in California for the purpose of enhancing the species' survival.

Permit No. TE-44855A
Applicant: Clint M. Scheuerman, Encinitas, California.
The applicant requests a permit to take (capture, collect, and kill) the Conservancy fairy shrimp (Branchinecta conservatio), the longhorn fairy shrimp (Branchinecta longiantenna), the Riverside fairy shrimp (Streptocephalus wootoni), the San Diego fairy shrimp (Branchinecta sandiegonensis), and the vernal pool tadpole shrimp (Lepidurus packardi) in conjunction with survey activities throughout the range of each species in California for the purpose of enhancing the species' survival.

Permit No. TE-039305
Applicant: Ursula A. Carliss, Laguna Niguel, California.
The applicant requests a permit to take (harass by survey) the southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) and least Bell's vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus) in conjunction with surveys throughout the range of the species in California for the purpose of enhancing the species' survival.

Permit No. TE-795930
Applicant: Helm Biological Consulting, Sheridan, California.
The applicant requests a permit to take (collect soil containing federally listed fairy shrimp cysts, translocate, and inoculate cysts into restored vernal pools) the vernal pool tadpole shrimp (Lepidurus packardi) in conjunction with vernal pool restoration and population enhancement activities at the Sacramento Municipal Utility District Nature Preserve Mitigation Bank in Sacramento County, California, for the purpose of enhancing the species' survival.

Permit No. TE-45776A
Applicant: Matt P. Coyle, Rocklin, California.
The applicant requests a permit to take (capture, collect, and kill) the Conservancy fairy shrimp (Branchinecta conservatio), the longhorn fairy shrimp (Branchinecta longiantenna), the Riverside fairy shrimp (Streptocephalus wootoni), the San Diego fairy shrimp (Branchinecta sandiegonensis), and the vernal pool tadpole shrimp (Lepidurus packardi) in conjunction with survey activities throughout the range of each species in California for the purpose of enhancing the species' survival.

Permit No. TE-009018
Applicant: Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, Claremont, California.
The applicant requests a permit to remove/reduce to possession the following species, in conjunction with surveys and population monitoring activities on Federal lands throughout the range of each species in California for the purpose of enhancing each species' survival:

Acanthomintha obovata subsp. duttonii (San Mateo thornmint);
Alopecurus aequalis var. sonomensis (Sonoma alopecurus);
Amsinckia grandiflora (large-flowered fiddleneck);
Arabis mcdonaldiana (McDonald's rock-cress);
Arctostaphylos hookeri var. ravenii (Presidio manzanita);
Astragalus claranus (Clara Hunt's milk-vetch);
Blennosperma bakeri (Sonoma sunshine);
Callitropsis abramsiana (Santa Cruz cypress);
Calystegia stebbinsii (Stebbins' morning-glory);
Carex albida (white sedge);
Castilleja affinis subsp. neglecta (Tiburon paintbrush);
Ceanothus ferrisiae (coyote ceanothus);
Ceanothus ophiochilus (Vail Lake ceanothus);
Ceanothus roderickii (Pine Hill ceanothus);
Chorizanthe howellii (Howell's spineflower);
Chorizanthe pungens var. hartwegiana (Ben Lomond spineflower);
Chorizanthe robusta (incl. vars. robusta and hartwegii) (robust spineflower and Scott Valley spineflower);
Chorizanthe valida (Sonoma spineflower);
Cirsium fontinale var. fontinale (fountain thistle);
Cirsium fontinale var. obispoense (Chorro Creek bog thistle);
Cirsium hydrophilum var. hydrophilum (Suisun thistle);
Cirsium loncholepis (La Graciosa thistle);
Clarkia franciscana (Presidio clarkia);
Clarkia imbricata (Vine Hill clarkia);
Clarkia speciosa subsp. immaculata (Pismo clarkia);
Cordylanthus mollis subsp. mollis (soft bird's-beak);
Cordylanthus palmatus (palmate-bracted bird's beak);
Cordylanthus tenuis subsp. capillaris (Pennell's bird's-beak);
Delphinium bakeri (Baker's larkspur);
Delphinium luteum (yellow larkspur);
Dudleya setchellii (Santa Clara Valley dudleya);
Eremalche kernensis (Kern mallow);
Eriodictyon altissimum (Indian Knob mountain balm);
Eriogonum apricum (incl. var. prostratum) (Ione (incl. Irish Hill) buckwheat);
Eriophyllum latilobum (San Mateo woolly sunflower);
Eryngium constancei (Loch Lomond coyote thistle);
Erysimum capitatum var. angustatum (Contra Costa wallflower);
Erysimum menziesii (Menzies' wallflower);
Erysimum teretifolium (Ben Lomond wallflower);
Fremontodendron californicum subsp. decumbens (Pine Hill flannelbush);
Galium californicum subsp. sierrae (El Dorado bedstraw);
Gilia tenuiflora subsp. arenaria (Monterey gilia);
Lasthenia burkei (Burke's goldfields);
Lessingia germanorum (=L.g. var. germanorum) (San Francisco lessingia);
Lilium occidentale (Western lily);
Lilium pardalinum subsp. pitkinense (Pitkin Marsh lily);
Limnanthes floccosa subsp. californica (Butte County meadowfoam);
Limnanthes vinculans (Sebastopol meadowfoam);
Lupinus nipomensis (Nipomo Mesa lupine);
Lupinus tidestromii (clover lupine);
Navarretia leucocephala subsp. pauciflora (=N. pauciflora) (few-flowered navarretia);
Navarretia leucocephala subsp. plieantha (many-flowered navarretia);
Oenothera deltoides subsp. howellii (Antioch Dunes evening-primrose);
Opuntia basilaris var. treleasei (Bakersfield cactus);
Orcuttia pilosa (hairy orcutt grass);
Orcuttia viscida (Sacramento orcutt grass);
Parvisedum leiocarpum (Lake County stonecrop);
Pentachaeta bellidiflora (white-rayed pentachaeta);
Phlox hirsuta (Yreka phlox);
Piperia yadonii (Yadon's piperia);
Plagiobothrys strictus (Calistoga allocarya);
Poa napensis (Napa bluegrass);
Polygonum hickmanii (Scotts Valley polygonum);
Potentilla hickmanii (Hickman's potentilla);
Pseudobahia bahiifolia (Hartweg's golden sunburst);
Sidalcea keckii (Keck's checker-mallow);
Sidalcea oregana subsp. valida (Kenwood Marsh checker-mallow);
Streptanthus albidus subsp. albidus (Metcalf Canyon jewelflower);
Streptanthus niger (Tiburon jewelflower);
Suaeda californica (California seablite);
Thlaspi californicum (Kneeland Prairie penny-cress);
Trifolium amoenum (showy Indian clover);
Trifolium trichocalyx (Monterey clover);
Tuctoria greenei (Greene's tuctoria);
Tuctoria mucronata (Solano grass).

Permit No. TE-45778A
Applicant: Ellis Ecological Services Incorporated, Estacada, Oregon.
The applicant requests a permit to take (survey, electrofish, measure, collect, handle, and release) the Lost River sucker (Deltistes luxatus) and the shortnose sucker (Chasmistes brevirostris) in conjunction with surveys and population monitoring at Kingsley Field Air National Guard Base, Klamath County, Oregon, for the purpose of enhancing the species' survival.

Full announcement:

Ancestry of polar bears traced to Ireland
July 7, 2011

Although polar bears (Ursus maritimus) and brown bears (Ursus arctos) differ greatly physiologically and behaviorally, a new study shows that "the female ancestor of all living polar bears was a brown bear that lived in the vicinity of present-day Britain and Ireland just prior to the peak of the last ice age -- 20,000 to 50,000 years ago." Previously, it was believed that the female ancestor of polar bears had lived on Alaskan islands only 14,000 years ago.

From the article:

[Beth] Shapiro (one of the lead authors of the study) hopes to design future studies of the polar bear's DNA by concentrating on other parts of the animal's genome. "Until now we have focused our efforts on the polar bear's mitochondrial DNA, which traces only the mother's side of the family tree," Shapiro said. "But there is much to be learned from the nuclear genome -- the genetic material contained within the nucleus of the cell, which has been passed to offspring from both mothers and fathers." Shapiro said that a more complete investigation of this part of the genetic story could answer deeper questions about how interactions with other species and environmental changes affected the polar bear in the distant past, how frequently hybridizations between species actually happened, and how these hybridizations affected the genetic diversity of the polar bear generally.

Full article:

CITATION: Edwards CJ, et al. 2011. Ancient hybridization and an Irish origin for the modern polar bear matriline. Current Biology. doi:10.1016/jcub.2011.05.058

Gardeners can help keep pollinators healthy
July 7, 2011 By Jeff Mulhollem and Chuck Gill

Since 1990, wild honeybee populations have dropped 25 percent due to Colony Collapse Disorder and other environmental factors. To help honeybees and other pollinator species, home gardeners can plant pollinator-friendly gardens. Ginger Pryor, the state coordinator of the Penn State Extension's Master Gardener Program, suggested the following tips:

– Choose native speceis of plants, as insects are "four times more likely to be attracted to them"

– Plant species that bloom from early spring to late fall. Having a variety of plants with different shapes and colors will attract an assortment of pollinators.

– Avoid invasive plant species

– Provide a water source. “Water sources such as shallow birdbaths, mud puddles or even just a small saucer with sand and rocks to supply pollinators with necessary water and minerals are acceptable,” Pryor said.

– Minimize or reduce pesticide use as much as possible.

Full article:

Como Park Zoo helps bring rare Wyoming toad back from brink of extinction
Juuly 7, 2011 By Miles Trump

The Como Park Zoo in St. Paul, Minnesota, shipped 1,300 Wyoming toad (Bufo baxteri) tadpoles "to be released near the Mortenson Lake National Wildlife Refuge outside Laramie, Wyoming." The endangered toad is one of the rarest toads in the world. Initially thought to be extinct in the early 1980s, researchers found one later in the decade near Lake Mortensen in Wyoming. The zoo had received 11 of the toads in 2010 for breeding and this is the first year they will release its captive population of tadpoles.

From the article:

The toads live in a special room in the zoo's Animal Support Building. Breeding begins in April, when a hibernation chamber simulates the toads' natural habitat for more than five weeks, Barney said. Then, males and females are paired for 24 hours for breeding, she said. In one year, Como Zoo has doubled its number of Wyoming toads to 22.

The zoo received an $8,000 grant from the Frog Crossing Foundation last spring to help fund equipment and training to take care of the toads. With the money, Barney was able to travel to the Amphibian School in Toledo, Ohio, "to learn exactly how to take care of captive populations of amphibians" and to Laramie to do field research.

Full article:

Science On a Shpere is Detroit Zoo's newest attraction
July 7, 2011 By Judy Davis

The Detroit Zoo has become the second zoo in the country to install the exhibit Science On a Sphere as a permanent exhibit. The exhibit is "an animated, hologram-like globe that displays representations of the planet’s atmospheric, oceanic and land activity in 3D." The seven-minute presentation allows visitors to "examine the Earth's activities including atmospheric storms, climate change and ocean temperature." The exhibit opened last Firday with over 2,000 daily visitors over the holiday weekend. National Zoo in Washington, D.C. is the other zoo that has installed the exhibit permanently.

Full article:

Irish rhino horn racket uncovered by Europol
July 7, 2011

Europol has discovered a crime ring based in Ireland that is "illegally trading rhino horn worth tens of thousands of euros as far afield as China." There is a high demand for rhino horn, which "is a prized ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine and is also used for decoration and to produce luxury goods." The cost of a rhino horn can range between 25,000 ($36,000) and 200,000 Euros ($284,900). The group "targeted antique dealers, auction houses, art galleries, museums, private collections and zoos, 'resorting to theft and aggravated burglary where necessary...' " in order to obtain the rhino horns. Europol recommends "alerting potential targets 'of possible visits to defraud or attack them for their specimens.'" Already this year, 200 rhinos have been killed for their horns in South Africa.

Full article:

San Diego Zoo Safari Park names gorilla in memory of President Emeritus Lee Monroe
July 7, 2011 By Ken Bohn

Kokamo, a female gorilla at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, gave birth to the newest member of the gorilla troop at the park on June 17. The male gorilla has been named Monroe in memory of Lee Monroe, M.D., a former president of San Diego Zoo Global who continued to support the organization after his retirement. Monroe is now the sixth western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) at the Safari Park, and the first to be born since 2001. According to zoo staff, Kokamo is an excellent mother and has formed a strong bond with Monroe. Both mother and baby can be seen on exhibit with the rest of the troop every day.

Full article: