While the Tanzanian plains might look vastly different than the forests of the Republic of Congo or the great Chicago skyline, Lincoln Park Zoo’s conservation sites may have more in common than one might think. Each benefits from the zoo’s tried-and-true approaches, refined using decades of noninvasively collected data across the sites, to helping mitigate human wildlife conflict and save species.
From tools and methodology to involving the local communities, these factors are crucial to the zoo’s conservation efforts across the Serengeti in Tanzania, the Goualougo Triangle in the Republic of Congo, and cities around the world, such as Chicago, as part of the Urban Wildlife Information Network.
You’re on Camera!
Motion-activated field cameras, set up along pre-determined trails (transects), are a key component to understanding the biodiversity of an ecosystem. These cameras, which snap images when wildlife are near, have shed light on species range (did you know there are flying squirrels in Chicago?), never-before-seen behaviors (chimpanzees sharing tools with their kin), and nocturnal hunting behaviors.
Follicle and Fecal Fortune Tellers
Animals can’t tell scientists if they’re stressed, so zoo researchers use novel ways to gather this information through non-invasively collected hair and fecal samples. These biomaterials provide invaluable insights into how gorillas, lions, rats, and raccoons experience the world and what factors affect their stress levels, which ultimately help inform conservation approaches.
Humans cause the decline of many wild animal populations, but they’re also the solution to conserving these same species. In order to succeed, each field site relies on dedicated project leaders and passionate community members, as well as the education of the next generation of environmental stewards. Citizen science projects and conservation clubs are just a couple ways communities can get involved. At several field sites, local community members even work as scientists and collaborators, sharing their critical knowledge of the local ecosystems.
This article was first published in the spring/summer 2020 issue of Lincoln Park Zoo’s magazine. Read the full issue.
Illustrations by Ashley Bedore