• Ungulate browsing maintains shrub diversity in the absence of episodic disturbance in seasonally-arid conifer forest

      Pekin, Burak K.; Wisdom, Michael J.; Endress, Bryan A.; Naylor, Bridgett J.; Parks, Catherine G. (2014)
      Ungulates exert a strong influence on the composition and diversity of vegetation communities. However, little is known about how ungulate browsing pressure interacts with episodic disturbances such as fire and stand thinning. We assessed shrub responses to variable browsing pressure by cattle and elk in fuels treated (mechanical removal of fuels followed by prescribed burning) and non-fuels treated forest sites in northeastern Oregon, US. Seven treatment paddocks were established at each site; three with cattle exclusion and low, moderate and high elk browsing pressure, three with elk exclusion and low, moderate and high cattle browsing pressure, and one with both cattle and elk exclusion. The height, cover and number of stems of each shrub species were recorded at multiple plots within each paddock at the time of establishment and six years later. Changes in shrub species composition over the six year period were explored using multivariate analyses. Generalized Linear Mixed Models were used to determine the effect of browsing pressure on the change in shrub diversity and evenness. Vegetation composition in un-browsed paddocks changed more strongly and in different trajectories than in browsed paddocks at sites that were not fuels treated. In fuels treated sites, changes in composition were minimal for un-browsed paddocks. Shrub diversity and evenness decreased strongly in un-browsed paddocks relative to paddocks with low, moderate and high browsing pressure at non-fuels treated sites, but not at fuels treated sites. These results suggest that in the combined absence of fire, mechanical thinning and ungulate browsing, shrub diversity is reduced due to increased dominance by certain shrub species which are otherwise suppressed by ungulates and/or fuels removal. Accordingly, ungulate browsing, even at low intensities, can be used to suppress dominant shrub species and maintain diversity in the absence of episodic disturbance events.
    • Update on infectious diseases of amphibians: It isn't just red leg anymore

      Pessier, Allan P.; Divers, S.; Mader, D. (ElsevierSt. Louis, 2014)
    • Updated geographic range maps for giraffe, Giraffa spp., throughout sub-Saharan Africa, and implications of changing distributions for conservation

      O'Connor, David; Stacy-Dawes, Jenna; Muneza, Arthur; Fennessy, Julian; Gobush, Kathleen; Chase, Michael J.; Brown, Michael B.; Bracis, Chloe; Elkan, Paul; Zaberirou, Abdoul Razazk Moussa; et al. (2019)
      Giraffe populations have declined in abundance by almost 40% over the last three decades, and the geographic ranges of the species (previously believed to be one, now defined as four species) have been significantly reduced or altered. With substantial changes in land uses, loss of habitat, declining abundance, translocations, and data gaps, the existing geographic range maps for giraffe need to be updated. We performed a review of existing giraffe range data, including aerial and ground observations of giraffe, existing geographic range maps, and available literature. The information we collected was discussed with and validated by subject?matter experts. Our updates may serve to correct inaccuracies or omissions in the baseline map, or may reflect actual changes in the distribution of giraffe. Relative to the 2016 International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List Assessment range map, the updated geographic range maps show a 5.6% decline in the range area of all giraffe taxa combined. The ranges of Giraffa camelopardalis (northern giraffe) and Giraffa tippelskirchi (Masai giraffe) decreased in area by 37% (122432 km2) and 4.7% (20816 km2) respectively, whereas 14% (41696 km2) of the range of Giraffa reticulata (reticulated giraffe) had not been included in the original geographic range map and has now been added. The range of Giraffa giraffa (southern giraffe) showed little overall change; it increased by 0.1% (419 km2). Ranges were larger than previously reported in six of the 21 range countries (Botswana, Ethiopia, Mozambique, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe), had declined in seven (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Malawi, Niger, Uganda, and Zambia) and remained unchanged in seven (Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, eSwatini, Namibia, Rwanda, Somalia, and South Africa). In Kenya, the ranges of both Giraffa tippelskirchi and Giraffa camelopardalis decreased, but the range of Giraffa reticulata was larger than previously believed. Our updated range maps increase existing knowledge, and are important for conservation planning for giraffe. However, since rapid infrastructure development throughout much of Africa is a driver of giraffe population declines, there is an urgent need for a continent?wide, consistent and systematic giraffe survey to produce more accurate range maps, in order to inform conservation and policy planning.
    • Urinary profiles of progestin and androgen metabolites in female polar bears during parturient and non-parturient cycles

      Knott, Katrina K.; Mastromonaco, Gabriela F.; Owen, Megan A.; Kouba, Andrew J. (2017)
      Due to the environmental and anthropogenic impacts that continue to threaten the reproductive success of polar bears, a more detailed understanding of their reproductive cycle is needed. Captive populations of polar bears provide an excellent opportunity to learn more about the reproductive physiology of the species. Progestin (P4) and androgen (T) metabolites in urine, and their ratio (P4:T), were examined during 11 reproductive cycles of captive female polar bears (n = 4) to characterize the steroid hormone profile during pregnancy and determine possible variations related to reproductive failure. The concentration of hormone metabolites in urine were determined through enzyme immunoassay. Reproductive cycles were classified as pregnant (n = 3), anovulatory (n = 4) and ovulatory-non-parturient (n = 4) based on the changes in urinary hormone metabolite values and cub production. In the absence of a lactational suppression of estrus, elevated androgen concentrations suggested resumption of follicular development within 3 weeks of parturition. Breeding behaviours were most often observed when androgen values were at their highest or in decline. Ovulation was identified by a return to basal androgen concentration and elevation of progestins within 1–4 weeks after breeding. As a result, urinary concentrations of progestins were greater than androgens (P4:T ratio ≥ 1.0) during ovulatory cycles whereas the P4:T ratio was <1.0 when females were anovulatory. Progestins and the P4:T ratio of parturient cycles were greatest beginning in June/July (17–20 weeks after breeding) and reached a peak at 24–37 weeks (mid-October/mid-November, 4–9 weeks before birth of cubs). Non-invasive monitoring of hormone metabolites in urine provided a rapid determination of endocrine function for improved husbandry and reproductive management of polar bears in captivity. Further research is warranted to understand the reproductive endocrinology of polar bears and its impact on conservation and management of this species in captivity and the wild.
    • Use of an outdoor enclosure by captive Malayan tapirs (Tapirus indicus) at Beijing Zoo

      Cui, Duoying; Tan, Chia L.; Jinguo, Zhang; Ning, Liu; Xiaolong, Che (2014)
      The use of an outdoor enclosure and behaviors of 5 Malayan tapirs (Tapirus indicus) at Beijing Zoo were studied by means of instantaneous scan sampling, focal animal sampling and all- occurrence recording methods in August 2013. Malayan tapirs were more likely to use grassland, bare soil, deep-water pool and concrete surfaces than shallow water, and tapirs avoided stony ground….
    • Use of scent ecology to improve reintroduction outcomes: applications for Tasmanian devils

      Shier, Debra M.; Reid-Wainscoat, Elizabeth E.; Swaisgood, Ronald R.; Hogg, Carolyn J.; Fox, Samantha; Pemberton, David; Belov, Katherine (CSIROClayton South, Australia, 2019)
    • Use of urinary 13,14, dihydro-15-keto-prostaglandin F2α (PGFM) concentrations to diagnose pregnancy and predict parturition in the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanolecua)

      Roberts, Beth M.; Brown, Janine L.; Kersey, David C.; Snyder, Rebecca J.; Durrant, Barbara S.; Kouba, Andrew J. (2018)
      Pregnancy determination is difficult in the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanolecua), representing a challenge for ex situ conservation efforts. Research in other species experiencing pseudopregnancy indicates that urinary/fecal concentrations of 13,14, dihydro-15-keto-prostaglandin F2α (PGFM) can accurately determine pregnancy status. Our objective was to determine if urinary PGFM concentrations are associated with pregnancy status in the giant panda....
    • Using a mixed-methods approach to elucidate the conservation implications of the human–primate interface in Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve, China

      Ellwanger, Amanda L.; Riley, Erin P.; Niu, Kefeng; Tan, Chia L. (Cambridge University PressNew York, 2017)
      To better conserve the rich biodiversity of Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve, China, we adopted an interdisciplinary approach based on ethnographic interviews, direct human behavioral observations and geospatial data collection to research into local people’s knowledge of and attitudes toward the nature reserve and its conservation flagship, the Guizhou snub-nosed monkey. This book chapter provides an excellent road map for conservation biologists to undertake similar types of studies....
    • Using animal behavior in conservation management: a series of systematic reviews and maps

      Greggor, Alison L.; Blumstein, Daniel T.; Wong, Bob B. M.; Berger-Tal, Oded (2019)
      In the past few decades there has been a growing understanding of the role animal behavior research can play in improving the effectiveness and success of conservation management programs. Animal behavior can help us understand and predict the impacts of anthropogenic disturbance on wildlife populations, can be used as a tool in conservation interventions, and can serve as a powerful indicator of conservation problems [1]. Overall, the emergent field of conservation behavior (applying animal behavior research to conservation and management) has already contributed to many successful conservation outcomes—from devising individual-specific diets to manage sex ratios in the critically endangered Kakapo [2], to promoting life skills that enhance survival after reintroduction of species into the wild [3,4,5,6]. Nevertheless, there is tremendous room for improvement. For example, olfactory deterrents can fail because they do not adequately recognize or manipulate context in the meaning of animal signals [7]. Meanwhile, traps designed in the laboratory to attract and control invasive species can prove ineffective under field conditions [8]. In many such cases, we simply do not understand the underlying causes of failures, which prevent us from offering sound and cost-effective guidance on conservation management. These failures and a common disregard for behavior in conservation settings have led to the valid criticism that the field lacks impact. We argue that the relevance of the field hinges on us being able to openly admit, distinguish, and understand where and why applying a behavioral approach succeeds and fails in improving conservation or management outcomes.
    • Using genome-wide measures of coancestry to maintain diversity and fitness in endangered and domestic pig populations

      Bosse, Mirte; Megens, Hendrik-Jan; Madsen, Ole; Crooijmans, Richard P. M. A.; Ryder, Oliver A.; Austerlitz, Frédéric; Groenen, Martien A. M.; Cara, M. Angeles R. de (2015)
      Conservation and breeding programs aim at maintaining the most diversity, thereby avoiding deleterious effects of inbreeding while maintaining enough variation from which traits of interest can be selected. Theoretically, the most diversity is maintained using optimal contributions based on many markers to calculate coancestries, but this can decrease fitness by maintaining linked deleterious variants. The heterogeneous patterns of coancestry displayed in pigs make them an excellent model to test these predictions. We propose methods to measure coancestry and fitness from resequencing data and use them in population management. We analyzed the resequencing data of Sus cebifrons, a highly endangered porcine species from the Philippines, and genotype data from the Pietrain domestic breed. By analyzing the demographic history of Sus cebifrons, we inferred two past bottlenecks that resulted in some inbreeding load. In Pietrain, we analyzed signatures of selection possibly associated with commercial traits. We also simulated the management of each population to assess the performance of different optimal contribution methods to maintain diversity, fitness, and selection signatures. Maximum genetic diversity was maintained using marker-by-marker coancestry, and least using genealogical coancestry. Using a measure of coancestry based on shared segments of the genome achieved the best results in terms of diversity and fitness. However, this segment-based management eliminated signatures of selection. We demonstrate that maintaining both diversity and fitness depends on the genomic distribution of deleterious variants, which is shaped by demographic and selection histories. Our findings show the importance of genomic and next-generation sequencing information in the optimal design of breeding or conservation programs.
    • Using spatially-explicit population models to evaluate habitat restoration plans for the San Diego cactus wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus sandiegensis)

      Conlisk, Erin; Motheral, Sara; Chung, Rosa; Wisinski, Colleen L.; Endress, Bryan A. (2014)
      A long-standing debate within conservation is how best to allocate limited management resources: should reserve area be increased, should anthropogenic disturbances be mitigated, or should connectivity be increased? We explore these issues for the San Diego cactus wren, a California Species of Special Concern…. Our modeling approach provides insight into the relative benefit of several realistic restoration scenarios, providing an important tool for species conservation and habitat restoration on complex landscapes.
    • Using the gut microbiota as a novel tool for examining colobine primate GI health

      Amato, Katherine R.; Metcalf, Jessica L.; Song, Se Jin; Hale, Vanessa L.; Clayton, Jonathan; Ackermann, Gail; Humphrey, Greg; Niu, Kefeng; Cui, Duoying; Zhao, Hongxia; et al. (2016)
      Primates of the Colobinae subfamily are highly folivorous. They possess a sacculated foregut and are believed to rely on a specialized gut microbiota to extract sufficient energy from their hard-to-digest diet. Although many colobines are endangered and would benefit from captive breeding programs, maintaining healthy captive populations of colobines can be difficult since they commonly suffer from morbidity and mortality due to gastrointestinal (GI) distress of unknown cause. While there is speculation that this GI distress may be associated with a dysbiosis of the gut microbiota, no study has directly examined the role of the gut microbiota in colobine GI health. In this study, we used high-throughput sequencing to examine the gut microbiota of three genera of colobines housed at the San Diego Zoo: doucs (Pygathrix) (N=7), colobus monkeys (Colobus) (N=4), and langurs (Trachypithecus) (N=5). Our data indicated that GI-healthy doucs, langurs, and colobus monkeys possess a distinct gut microbiota. In addition, GI-unhealthy doucs exhibited a different gut microbiota compared to GI-healthy individuals, including reduced relative abundances of anti-inflammatory Akkermansia. Finally, by comparing samples from wild and captive Asian colobines, we found that captive colobines generally exhibited higher relative abundances of potential pathogens such as Desulfovibrio and Methanobrevibacter compared to wild colobines, implying an increased risk of gut microbial dysbiosis. Together, these results suggest an association between the gut microbiota and GI illness of unknown cause in doucs. Further studies are necessary to corroborate these findings and determine cause-and-effect relationships. Additionally, we found minimal variation in the diversity and composition of the gut microbiota along the colobine GI tract, suggesting that fecal samples may be sufficient for describing the colobine gut microbiota. If these findings can be validated in wild individuals, it will facilitate the rapid expansion of colobine gut microbiome research.
    • 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
    • Using tri-axial accelerometers to identify wild polar bear behaviors

      Pagano, Anthony M.; Rode, K. D.; Cutting, A; Owen, Megan A.; Jensen, S; Ware, J. V.; Robbins, Ct; Durner, Gm; Atwood, Todd C.; Obbard, M. E.; et al. (2017)
      Tri-axial accelerometers have been used to remotely identify the behaviors of a wide range of taxa. Assigning behaviors to accelerometer data often involves the use of captive animals or surrogate species, as their accelerometer signatures are generally assumed to be similar to those of their wild counterparts. However, this has rarely been tested. Validated accelerometer data are needed for polar bears Ursus maritimus to understand how habitat conditions may influence behavior and energy demands. We used accelerometer and water conductivity data to remotely distinguish 10 polar bear behaviors. We calibrated accelerometer and conductivity data collected from collars with behaviors observed from video-recorded captive polar bears and brown bears U. arctos, and with video from camera collars deployed on free-ranging polar bears on sea ice and on land. We used random forest models to predict behaviors and found strong ability to discriminate the most common wild polar bear behaviors using a combination of accelerometer and conductivity sensor data from captive or wild polar bears. In contrast, models using data from captive brown bears failed to reliably distinguish most active behaviors in wild polar bears. Our ability to discriminate behavior was greatest when species- and habitat-specific data from wild individuals were used to train models. Data from captive individuals may be suitable for calibrating accelerometers, but may provide reduced ability to discriminate some behaviors. The accelerometer calibrations developed here provide a method to quantify polar bear behaviors to evaluate the impacts of declines in Arctic sea ice.
    • Utilizing first occurrence, nursing behavior, and growth data to enhance animal management: An example with African elephants (Loxodonta africana)

      Miller, Lance J.; Andrews, Jeff (2013)
      One of the many goals of zoological institutions is to actively breed endangered species to enhance conservation efforts. Unfortunately, many of these species are not reproducing at high enough levels to sustain populations within zoos. Low reproductive success and high infant mortality are two areas of concern for some of these species. Collecting behavioral data on developmental milestones following successful births can create a database of information to aide animal management to help make more informed decisions during subsequent births. The current study provides valuable information for African elephant calf developmental norms and demonstrates how data on first occurrences, nursing behavior and growth patterns can aide animal management. Data were collected on eleven African elephants (Loxodonta africana) at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido, CA of which ten have survived. Results show that on average African elephant calves were standing within 40 minutes, attempted to nurse within an hour and a half, and successfully nursed within six hrs. There were no significant differences in nursing rates, growth patterns, or first occurrence behaviors between males and females during the first 75 days of life and elephants gained on average 0.59 kg/day over that same period of time. Results also show a significant change in nursing behavior on day 22 for the elephant calf that died. This information is intended to serve as a resource for elephant managers with newborn African elephants and to serve as a model to develop similar type databases for other species in need within zoological institutions.
    • Utilizing first occurrence, nursing behavior, and growth data to enhance animal management: An example with African elephants (Loxodonta africana)

      Miller, Lance J.; Andrews, J. (2013)
      One of the many goals of zoological institutions is to actively breed endangered species to enhance conservation efforts. Unfortunately, many of these species are not reproducing at high enough levels to sustain populations within zoos. Low reproductive success and high infant mortality are two areas of concern for some of these species. Collecting behavioral data on developmental milestones following successful births can create a database of information to aide animal management to help make more informed decisions during subsequent births. The current study provides valuable information for African elephant calf developmental norms and demonstrates how data on first occurrences, nursing behavior and growth patterns can aide animal management. Data were collected on eleven African elephants (Loxodonta africana) at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido, CA of which ten have survived. Results show that on average African elephant calves were standing within 40 minutes, attempted to nurse within an hour and a half, and successfully nursed within six hrs. There were no significant differences in nursing rates, growth patterns, or first occurrence behaviors between males and females during the first 75 days of life and elephants gained on average 0.59 kg/day over that same period of time. Results also show a significant change in nursing behavior on day 22 for the elephant calf that died. This information is intended to serve as a resource for elephant managers with newborn African elephants and to serve as a model to develop similar type databases for other species in need within zoological institutions.
    • Validation of mercury tip-switch and accelerometer activity sensors for identifying resting and active behavior in bears

      Ware, Jasmine V.; Rode, Karyn D.; Pagano, Anthony M.; Bromaghin, Jeffrey F.; Robbins, Charles T.; Erlenbach, Joy; Jensen, Shannon; Cutting, Amy; Nicassio-Hiskey, Nicole; Hash, Amy; et al. (2015)
      In this study, we examined the performance of a mercury tip-switch and a tri-axial accelerometer housed in collars to determine whether sensor data can be accurately classified as resting and active behaviors and whether data are comparable for the 2 sensor types. Five captive bears (3 polar [Ursus maritimus] and 2 brown [U. arctos horribilis]) were fitted with a collar specially designed to internally house the sensors. The bears’ behaviors were recorded, classified, and then compared with sensor readings…
    • Variation in reproductive success across captive populations: Methodological differences, potential biases and opportunities

      Griffith, Simon C.; Crino, Ondi L.; Andrew, Samuel C.; Nomano, Fumiaki Y.; Adkins-Regan, Elizabeth; Alonso-Alvarez, Carlos; Bailey, Ida E.; Bittner, Stephanie S.; Bolton, Peri E.; Boner, Winnie; et al. (2017)
      ...The zebra finch remains an excellent captive animal system and our aim is to sharpen the insight that future studies of this species can provide, both to our understanding of this species and also with respect to the reproduction of captive animals more widely. We hope to improve systematic reporting methods and that further investigation of the issues we raise will lead both to advances in our fundamental understanding of avian reproduction as well as to improvements in future welfare and experimental efficiency….
    • Viable cell culture banking for biodiversity characterization and conservation

      Ryder, Oliver A.; Onuma, Manabu (2018)
      Because living cells can be saved for indefinite periods, unprecedented opportunities for characterizing, cataloging, and conserving biological diversity have emerged as advanced cellular and genetic technologies portend new options for preventing species extinction. Crucial to realizing the potential impacts of stem cells and assisted reproductive technologies on biodiversity conservation is the cryobanking of viable cell cultures from diverse species, especially those identified as vulnerable to extinction in the near future. The advent of in vitro cell culture and cryobanking is reviewed here in the context of biodiversity collections of viable cell cultures that represent the progress and limitations of current efforts. The prospects for incorporating collections of frozen viable cell cultures into efforts to characterize the genetic changes that have produced the diversity of species on Earth and contribute to new initiatives in conservation argue strongly for a global network of facilities for establishing and cryobanking collections of viable cells.
    • Vocal behaviour predicts mating success in giant pandas

      Charlton, Benjamin D.; Martin-Wintle, Meghan S.; Owen, Megan A.; Zhang, Hemin; Swaisgood, Ronald R. (2018)
      Surprisingly little is known about how mammal vocal signals are used to achieve behavioural synchrony in the lead up to copulation. The ability to signal short-term fluctuations in arousal levels and behavioural intention is likely to be particularly important for synchronizing mating behaviour in asocial species, which must overcome their natural avoidance and aggressive tendencies to mate. Here, we examined vocal behaviour during breeding encounters in captive giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) to gain a greater understanding of how close-range vocal signalling mediates reproduction in this asocial, and conservation-dependent species. Our results revealed that the occurrence of different giant panda vocalizations and acoustic variation within these calls is predictive of successful encounters leading to copulation, as opposed to unsuccessful encounters that do not. In addition, key differences were detected between vocalizations produced during and just prior to copulation. These findings illustrate that vocal exchanges are crucial for achieving behavioural synchrony and signalling intention to mate in giant pandas, and could also provide a valuable tool for breeding programmes, helping conservation managers to assess the likelihood of breeding introductions leading to copulation or potentially injurious failure.