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Science Saving Species at Seneca Park Zoo

By Robin English, Seneca Park Zoo Senior Veterinary Technician

The Seneca Park Zoo is committed to playing a part in the conservation of species. By utilizing the scientific advances available to the zoo community, we can contribute more and more every day. Whether we are collecting samples, testing equipment, or aiding in the understanding of new techniques, the participation of the staff and the animals has helped to create a global network of collaborators for the betterment of zoo animals and their counterparts in nature.

What can be learned from collecting samples? Anything! The animal health team collects blood samples from our animals during every checkup. We also have several animals that will allow us to collect samples voluntarily. The data used from these samples can be compared across all zoos and can also be used as baseline data for samples collected from wild populations. It’s not just about the blood samples either. Over the last few decades, research on utilizing feces for analysis has grown. We can now learn hormonal changes to predict pregnancy, DNA sequencing to identify species, and more!

 

Masai giraffe Kipenzi participating in a blood draw

How do researchers know their equipment will work in nature? They bring it to the zoo for trials! Our African elephants have tested radio telemetry devices to see how they will stand up to the challenge. The designers can then make adjustments before deploying valuable equipment into the field.

Image: savetheelephants.org

Can zoo animals help to learn more about in situ populations? You bet they can! Our polar bear, Anoki, participated in a bite study where the amount of bites she took from a food item was compared to that of polar bears in nature. She has also been photographed so researchers can compare body condition markers of a healthy bear with those in nature.

Want to learn more about how Science is Saving Species? Stop by the zoo this weekend and chat with our veterinary technicians to find out more!

Media Coordinator

Domestic Rabbit

Domestic Rabbit

(Oryctolagus cuniculus)

The Zoo is home to one domestic rabbit as part of our Ambassador Animal collection. 

Animal Facts

Diet

Herbivore. Grasses, leaves, flowers, bark, roots, grains, vegetables, cecotropes, pellets, timothy hay, greens and veggies.

Status in The Wild

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List status

Domestic rabbit natural habitats include grassland, shrubland, savanna, forest. Their range extends the Iberian Peninsula (including Spain, Portugal, and southwestern France), western France, and the northern Atlas Mountains in Northwest Africa.

Introduced countries: Albania, Algeria, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States.

They prefer mixed habitats of Mediterranean oak savanna or scrub-forest, or areas with around 40% cover for shelter from predators and open areas that support their diet of grasses and cereals. They are also often found in areas with high density of managed farmland. Soft soil is preferred for building warrens and in rockier habitats they will often use scrubs as their shelter.

Degu

Degu

The Zoo is home to three degus in our Ambassador Animal collection. As such they are not kept in public view, but available for various programs, classes, ZooMobiles, birthday parties etc. 

Animal Facts

Diet

Herbivorous. Grasses, leaves, and bark of shrubs and seeds in nature. Rodent chow, greens, vegetables, hay and seeds in conservation care.

Status in The Wild

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List status

There are no imminent threats to the survival of common degus. However, they are sometimes taken from their natural range for the pet trade.

Camp Counselor

Spend Spring Break / Cats & Conservation Week at the Zoo – Summer Programming Preview!

Ball Python

Ball Python

(Python regius)

The Zoo’s male ball python was born in 2009 and came to Seneca Park Zoo in 2013. He is a part of the Zoo’s program animal collection.

Animal Facts

Diet

Ball pythons feed primarily on rodents, but will also eat other small mammals and birds. Ball pythons only eat once every few weeks; they can go up to several months with no food.

Status in The Wild

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List status

The ball python lives in western and central Africa. They can be found in open forests and dry savannas.

Usually they reside in areas near open water where they can cool themselves during hot weather.

Ball pythons are considered threatened in the wild. They are a highly-exploited species and are very important to the pet trade because of their beautiful skin. The ball python mates only every two to three years, so more effort is needed to protect and propagate this species.

Buffalo Weaver

Buffalo Weaver

(Dinemellia dinemelli)

Seneca Park Zoo is home to two white-headed buffalo weavers. They reside in the aviary, which can be found inside the Animals of the Savanna building.

Animal Facts

Diet

Buffalo weavers are omnivorous, foraging for fruits, seeds and invertebrates such as beetles and butterflies.

Status in The Wild

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List status

The range of buffalo weavers extends throughout eastern Africa, from Tanzania to Somalia.

They prefer savanna and shrubland habitat, using grass and thorny branches to weave elaborate nests in trees. Potential threats for this species are habitat loss and fragmentation.

Burmese Python

Burmese Python

(Python bivittatus)

Seneca Park Zoo is home to two Burmese pythons, both males. Garrett and Caulkins, resides inside the Zoo’s Creatures from the River’s Edge building. They were hatched in 2016 right here at Seneca Park Zoo. Their parents were longtime zoo residents Abby and Mr. Slithers.

Animal Facts

Diet

The Burmese python eats appropriately sized mammals, birds and rodents.

Status in The Wild

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List status

The jungles and scrublands of Burma, Malasia and Thailand compose the Burmese python’s habitat.

It has been slaughtered to supply the world leather market, as well as for folk medicines and captured for the pet trade. In recent years, extensive captive breeding has lessened the animals threat but unauthorized release of pet Burmese pythons in the Everglades has introduced an invasive species into a fragile environment.