Posts Tagged 'ken howell'

Today is World Orangutan Day!

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Today is World Orangutan Day and the perfect time to reflect on our connection to the tropical rain forests of Indonesia and Malaysia.

orangutan

This connection is as close as the local grocery store, where there is a good chance many of the products offered for sale contain palm oil.

What is palm oil? 

Listed in over 200 different ways (including palm oil, palmitate, sodium lauryl, palm stearic and vegetable oil), palm oil is commonly used in food products, soaps, shampoos and cosmetics.

Produced from the fruit of the oil palm, the origin of use for this resource is routed back to the indigenous peoples of West Africa (some records even indicate that the ancient Egyptians used palm oil).

The oil palm was first introduced to Southeast Asia in 1848. Now, most is produced in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Impact on orangutans? 

Because of its versatility, the worldwide demand for palm oil has become insatiable. It is estimated that rain forests are being cleared at a rate of 300 football fields per hour to make way for oil palm plantations.

This swift destruction of rain forest habitat in Southeast Asia has had a devastating impact on orangutans. From 2004 to 2008, the Sumatran orangutan population fell by 14 percent to 6,600, largely due to loss of habitat for palm oil expansion. There is a real threat that orangutans face extinction within the next 10 years because of these actions.

While achievable (and encouraged), only a small percentage of palm oil is currently grown in a sustainable manner that does not involve the clearing of rain forests.

What you can do: 

  • The issues (both political and economic) concerning palm oil production are complex.
  • Read labels carefully and avoid products containing palm oil.
  • Ask manufacturers to use only sustainable palm oil in their products.

Help us spread the word about World Orangutan Day and the palm oil crisis using #WorldOrangutanDay!

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Four Blue-Crowned Motmot Chicks Have Hatched in the Rain Forest

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Our pair of blue-crowned motmots has produced four chicks! This is the second successful brood for the pair (who produced their first set of chicks in 2011).

blue crowned motmot chick
Blue-crowned motmots are neo-tropical birds known for their unusual nesting behaviors. Parent birds excavate long tunnels into the earth where they lay their eggs and raise their offspring.

Our resident pair of motmots are often seen working on a burrow within the rainforest exhibit. Earlier this summer, we were excited to learn that the pair was raising chicks in their most recent burrow! It is impossible for exhibit staff to see what is going on underground, so our team is left to interpret the behavior of both adults to infer what’s happening. When only one motmot is present during our morning bird inventory, we can assume that the adults are taking turns incubating their eggs. When we observe the adult birds carrying food into the tunnel, it’s likely that a chick has hatched!

blue crowned motmot chicks

This feeding pattern continues for about four weeks, with the amount of food being brought back escalating as the chicks grow. After the four week period, the baby motmots emerge from the tunnel fully feathered, able to fly and nearly the size of an adult!

Stay tuned for more updates on our chicks!

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The Life Cycle of Poison Dart Frogs Explained

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National Aquarium has had a long, successful history of breeding poison dart frogs. Here in the Upland Tropical Rain Forest exhibit, we have 16 species of poison dart frogs. Over the last few decades, scientists have become very interested in the reproductive strategies of these species and how they care for their young.

blue poison dart froglet

Dart frogs are incredibly intriguing animals. In addition to possessing toxins and bright colorations/patterns, they also have a fairly complex life cycle!

For most species, females will choose a leaf lying on the rain forest floor to deposit a mass of eggs, which the male will then fertilize. Males are oftentimes in charge of guarding the eggs while they develop.

poison dart frogs developing

Here at the Aquarium, most of our tadpoles develop behind-the-scenes in their own simulated bromeliad cup.

Once the tadpoles have developed, one parent will carry each tadpole to their very own pool of water held in a plant, known as a phytotelma. In the wild, some dart frog species (including many of the species we have in our collection) choose the water-filled cups at the base of bromeliads to safely store young.

Many tadpoles are omnivorous and most species will feed on algae and/or other small animal life (including other tadpoles). During their time in the bromeliads, the tadpoles will progressively metamorphose into full-fledged froglets!

The transition takes approximately two months, and they typically reach adult size and maturity within a year.

The normal life span for these animals in zoos and aquariums is about 10-15 years. Here at the Aquarium, we’ve had frogs live to be at least 23 years old!

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How the Global Pet Trade is Impacting the Survival of Many Exotic Species

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When it comes to pets, most people are content keeping traditional cats and dogs while others desire animals with a more exotic flair. Pet stores and online vendors offer the potential exotic pet owner an abundance of wildlife, ranging from parrots and marmosets to cobras and scorpions. Sadly, many recipients of exotic wildlife are unaware that their purchases may support a trade that is often illegal, inhumane, or detrimental to wild populations.

It may come as a surprise to many that the United States is one of the largest importers of live animals in the world with over one billion live animals imported since the year 2000. Various regulatory agencies strive to control this trade. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for enforcing not only its own internal regulations but also those regulations that fall under the auspices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

In addition, the U.S. Public Health Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture enforce various aspects of live animal importations that seek to prevent the introduction and spread of emerging diseases that affect the health of both humans and domestic livestock. Imports of pet Bell’s Hingeback Tortoise’s were banned when tortoise borne ticks were found to contain Heartwater Disease, a serious threat for wild and domestic ruminants.

In 2003 African Monkey Pox was introduced when shipments of Gambian Pouched Rats, destined for the pet trade, were imported into this country. The scale of the global wildlife trade, both legal and illegal is staggering. It has been estimated that the illegal wildlife trade ranks just behind the trade in illegal arms and narcotics in terms of scope and finances. Earlier this year, 54 critically endangered Madagascar Plowshare tortoises were confiscated by authorities in Thailand. Destined for the high-end illegal pet trade, an adult tortoise of this species might sell for $50,000 – this one shipment represented approximately 10 percent of the world’s remaining population of plowshare tortoises.

plowshare tortoise

A plowshare tortoise.

For those who still wish to maintain non-traditional pets, know that these non-traditional pets require a substantial commitment. The desire to own an exotic pet often clouds ones judgment. Rescue groups are overflowing with unwanted parrots and other exotic animals, relinquished because former owners underestimated the time, money, and commitment it requires to adequately maintain these animals within their homes. In many cases exotic pet owners, ignorant of state or local laws that prohibit the keeping of certain species, have had their animals seized by law enforcement or been forced to surrender them. Responsible and successful maintenance of an exotic pet requires careful sourcing along with substantial research, finances, time commitment, and an honest discussion as to one’s ability to meet the requirements, both physical and psychological, of the species in question.

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