Snail summit focuses on endangered species

New York’s most endangered animal, the Chittenango Ovate Amber Snail (COAS), now has a new life support strategy preventing extinction. The COAS, which numbers at approximately 400, lives in only one place in the world–and is at risk of being wiped out with one catastrophic event (e.g. a rock slide). It has lived for thousands of years on one rocky ledge in the spray zone of Chittenango Falls, just 100 miles east of Rochester.

COAS with bee tag, courtesy of NYSDEC

Chittenango Falls

During the last two years, Cody Gilbertson, a graduate student at SUNY Environmental Sciences & Forestry (ESF), has developed a highly successful laboratory housing and breeding program with 100% survival of offspring over two generations numbering in the hundreds!

Cody Gilbertson, ESF graduate student, demonstrating laboratory care of COAS

Cody Gilbertson, ESF graduate student, demonstrating laboratory care of COAS

Seneca Park Zoo veterinary technician Robin English LVT, examines snail eggs

Seneca Park Zoo veterinary technician Robin English LVT examines snail eggs

At a recent Snail Summit held at an ESF laboratory, participants from United States Fish & Wildlife Service, NYS Parks Department, NY Department of Environmental Conservation, Rosamund Gifford Zoo and Seneca Park Zoo gathered to discuss the next steps for saving the COAS from extinction. These steps may include development of two additional ex situ laboratory breeding programs, supplementation of the current population with lab reared snails and consideration of translocation to another habitat.

Seneca Park Zoo resources have been devoted over the past fifteen years to participating in field surveys and leading the veterinary support of both in situ and ex situ initiatives. These successes and plans demonstrate the impact of and power of partnerships using science to save species from extinction.

Dr. Jeff Wyatt DVM, MPH, DACLAM, Director of Animal Health and Conservation

Photos by Dr. Wyatt unless otherwise noted.