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  • ICR Research Publications

    Works by SDZG's Institute for Conservation Research staff and co-authors. Includes books, book sections, articles and conference publications and presentations.

Recent Submissions

  • Leukoencephalomyelopathy of mature captive cheetahs and other large felids: A novel neurodegenerative disease that came and went?

    Brower, A. I.; Munson, L.; Radcliffe, R. W.; Citino, S. B.; Lackey, L. B.; Van Winkle, T. J.; Stalis, Isle H.; Terio, K. A.; Summers, B. A.; de Lahunta, A. (2014)
    A novel leukoencephalomyelopathy was identified in 73 mature male and female large captive felids between 1994 and 2005. While the majority of identified cases occurred in cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus), the disease was also found in members of 2 other subfamilies of Felidae: 1 generic tiger (Panthera tigris) and 2 Florida panthers (Puma concolor coryi). The median age at time of death was 12 years, and all but 1 cheetah were housed in the United States. Characteristic clinical history included progressive loss of vision leading to blindness, disorientation, and/or difficulty eating. Neurologic deficits progressed at a variable rate over days to years. Mild to severe bilateral degenerative lesions were present in the cerebral white matter and variably and to a lesser degree in the white matter of the brain stem and spinal cord. Astrocytosis and swelling of myelin sheaths progressed to total white matter degeneration and cavitation. Large, bizarre reactive astrocytes are a consistent histopathologic feature of this condition. The cause of the severe white matter degeneration in these captive felids remains unknown; the lesions were not typical of any known neurotoxicoses, direct effects of or reactions to infectious diseases, or nutritional deficiencies. Leukoencephalomyelopathy was identified in 70 cheetahs, 1 tiger, and 2 panthers over an 11-year period, and to our knowledge, cases have ceased without planned intervention. Given what is known about the epidemiology of the disease and morphology of the lesions, an environmental or husbandry-associated source of neurotoxicity is suspected., A novel leukoencephalomyelopathy was identified in 73 mature male and female large captive felids between 1994 and 2005. While the majority of identified cases occurred in cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus), the disease was also found in members of 2 other subfamilies of Felidae: 1 generic tiger (Panthera tigris) and 2 Florida panthers (Puma concolor coryi). The median age at time of death was 12 years, and all but 1 cheetah were housed in the United States. Characteristic clinical history included progressive loss of vision leading to blindness, disorientation, and/or difficulty eating. Neurologic deficits progressed at a variable rate over days to years. Mild to severe bilateral degenerative lesions were present in the cerebral white matter and variably and to a lesser degree in the white matter of the brain stem and spinal cord. Astrocytosis and swelling of myelin sheaths progressed to total white matter degeneration and cavitation. Large, bizarre reactive astrocytes are a consistent histopathologic feature of this condition. The cause of the severe white matter degeneration in these captive felids remains unknown; the lesions were not typical of any known neurotoxicoses, direct effects of or reactions to infectious diseases, or nutritional deficiencies. Leukoencephalomyelopathy was identified in 70 cheetahs, 1 tiger, and 2 panthers over an 11-year period, and to our knowledge, cases have ceased without planned intervention. Given what is known about the epidemiology of the disease and morphology of the lesions, an environmental or husbandry-associated source of neurotoxicity is suspected.
  • Fostering "Little Green Guards" through a collaborative partnership to create an effective conservation education program in Guizhou, China

    Tan, Chia L.; Yang, Y.; Niu, K.; Shi, L.; Zhang, W.; Riondato, I.; Giacoma, C.; Balleto, E.; Gamba, M.; Phillips, J.A. (Turin, 2014)
    San Diego Zoo Global (USA), Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve Administration (China), and the University of Torino (Italy) have partnered in a collaborative effort to promote environmental sustainability and biodiversity conservation in Guizhou, China. The objectives of the partnership are twofold: (i) train researchers and wildlife professionals using a multidisciplinary program that employs the latest methods and tools in order to deepen their understanding of wildlife and the environment, and (ii) foster positive attitudes and behaviour toward wildlife in rural children through a creative education program called the Little Green Guards.…
  • Causes of mortality in anuran amphibians from an ex-situ survival assurance colony in Panama

    Pessier, Allan P.; Baitchman, E.J.; Crump, P.; Wilson, B.; Griffith, E.; Ross, H. (2014)
    …This study reviewed postmortem findings in 167 frogs from 13 species that died in a large Panamanian rescue and survival assurance population between 2006 and 2011…. Applied research efforts to improve sustainability of survival assurance populations should focus on elucidating optimal husbandry practices for diverse species, improving methods for nutritional supplementation of cultured insects and examination of the role of water composition in disease development.
  • The influence of ambient noise on maternal behavior in a Bornean sun bear (Helarctos malayanus euryspilus)

    Owen, Megan A.; Hall, S.; Bryant, L.; Swaisgood, Ronald R. (2014)
    …Here we correlate behavioral and vocal patterns in a Bornean sun bear (Helarctos malayanus euryspilus ) mother and cub with ambient noise levels during the 6‐month post‐partum period. We hypothesized that loud ambient noise would be correlated with changes in behavior, and predicted that noise would be negatively correlated with maternal care behavior, potentially masking cub vocalizations or providing a distraction to the mother….
  • Efficient 3D movement-based kernel density estimator and application to wildlife ecology

    Tracey, J.A.; Sheppard, James; Lockwood, G.K.; Chourasia, A.; Tatineni, M.; Fisher, R.N.; Sinkovits, R.S. (Association for Computing MachineryAtlanta (GA), 2014)
  • Using the movement patterns of reintroduced animals to improve reintroduction success

    Berger-Tal, Oded; Saltz, David (2014)
    Despite their importance to conservation, reintroductions are still a risky endeavor and tend to fail, highlighting the need for more efficient post-release monitoring techniques…. We demonstrate our conceptual approach using data from two ungulate species reintroduced in Israel: the Persian fallow deer Dama mesopotamica and the Arabian oryx Oryx leucoryx
  • Leaping forward in amphibian health and nutrition

    Olea-Popelka, Francisco; Ferrie, Gina M.; Morris, Cheryl; Pessier, Allan P.; Schad, Kristine; Stamper, M. Andrew; Gagliardo, Ron; Koutsos, Elizabeth; Valdes, Eduardo V. (2014)
    …In this manuscript, we describe and summarize the outcomes of this workshop with regards (a) the identified gaps in knowledge, (b) identified priorities for closing these gaps, and (c) compile a list of actions to address these priorities. Four general areas of improvement were identified in relation to how measurements are currently being taken to evaluate ex situ amphibian health: nutrition, infectious diseases, husbandry, and integrated biology including genetics and endocrinology….
  • Isolation of a Bohle-like iridovirus from boreal toads housed within a cosmopolitan aquarium collection

    Cheng, Kwang; Jones, Megan E. B.; Jancovich, James K.; Burchell, Jennifer; Schrenzel, Mark D.; Reavill, Drury R.; Imai, Denise M.; Urban, Abby; Kirkendall, Maryanne; Woods, Leslie W.; et al. (2014)
    A captive ‘survival assurance’ population of 56 endangered boreal toads Anaxyrus boreas boreas, housed within a cosmopolitan collection of amphibians originating from Southeast Asia and other locations, experienced high mortality (91%) in April to July 2010. Histological examination demonstrated lesions consistent with ranaviral disease, including multicentric necrosis of skin, kidney, liver, spleen, and hematopoietic tissue, vasculitis, and myriad basophilic intracytoplasmic inclusion bodies…. This finding has implications for the management of amphibians destined for use in reintroduction programs, as their release may inadvertently lead to viral dissemination.
  • Recommended guiding principles for reporting on camera trapping research

    Meek, P. D.; Ballard, G.; Claridge, A.; Kays, R.; Moseby, K.; O’Brien, T.; O’Connell, A.; Sanderson, J.; Swann, D. E.; Tobler, Mathias W.; et al. (2014)
    …Here we propose a series of guiding principles for reporting methods and results obtained using camera traps. Attributes of camera trapping we cover include: (i) specifying the model(s) of camera traps(s) used, (ii) mode of deployment, (iii) camera settings, and (iv) study design….
  • Molecular phylogeny and chromosomal evolution of Alcelaphini (Antilopinae)

    Steiner, Cynthia C.; Charter, Suellen J.; Houck, Marlys L.; Ryder, Oliver A. (2014)
    Robertsonian (Rb) translocations, in particular centric fusions, are thought to play a primary role in evolution and speciation of the Bovidae family....This work studies chromosome variation in 72 captive individuals of 6 species of Alcelaphini (Antilopinae): The hartebeest (genus Alcelaphus), hirola (Beatragus), black and blue wildebeests (Connochaetes), and the topi and bontebok (Damaliscus)….
  • The pitfalls of ignoring behaviour when quantifying habitat selection

    Roever, C.L.; Beyer, H.L.; Chase, Michael J.; van Aarde, R.J. (2014)
    Habitat selection is a behavioural mechanism by which animals attempt to maximize their inclusive fitness while balancing competing demands, such as finding food and rearing offspring while avoiding predation, in a heterogeneous and changing environment. Different habitat characteristics may be associated with each of these demands, implying that habitat selection varies depending on the behavioural motivations of the animal. Here, we investigate behaviour‐specific habitat selection in African elephants and discuss its implications for distribution modelling and conservation.
  • Pathologic changes associated with suspected hypovitaminosis A in amphibians under managed care

    Rodríguez, Carlos E.; Pessier, Allan P. (2014)
    Vitamin A deficiency is a recently recognized nutritional disease in amphibians fed insect-based diets…. This review highlights the need to establish standardized guidelines for optimal postmortem tissue sampling of amphibians in order to maximize the accurate diagnosis of pathologic lesions that may be associated with hypovitaminosis A.
  • Peters anomaly in a red kangaroo (macropus rufus)

    Suedmeyer, Wm. Kirk; Pearce, Jacqueline; Persky, Meredith; Houck, Marlys L. (2014)
    A 10-mo-old female red kangaroo (Macropus rufus) presented with a unilateral congenital corneal opacity OD…. The maternal and paternal adult pairing has been discontinued in an effort to prevent future offspring anomalies.
  • Developing effective tools for conservation behaviorists: Reply to Greggor et al.

    Schakner, Zachary A.; Petelle, Matthew B.; Berger-Tal, Oded; Owen, Megan A.; Blumstein, Daniel T. (2014)
    Many conservation and management problems can benefit from mechanistic insights into how animals respond to stimuli and learn about biologically important events . The growing attention toward using cognition to solve real world conservation/management issues is exciting and promising….
  • Advances in conservation endocrinology: The application of molecular approaches to the conservation of endangered species

    Tubbs, Christopher W.; McDonough, C. E.; Felton, Rachel G.; Milnes, M. R. (2014)
    …In this review we examine various in vitro approaches we have used to compare estrogen receptor binding and activation by endogenous hormones and phytoestrogens in two species of rhinoceros; southern white and greater one-horned. We have found many of these techniques valuable and practical in species where access to research subjects and/or tissues is limited due to their conservation status....
  • Cerebral Angiostrongylus cantonensis infection in a captive African pygmy falcon (Polihierax semitorquatus) in southern California

    Burns, Rachel E.; Bicknese, Elizabeth; Qvarnstrom, Yvonne; DeLeon-Carnes, Marlene; Drew, Clifton P.; Gardiner, Chris H.; Rideout, Bruce (2014)
    A 10-month-old, female African pygmy falcon (Polihierax semitorquatus) hatched and housed at the San Diego Zoo developed neurologic signs and died from a cerebral infection with the rat lungworm Angiostrongylus cantonensis…. To the authors’ knowledge, this infection has not previously been reported in a bird in the United States and has not been known to be naturally acquired in any species in this region of the world. The source of the infection was not definitively determined but was possibly feeder geckos (Hemidactylus frenatus) imported from Southeast Asia where the parasite is endemic.
  • Molecular methods to detect Mycoplasma spp. and testudinid herpesvirus 2 in desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) and implications for disease management

    Braun, Josephine; Schrenzel, Mark; Witte, Carmel L.; Gokool, Larisa; Burchell, Jennifer; Rideout, Bruce (2014)
    Mycoplasmas are an important cause of upper respiratory tract disease (URTD) in desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) and have been a main focus in attempts to mitigate disease-based population declines. Infection risk can vary with an animal's population of origin, making screening tests popular tools for determining infection status in individuals and populations…. Our findings suggest that mycoplasmas are not the only agents of concern and that a single M. agassizii ELISA or nasal flush qPCR alone failed to identify all potentially infected animals in a population….
  • Local knowledge and use of the Valle de Aguan Spiny-tailed Iguana, Ctenosaura melanosterna, in Honduras

    Pasachnik, Stesha A.; Danoff-Burg, J.A.; Antunes, E.E.; Corneil, J.P. (2014)
    The harvesting of wildlife has had a devastating effect on global biodiversity. Here we investigate the perceived status of the Critically Endangered Valle de Aguán Spiny-tailed Iguana, Ctenosaura melanosterna. We interviewed 132 residents of the Valle de Aguán, Honduras to: (1) examine their knowledge of the range and habitat preference; (2) document the use and trade; and (3) understand the level of awareness and openness to protection of this species. Our results indicate that these iguanas are primarily used for food. Though they are a small component of the local diet, consumption is occurring with a preference for gravid females. There are significant gender and geographic differences in consumption by humans. Though these harvesting actions contribute to the continuing decline of this species, our results demonstrate that there is a local belief that these iguanas are in danger of extinction, that conservation actions should occur, and that international involvement is welcome.
  • Past experiences and future expectations generate context-dependent costs of foraging

    Berger-Tal, Oded; Embar, Keren; Kotler, Burt P.; Saltz, David (2014)
    We released Allenby’s gerbils (Gerbillus andersoni allenbyi) into an enclosure containing rich patches with equal amounts of food and manipulated the quality of the environment over time by reducing the amount of food in most (but not all) food patches and then increasing it again…. Specifically, in the second rich period, the gerbils spent more time foraging and harvested more food from the patches. Thus, seemingly identical environments can be treated as strikingly different by foragers as a function of their past experiences and future expectations.
  • The influence of social context on animal behavior: Implications for conservation

    Owen, Megan A. (University of California, Los Angeles.Los Angeles, 2014)
    The pervasive perturbation of natural systems by human activities has rapidly changed the social context of many free-ranging animals, potentially reducing the efficiency of reproductive strategies, as well as the effective population size (Ne). Behavioral flexibility can be beneficial to species confronted with rapid contextual change, and the range of flexibility may ultimately influence whether a species can buy the time needed to respond adaptively to change. From the perspective of conservation management, an understanding of species' behavioral flexibility may improve predictions regarding the effects of rapid environmental change on populations, and facilitate the application of behavioral knowledge to conservation management. Fundamentally, an animal's decision-making processes are responsible for generating flexible behavioral responses, thus the lability of mechanisms underpinning decision-making influences the flexibility of behavioral responses. Here I evaluate the study of animal decision-making across scientific disciplines. I critically assess the use of animal decision-making in conservation and suggest ways in which decision theory could enhance conservation strategies. My empirical research is focused on the influence of social context on behavioral flexibility in the endangered giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca). The panda is a compelling species in which to study behavioral flexibility in the conservation context, because they are solitary, and females are seasonally-monoestrus and ovulate spontaneously. While energetic constraints play a prominent role in reproductive strategies, little is known regarding their mating system or the plasticity of reproductive behavior. Pandas are behaviorally expressive, using multiple modes of signaling during courtship, however, a holistic understanding of multimodal signaling in the species is lacking. Further, although populations are depleted throughout most of their range, the influence of social context on behavior and communication has not been described. Here we show that female signaling effort is generally lower in the exclusive presence of other females, suggesting that females can modify their behavioural efforts during the pre-ovulatory period according to the prevailing social context. We also found that multimodal signaling during social interactions did not consistently evoke an immediate, discrete response from receivers. Together these findings suggest that giant pandas demonstrate a limited degree of flexible behavioral responses dependent upon the prevailing social context.

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