By Naomi Reiter 02/21/2006
Caribbean Gardens General Curator Conrad Schmitt, center, assists a team from the American Zoo and Aquarium Association in setting up a camera trap in
When most people think of
The truth is that there is a serious lack of research in the areas where it is needed most. In
The Matabeleland Leopard and Cheetah Project was started by networking members of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association to study the overall wellness of the area in terms of the carnivores' ranges and numbers, the amount of prey animals, and the effects of weather systems on the ecosystem.
"It was a natural fit for us to get involved because our zoo has a lot of the carnivores in
The team, including Chris Pfefferkorn of the Oregon Zoo, Alan Sironen of the Cleveland Metropolitan Zoo, and Vivian Wilson, a veteran of the area, intended to do some capture and radio collaring but the record drought afflicting Zimbabwe finally broke to record rainfall.
"We were limited to how far we could go into the bush," said Schmitt.
They moved some traps to new locations and introduced some trial run camera traps, which allowed them to view still photos of animals in the area. This allowed them to get a broader picture of the types and numbers of species present. For example, a camera trap took a picture of a 6-month-old caracal (the African equivalent of a lynx) so the team could infer that a mature female (the cat's mother) was also in the area.
The Zoo is currently working in conjunction with
"There is a great opportunity for someone to work with butterflies," said Schmitt. "We saw six or seven species."
No one has ever made check-off sheets of mammals and birds in these parks before, so even the most simple species was important to record.
"We watched animals...saw things you don't see in a captive environment," said Schmitt.
He continued, "I think it's pretty exciting that a Zoo of our size is involved in an international project like this. It's great for the community and great for the zoo."
For more information call
For the cats,
Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
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to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457
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