News from Zoos

Deeper Look at Dolphins
The Florida Aquarium is launching a dolphin tour with a research twist. Customers on the aquarium's new 64-foot catamaran, the Bay Spirit, will photograph and help build a family album of bottlenose dolphins in Tampa Bay. The pictures will go into a catalog that will identify each dolphin seen between the Port of Tampa and the mouth of the Alafia River. Each sighting will add information about individuals and the population as a whole. The goal of this project is to answer questions such as how many dolphins live in the area and how many just visit, whether there are locations especially favored by mother-and-calf groups, what an individual animal's range is and which dolphins are related to each other. Researchers at Eckerd College's Dolphin Project have identified about 500 dolphins in Boca Ciega Bay. The Bay Spirit catalog will extend that research to the rest of Tampa Bay. Even though bottlenose dolphins are not endangered,
studying them can offer important insights into their endangered relatives. [Adapted from an article by Linda Gibson, St. Petersburg Times]

Rabbits on a Come Back
The Oregon Zoo is working with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to save the endangered pygmy rabbit (Sylvilagus idahoensis). With less that 100 pygmy rabbits left in the wild sagebrush habitat in the state of Washington, the zoo will help the WDFW design a captive breeding facility. The facility, will supply rabbits for reintroduction to two tracts of protected habitat. The zoo is home to four pygmy rabbits now under 24 hour monitoring through the use of video recording equipment. Researchers will use the data to catalog mating rituals and reproductive biology.
Pygmy rabbits are a protected "sensitive" species in Oregon, but it is thought their populations continue to decline in other regions, including neighboring states of Washington, southern Idaho, northeastern California and parts of Nevada.

Rare Birds Return to Wild
The San Diego Zoo's Keauhou Bird Conservation Center released six endangered Hawaiian puaiohi (Myadestes palmeri) on the island of Kauai – the bird's native home. Researchers fitted the captive-bred birds with radio transmitters to track their progress through the island's Alakai Swamp, said to be the rainiest place on earth.
The introduction of non-native animals and diseases has imperiled the island's native puaiohi popu-lation, which currently numbers less than 300. To combat this trend, researchers have successfully released two-dozen captive-bred puaiohi into the wild in the past three years. The Keauhou Bird Conservation Center works cooperatively with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the State of Hawaii's Division of Forestry and Wildlife and the Biological Resources Division of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Information for News from Zoos is provided by Joseph Lankard of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.