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Research and Partners in Conservation

Fossil Rim Wildlife Center has a long standing history and an active role in conducting and supporting quality research projects that either improve the captive management of endangered species or further conservation of such species in their natural habitats. Over the years we have developed close partnerships with other conservation institutions and agencies that allow more in depth research and expand Fossil Rim’s impact beyond our own borders. Here are several research endeavors that involve Fossil Rim’s partnership with other conservation leaders:

Attwater’s Prairie Chicken Recovery

In addition to participating in the captive breeding of this highly endangered Texas grouse, Fossil Rim has partnered with several investigators to better understand and surmount challenges we have encountered.

In collaboration with the Nutritional Services Department of the Fort Worth Zoo and the Department of Veterinary Services at the University of Sydney, Australia, a comprehensive examination of captive APC reproduction and nutrition was undertaken. The resulting changes in nutrition have markedly improved production and survival of chicks at the six institutions raising APCs, and thus directly impacting the number of chicks available for release.

Investigation into the crippling bird virus reticuloendotheliosis (REV), has brought together several partners, including the University of Georgia. Researchers there used the virus that infected Fossil Rim birds in 2004 to better understand its behavior by studying it in captive quail. Knowing as much as we can about REV will improve methods of detection, diagnosis, impact on the species, and associated pathology. In addition, a vaccine for protection against REV infection is under development at Texas A&M University.

Read more about the APC Federal Recovery Program.

Conservation Centers for Species Survival (C2S2)

The Conservation Centers for Species Survival is a group of conservation centers that collectively manage more than 25,000 acres of land devoted to the survival of threatened species with special needs (including those requiring large land areas, natural group sizes and minimal public disturbance). By combining their scientific and management expertise, these centers excel in studying and creating self-sustaining populations of some of the world’s most endangered animals. Currently the five participating facilities are the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, San Diego Zoo Global, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, the Wilds and  White Oak Conservation Center.

For more information, please visit: www.conservationcenters.org

Hoofstock Management and the C2S2

Two of the most exciting undertakings at Fossil Rim have converged in a multiyear research investigation into the management of hoofstock herds here at Fossil Rim. With our open spaces, ideal for large herds, we manage our hoofstock populations differently than traditional zoos. In an effort to improve management of our large captive ungulate species, the C2S2 has implemented a natural approach to management of certain hoofed mammals. The goal is to provide optimal breeding intervals to maximize successful calving and weaning times. By understanding the ecosystem, we can capitalize on the natural resources available to the herds at different times of the year. This system requires an intact bull that is with the herd for 2 months, followed by 10 months with a vasectomized male to allow for normal herd structure. Currently at Fossil Rim the addax, waterbuck, sable and gemsbok are involved in this approach. Ultimately, all species of hoofed animals at Fossil Rim will be managed through this system.

A second important partner in this endeavor is Texas A&M University. Their renowned animal experts are undertaking a behavioral study of these experimentally managed herds.

Read more about this project.

Here are a few more exciting ongoing research endeavors that also involve our Partners in Conservation:

  1. Invasive plant study: “Managing North American landscapes for native biodiversity”. This is a three year NFWF funded project with studies at all five Conservation Centers for Species Survival institutions. Each institution is monitoring biodiversity in the native grass/shrub lands and demonstrating to the public the advantages of controlling invasive species while raising endangered ungulates.
  2. Design and implementation of computerized data collection for Attwater’s Prairie Chickens (Tympanuchus cupido attwateri): Database design and development to computerize the collection of all APC data. This will expedite organization of data institutionally, and ultimately standardize data collection across all APC captive breeding institutions (Houston Zoo, Caldwell Zoo, Abilene Zoo, Sea World San Antonio, San Antonio Zoo), and provide ease of access to large amounts of data, that to date, are very difficult to access.
  3. Education of campers: A research project in conjunction with Glen Rose ISD and Capella University to determine if pre/post camp activities delivered via the web have a significant effect on camper’s concept retention, conservation behaviors and attitudes. The results of the research are of primary interest to the American Camping Association (ACA) as well as to our own institution.