Conservation Field Diaries

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July 14, 2014
Back in the Field to Save Black-Footed Ferrets

Before this spring, it had been almost eight years since I had done black-footed ferret fieldwork! So I was excited to head back into the wild in March. After all, beyond helping a critically endangered species, there’s nothing like being out on the prairie in the middle of the night.

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December 8, 2011
Chimps Should Be Chimps

Since 2009, Lincoln Park Zoo’s Project ChimpCARE has led research and education initiatives to address important issues related to chimpanzee welfare. We’ve travelled around the country to meet with people who house chimpanzees in their backyards and basements. We’ve advocated policy reform to provide greater protection for chimpanzees living in the United States.

December 1, 2011
Reaching Out

“I had no idea that prairie dogs are so important to the ecosystem!”

“I didn’t know that we had endangered species like the black-footed ferret living in our backyard!”

These are just a couple statements shared by participants at a recent community workshop on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Lame Deer, Montana.

November 17, 2011
Seahorses Shake Up Population Planning

For those of us in zoos who work more with computers than live animals, drama and excitement come in the form of new data challenges. Yes, really. Population biologists love data, and we get a kick out of analyzing new information and coming up with creative strategies to achieve the greater goal of maintaining healthy zoo populations.

August 15, 2011
Releasing the Last Batch of Smooth Green Snakes

This week, we released the third group of head-started smooth green snakes into a Lake County Forest Preserve to help populations of this native snake recover.

May 24, 2011
Into the Field to Find Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnakes

Every year, April/May gets the members of the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake Species Survival Plan® (SSP) thinking about one thing—not spring flowers popping out of the ground, but massasaugas periscoping out of their burrows for the first time as they emerge from hibernation. This year was no different, and in early May SSP members from 11 zoos, several local wildlife agencies and universities met in southwest Michigan for our annual field surveys.

June 17, 2010
Rhino Sighting!

Today was our last day in the field and I SPOTTED A RHINO! Now I am definitely ready to go home. I had accomplished everything I wanted to on this trip. We had processed and organized all the fecal samples to bring back to the U.S. for analysis. We had trained Thando to collect samples and data. And I found a rhino.

Last year, we were in Addo for two weeks and never spotted one rhino. Well, this trip we have seen one almost every day, and I found one!

May 24, 2010
Spotting Rhinos

We met up with Thando, our new South African SANparks Research Assistant, to go into the field, move the camera traps to new locations and train him on the sample-collection methods.

May 24, 2010
Still Sorting

Jordana had to take the Land Rover into town for repairs while Elizabeth and I continued to work on the samples. We prepared all of the sample vials for transportation and went over protocols for the field techniques. It was another entire-day process, but we did finish everything that we needed.

Rachel Santymire

May 24, 2010
Sorting Samples

Today was a fecal sample–processing day. We started organizing all of the samples that we would be bringing back with us to Lincoln Park Zoo for hormonal and parasite analyses. We have around 150 fecal samples from which Jordie has extracted hormones using our field-extraction method.

Overall, this is a huge undertaking! Jordie is leaving the project, so we are inventorying our equipment and supplies and purging more than 1,500 elephant and rhino samples that have already been analyzed.

May 24, 2010
Tracking the Rhinos

We got up early this morning because we were invited by South Africa National Parks to watch as they located black rhinos (via helicopter) to immobilize them for ear notching. Each rhino in Addo Elephant National Park is darted around 3–5 years of age and given a name and specific pattern of ear notches that can be used to identify individuals on photographs taken by camera traps. Rhinos can also be positively identified by other anatomical features, such as their horn and scars on their bodies.

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