Blank Park Zoo collaborates with universities, zoos and other partners locally and nationwide to advance the scientific knowledge of animals and to find new ways to protect them. Our goal is to help develop new techniques in husbandry, health, welfare, and conservation of animals around the world. Zoo animals serve as ambassadors for their wild relatives, and observing them allows us to learn much more than we possibly could in the wild. As an AZA accredited zoo, Blank Park Zoo has been involved in many research and conservation projects that increase animal wellness and survivability in the wild.
Two of Blank Park Zoo’s giraffe are participating in a nation-wide study to monitor behaviour in the summer and winter. The giraffe are filmed to record their movements and they wear a “FitBit” once a week for four weeks to monitor their activity levels. Fecal samples are also collected and sent to Brookfield Zoo in Chicago to test for glucocorticoid levels which show the animals’ adrenal activity. This project will help animal keepers identify any problems in giraffe wellness and find ways to improve it.
Vitamin D deficiency in humans has shown to increase risks for developing diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and tuberculosis. In animals, a deficiency in vitamin D can lead to reduced breeding success by affecting fertility and the calcium levels needed for normal fetal growth. This vitamin D study involves black rhinos, a critically endangered species that is also a part of AZA’s SAFE program. By analyzing the Blank Park Zoo rhino’s vitamin D levels, they were able to compare these levels to those in the wild, taking into account sunlight exposure, dietary supplementation and seasonal changes. Researchers plan to continue to study vitamin D levels in rhinos under human care to work towards optimal health.
Accredited zoos around the nation like Blank Park Zoo have been participating in Trumpeter Swan restoration programs for over three decades. Here at Blank Park Zoo, we have hatched and released 36 Trumpeter Swans back into the wild! While swan numbers in the Midwest are now improving, populations in the rocky mountains are in need of a boost. In response to this need, a genetic evaluation of the AZA breeding population will be performed. Swans that show genetics originating from the rocky mountains will be identified, giving zoos the opportunity to make a contribution to the recovery of Trumpeter Swans in this region.
In order to maintain healthy animal populations in AZA accredited zoos, health-screening protocols are very important. By perfecting several tests and a scanning method known as MDCT (multidetector computed tomography), researchers can locate abnormalities that other testing methods cannot detect. The MDCT scanning proves to be a fast, non-invasive method, which allows researchers to diagnose problems earlier for treatments and prevent any diseases from spreading.
The Blank Park Zoo is one of several zoos and aquariums that has been asked to participate in a nation-wide study examining how visitor’s perceive zoos and aquariums and their role in STEM (science, technology, engineering, & mathematics) education related to ecology and environmental conservation. To participate in this National Science Foundation-funded research initiative, Blank Park Zoo is collecting pre-and post-questionnaires from over 50 visitors three times during 2018 and 2019. So if you see some of our staff conducting a survey and you would like to participate, please stop.
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