Sit. Stay. Save a cheetah.
"We took [Fin] to a location where wild cheetahs were known to frequent and on his first day he found five scat samples – four of which we would not have found without him."
Lead Keeper Chris Bartos spends her free time training dogs, but one of her pooches isn’t just winning agility competitions—he’s part of a global mission to save cheetahs in the wild. Bartos’ rescued border collie, Finn, was part of the Cheetah Conservation Fund's (CCF) cheetah census team, trained to sniff out cheetah scat (poop) in order to track the cats’ movements. Bartos traveled with Finn to Namibia, where Bartos helped CCF staff learn how to work with the dog to search for and indicate scat.
Scat location is recorded with a GPS device and then analyzed by geneticists to identify individual cats through DNA, examine diets, and track cheetahs’ range. Based on the results, CCF uses data regarding population size (which is steadily decreasing) and distribution to aid in conservation strategies.
Finn is now a full-time partner at CCF in the fight to save the wild cheetah, and Bartos hopes to return to Africa to continue her important work.
The Great Orangutan Project
A note from senior zookeeper Michelle O’Brien:
"I’m participating in the Great Orangutan Project at Matang Wildlife Centre in Malaysian Borneo, for two weeks. Orangutan populations are threatened because of habitat loss, mainly due to palm oil plantations, which mass produce palm oil used in numerous food items in the U.S. and around the world.
I’m working with rescued and orphaned orangutans, helping with enrichment projects for animals at the center. The goal of animal enrichment is to mentally stimulate animals, and this is done through the use of feeder toys, furniture, novel foods, and even scents and tactile items. The center also houses gibbons, sun bears, binturongs, civets, and many bird species.
The center has far fewer resources than U.S. zoos do, and often relies on volunteers to assist them in their work. I’ll be able to use my experience and skills from Zoo New England to help the center improve the care of their collection, and to help achieve our mission towards conservation."
You can follow Michelle’s progress on her Facebook page.
Giving our Best for the Nest
You’ve heard the phrase: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” but have you seen it in action? Zoo New England staff and volunteers display their extraordinary will to protect, preserve and improve the lives of animals on a daily basis. Visit our Bird’s World exhibit for a shining example of this dedication.
Thanks to the efforts of one such volunteer, Franklin Park Zoo’s Gouldian finches, budgerigars, kiwis and pygmy falcons have all received wooden nesting boxes handcrafted for their individual needs. Boxes provide cavity-nesting birds with shelter and a private spot to reproduce or tend to their young, so it’s important that birds feel comfortable in these spaces.
Working with staff, this Bird’s World volunteer creates each nesting box to exact specifications, literally down to the nuts and bolts. Certain materials are unfavorable or even toxic to some species, but fine to use for others. There’s research and careful planning behind every nesting box created, which is why they can take weeks to complete. Be sure to check out our volunteer’s work, most easily seen in the Gouldian finch exhibit if you look along the left-hand wall.
Build your own nesting box
Inspired by our nesting boxes? Build your own box and become a certified “NestWatcher,” assisting NestWatch --a nationwide nest-monitoring program-- in their efforts to learn more about the impact of environmental change on bird reproduction.
In the wild, nesting boxes can provide needed shelter and brooding space, due largely to habitat loss from increased development and removal of trees. Different design features target the habits and preferences of individual bird species and design plans are available for a wide range of nesting boxes including the chickadee PVC nest tube, tree swallow, eastern bluebird, small songbirds, owls, mourning dove, and American robin. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a treasure house of information about the birdhouse network and can provide specific information on species preferences.
Here are the basic birdhouse guidelines and considerations: use of natural untreated wood (pine, cedar or fir), walls at least ¾ inch thick for insulation, properly sized entrance hole and placed at the correct distance from the ground, extended sloped roof and recessed floor with drainage holes to protect against heavy rain and ventilation holes to keep the interior cool. Also, to assist the fledglings’ exit, rough or grooved interior walls. (Sometimes an adult bird is unable to climb its way out and will get stuck in boxes because the inside walls are too smooth.) Caution: no outside perches that aid predators but do secure a predator guard at the bottom.
A nesting box should be monitored for activity, and once eggs are in place viewing times should be limited to less than a minute once a week.
Just for Kids!
Learn how to become a certified NestWatcher in our Kids' Corner!
Bike to the Sea
Staff from Zoo New England regularly help with “Bike to the Sea” cleanup days.
Bike to the Sea, Inc. is a Malden-based, non-profit organization that works for bicycle safety and safe places to ride. The organization’s main focus has been the development of the Northern Strand Community Trail, a multi-use trail free of cars that will extend from Everett through Malden, Saugus and Revere to the Lynn waterfront.
The Urban Sister of the Appalachian Trail
Members of Zoo New England support the East Coast Greenway Alliance, the non-profit organization spearheading the development of the East Coast Greenway (affectionately coined the “urban sister of the Appalachian Trail”), a network of bike trails and bikeable roads stretching nearly 3,000 miles down the eastern seaboard from Maine to Florida. The Alliance promotes the vision for connecting local trails into a continuous route, monitors trail conditions and quality, and makes maps and guides to facilitate use of the Greenway. Zoo New England has helped coordinate, facilitate and advocate for the creation of bike paths.