Conservation Field Diaries

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March 25, 2014
Family Planning for Puerto Rican Parrots

To help the endangered Puerto Rican parrot, I recently took my everyday scientific advising of animal populations from my Chicago office to the dense, green rainforests of Puerto Rico. My colleagues at Lincoln Park Zoo and I have been working with the dedicated staff at two aviaries in on the island since 2006, making a perfect match of our population management expertise and their husbandry skills.

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May 20, 2010
A Day in the Field

In her last post, Lisa touched on what it’s like to survey for rattlesnakes, but I thought I’d give you a better idea of what we do for 5–7 hours a day in southwest Michigan. Part of the fun involves occasional brushes with poison sumac, crawling ticks and the randomly changing wetland terrain, which can be solid ground one step and mud up to your waist the next. The real challenge, however, is reviewing your knowledge about preferred massasauga habitat and then trying to narrow your search of hundreds of acres of wetlands to where you think the snakes will be.

May 18, 2010
Searching for Snakes in Southwest Michigan

Each spring the eastern massasauga rattlesnake emerges from crayfish burrows and other winter hibernation holes ready for some sun and a good meal to kick-start its growth and reproduction for the year. This emergence coincides with a new spring tradition for the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake Species Survival Plan® (SSP), which manages the snake’s population in zoos across the country.

December 22, 2009
South Africa Wildlife Slideshow

While Endocrinologist Rachel Santymire, Ph.D., director of the Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology, traveled to South Africa to aid black rhino conservation, she was also able to take in the wildlife of Addo Elephant National Park. Relive her experience with this slideshow of Addo wildlife!


Click the photo to view the slideshow.
December 10, 2009
South Africa Slideshow: Black Rhino Conservation

Endocrinologist Rachel Santymire, Ph.D., director of the Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology, takes us along as she collaborates to conserve black rhinos in South Africa. View the slideshow!

September 30, 2009
Tanzania Travel Slideshow

Endocrinologist Rachel Santymire, Ph.D., director of the Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology, takes us along as she and Vice President of Conservation & Science Dominic Travis, D.V.M., visit Lincoln Park Zoo conservation sites in Tanzania.

Click the image to start the slideshow!

July 24, 2009
A Quick Bay World Consultation

We headed back towards Port Elizabeth to Bay World. Michelle Du Toit, a researcher working at Bay World, asked us to assist her with cryopreserving dolphin semen. They are shipping their dolphin pair to Hong Kong while the pool is renovated and want to cryobank the male’s semen prior to the move.

The male has been trained to willingly give a sample, but unfortunately, today’s sample is not viable. We do make some suggestions to help improve their methods.

Besides this project, Michelle studies the health of the reef in the bay and in African penguins.

July 23, 2009
Black Rhino Background

Because it’s raining today, we are forced to have an office day. We’re working on our Progress Report for SANparks and also meeting with SANparks Region Manager, Lucius Moolman, to discuss our project’s progress.

I thought I’d also take advantage of the delay to provide some background on the black rhino conservation project:

Black rhinos are elusive creatures that serve as a reminder of prehistoric times, and in recent years, an iconic species for conservation efforts. Habitat destruction and poaching nearly drove black rhinos toward extinction in the 1990s.

July 20, 2009
Camera Traps and an Elephant Pregnancy Test

We have set up three camera traps to noninvasively monitor black rhino movements throughout the park, using them to collect fecal samples from known individuals. The camera traps were erected in areas based on rhino sightings by Addo Elephant National Park staff and tourists. We placed them at active scrapings, areas where black rhinos defecate and then scrape the feces with their hind legs to spread odors advertising their presence.

July 16, 2009
A Trip to Knysa

Today we headed to Knysa, a town about four hours west of Addo Elephant National Park, to meet with Angela Gaylard, region ecologist for SANparks. The meeting went well. We discussed the black rhino project and the issues and the preliminary results that we have had so far. Jordana and Elizabeth also discussed the preliminary results of their elephant project, which is investigating the effect of dominance rank on reproductive cyclicity.

Angela offered for us to stay at her house for the weekend. As Knysa is having its Oyster festival, we gladly accept.

Rachel Santymire

July 15, 2009
Setting the Camera Traps

We got up early and went to check some of the “camera traps” that Jordana had set up. The camera traps are stationed at black rhino “latrines.” What is nice about black rhinos is that they defecate at certain locations, latrines, as a way to mark their territory. After they defecate, they scrape their hind legs, knocking around the feces and spreading the odor...making their presence known.

We are using camera traps to study the movements of the black rhinos and to collect feces from known individuals. So, we set up a camera trap on a rhino latrine and check it the following morning.

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