Throughout the next three weeks, our blog will feature updates about a major conservation effort that is happening right now with which the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is actively involved.
This is the fifth year for the SECORE annual coral spawning field workshop in Curacao. SECORE is a consortium of aquarium professionals and scientists. These experts work together to study coral and partake in conservation efforts. During this trip, the SECORE experts will try to breed new Elkhorn coral, which is an endangered species, and release it into the Caribbean waters.
To breed the coral, SECORE experts will collect gametes, which are (to oversimplify) tiny bundles of male and female reproductive cells that are released from the coral at very specific times of the year based on the cycle of the moon. The release of these reproductive cells is known as coral spawning. Because the coral spawning is synchronized with the cycle of the moon, many corals will spawn at the same time. When their gametes mix, the female and male reproductive cells will mix with the female and male reproductive cells of other corals and create new corals.
Due to many natural and human-imposed environmental factors, coral has been vanishing and not spawning as successfully as it previously has. SECORE experts will collect gametes from spawning coral, mix gametes from different corals in the lab, grow new corals on tiles, and release these tiles into the waters around Curacao to help the endangered coral thrive.
Bob Snowden, an aquarist from the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, is in Curacao working on this spawning workshop. He is exceptionally knowledgable about coral and also is active in planning SECORE events and working on SECORE initiatives. Paul Selvaggio, the Creative Director for the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium and also an experienced and talented photographer, is also in Curacao taking pictures and video of the SECORE efforts to document the work. SECORE’s efforts would not be possible without the help and expertise of many experts like Bob and Paul, and the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is thrilled to be able to partake in such an important initiative.
Curacao is the largest of the Netherlands Antilles islands and lies off the coast of Venezuela in the Caribbean Sea. The group will be working on this spawning workshop for the next three weeks in the waters around Curacao. Bob and Paul will be sending updates and information as often as possible and our blog will be updated with interesting information and stunning visual elements at least twice per week throughout the next three weeks.
Hear ye! Hear ye! The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium’s Royal Pets slideshow is here!
Do you have a royally wonderful pet? Send your snapshots to firstname.lastname@example.org and have your princess tabby or regal beagle included in our Royal Pets slideshow! Costumed pet queens and kings, or everyday images of your furry friends are welcome.
Then, be sure to attend our Royal Party on August 5th at the Zoo to enjoy costumes, crafts, music, and more (sorry, human royalty only at the party, no pets allowed in the Zoo). Find out more about the party here: http://pghzoo.me/MU2XLK
While they look much like our beloved household pets, African painted dogs are also very different—and not just because of the painted dogs’ big mouse-like ears. These medium-sized pack animals are native to Africa, but cover much less of the continent today then they have in the past. Not long ago, more than half a million painted dogs lived in packs of 100 or more all across sub-Saharan Africa, but now their populations have dropped to less than 5,000, most of them living in Eastern and Southern Africa. Those dogs that still roam the savannas and grasslands today are threatened most by habitat loss—these open areas are no longer so open, and the dogs are often killed by vehicles.
We at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium are responding by working to conserve these now-endangered animals. We have a research-based partnership with a Painted Dog Bush Camp in Zimbabwe, Africa, but we also have partnerships here in Pittsburgh that help educate the public and raise money for more research.
Through the African Painted Dog Project, Greg Rasmussen and his team at the Painted Dog Bush Camp in Zimbabwe are providing the Zoo with the latest knowledge, gained through extensive research in the field. They use collars to track populations and they screen each of the dogs to prevent the spread of diseases. One of the biggest threats to the painted dogs, however, is other people—the team uses cutting-edge technologies and the best practices to minimize poaching, reduce accidents between vehicles and the dogs, and to keep farmers and ranchers from killing the dogs in defense of their own livestock.
To keep up our end of the partnership, we use our Painted Dog Bush Camp here on Zoo grounds as an education-hub to help get the word out about painted dog conservation. We also provide expertise on caring for dogs outside of Africa through our own keepers and graduate students. These experts help with our breeding efforts here at the Zoo. We have had several litters of puppies in the past few years, but possibly the most trying of these litters was in 2009 when the pups’ mother died just after their birth. Keepers stepped in and found a domestic dog from a shelter to act as a surrogate to nurse the pups—the first surrogacy of its kind.
One of our Pittsburgh partnerships is with Project Destiny, a nonprofit dedicated to educating and inspiring at-risk youth. The Project Destiny kids have adopted our African painted dogs as the symbol of their program. We have taught them about the dogs, and they are helping to educate the general public about conserving African painted dogs both here at the Zoo and in the wild.
Come to the African Savanna at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium to visit the dogs up-close at the viewing window or to learn more about conserving these unique animals.
Coral is a fascinating organism that lives in tropical waters around the world. The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium has a partnership with the SECORE Foundation, an organization that focuses on coral conservation initiatives. Currently, the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium’s Marine Invertebrate Aquarist, Bob Snowden, has traveled to the beautiful Caribbean island of Curacao, Netherlands-Antilles to do some very important work for the coral conservation efforts.
The main focus of the trip is for Snowden to share his expertise and train a new PhD student from the University of Amsterdam. The student will be working for the SECORE Foundation to manage and care for SECORE’s coral nursery at the Curacao Sea Aquarium.
During the first two days of the trip, Snowden and SECORE officials were able to see the rarely documented day-spawning of the Grooved Brain Coral, Diploria labyrinthiformis. They were able to collect some of the reproductive cells from the coral, known as gametes, which were released in the spawning process. The gametes were then fertilized in the SECORE lab. The team has been tracking the embryonic development of the gametes. This is valuable information, as the development of this species in the embryonic stages is poorly understood.
Check back for more updates in the coming days about the trip and the coral conservation efforts in Curacao.
Like sea otters, sea turtles are animals who always seem cheerful and carefree, so you might not know what kind of danger they face. All seven species of sea turtles are listed in the Endangered Species Act, six of them being categorized as “endangered” and one as “threatened.” Though you may see many small sea turtles together, only around one in a thousand actually survives to reproduce.
At the Zoo, we are dedicated to protecting sea turtles—our primary goal being to re-establish wild populations and to maintain them long term. To achieve this, we developed several programs that focus on giving compromised sea turtles a second chance. Some of these sea turtles are being affected by everyday habitat destruction and pollution; others are victims of large environmental disasters. In both cases, we rescue, rehabilitate, and return the sea turtles to their natural habitat if possible. [click to continue…]
Caring for animals big and small is a top priority at the Zoo, and to help handle the diversity of patients, the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is opening a new Animal Care Center.
“We we are here today because of the wonderful and continuing support of our donors and sponsors,” says Dr. Baker. “Without them, this project would never have come to fruition.”
The Colcom Foundation, The Eden Hall Foundation, the Richard King Mellon Foundation, UPMC, and The Vet Tech Institute were key contributors to the new Animal Care Center. Financial assistance on this project also was provided by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Thomas W. Corbett, Governor.
“Our original animal hospital was 1,400 square feet and was built in the 1990s when we only had a couple hundred animals to care for,” says Dr. Barbara Baker, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. “Now we care for nearly 4,000 animals, from fish to elephants.” [click to continue…]
It’s easy to be mesmerized by our elephants, especially when the little ones are playing out in the yard or the big ones are getting a bath. It’s an unforgettable experience seeing elephants up-close, their size alone being breathtaking. But in the next 40 years there will be fewer and fewer chances to get up-close with elephants in North America and around the world. The Zoo population in the U.S. is aging and losing genetic diversity, while elephants in Africa are disappearing because of illegal hunting and habitat destruction. In order to conserve these massive, unique animals, the Zoo collaborates with other organizations around the world to conduct research and ensure that the population remains stable or even grows. We also have developed our own innovative breeding program that has led to multiple elephant births in the last 13 years. [click to continue…]
Price: Members: $20
Children under 2: Free
Facebook Fan Night is back! This special behind-the-scenes event was so popular last year that we’re doing it again.
After closing for the day on Thursday, May 24, we’ll re-open our gates for Facebook Fan Night, which will let our social media followers have the Zoo to themselves for a few hours.
The evening includes behind-the-scenes visits with ourtigers and giraffes, and in the PPG Aquarium where you will get auniqueopportunity to see sting rays, sharks, and other ocean creatures up close and personal from the top of the large ocean tank. Then enjoy a special encounter with one of our miniature Mediterranean donkeys.
Don’t forget to bring your camera so you can catch a lasting memory with our shark or polar bear mascot!
All ticket sales are final. Refunds/exchanges will not be granted. Your tickets are valid only for the date on which you are registered.
*Animal encounters subject to change. Strollers permitted in the Zoo, but not behind the scenes.
Will I get to pet the giraffe?
Maybe. For Facebook Fan Night, our giraffes, Mel and Sox, come up to an area where they can walk around, munch on leaves, and bend down to be petted by visitors if they choose. In general, Mel really loves attention from people, but we can’t guarantee that he’ll let you pet him.
They’re the stars of our favorite Coca-Cola commercials, and the unofficial spokes-animals for the fight against global warming. Polar bears, the largest land carnivores, are not the only species whose habitat is threatened by the changing climate, but they are one of the species in the most imminent danger of extinction. Because of this, we at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium are dedicated to protecting polar bears at the Zoo and in their natural habitat.
Sea otters are adorable, cheerful creatures, but did you know they also help combat global climate change? Their contribution in the ocean habitat actively sucks carbon dioxide from the water and the atmosphere. The otter’s favorite dinner is sea urchins, and by eating them they keep vast forests of kelp healthy. The kelp then removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Without sea otters to control sea urchin population, the kelp would be greatly reduced or even wiped out altogether, seriously disrupting the ocean ecosystem and destroying an important means of natural carbon dioxide reduction.
If Northern sea otter populations were restored to pre-hunting levels, they could sequester around 10 million tons of carbon in the ocean ecosystem. One scientist calculates that the otters can sequester .40 pounds of carbon for every square meter of habitat they occupy. When multiplied by every sea otter in existence, that’s quite an impact.
Sea Otters were hunted for their pelts and nearly went extinct between 1700 and 1900, but by the mid 1970s their populations had grown to around 125,000 animals due to conservation efforts. Since then, their populations have again decreased and perhaps 70,000 of them live in the Pacific waters of North America. Increasing their populations through conservation would help reduce carbon in the atmosphere, making them as Discovery says, “the cutest way to fight global warming.”
Here at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, we are dedicated to protecting these valuable (and adorable) creatures. In fact, in cooperation with the Alaska Sea Life Center (ASLC), we are providing a safe home for an orphaned sea otter pup who was found stranded along the Alaska coastline. You can visit the pup in a special nursery in the lower level of Water’s Edge beginning Friday, April 27.