News from Zoos

The Baltimore Zoo teams up with local schools to promote bog turtle conservation

Through collaborations with Maryland's Department of Natural Resources and the Department of the Environment,
the Baltimore Zoo bog turtle exhibit, a restored wetland habitat, is providing valuable education and conservation
opportunities for both the endangered bog turtle and the human inhabitants of its native state. Through various
partnerships, The Baltimore Zoo has been able to use data collected by Towson University students to track the
turtles' movements and body temperatures. Due to an increase in rainfall this spring, the Zoo has been able to return
some bog turtles to their homes. These turtles were removed from the bogs during drought conditions in order to
ensure their safety. Local middle-school student Jessica Huber lent a helping hand in the restoration project and was
recognized as one of 50 national essay winners in the Mutual of Omaha 'Wild Kingdom Kids' Summit on Conservation.
Huber's essay, which focuses on the bog turtle conservation efforts, encouraged the Zoo to seek her input in the
creation of new conservation education materials to be used at the Zoo. The Baltimore Zoo Herpetology Department
has received an award from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for their contribution to the conservation and recovery
efforts for this threatened species. [ Source: Communiqué ]

Aquarium lends helping hand to otters
At the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the sea otter exhibit is prominently located near the main entrance. That is no
surprise; these furry animals, who enjoy eating shellfish while floating on their back, are one of the Bay's selling
points for nature lovers.
But what most Aquarium viewers fail to see is what is taking place just off the coast. A kayaker and a diver swim
slowly back toward the aquarium. With them is an abandoned sea otter pup. The sea otter cannot see the diver's face
or hands because they are completely covered in a black wetsuit. The diver goes down to the ocean floor and picks
up prospective food. The otters are expected to emulate. Once back ashore, the otter is hustled into an enclosed tank
with no view in or out. There is no human contact; a lone camera is aimed 24 hours a day at the animal.
"We are trying to help them return to the wild," says Ken Peterson of the aquarium. Positive interaction with
humans may interfere with the otters' behavior in the wild.
These efforts are part of the Sea Otter Research Center, operated by the Aquarium and the Hopkins Marine
Institute, which is part of Stanford University. Since 1984, the Center has rescued more than 200 adult otters and
stranded pups. It has returned about 25 percent of its captures back to the wild.
The Center also helped re-establish a population of otters at San Nicholas Island in the Channel Islands and two
weeks ago did its first magnetic resonance image (MRI) to establish a baseline for the species. The otter used for the
MRI is suffering from domoic acid poisoning - a frequent problem among rescued otters - will eventually have to be
The population is improving, Peterson said, and the center's effort is slow-growing. More otters die from complications
caused by biotoxins and domoic acid poisoning than are returned to the wild. Rescue animals are usually
too sick to recover or it is too late for them to respond to antibiotics. But the Sea Otter Research Center staff
members are still hopeful. "Our typical day is nothing happens," Hawkins said. "That is what we are hoping for. But
then, we got 13 otters in one month once." [ Source: Keith Lair, San Gabriel Valley Tribune ]

Zoo scientist wins national award for tree kangaroo conservation work
Dr. Lisa Dabek, Director of Conservation and Research at Roger Williams Park Zoo, works village by village in
Papua New Guinea, persuading landowners to set aside parts of the hunting lands for conservation so that the
endangered Matchie's tree kangaroo can survive. For those grassroots efforts, Dabek was one of eight recipients of
the 48th annual ChevronTexaco Conservation Awards, presented at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Dabek
also serves as the chair for the American Zoo and Aquarium Association's (AZA) Marsupial and Monotreme Taxon
Advisory Group, a vice-chair for AZA's Wildlife Conservation and Management Committee and a member of AZA's
Field Conservation Committee.
Honorees "provide stellar examples of what can be accomplished when people and organizations put these
values into action. Their passion, ingenuity, and vision to conserve natural resources are examples for all of us to
emulate," said Warner Williams, vice president of health, environment and safety for ChevronTexaco.
Dabek's efforts to save habitat in order to protect species are part of her successful Tree Kangaroo Conservation
program, based at Roger Williams Park Zoo. Last December, the Zoo announced the formation of a 50,000-acre
wildlife conservation area in the Huon Peninsula - credited to Dabek's efforts - where no animals can be hunted,
including the shy marsupials.
Dabek hopes to help expand the protected area to 150,000 acres, encompassing a conservation corridor in Papua
New Guinea, from coral reefs to 13,000-foot mountains. The Tree Kangaroo Conservation program also includes a
strong education focus. Children in Rhode Island and Papua New Guinea are involved in an art and ideas exchange
program, and the Tree Kangaroo Conservation program supports literacy programs, teacher training and curriculum
development at two Papua New Guinea schools. [ Source: The Providence Journal ]

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