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A team of nine herpetologists (specialists in amphibian, turtle and snake biology) from Toronto, Milwaukee and Buffalo zoos and SUNY Environmental School of Forestry (ESF) recently surveyed with Seneca Park Zoo staff a unique wetland in Greater Rochester.

The biologists hiked and waded through the boggy habitat in search of New York State’s endangered, protected reptiles and amphibians. The location of this special place is kept confidential to protect the animals from illegal harvest by poachers selling to high bidders in the black market pet trade.

Yes – endangered and protected animals are at risk of poaching in upstate New York just like the biodiversity hot spots in Africa, Asia and South America. The team of herpetologists identified many reptiles and amphibians, several of which may be seen in photographs taken by the Zoo’s Assistant Curator John Adamski and myself. This unique habitat and wildlife are saved and protected only due to the efforts of the private landowner and neighbors.

We all thank these habitat guardians for their vision saving New York’s wildlife in wild places for future generations.

- Dr. Jeff Wyatt, Director of Animal Health and Conservation

Sometimes it’s as easy as placing some of them on a scale and getting a reading. Others, like our Amur tigers, may need a little convincing.

The staff works hard and can be very patient and inventive. Using barrels or other large objects to create a walkway, a large board is placed in the exhibit and covered with cardboard or leaves. Sensors connected to a scale are placed under the board, and using our tigers’ favorite treats (chicken, herring or capelin are preferred) the animals are walked onto the board and stationed there long enough to get an accurate weight.

Of course this seldom happens overnight, so establishing trust and keeping it positive is the key to it all. Knowing our animals’ weights is a very important aspect of our husbandry program and making it a positive experience for them is paramount.

- Ryan Statt, zoo keeper

Photos by Dawn Dittman

Photos by Dawn Dittman

SturgeonJuly’s Genesee River netting survey of 3,000 lake sturgeon (reintroduced as nursery reared, four-inch fry in 2003. 2004 and 2013 by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Tunison Lab biologist Dr. Dawn Dittman assisted by Zoo staff) continues to tell a tremendous success story!

The sturgeon, a fish with a long history in the Genesee River, all but disappeared due to overfishing, pollution and habitat loss 100 years ago. Seneca Park Zoo 2014 Aab Pre-Vet fellow Ashlee Melhado and a USGS team spent a beautiful day on the Genesee studying the one to eleven year old fish .

After taking measurements (plus photos of course!) and placing a yellow fin tag with a USGS phone number and unique code, the fish were returned back to the Genesee where it flows adjacent to the Zoo. All sturgeon bioindicators show that the Genesee River is a healthy nursery for sturgeon to thrive. As teenagers, these contemporaries of the dinosaurs leave the Genesee for the next 85 to 150 years to live in Lake Ontario, only returning to the lower Genesee to spawn every 3 to 5 years.

Our science programs saving this species will certainly span several careers of budding zoo and aquatic biologists!

- Dr. Jeff Wyatt. Director of Animal Health & Conservation

Sloth

Photo by Tina Fess

We recently had to remove one of the male agoutis from the South American Exhibit. We first placed a crate in the exhibit for the animals to get accustomed to it. Everything was going fine with the desensitization process until the keeper came in and found a sloth in the crate instead of the agouti! Janis, our female sloth, decided that she was more comfortable in the crate than in the trees. We let her hang out there for almost a week and then moved the crate to the corner for the agouti to try going in it.

The agouti went in right away and the next day we crated him to move him to the hospital for a pre-shipment exam. He calmly rode shotgun in the golf cart on the way to the hospital (in the crate). He was sent to the Erie Zoo in Eria, PA to be a friend to their female. We have a new female agouti named Pepper who will be introduced once her quarantine period is over.

Photo by Tina Fess

Photo by Tina Fess

We also added our red-footed tortoise, Koopa, from our Education Collection to the exhibit a few weeks ago. He has benefited from having so much space to explore. The resident iguana, Hugo, was a little curious when we first introduced Koopa to the exhibit. He was used to being the only reptile in the exhibit for a few years and wasn’t sure what was going on. He likes the idea of Koopa’s food plate being on the ground and available though!

Because of the size of the exhibit and the variety of animals housed there, we are always watchful when adding or removing animals. The social dynamics change each time as the resident animals get used to the new changes. We observe the interactions closely to make sure everyone is safe and eating properly. Stop by and say hi to the animals in our South American Exhibit next time you are in the Main Building!

- Tina Fess, zoologist

Ashlee Melhado (the Zoo’s 2014 Aab Pre-Vet Fellow) joined United States Geological Survey (USGS) biologists at USGS Tunison Aquatic Laboratory in Cortland, NY marking 20,000 lake herring fry (1 to 2 inches long) for future identification and tracking after release this fall.

The lake herring, a once abundant community native fish, had all but disappeared in Lake Ontario due to invasive species such as alewife and rainbow smelt. With invasive fish populations back in check, it’s time to repopulate our waterways with native species.

The marking system involved bathing the fish for four minutes in a harmless bone-binding drug which promotes a glow-in-the-dark appearance to the fish skeleton only when viewed under a special ultraviolet light. The 9,000 lake herring released in Irondequoit Bay in November 2013 will be joined by a similar number of labeled fish to be released this fall. Today’s new marking technology will help us monitor sustainable populations of reintroduced fish for years to come.

Welcome back home – our lake herring native!

- Dr. Jeff Wyatt, Director of Animal Health & Conservation

Many people ask, who or what is in that enclosure next to the king vultures? The answer to that question is, Palmer the kinkajou!

Kinkajous are a nocturnal mammal from Central and South America. They are often called “honey bears” and are related to raccoons and coatis. They are an omnivore, but most of their diet is made up of ripe, juicy fruits. Our kinkajou prefers grapes and bananas!

Palmer has been a member of the Zoo family since October of 2003. Before retiring to an exhibit in the Main Building, he was a member of the Zoo’s Education Collection. He spends most of his days now curled up underneath a nice cozy blanket; however he does interact daily with the keeper staff. We are currently working on getting him to step on a scale for monthly weigh-ins. Next time you visit, look up in the left hand corner of the exhibit and you just might get a glimpse of him!

- Kellee Wolowitz, zoologist

The key to keeping elephants healthy and treating them when they are sick relies on the ability to monitor, test and administer health care and treatment. Proactive training makes monitoring the elephants’ health possible and makes testing and treatment in times of compromised health less stressful for the elephants, for the elephant staff and for the veterinary staff.

The elephant keepers have trained Genny C. and Lilac to accept many veterinary procedures. They are rewarded for willingly participating with their favorite treats, as well as lots of verbal praise. Here are a few examples:

- Sue Rea, zoologist

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