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.

Researching our orangutans & their amazing abilities

Bornean orangutan Bella and her parents Kumang and Denda have just been enrolled in an enriching research program where their decision-making and mathematical skills will be scientifically assessed on exhibit for Zoo guests to observe.

Bella, photo by Mike Wemett.
Bella, photo by Mike Wemett.

The University of Rochester Cognitive Sciences research lab of Dr Jessica Cantlon will be expanding its ongoing research with our olive baboon troop to include 36-year-old Kumang, 12-year-old Denda and 2-year-old Bella. Earlier this week, Denda demonstrated impressive finger and tongue dexterity skills in his first trial, starting with games and treats. The tasks will become more engaging and technical over time, advancing to double sided touch screens where Zoo guests will be able to watch the orangutans demonstrate cognitive skills.

Denda and Sara, one of Dr. Cantlon's research assistants. Photo by Dr. Jeff Wyatt
Denda and Sara, one of Dr. Cantlon’s research assistants. Photo by Dr. Jeff Wyatt.

“Bella is curious and playful,” says zoo keeper Mike Wemett. “As a zoo keeper, I have the privilege of watching her grow up and learn from her mother, and this research will track some of that development.”

Bella, photo by Mike Wemett.

Engaging science to better understand orangutan intelligence will help us advance novel approaches to designing new programs and exhibits that are stimulating and enriching.

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

Poopology: The study of…

Photo by Garrett Caulkins
Photo by Garrett Caulkins

…poop. OK, so it isn’t really a word, but the study of animal droppings is a big part of the Seneca Park Zoo’s animal preventative health program.

Droppings from all the Zoo’s animals are examined annually to help assess the health of the collection. They can reveal a number of things about the animal and requires very little effort on the part of the animal and the staff. When testing animal droppings, there are three main components that are evaluated.

The first is general appearance. Does it look normal? Inconsistencies in appearance can mean a more underlying problem that may require additional tests.

Second: Is there anything there that shouldn’t be there? Foreign objects can sometimes find their way into the digestive tract of animals. Most pass through and are easily identified in droppings. If we know something had been ingested, we can check to make sure it passes through. If not, we can take other measures to help move things along.

Third is a microscopic exam looking for internal parasites. This is the part where we look for worms and other invaders. Parasites can cause additional trouble for our animals and any positive results are evaluated by the veterinarian for the proper course of treatment.

– Robin English, Veterinary Technician