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News from the News

Sedgwick County Zoo Teams with Nike to Help Jamaican Iguanas
    Thanks to Nike, researchers will now will be able to radio track the perilously endangered Jamaican Iguana in their habitat. Fewer than 100 Jamaican iguanas exist in a 38-square mile area. To boost their numbers, baby iguanas are collected, raised at a local zoo, and released when they are large enough to avoid predators. Researchers then fit the iguanas with vests containing battery-operated radio transmitters so they can track them. But with the rocky, thorny underbrush in the iguana's habitat, the home-made vests weren't holding up. So, Sedgwick County Zoo Reptile outdoor line and Graham was certain that similar technology could be used to design a durable vest that wouldn't hinder thermoregulation and would stretch as the reptiles grew. After several prototypes, the final version has a elastic, breathable mesh upper, a polyurethane coated leather belly portion, and Nike's All Conditions Gear logo. The vests are now being road tested by iguanas at the Sedgwick County Zoo. If the vests pass the test, Nike will produce approximately 100 for the Jamaican iguana release program at no charge. [Adapted from an article by Jenny Upchurch, Wichita Eagle]

New Congo Gorilla Forest Opens at Bronx Zoo
The $43 million Congo Gorilla Forest opened recently at the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo, allowing visitors to see animals in an amazing simulation of their natural habitat while earning money for conservation programs to help save animals in the wild. The new 6.5 acre exhibit features not only gorilla, but also okapi, red river hogs, mandrills, wolf monkeys, and 70 other exotic species. The exhibit, which contains over 10 miles of fake vines, 11 artificial waterfalls, and 45,000 square feet of sculpted-concrete terrain, makes visitors feel as if they've just entered an African rain forest. The exhibit directs visitors' attention to the plight of the animals' native habitat, an area that plagued by problems with loggers, poachers, and civil unrest. An addition to the zoo's normal entrance fee, there is a $3 admission for the exhibit which will fund field conservation projects in the Congo, and 700,000 people are expected to visit the exhibit each year. According to retiring Wildlife Conservation Society President William Conway, the true mission of zoos should be to raise money and conduct research to save animals in the wild, and "serve the needs of the creatures they exhibit [Adapted from an article by Eugene Linden, Time Magazine]

Louisville Zoo Spearheads In Situ Rattlesnake Study
The Louisville Zoo is in its second season of a long-term ecological study of the timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) in our nation's central hardwood region. Snakes are monitored with radio transmitters and transponders inside a 6,000 hectare study site in Northcentral Kentucky. The Louisville Zoo is gathering baseline phenological data on this taxon in the geographic center of its range distribution to aid in the conservation of this misunderstood reptile. The project is funded by the Louisville Zoo and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

Brevard Zoo Contributes to New National Park
The Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, FL, expanded its conservation mission to include in situ projects in the Caribbean and has contributed $15,000 toward the creation of the new Morne Dablotin National Park on the Caribbean isle of Dominica. This project, led by the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation (RSCF) will leverage 1,300 acres of privately owned land into a 10,000 acre national park, preserving some of the last pristine rainforest in the region. The new park will be one of the most significant bioreserve areas in the Caribbean and is the only known nesting area for the island's critically endangered national symbol, the imperial Amazon parrot (Amazona imperialis). Field projects studying the imperial Amazon, as well as the red-necked Amazon parrot (Amazona arausiaca), will provide vital information so the Dominica Forestry Division can begin designing management strategies and recovery plans for these species.


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