Phoenix Zoo working to repopulate desert wildlife


>> Ted Simons: GIRAFFES,
ELEPHANTS, OTHER BIG ANIMALS ARE
BIG DRAWS ALTHOUGH ZOOS, BUT
CONSERVATION IS ALSO AN
IMPORTANT ELEMENT OF URBAN
ANIMAL PARKS.
THE PHOENIX ZOO CONCENTRATES ON
HELPING NATIVE ANIMALS AND IS
CURRENTLY WORKING TO HELP
REPOPULATE A VARIETY OF DESERT
CREATURES.
WE TAKE YOU TO A PART OF THE.
WHERE THEY'RE WORKING TO KEEP
WILD ANIMALS WILD.
>>Reporter: WHEN THERE'S ONLY A FEW
HUNDRED OF YOUR RELATIVES LEFT
IN THE WORLD, IT'S
UNDERSTANDABLE IF YOU'RE A
LITTLE NERVOUS AROUND GIANTS.
>> THESE ARE SPECIALLY DESIGNED
ENCLOSURES.
>>Reporter: THE MOUNT GRAHAM RED SQUIRREL
IS CRITICALLY ENDANGERED WITH
LESS THAN 300 ANIMALS LEFT IN A
SINGLING FORESTED AREA OF THE
PINO LENNO MOUNTAINS, SO WHAT
HAPPENS HERE AT THE PHOENIX ZOO
CONSERVATION CENTER MATTERS.
>> Stuart Wells: THE CHALLENGE IS THAT IN THE
WILD THEY ONLY HAVE ONE DAY A
YEAR FOR ABOUT FOUR HOURS, WHERE
THE FEMALE IS RECEPTIVE FOR
BREEDING.
SO FOR US, THE CHALLENGE WE
THOUGHT WAS GOING TO BE HOW TO
FIGURE OUT WHAT DAY THAT IS.
>>Reporter: ADDING TO THE PRESSURE, THE
FACT THAT THESE CUTE LITTLE
RODENTS AREN'T ALWAYS NICE TO
EACH OTHER.
>> Stuart Wells: IF WE DO PUT THEM TOGETHER AT
THE WRONG TIME, THEY CAN BE
SERIOUSLY INJURED, BECAUSE
THEY'RE EXTREMELY TERRITORIAL.
>>Reporter: ZOO RESEARCHERS SAY ONE
BENEFIT OF HAVING CAPTIVE
ANIMALS IS THE ABILITY TO STUDY
AND LEARN ABOUT THEM.
FOR THE SQUIRREL, THAT MEANS
CHECKING HORMONE LEVELS EVERY
DAY.
>> Stuart Wells: USING HORMONE ANALYSIS THAT
THE FEMALES ACTUALLY DO CYCLE
MORE OFTEN THAN ONCE A YEAR.
IN FACT, IF YOU LOOK AT THIS
PARTICULAR GRAPH, YOU CAN SEE
THAT THEY CYCLE ABOUT EVERY 20
DAYS.
>>Reporter: ONCE EVERY 20 DAYS IS BETTER
ODDS THAN JUST FOUR TO SIX HOURS
A YEAR.
>> Bradley Poynter: INDIVIDUALS GOING HAD
DIFFERENT AREAS.
>> Reporter: STUDYING THE CAPTIVE ANIMALS
IS ALSO HOW BIOLOGISTS FIGURED
OUT THAT THE NARROW-HEADED
GARTER AND AQUATIC SNAKE
ACTUALLY PREFERS LIFE ON LAND.
>> Bradley Poynter: WE FOUND THEY'RE ACTUALLY
ONLY SPENDING 15 PERCENT OF
THEIR TIME IN THE WATER HUNTING
FOR FISH, THE REST IS OUT ON
LAND.
THAT'S REALLY IMPORTANT FOR THE
FIELD BIOLOGISTS.
>> Reporter: THE POPULATION OF THE NARROW
HEADED GARTER SNAKE HAS DECLINED
BY 50 PERCENT OVER THE LASTS 20
YEARS, THEY'VE STARTED A
SUCCESSFUL BREEDING PROGRAM
HERE, AND AFTER LOTS OF TRIAL
AND ERROR, THEY FINALLY
DISCOVERED THAT THESE REPTILES
ARE KIND OF PARTICULAR WHEN IT
COMES TO MATING.
>> Bradley Poynter: WE DECIDED TO HAVE THIS
OUTDOOR PEN THAT WE HAVE AND
THEY LIVE IN HERE YEAR-ROUND AND
THEY HAVE SOMETHING CALLED A
CHAMBER, COOLER THAN THE REST,
THE FIRST YEAR WE DID THAT, OUR
FEMALE HAD 20 OFFSPRING.
>> Reporter: WHILE CAPTIVE BREEDING POSES
CHALLENGES, THERE'S A LOT FEWER
PREDATORS IN THE LAB.
>>Bradley Poynter: AN EGG MASS LAID IN THE WILD
WILL HAVE A SURVIVAL RATE OF
ROUGHLY 5 TO 7 PERCENT OF
TADPOLES TO ADULTHOOD.
IN OUR LAB, WE'RE FROM 80 TO
90 PERCENT SURVIVAL RATE, SO WE
CAN PUT OUT THOSE FROGS AND
REALLY MAKE AN IMPACT AND
REPATRIATE AN AREA.
>> Reporter: THE ZOO HAS A RESIDENT
POPULATION OF CHIRICAHUA LEOPARD
FROGS, A SPECIES NOW ON ITS WAY
TO A HEALTHIER POPULATION.
>> Bradley Poynter: THERE'S A DIFFERENCE OF
2.5 MILLILITERS.
>> Reporter: THIS AMPHIBIAN IS A GOOD
EXAMPLE OF HOW MANY VARIABLES
CAN BE STUDIED TO MAKE SURE THAT
ONCE REESTABLISH, POPULATIONS
STAY HEALTHY.
>> Bradley Poynter: IN THE PAST WE'VE LOOKED AT
FOOD AND WHAT'S THE BEST DIET
FOR THEM, WE'VE LOOKED AT THE
OPTIMUM WATER, OPTIMUM DENSITY
TO KEEP THEM IN AND THIS YEAR
WE'RE LOOKING AT WATER VOLUME
AND DOES WATER VOLUME PLAY ANY
ROLE IN MORTALITIES OR GROWTH
RATES OF THESE FROGS.
>> Reporter: NATURE IS FINNICKY AND THE
ODDS ARE TOUGH WHEN THE SPECIES
REACHES A CRITICAL POINT.
BUT THESE FOLKS ARE USED TO LONG
SHOTS.
>> Stuart Wells: SO HE'S DOING EXACTLY WHAT HE
SHOULD BE DOING OUT IN THE WILD.
>> Reporter: THIS LITTLE GUY, THE
BLACK-FOOTED FERRET, ACTUALLY
WAS CONSIDERED EXTINCT UNTIL
THEY WERE REDISCOVERED IN 1985.
>> Stuart Wells: THEY GRABBED THE LAST OF
THEM.
>> Reporter: PHOENIX ZOO JOINED RECOVERY
EFFORT IN 1981 AND THEY'VE BEEN
HUGELY SUCCESSFUL.
>> Stuart Wells: WE'VE HAD OVER 500FERRETS
BORN AT THIS FACILITY.
>> Reporter: REAL SUCCESS IS MEASURED IN
NOT HOW MANY ARE BORN BUT HOW
MANY ARE RELEASED, MEANING
TRYING TO MAINTAIN SOME OF THE
ANIMAL'S WILD HABITS IN A VERY
UNNATURAL ENVIRONMENT.
>> Stuart Wells: MINIMAL CONTACT, THEY WANTED
TO MAINTAIN NOCTURNAL STATUS, SO
WE HAD A LIGHTING SYSTEM THAT
DIDN'T LIGHT, YOU KNOW, GAVE
THEM ADJUSTED BASED ON WHAT'S
CALLED A RHYTHM THAT'S 12 HOURS
OF LIGHT, WE ADJUSTED THE LENGTH
OF LIGHT THROUGHOUT THE YEAR AND
ALSO WANTED TO MAKE SURE THAT
THEY COULD CATCH FOOD ONCE
RELEASED.
>> Reporter: EVERY CONSERVATION EFFORT IS
TIME-CONSUMING.
SOMETIMES IT'S YEARS BEFORE THEY
HAVE SUCCESS.
BUT THIS SLOW, PAINSTAKING WORK
ACCORDING TO THE BIOLOGISTS HERE
IS WORTH IT BECAUSE SOMETIMES
YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT IMPACT AN
ANIMAL HAS ON OUR ENVIRONMENT
UNTIL IT'S TOO LATE.
>> THIS IS A BLACK-FOOTED
FERRET.
> Reporter: > WHETHER YOU'RE A WEASEL.
>> Stuart Wells: THE BLACK-FOOTED FERRET, WE
WERE ACTUALLY ABLE TO SEE THE
IMPACT OF IT GOING AWAY, BECAUSE
THEY DID GO EXTINCT, ONE OF THE
MAIN THINGS THEY DO IS MANAGE
THE POPULATION OF PRAIRIE DOGS.
>> Reporter: OR A FROG.
>> Bradley Poynter: FROG POPULATIONS ARE
IMPORTANT FOR THE -- SO EACH EGG
MASS THEY LAY IS ANYWHERE FROM
1,000 TO 2,000 ANIMALS, SO
THAT'S A LOT OF FOOD FOR BIRDS,
FISH, OTHER WILDLIFE THAT EAT
IT, THEN THE ADULTS EAT A LOT OF
INSECT AND DO A LOT OF INSECT
CONTROL, MOSQUITOES AND OTHER
THINGS THAT SPREAD DISEASE, SO
ENVIRONMENTALLY THEY'RE
IMPORTANT FOR THAT.
>> Reporter: THERE'S A FIRM BELIEF HERE
THAT EACH SPECIES HAS A ROLE TO
PLAY IN THE FRAGILE DOMINO GAME
OF ECOSYSTEM.
>> Stuart Wells: IT'S JUST A GOOD FEELING TO
BE ABLE TO PUT LIFE BACK INTO
NATURE AND THAT'S SOMETHING THAT
WE DO AT THE CONSERVATION CENTER
ALL THE TIME.
>> Ted Simons: WEDNESDAY ON
ARIZONA HORIZON, EFFORTS ARE
UNDERWAY TO INCORPORATE THE
SANTAN VALLEY AND A NEW
DOCUMENTARY TELLS THE STORY OF
ASTRONOMY IN SOUTHERN ARIZONA
INCLUDING THE 100 YEAR HISTORY
OF THE STEWART OBSERVATORY.
REMINDER AT 10:00 TONIGHT,
SPECIAL AIRING OF THE HORIZONTE
INTERVIEW OF DOLORES HUERTA.
THANKS FOR JOINING US, YOU HAVE
A GREAT EVENING.

One of the Phoenix Zoo’s ongoing projects is wildlife conservation, where they work to maintain healthy local populations of everything from ferrets to springsnails.

One species of special interest for some zoologists is the Mount Graham red squirrel. There are less than 300 of these squirrels left in the world, most of which live in the PinaleƱo Mountains.

Stuart Wells, director of conservation and science at the Phoenix Zoo, said work on growing the Mount Graham red squirrel population is a slow process. The squirrels have relatively small windows for breeding, but the zoo is confident they can eventually get the squirrels off the endangered species list.

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