Tails From The Zoo

Biodiversity – Our Life May 21, 2010

The Assiniboine Park Zoo and Canada’s other 24 accredited zoos and aquariums are launching a national awareness campaign to engage Canadians in supporting the preservation of biodiversity — the animals, plants, and countless other life forms that make up the world’s ecosystems.  May 22nd is the International Day of Biodiversity and many zoos and aquariums are holding special events to mark the occasion.  The Assiniboine Park Zoo is hosting a Biodiversity Display and Turtle Talk on May 22, 11 am to 3 pm, in the Tropical House, and is highlighting biodiversity conservation in many of its annual programs, such as school presentations, Spring and Summer Zoo Camps, and interpretive talks around the zoo.  Biodiversity promotional materials will also be available to zoo visitors.

2010 Biodiversity Logo

2010 is also the International Year of Biodiversity, and the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums and  its partners have identified the Arctic region as a priority concern for addressing challenges to Arctic species and their habitats. They are reaching out to Canadians everywhere to enlist their support in ensuring a sustainable future for this vital part of our country.  In connecting with Canadians from coast to coast to coast, CAZA will be working closely with its partners – Parks Canada, the Canadian Wildlife Federation and Polar Bears International.”

Throughout International Biodiversity Year 2010 and into the future, CAZA member zoos and aquariums will present a broad range of information and education about wildlife and environmental issues in Canada’s Arctic. Thousands of organisms – including bacteria, insects, plants, birds and mammals — live above, on and under a single square metre of the earth’s surface. All of these species are connected like the strands of silk in a spider’s web. If a species is lost or habitat disappears, the web starts to fall apart. When we lose this biodiversity, we lose life itself.

“It’s easy to forget that people are an integral part of Nature and that our lives are tied intimately to the living things around us.” said CAZA President Rachel Leger. “Biodiversity provides us with the oxygen, food, water, fuel, fibre, and medicine we need to survive. And our actions can either preserve or destroy these resources.”

 

World Tapir Day Happens On April 27 April 19, 2010

Filed under: Conservation Programs,Eco-Dates,Extinction — Scott Gray @ 8:25 am
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World Tapir Day occurs on April 27 every year. Are you ready?

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The following information on tapirs comes directly from the Official World Tapir Day website: http://www.tapirday.org/

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World Tapir Day has been established, in the first instance, to raise awareness about the four species of tapir that inhabit Central and South America and South-East Asia. Each of the four species is in decline, with the Mountain Tapir (below left) facing extinction within the next twenty years, should conservation efforts not be introduced in its ever-shrinking natural range in Colombia and Ecuador. The Baird’s Tapir (below right), the largest mammal of the Americas, is facing a similar threat in its home range in Central America. Across the Pacific Ocean, the Malayan Tapir faces severe threats in Indonesia and other countries due to habitat destruction. Even the Brazilian Tapir, the most numerous species of tapir, is vulnerable because of the increasing rate of destruction of the Amazon. There may even be a fifth, distinct subspecies of Brazilian Tapir, but there is little research in this area to date.

As large herbivores, tapirs are invariably the first species affected by human encroachment into their territory, and amongst the last to return to regrowth forest. They require substantial tracts of undisturbed land to maintain a genetically-diverse population. Tapirs inhabit jungles, grasslands, swamps and cloud forests, yet each is threatened by human activity – be that mining, palm oil plantations, roads or settlements. They form an important part of the ecosystem as seed dispersers, and form one of the oldest surviving genera in the animal kingdom.

Despite their size, history and ecological importance, tapirs remain one of the least recognised species of animals. In comparison with other animals, tapirs feature little in the collective consciousness and are frequently misidentified by zoo visitors. Even in their home ranges, tapirs receive little attention, with exotic species featuring more prominently in zoos, children’s books and the media.

Mountain tapir standing in a river

Mountain tapir

Baird's tapir

Baird's tapir

Photos are copyright: http://www.arkive.org

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The plight of tapirs is symbolic for the wider threat to their habitats specifically, and the world’s ecology in general. The decline of tapir populations is indicative of the general health of their ranges; their disappearance from their home ranges often marks a point of ‘no return’ for the natural environment. The destruction of forests into small, isolated enclaves and the encroachment of human activity into pristine forests affects all native species. However, as the largest – yet perhaps the quietest – of animals in their ranges, tapirs disappear without trace with countless other species.

All tapirs are endangered species. Saving tapirs helps to save the rainforest. Saving rainforests helps to save the planet and prevent climate change.

 

European Bison March 14, 2010

Filed under: Extinction,Zoo Animals,Zoo Knew — Scott Gray @ 7:10 am
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The European bison, also known as wisent, is the cousin of the North American bison. Wisent are currently listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN, but their status was much worse nearly a century ago. Due to a combination of habitat loss, war and poaching, the wisent was declared extinct in the wild after the last one was shot in 1921. Thankfully, 56 wisent survived in zoos scattered around Europe and a joint breeding program was quickly set up to save the species. It took nearly thirty years but the European bison began to be reintroduced throughout the forests of Belarus, Poland, Russia, Lithuania and the Ukraine in the early 1950’s.

The current wild wisent population is less than 2,500 as their success is still hampered by a lack of habitat but nearly 1,400 live in 250 zoos and game preserves around the world. We currently have 1.6 (one male, six female) European bison at the Assiniboine Park Zoo.

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Are bison and buffalo the same thing?

No. Bison belong to the family Bovidae, which include wild and domestic cattle as well as buffalo, but there are a number of significant differences between the two.

Bison:

  • Live in North America and Europe
  • Have long shaggy hair
  • Have large shoulders and pronounced humps
  • Have short horns

Buffalo:

  • Live in Africa (cape buffalo) and Asia (water buffalo)
  • Have short thin hair
  • Have smaller shoulders and no humps
  • Have long horns

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Life Span: up to 27 years

Habitat: Mixed and deciduous forests, meadows

Height (at the shoulders): 1.8 – 2 metres

Weight: 800- 1000 kg

Body Length: 2.9 metres

Tail Length: 80 cm

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Thanks to everyone that listens to Zoo Knew every Sunday morning at 7:15 on CJOB68, where we talked about bison this morning. I hope you’ll take a chance to visit the Assiniboine Park Zoo today or in the near future to view both our European and our North American bison herds. If you’re not in Winnipeg, take a visit to your nearest zoo to find out about all of the amazing animals that live there. Take part in a guided tour or read some of the interpretive signs and find out what your local zoo is doing to save and preserve endangered species. I think you’ll be surprised how much work zoos do! Please feel free to send me your comments or links to success stories.

 

Extinction by the Numbers January 5, 2010

Filed under: Biodiversity,Extinction,Uncategorized — Scott Gray @ 4:09 pm
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Here’s are a few numbers that most people don’t know, but need to:

● Up to 30,000 species (including plants, animals, fungi) per year are going extinct: three per hour.
● Fifty percent of all primates and 100 percent of all great apes are threatened with extinction.
● Three of the world’s nine tiger subspecies became extinct in the past 60 years; the remaining six are all endangered.
● Humans have already driven 20 percent of all birds extinct.
● Twelve percent of mammals, 12 percent of birds, 31 percent of reptiles, 30 percent of amphibians, and 37 percent of fish are threatened with extinction.

Learn more about the extinction crisis from www.biologicaldiversity.com