Each year, the Seneca Park Zoo Society makes grants to conservation organizations around the globe that are working to save wildlife in wild places. In 2015, grants totaling more than $70,000 were distributed to organizations working on behalf of orangutans, lemurs, polar bears, African penguins, snow leopards, elephants, and more.
Zoo staff are actively involved regionally and internationally in efforts to reverse extinction, from lake sturgeon and Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnakes to Bornean orangutans and African penguins.
Part of our mission is to ensure our guests and our community members have access to the latest information about conservation efforts and species survival. Visiting the Zoo, following us on Facebook and Twitter, and signing up for eNooz will help keep you informed and empowered.
In 2009, the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake Species Survival Plan (SSP) began surveying the wetlands of Michigan looking for rattlesnakes. The survey takes place every year in May at the SSPs annual meeting at the Edward Lowe Foundation. People from all across the country converge to help with the efforts. The hope is to learn more about the natural history of these snakes in their natural ranges, their population size and other key physiological data. Each rattlesnake found is weighed, measured and a blood sample is collected. A microchip is placed under the skin as a unique identifier for subsequent surveys. The markings, or saddle patterns, are also noted as each pattern is unique. Once all the data has been collected, the snake is returned to where it was found.
Eastern Massasauga rattlesnakes are not unique to Michigan. Seneca Park Zoo is conducting similar surveys to learn about the population of these rattlesnakes is Upstate New York.
In 2008, the Seneca Park Zoo chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) joined the New York State Adopt-A-Highway program. We adopted a patch of highway on the westbound side of Route 104, just before the Bay Bridge. Nearly 67,000 cars cross this bridge daily.
In addition to cleaning up the litter, we are also maintaining a Grow Native flower garden. Native plants such as daisies, spring plox, spring lupines, black-eyed susans and coreopsis have adapted so well that they require much less care such as watering and fertilizing than their exotic, ornamental counterparts.
However, survival of our native plants is threatened by exotic invasive plants such as purple loosestrife, swallow wort and Japanese knotweed. Invasive plants lack enemies, thus overgrowing and out-competing our native plants, which alters habitat and endangers wildlife. The invasive purple loosestrife chokes out and shades our wetlands making it impossible for the warm summer sun to reach incubating spotted and bog turtle eggs. Yes, invasive plants are killing our turtles.
Black bear populations are expanding throughout western New York. This expansion has led to more interaction between humans and bears. In an effort to learn as much as possible about western New York’s expanding black bear population, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) began tracking bear movements through the use of standard radio-telemetry collars. Collaring female bears (sows) allows DEC officials to locate winter dens and obtain information on the adults and newborn cubs.
The number of cubs per sow, sexes, weights and body measurements all help in determining reproductive potential of the black bear population. This information is used to choose the best management strategy for black bears. In March 2010, Zoo staff accompanied the DEC on several Southern Tier den visits, both to lend expertise on the care of immobilized animals and to train DEC staff in the proper technique of ID chip implantation. ID chips are being used as a method of marking cubs too small for conventional radio collars or ear tags.
In 2013, the veterinary staff at the Zoo began collecting blood samples from the sows during these den visits. It is the goal to compare the values of bears in their natural ranges to those bears in captivity as another indicator of the health status of the wild populations. The introduction of new equipment used to monitor the sows while under anesthesia has also helped to keep the bears and those around her safe.
Find more information about New York’s black bear program here.
Over the past several years, Seneca Park Zoo has partnered with SUNY School of Environmental Science & Forestry, Syracuse’s Rosamond Gifford Zoo, the Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help assess the population status of the Chittenango ovate amber snail.
Found only along the spray zones of Chittenango Falls, these snails are New York State’s most endangered animal. Habitat degradation and competition from an invasive European snail have caused drastic declines in the population numbers over time.
Zoo staff make several trips over the summer to help officials with snail surveys. To estimate the population of snails found at the falls, each snail is counted and then tagged with a bee tag for future identification. Scientists can use the information collected to determine the population status from year to year.
In addition to the surveys, staff from all organizations are studying the environment to help manage the habitat these snails need to survive. The snails are herbivorous so managing the vegetation around their habitat becomes critical. Water testing is also ongoing to ensure that the river is free of harmful chemicals for the snails and other inhabitants.
Recent research and surveys have indicated that the population of Chittenango ovate amber snails is stable. Captive propagation is currently being evaluated to try and establish a secondary population to help prevent against extinction if the conditions at the falls begin to fail. Find more information about these snails here.