On this day of the horse, we celebrate what is considered to be the only truly wild horse left in the world - the przewalski’s horse. designated as a wild subspecies because its ancestors were never domesticated, the przewalski’s horse was driven to extinction in the wild during the mid-1900’s due to competition with man and livestock for resources, as well as hunting and habitat loss. however, a few survived in captivity and reintroduction efforts during the turn of the century have successfully grown and sustained wild populations at several sites in mongolia, and their population continues to increase, even though a new threat has surfaced for this species - a loss of genetic diversity. a species survival plan (ssp) has been put in place for the captive population of this wild horse so they can be selectively bred in order to increase genetic diversity. photo taken @gladysporterzoo
Sensitive to changes in the environment, northern leopard frogs in the rocky mountain region of north america have been experiencing population declines, prompting the creation of the northern leopard frog recovery team. this team, which is dedicated to ensuring the survival of this species, has been breeding the northern leopard frog for six years – an effort that has resulted in the release of more than 7,100 frogs. this past june, the vancouver aquarium (@vanaqua ) raised and released over 1,600 tadpoles back into the wild, which was the second largest number of tadpoles produced in a single year. in recent years members of the recovery team have been able to hear adult males calling at the release site; a good indicator that the frogs are surviving the winter months and reaching s****l maturity. photo taken @thetoledozoo
The fate of many species around the globe is woven tightly into human history and culture – striking a balance between both humans and nature is therefore an essential component of any conservation initiative. sia, the comanche nation ethno-ornithological initiative where this white-tailed hawk was photographed, is a perfect example of this balance. sia (the comanche word for feather) is on a mission to preserve raptors through promoting a cultural understanding of these birds in history, science, and spirit. home to 25 raptor species, feathers are collected from each bird when they molt. the collected feathers are then used by tribal people for their ceremonial needs. in exchange, sia gives back by caring for the birds and conducting research that will help save raptors around the world. click the link in my bio to learn more about this important work.
Attention all pollinator pals! have tropical milkweed (asclepias curassavica) in your backyard? help our monarch friends by cutting it back this winter. many native milkweed plants die back in late fall, but tropical milkweed will continue to grow throughout the winter unless it is killed by a hard freeze. even in the event of a freeze, the milkweed stems may die, but the plant will often regrow quickly from the roots. while milkweed year-round may seem like an advantage, it can actually prompt adult females to stay and lay eggs rather than migrate south. cutting back any tropical milkweed to the ground this winter will encourage female monarchs to continue along their migration route, protecting them from potentially deadly freezes. video taken at audubon zoo insectarium
Reaching lengths of almost 9 feet, the eastern indigo snake is the longest native snake in the united states. once abundant in the wild, this snake saw dramatic population declines as a result of over-collection for the pet trade. with the exception of florida and georgia, the last sightings of the eastern indigo snake in its other home states like alabama date back to the 1950s. thanks to the @indigo_center this species is getting a second chance to thrive in the wild through reintroduction efforts. several months ago the zoo and its partner organizations released 20 eastern indigo snakes back into the conecuh national forest. the program aims to release a total of 300 snakes and will monitor the health of these populations as they continue to grow. photo taken @theomahazoo
Recognized around the world because of its massive size and impressive tusks, the walrus is not easily mistaken. the arrival of europeans and commercial hunting in the 17th century caused steep declines in the walrus populations – a trend that continued throughout the 18th to mid-20th centuries. since the 1970s, the pacific walrus like the one pictured above @hkoceanpark, has been protected by numerous international and national conservation programs that have eliminated commercial hunting and limited trade, allowing the population to recover. however, the walrus faces a new threat - global warming. without the sea ice, which acts as a resting place and form of transportation between feeding sites, it is harder for walruses to get to new feeding grounds. swimming longer distances to find food and a place to rest means burning through hard-earned energy stores that the walrus needs to survive.
I’m excited to announce that i will be a speaker at the 2019 wallace stegner lectures on march 12th in mountain view, california. this series will feature writers, thinkers and activists who explore important issues related to land, nature, and conservation. the 2019 season “change & resilience” will focus on building resilience in an era of evolving societies and a changing climate. tickets are on sale now - follow the link in my bio to grab yours today! photo of a california clapper rail taken at chula vista nature center
As winter quickly approaches, we are reminded of the impact drastic decreases in temperature can have on wildlife, like the green sea turtle pictured above. having spent thousands of years on earth, sea turtles have adapted to survive in waters at or above 55 degrees farenheit, but quick drops in water temperature can cause what is known as a “cold-stunning” event where the sea turtle’s heart rate drops and decreased circulation makes swimming and finding food almost impossible. rescue and rehabilitation groups are on-call all winter long in case one of these events should take place, as it did last march in north carolina. luckily volunteers and staff from north carolina aquarium at pine knoll shores (@ncaquariumpks ) were ready, and after several months of rehabilitation work, six green sea turtles and one kemp’s ridley sea turtle were successfully released back into the wild earlier this year. photo taken at the xcaret resort in mexico.
Often referred to as h***y toads, texas horned lizards have experienced a dramatic
population decline in recent years due to a growing population of invasive fire ants that k**l lizard hatchlings and a loss of habitat driven by human development. conservation facilities have been hard at work on a breeding program to boost lizard numbers, which has proven difficult as this species does not respond well to captive environments. despite the challenges, @dallaszoo, @fortworthzoo, @sanantoniozoo and texas parks and wildlife persevered, and just a few months ago were able to release over 140 horned lizard hatchlings back into the wild, with the hope that reintroduction of the species could eventually lead to a self-sustaining population across the state. for a full-body view, check out @natgeowild
It’s international cheetah day! a vulnerable species throughout africa, one of the largest threats to this species is conflict with humans. cheetahs will go after easy prey, and more often than not, local farmers’ cows and goats are just that. an attack on livestock can be devastating to families who rely on their livestock for food and as a primary source of income, so reducing these conflicts is a vital piece of the puzzle. ruaha carnivore project is borrowing a practice from europe to help protect livestock from cheetah attacks - guard dogs! anatolian shepherd dogs originated in turkey, but have been adapted for use in southern africa. the dogs bond with livestock and become fiercely protective, standing their ground if they sense a nearby predator, and barking to warn the predator it has been seen as well as alerting any nearby herder of the danger. the use of guard dogs has worked successfully in other parts of africa, but had never been trialed in east africa - trials are now underway to test the effectiveness of this method. photo taken @columbus_zoo
Now listed as a threatened species in the united states, the dakota skipper was once found all over prairies in the upper midwest, acting as an important pollinator and vital food source for many species including songbirds. unfortunately, in recent years this butterfly has disappeared from more than 76% of its known prairie habitat. this led the @mnzoo to create a dakota skipper breeding program in 2013 and form partnerships with a number of organizations that could help them better understand the needs of this unique butterfly. an important first step happened this year, when the minnesota zoo was able to reintroduce dakota skippers back to a prairie from which they had disappeared. continued research, breeding, and reintroduction will help to secure a bright future for this important pollinator.
The @nationalmarinelifecenter in massachusetts was established in the 1990’s as a facility that could rescue, care for, and rehabilitate marine wildlife that has been abandoned, stranded, or injured along the upper east coast. on average, the center will see up to 56 seals, 98 dolphins, and 144 sea turtles in need of urgent medical care. their ultimate goal? to nurse each individual back to health so they can eventually be released back into the wild. guests to @buttonwoodparkzoo where this harbor seal resides, help to support the wildlife saving efforts of the national marine life center by participating in the zoo’s coins for conservation initiative.