News From Zoos

Zoological Society of San Diego Receives $6.6 Million Gift

The Zoological Society of San Diego recently received a $6.6 million dollar donation from San Diego Padres majority owner John Moores. This gift, the largest the society has ever received from an individual, is to be used for the conservation of endangered animals. Approximately $4 million will be spent on expanding the two-acre panda enclosure, and the remainder
will be used to help build the new $20 million home for the Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species (CRES), which is the research branch of the zoo. "We're absolutely thrilled with the gift," Douglas G. Myers, the society's executive director, said. "It sends a message out to the rest of the world that we're serious about pandas." Home to three of the five giant pandas currently in the United States, the San Diego Zoo has been active in panda behavior and reproduction research. Recently at the zoo, Hua Mei, the first North American-born panda to survive more than several days, celebrated her first birthday. Her birth was due largely to artificial insemination techniques developed at the CRES. Researchers at the CRES have not only had success with pandas, but also with breeding other high-profile species such as cheetahs and the California condor, to name just a few. In addition, the Society is involved in many in situ projects, both in this country and overseas. [Adapted from an article by James Steinberg, San Diego Union-Tribune]

Cincinnati Zoo's Ocelot Birth a First

An ocelot kitten produced by embryo transfer was recently born at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. Named Sihil, a Mayan word meaning "to be born again," the kitten was born through a procedure that may assist in increasing the genetic diversity of these medium-sized cats. As Ken Kaemmerer of the Dallas Zoo says "Embryo transfer is still a fledgling science and any success is reason for celebration." Kaemmerer is the coordinator of the Ocelot Species Survival Plan Ð a cooperative effort of American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA)-accredited institutions whose goal is to save endangered species through captive breeding, habitat preservation, public education, and supportive research. The zoo's Center for Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) has been working in Brazil to produce and freeze Brazilian ocelot embryos. After being transferred to the United States, the embryos will be implanted into a generic ocelot,
resulting in a purebred Brazilian kitten. Ocelots have been on the endangered species list of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 1972, after being hunted to near-extinction for their spotted coats. Most of the 120 ocelots that are currently housed in North American zoos are "generic," meaning that they are of unknown ancestry, and the ability to transfer embryos is expected to increase the genetically defined population. [Adapted from an article by Christine Oliva, Cincinnati Enquirer]

AZA Institutions Receive IMLS Grants

Two AZA-accredited institutions recently received grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The National Aviary in Pittsburgh was recently awarded a $40,000 competitive matching grant to develop early detection and identification of the bacteria that causes avian tuberculosis (mycobacteriosis) . Avian TB can be a significant problem in avian collections because the disease is difficult to diagnose and treat. IMLS funds for the two-year research project will provide support for a laboratory technician as well as money for new equipment. The research will be conducted under the direction of Dave Zaitlin, Ph.D., the National Aviary's geneticist and Dr. Robert Wagner, V.M.D., consulting avian veterinarian. Research will employ polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and DNA sequencing techniques to detect mycobacteria in living birds before they show clinical signs of disease. The Cincinnati Zoo was also the recipient of a $3,785 grant from IMLS to further research conducted at the zoo's Center for Research and Endangered Wildlife (CREW). The grant will aid in reviving populations and provide materials for research and germ plasm storage by addressing reproductive and conservation problems of 23 highly endangered plant species. This collaborative effort between the Zoo, the Center for Plant Conservation (CPC) and nine gardens within the CPC network has broad applications within the field of plant conservation.

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