News from the News
Giant Panda Birth at San
On 21 August, a Giant Panda was born at the Pacific Bell Giant
Panda Research Station at the San Diego Zoo. The parents are currently on long term loan
form teh People's Republic of China (PRC) as part of a joint research and conservation
effort between the PRC, the San Diego Zoo, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
The female was artificially inseminated, after studies found
deficiencies that prevented the male from knowing when she was in estrus. A variety of
behavioral and hormonal factors were used to time the insemination, and daily urine
samples were collected, enabling the zoo to monitor patterns of estrogen secretions and
pinpoint the period of maximum fertility.
The panda's post-partum maternal bahavior has also helped shore up the
case for pandas as members of the bear (Ursid) family. Studies on molecular genetics have
suggested that pandas are bears, and the San Diego Zoo, in collaboration with Professor
Pan Wnshi (Peking University), has analyzed data from wild females to help guide them
through the post-partum phase. In the first eight days after the birth, the female left
the maternity den for only two drinks of water, and did not show any interest in food,
which is very bear-like behavior.
New species of Striped
Rabbit Discovered in Asia
A new species of rabbit is hopping around the forests of
Southeast Asia. Discovered by biologists from the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation
Society (WCS), the rabbit lives in the rugged Annamite Mountains of Laos, an extremely
isolated region that has yielded several new species of mammals in recent years. The
rabbit, which has distinct, dark brown stripes running down both its face and back, a
reddish rump, and short ears, was first seen by a WCS researcher, who found three freshly
killed specimens in a food marked in Ben Lak, Laos. According to researchers, the rabbit's
closest relative is a critically endangered species found in Sumatra-about a thousand
miles away; genetic data suggest that the two species may have diverged about eight
million years ago. Nothing is yet known about the biology of either variety. Since the
discovery, the rabbit has been photographed in a nature reserve in Vietnam.
Students Help Save Rhinos
One of the most important functions of moderns zoos and aquariums is to excite
the public about wildlife conservation and get them directly involved. A great example is
occurring in Cincinnati where students at Mason Intermediate and Western Row Elementary
raised more than $11,000 for rhinoceros conservation programs through the International
Rhino Foundation (IRF). It was a two-year "Critter Campaign" developed by
gifted-education teacher Becky Howard Miller.
After the Cincinnati Zoo's Education Department visited the school and explained how the
rhino is endangered because of habitat loss and illegal poaching, about 900 students
collected more than four tons of aluminum cans, sponsored pie tosses, and organized a
silent auction to raise money. Half the money went to the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical
Garden's ADOPT (Animals Depend on People Too) Program and half went to the IRF.
Through the International Rhino Foundation, the students adopted a 10-year-old Sumatran
rhino (about 400 left in the wild) at an Indonesian preserve. The IRF Web site, complete
with pictures of students, teachers, and Minah, is at www.rhinos-irf.org/support/community.html
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