Remmy – My Day at the Zoo @ Dade City’s Wild Things

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Remmy – My Day at the Zoo @ Dade City’s Wild Things

Hi, my name is Remington but I liked to be called Remmy.  I am a Bengal white tiger cub and I am not a mutt.  I have good genetic genes, my human mommy told me!

I would like to tell you about part of my life at the ZOO here at Dade City’s Wild Things.  I get up early before everyone gets to the ZOO and I am excited for the first one to arrive, he is my swimming pal Randy “The Tiger Man”.  He always walks by and stops to say hi to me every morning and I am sure to chuff back too.

Next to wake up, as the sun is coming up is my garden pals, the Macaws.  Now they are quite entertaining but annoying at times too.  They squawk and squawk every time someone is in eye sight too.  As the other keepers come to work I chuff to say hi and they all stop and say hi back – even trying to chuff back at me.

Wait – I hear it now . . the jeep is cranking up and they are coming by soon.  I slip to the grown and hide behind the boards.  Wait for it. . . wait for it. . . then boom!! As they come by, they do not see me til I pounce on the boards at them and then most scream. . this is so much fun to surprise them. . . I chuff and chuff til they go by.

Then I wait patiently. . . The birds seem to get fed first everyday. . .they are singing and excited they are getting fed. . . I am patient because I know one of my trainers will be coming soon with my dinner too.  Awe here she is . . she is chuffing at me and then YUMMMM meat!!  I gobble it up even before she has left.  Wow that was good. . so I go check out my clean water bowl and give it a few laps. . then I think. . . hummm. .. yep splash time. . It is so much fun to jump up on and into my fresh bowl of water.  It makes a mess but it sure is fun.  Guess its nap time. . I jump up on my deck and stretch out for a little siesta. . but not to deep a sleep as I do not want to miss anything.

Awe the sun feels good as I am laying hear. . “Remington . . Remington”  I hear my name being called I open my eyes quickly but I see no one.  As I am looking around “Remmy” there it is again. . As I quickly glance around as I am sitting up. . .no humans around?  Humm. . I jump down and start walking around looking harder for my trainer as I am sure it was her calling me. . . Remington. . there it goes again.  As I glace around I see the macaws flapping their wings at me calling my name Remington, Remington, Here Remmy.  I slouch down and slowly advance towards them and as they flap there wings again. . POUNCE. . they jump back and start screaming and flapping their wings. . This is so much fun.  Awe. . here comes more guest to see me.

They come around the gardens to see me calling my name. . hey I know you . . you held me when I was only a few weeks old. . and you swam with me in the pool. . its very nice to see you again.  I see Randy my buddy bringing them around to see me again.  Wait . . what do they have . . awe my treats.  This is great I get some choice meat treats.  I jump up and look them in the eye as they pass the meat over to me and I so ever gently take it and patiently wait for more.  Yumm yumm that sure was good.  I give them a lot of good chuff’s to thank them for the treats.  I hope more guest come to bring me treats too.

WHO IS REALLY HELPING CONSERVATION?

Conservation

I get questions all the time about difference Conservation issues being discussed in the USA.  The most current one is Captive Tigers in the USA are contributing to the Black Market of Tigers.  This can be further from the truth, if you talk to Homeland Security or Border Patrols they all will tell you there is no black market of Tiger parts in the USA, Now other Countries this is a real issues.

Due to corruption within governments in other countries the Wildlife trade is a profitable business.  Without the assistance of the governments to implement serious consequences for the killing of protected wildlife this is an impossible task.

Some of the International Conservation Issues are:  

  • Poaching

  • Retribution Killing

  • Human – Animal Conflicts

  • Illegal Logging & Commercial Plantations

  • Habitat Loss & Fragmentation

  • Tiger Parts for Medicine

  • Road Networks

  • Closing Corridors

  • Inbreeding & Diseases

  • Ivory Trade

Where is the Up-ROAR for these real issues in the USA?  Even though they are not issues in the USA they should be our concern and focus.  But allot of Animal Rights Groups focus is on captive born animals instead of the real issues the WILD.  By banning USA tigers this will have only one real effect on the WILD species and that it will promote total extinction.  If we loose the capacity for quality genetics in the USA we will have no hope to support the genetics in the wild as they are growing less in numbers the in-breeding will continue at an alarming rate and doom the species.  The end will come quickly.

I call them out and ask what are they doing for the WILD. . all talk and no action?  Extinction is Forever and we have no time to waste.

What really needs to be done to stop Wild populations from becoming extinct?

  • Education

  • Pressure on Corrupt Governments

  • Stop Illegal Trade Markets

  • Serious Consequences to Illegal Commercial Uses

  • Open Tourism and Off Set Personal Losses

  • Provide More Protected Habitat’s in Sensitive Areas

  • Stop Palm Oil Use

  • Open up Corridors

  • Research Genetic Diversity Ideas

  • Continue to Keep Quality Genetic Diversity in Captivity

  • Tourism

 

Wildlife tourism can provide a strong economic incentive for wildlife conservation by being a major long-term source of jobs and income for local people. In developing countries, such as those in East and Southern Africa, wildlife tourism is the primary reason that significant wildlife populations still exist. People who travel to these countries inject needed foreign currency into their economies, create jobs, and buy local arts and crafts and other products that contribute to human well-being and cultural survival (Hawkins, D.E. and Kahn, M.M. 1998. Ecotourism opportunities for developing countries. Pp. 191-204 in Theobald, W.F. (ed.) Global Tourism. Second Edition. Oxford, UK: Butterworth-Heinemann).

In fact, nature tourism is now being seen as a major contributor to poverty reduction. Furthermore, when local people realize the economic benefits that wildlife and nature tourism bring, they will fight for conservation, even in the face of corruption and wildlife crime. An excellent example is the recent response of African governments and people to the elephant and rhino poaching crises that have been sweeping across the region. African governments have been stepping up their anti-poaching efforts (e.g., Kenya) and even firing corrupt officials who have been involved in the illegal wildlife trade (e.g., Tanzania).

Consider also the opposition that has been building against the development of a road that would bisect Serengeti National Park and threaten the one of the world’s last great migrations of vast herds of wildebeest and zebra. Much of this opposition has come from wildlife tour operators, conservationists and people who have traveled there. With growing human populations, the pressure for continued development is unlikely to abate and is only going to get worse. For example, the Tanzanian government’s recent unfortunate decision to mine portions of Lake Natron, the site of the world’s largest concentration of flamingos. Similarly, serious consideration was being given by the Democratic Republic of the Congo to open up Virunga National Park—home to endangered mountain gorillas– to oil exploration and drilling. Fortunately, that has not happened due to the actions of concerned individuals and organizations.

The promise of long-term revenue from responsible wildlife tourism often appears to be the only thing standing in the way. In developing countries, challenged by poverty and unemployment, the reality is that wildlife is going to have to pay for itself and wildlife tourism is one of the most benign ways in which this can be accomplished.

Although not completely harmless, when done properly, tourism can provide a relatively benign economic incentive for wildlife conservation that is far more preferable to other forms of development, including mining, oil and gas exploration, agriculture, and so forth. This may be the best we can hope for in a world increasingly dominated by humans and their domestic animals.

One role that captive wildlife attractions seem to serve is one of education. But opponents of zoos and aquariums often contend that wildlife belongs in the wild and that it is more educational for people to observe animals in a natural setting. But is really feasible for everyone to be offered such opportunities at an affordable cost?  Wildlife tourism is an incredible way to experience nature and to contribute to wildlife conservation and human welfare worldwide, especially in developing countries. Furthermore, it offers real, not virtual life experiences. However, it can be expensive and a majority of people—even in the richest of countries—cannot afford to travel to exotic locations, or may do so only once or twice in their lifetimes. Customized trips to East Africa, for example, can cost several thousand dollars—not something that is feasible for those struggling to make ends meet, or who are completing their education, buying a house, starting a family or forging a new career.

So what are the alternatives? One can certainly watch National Geographic or other wildlife programming on TV, but this is simply not the same as seeing the real thing. Or, you can go to a professionally-managed zoo or aquarium. If you are near a good one—one that maintains high levels of professional animal care—you can observe and learn about live animals from around the world. This is one of the strongest and most cogent arguments for professionally-managed zoos and aquariums. Zoos and aquariums do provide a location where urban dwellers—perhaps those most divorced from nature—can view wild animals in naturalistic habitats and experience some semblance of reality in a safe and educational environment (Hutchins, M.  2003. Zoos connect us to the natural world. Boston Globe, 2 November). Extreme animal rights activists who want to close zoos—even the best institutions—would deprive tens of millions of people of that experience. In fact, more people visit Zoos and aquariums in the United States than all professional sporting events combined. Furthermore, those institutions offer structured educational experiences to millions of children conduct valuable research and contribute more than $130 million to in situ conservation annually.  Would wildlife and people be better off if all quality zoos and aquariums were closed tomorrow?  I seriously doubt it.

Diverse gene pool is critical for tigers’ survival, say Stanford scholars.  Increasing tigers’ genetic diversity – via interbreeding and other methods – and not just their population numbers may be the best solution to saving this endangered species, according to Stanford research.  That research shows that the more gene flow there is among tiger populations, the more genetic diversity is maintained and the higher the chances of species survival become.  In fact, it might be possible to maintain tiger populations that preserve about 90 percent of genetic diversity.

Limited habitat:  “Since genetic variability is the raw material for future evolution, our results suggest that without interbreeding sub-populations of tigers, the genetic future for tigers is not viable.

“In this case, survival of the species matters more than does survival of the exclusive traits of individual populations.”  Understanding these factors can help decision-makers better address how development affects populations of tigers and other animals.  Conservation efforts for other top predators have shown the importance of considering genetic diversity and connectivity among populations, according to the report.  One example is Florida panthers: since individuals from a closely related panther subspecies were introduced to the population, Florida panthers have seen a modest rise in numbers and fewer cases of genetic disorders and poor fitness.

The plight of these animals depends on Community outreach to help the public understand the importance of the species in their regions and their role in the whole ecosystem.  Biologist have documented that removal of top predators from the wild settings almost inevitably leads prey numbers to explode.  Without top predators, booming prey populations soon strip vegetation and later collapse from illness and starvation.  Even here in the US we have seen examples of this:  At Yellowstone National Park, elk devoured stream-protecting cottonwoods without wolves.  Dolphins and sea cows wiped out sea grasses in Australia’s Shark Bay without the tiger sharks to chase them into deeper waters.  Sea urchins ate kelp forests off Alaska’s coast after sea otters numbers dropped in the late 90’s.  In the Ocala National Forest we are seeing a decline in the long needle pines after overpopulation of deer & hogs continue to uproot the forest due to the Florida Panthers no longer resides in the forest.  We lost an entire ecosystem in Africa when the elephants were eliminated all the animals left or were destroyed.  The habitat doesn’t recover!

Statistics:

Lions are down to perhaps 25,000 were formerly roamed 450,000

Leopards are down to 50,000 from 750,000

Cheetah’s numbers are about 12,000 from 45,000

Tigers numbers are about 2,200 in the wild, down from 150,000 with only perhaps 1,000 breeding tigers.

Do we want to live in a world without Big Cats and collapsed ecosystems?  We must preserve the Big Cats NOW. . and fix the inbreeding in the wild with the introduction of captive bloodline genetics.  We must test current captive genetics within all captivity and preserve those bloodlines.  We must start working to infuse these quality bloodlines in those wild tigers before we loose all the cubs to inbreeding.

We must save the current populations of wildlife but we MUST also protect the future populations.

THE MEDICAL SIDE OF TRANSPORTING ANIMALS & STRESS

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THE MEDICAL SIDE OF TRANSPORTING ANIMALS & STRESS
Non handled animals that have been transported often may have baseline cortisol levels and be behaviorally calm, whereas extensively reared animals may have elevated cortisol levels in the same situation if they have never been transported. Transportation is perceived as neutral and non-threatening to one animal; to another animal, the novelty of it may trigger intense fear.

Novelty is a strong stressor when an animal is suddenly confronted with it. In the wild, novelty and strange sights or sounds are often a sign of danger. Gradual exposure of animals to novel experiences enables them to become accustomed to non-painful stimuli that had previously evoked a flight reaction.

Tame animals that are accustomed to frequent handling and close contact with people are usually less stressed by restraint and handling than animals that seldom see people.

Although the word STRESS generally has adverse connotations, stress is a familiar aspect of life – a stimulant for some, a burden for others. Numerous definitions have been proposed for stress. An integrated definition states that stress is a constellation of events including a stimulus (stressor), a reaction in the brain precipitated by the stimulus (stress perception), and an activation of the body’s physiological fight or flight systems (stress rseponse). Transportation stressors can by physical (changes in temperature, humidity or noise), physiological (limitation of access to food and water), and psychological (exposure to novel individuals or environments).

It is important to recognize that stress does not always have adverse consequences, and it is often overlooked that a stress response has healthful and adaptive effects.

Stress can be harmful when it is long-lasting and animals are unable to adapt successfully to it; therefore, an important distinguishing characteristic of stress is its duration. Acute stress is defined as stress that lasts for minutes, hours or a few days; and chronic stress as stress that persits for months or years.

Most transportation events last only a few days and are considered acute stress events. Even the transportation of animals from overseas does not take more than a few days, so there is little concern about chronic stress during transportation. However, care must be taken to minimize post-trip stress in order to ensure that animals are not chronically stressed.

A main issue of concern during transportation is an animal’s psychological experience. Normally, animals live in a uniform, familiar environment; during transport, almost every aspect of their environment changes. The transporation enclosure, motion, human handling, temperature, light and perhaps social group mates, odors, sounds, floor surface, food and water availability, vibrations, unusual gravitational forces (such as during acceleration, braking or turning the vehicle), and factors all change from moment to moment.

That change in multiple sensory experiences will be perceived as stressful, even under the best of conditions, for two major psychological reasons: the transporation experience is not part of the normal routine, and the animal has no control of the situation. Stress during transportation is unavoidable, so the optimal conditions for moving animals from one location to another would be those that minimize the intensity and duration of excessive stress. The goal is to make the transportation experience as predictable as is practically possible.

An animal’s experience can greatly effect its response to the transporation environment. Animals preconditioned to transportation by being exposed to the transportation container before the handling associated with transportation can help animals to respond better to the transportation experience. Animals that have been socialized with people and have been handled respond more favorably to the handling associated with transportation than those not similarly exposed. In many cases, preconditioning animals to handling already occurs as part of routine husbandry procedures.

The behavior of animals is probably the most important tool available to trasporters handling animals during all stages of their journey.

(1) “Food for Thought” – Transporting & Handling Animals
T. Grandin
Department of Animal Science
Colorado State University

(2) “The Science of Stress” – Transporting & Handling Animals
The National Center for Biotechnology In
National Research Council (US) Commmittee on Guidelines for the humane transportation of Laboratory Animals
Washington, DC

(3) “The Medical Side of Stress in Transported Animals”
Dept of Pre Clinical Veterinary Science
Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies
Edinburgh, UK

(4) USDA/APHIS Animal

Texas A&M University: GENETIC DIVERSITY OF WHITE TIGERS AND GENETIC FACTORS RELATED TO COAT COLOR

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GENETIC DIVERSITY OF WHITE TIGERS AND GENETIC

FACTORS RELATED TO COAT COLOR
Approved by:
Research Advisor: Dr. Jan Janecka
Major: Biomedical Sciences
Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences
May 2013
Submitted to Honors and Undergraduate Research
Texas A&M University

ABSTRACT
Genetic Diversity of White Tigers and Genetic Factors Related to Coat Color. (May 2013)
Sara Elizabeth Carney
Department of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
Texas A&M University
Research Advisor: Dr. Jan Janecka
Department of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
White tigers are greatly cherished by the public, making them valuable to zoos and breeders.
Unfortunately, a number of health issues have occasionally surfaced within some of the white
tiger population such as neurological and facial defects. There is interest amongst private tiger
breeders to determine if these maladies are associated with the coat color or breeding practices,
and to find ways to prevent these health issues. The genes involved in producing the white
phenotype and the disease phenotype are currently unknown. Furthermore, the relationship
between the genes associated with coat color and levels of inbreeding also remain unknown.

INTRODUCTION
To many the white tiger, Panthera tigris, has been a source of awe, combining the power and
grace exhibited by the standard orange tiger with the rare beauty from its unusual coat color.
Though many find the white tiger to be inspiring, this is not a universally held opinion. Critics
contend that the white tiger is a detriment to tiger conservation, claiming that the tigers must be
inbred in order for the white coat to be present. Furthermore, they attribute the ailments faced by
some white tigers (eg. crossed-eyes and cleft palates) (Roychoudhury and Sankhala 1978) to the
white coat trait, believing it to be inseparable from inbreeding.
In light of this controversy, it is important to determine the white tiger’s role in conservation of
the species. Though some do not place priority on the preservation of the white tiger, it is evident
that the species as a whole is facing the threat of extinction. Three of the original eight tiger
subspecies, Bali (Panthera tigris balica), Caspian, (Panthera tigris virgata), and Javan
(Panthera tigris sondaica), have recently become extinct (Luo et al. 2004). The tiger population
has faced recent rapid decline. Within the last 100 years the wild tiger’s habitat has been reduced
to only 7% of the land in once roamed (Dinerstein et al. 2007). Poaching as well as habitat loss
and fragmentation poses the greatest threat to the wild tiger population. Deforestation has
significantly impacted the wildlife present in these areas particularly the tiger and its prey
(Kinnaird et al. 2003). The tiger faces additional risks associated with its dwindling population,
primarily decreased genetic diversity. Frequently, populations facing significant decline may
resort to inbreeding, potentially leading to inbreeding depression (Hedrick and Kalinowski
2000). Consequently, deleterious homozygotic traits that were once masked in a healthy population of heterozygotes may become rampant in a genetically isolated population. Thus, this
genetically compromised population becomes increasingly vulnerable to disease (Lynch 1977).
While the wild tiger population faces steady decline, the captive population has successfully
propagated. Tigers have relatively few complications associated with reproduction, which often
plagues captive breeding programs. Additionally, captive-bred populations are protected from
many of the threats that face their wild counterparts, such as habitat degradation, disease and
poaching. Though the captive tiger has escaped many of these issues, loss of genetic diversity is
still a present concern within segments of the population (Lacy 1987). The white tiger is
particularly vulnerable to increased homozygosity due to selection for this phenotype. In many
ways the captive environment has allowed rare coat color polymorphisms such as that of the
white tiger to persist.
Though there are early reports of white tigers in India, the first lineage of captive white tigers
originated in what was known at the time as Rewa, (which is now Madhya Pradesh), from a
single male known as Mohan who was captured in 1951 (Thorton et al. 1966). The first breeding
of Mohan to Belgum, a wild orange female, was unsuccessful in producing a white offspring.
Mohan was subsequently bred to his daughter, Radha, produced from the previous cross. This
resulted in four litters, all producing white offspring (Thorton et al. 1966). It can be inferred that
Rewa, an F1, was heterozygous for the white coat allele. Thus the Rewa-Mohan cross gave
offspring of the union a 50% chance of being homozygous for and therefore expressing the white
coat allele. The white coat polymorphism is an autosomal characteristic inherited in a
Mendelian-recessive fashion (Thorton et al. 1966). Although inbreeding was prevalent in early breeding of white tigers, it is not essential to produce a white tiger. Because the trait follows a
Mendelian inheritance pattern, the coat can be propagated given that both parents are carriers of
the allele.
Although the white coat polymorphism can be obtained without inbreeding, it can be challenging
to manage inbreeding levels while also selecting for the white phenotype. Because of this
breeders often resort to inbreeding to ensure that the trait is maintained. Mismanaged breeding
practices have reportedly led to an increase in health problems in some white tigers, such as
strabismus, facial deformities and neurological defects (Roychoudhury and Sankhala 1978).
However, it remains unclear to what extent these abnormalities are due to inbreeding. Some have
suggested that some of these health concerns may be linked to the white phenotype itself. For
example, strabismus, which is caused by retinal nerve fibers connecting at the opposite side of
the brain rather that the same side, is found in carnivores that are homozygous for an allele
within the albino series such as Siamese cats (Gulliery and Kaas 1973). Examination of a white
tiger’s lateral geniculate nucleus of the brain, (a region involved in processing visual information
gathered by the retina), revealed a defect of the A1 layer similar to, though less severe than that
of the Siamese (Gulliery and Kaas 1973). Therefore, determination of the degree of involvement
of the white phenotype versus inbreeding is essential in order to develop a scientifically based
breeding strategy for white tigers.

Though pigmentation and neurological development may seem unrelated, they are both derived
from the neural crest during the embryonic development of vertebrates (Rawles 1947).
Melanocyte precursors develop from the neural crest and spread to the hair and skin and 8
synthesize melanin (Rawles 1947). There are 2 forms of melanin: pheomelanin which produces
red or yellow pigment and eumelanin responsible for producing black or brown pigment
(Pawelek et al. 1982). These 2 types of melanin are structurally distinct; melanocytes producing
eumelanin tend to be more rounded than those producing eumelanin (Pawelek et al. 1982). White
tigers lack function in melanocytes producing pheomelanin, causing them to lack pigment where
other tigers would be orange. They carry pigment in their stripes which are gray or chocolate and
their eyes are blue. Therefore, white tigers are not albinos, though the coat of the white tiger is
due to an autosomal recessive mutation of the chinchilla allele, cch, and that locus is near the
albino locus (Robinson 1968).

The need for adequate levels of genetic diversity is a particular concern for endangered
populations, primarily due to magnified effects of genetic drift and deleterious alleles as
compared to larger populations (Hedrick and Kalinowski 2000). In a natural environment
species that suffers from severe inbreeding faces an increased likelihood for extinction.
However, in a captive environment these alleles are able to persist for much longer due to
protection from outside threats (Lacy 1987). Therefore, it is equally important to maintain high
genetic diversity in both captive and wild populations, not only for the salvation of a species, but
also for the health of individuals.
There is a well-established correlation between heterozygosity and traits determining fitness,
such as weight, fecundity and developmental stability (Milton and Grant 1984). Subsequently,
the overall health of a population can be inferred by examining the heterozygosity of the
population in question. Populations with lower heterozygosity are also at greater risk for disease
acquisition. A classic example of the effects of decreased genetic diversity is the cheetah,
Acinonyx jubatus . which occurred as a result of a historic bottleneck. This lack of genetic
diversity has led to difficulties in captive breeding due to abnormalities of the spermatozoa
(O’brien et al. 1985). Furthermore, the major histocompatibility complex, (MHC), is identical in
cheetahs making the population susceptible to pathogens (O’brien et al. 1985)

Based on the data gained from our microsatellite analysis, it is apparent that among the white tigers and orange tigers sampled, there is no statistically significant difference in heterozygosity. This indicates that the white tigers included in this study were likely outbred to orange tigers, maintaining higher heterozygosity. Though it is known that early captive white tiger populations originated through inbreeding, (Thorton et al. 1966), it is clear from our results that not all white tigers presently in captivity are significantly inbred. In an effort to broaden our understanding of genetic diversity among white tigers and orange tigers, we will continue to incorporate additional individuals and microsatellites, adding more power to our data.

CONCLUSION
Based on the analysis of 12 microsatellites, we have determined that there is not a significant difference between white tigers and orange tigers in terms of heterozygosity. As this study progresses, more microsatellites will be added in order to understand the levels of heterozygosity at other loci. More individuals will also be incorporated into this study to broaden our
understanding of the heterozygosity within captive-bred tigers. Evidence suggesting that white
tigers are not inbred to a significantly greater degree than orange tigers could potentially alleviate
some of the controversy surrounding the breeding of white tigers. More importantly, it will
provide breeder with data that is necessary in order to make critical management decisions that
affect both species and individual health.  A causal mutation has not been discovered in ASIP or MC1R, but their assessment has nonetheless been important in the search for the genetic origin of the white coat phenotype. We will continue our analysis by sequencing exon 3 of ASIP and TYR and possibly other candidate genes. Finding the gene responsible for this phenotype will provide new insight into the diversity and well-being of tigers. This information will be used to if there is a link between the phenotype itself and the health concerns sometimes appearing in white tigers.
As the tiger population continuously decreases in the wild, it becomes increasing apparent that we must ensure the welfare of the tigers in captivity. As a flagship species, the tiger serves as an ambassador for tigers in the wild, as well as conservation in general. Through increased research we can gain the knowledge necessary to protect the beloved white tiger and ensure that white tigers are carefully bred using the a management strategy that is genetically based.

For Access:  http://repository.tamu.edu/bitstream/handle/1969.1/148870/CARNEY-THESIS-2013.pdf?sequence=1

Diverse gene pool critical for tigers’ survival, say Stanford scholars

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Researchers at Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment are examining conservation plans for wild tigers that would promote gene flow among populations. (Photo: Prasenjeet Yadav)

Diverse gene pool critical for tigers’ survival, say Stanford scholars

Increasing tigers’ genetic diversity – via interbreeding and other methods – and not just their population numbers may be the best solution to saving this endangered species, according to Stanford research.

New research by Stanford scholars shows that increasing genetic diversity among the 3,000 or so tigers left on the planet is the key to their survival as a species.

Iconic symbols of power and beauty, wild tigers may roam only in stories someday soon. Their historical range has been reduced by more than 90 percent. But conservation plans that focus only on increasing numbers and preserving distinct subspecies ignore genetic diversity, according to the study. In fact, under that approach, the tiger could vanish entirely.

“Numbers don’t tell the entire story,” said study co-author Elizabeth Hadly, the Paul S. and Billie Achilles Professor in Environmental Biology at Stanford and senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. She is a co-author of the study, which was published April 17 in theJournal of Heredity.

That research shows that the more gene flow there is among tiger populations, the more genetic diversity is maintained and the higher the chances of species survival become. In fact, it might be possible to maintain tiger populations that preserve about 90 percent of genetic diversity.

Rachael Bay, a graduate student in biology at Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station and the lead author of the study, said, “Genetic diversity is the basis for adaptation.”

Loss of diversity

The research focused on the Indian subcontinent, home to about 65 percent of the world’s wild tigers. The scientists found that as populations become more fragmented and the pools of each tiger subspecies shrink, so does genetic diversity. This loss of diversity can lead to lower reproduction rates, faster spread of disease and more cardiac defects, among other problems.

The researchers used a novel framework, based on a method previously employed to analyze ancient DNA samples, to predict what population size would be necessary to maintain current genetic diversity of tigers into the future. The authors believe this new approach could help in managing populations of other threatened species.

The results showed that for tiger populations to maintain their current genetic diversity 150 years from now, the tiger population would have to expand to about 98,000 individuals if gene flow across species were delayed 25 years. By comparison, the population would need to grow to about 60,000 if gene flow were achieved immediately.

Neither of these numbers is realistic, considering the limited size of protected tiger habitat and availability of prey, among other factors, according to the researchers.

Limited habitat

“Since genetic variability is the raw material for future evolution, our results suggest that without interbreeding subpopulations of tigers, the genetic future for tigers is not viable,” said co-author Uma Ramakrishnan, a former Stanford postdoctoral scholar in biology and current researcher at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore, India.

Because migration and interbreeding among subspecies appear to be “much more important” for maintaining genetic diversity than increasing population numbers, the researchers recommend focusing conservation efforts on creating ways for tigers to travel longer distances, such as wildlife corridors, and potentially crossbreeding wild and captive tiger subspecies.

“This is very much counter to the ideas that many managers and countries have now – that tigers in zoos are almost useless and that interbreeding tigers from multiple countries is akin to genetic pollution,” said Hadly. “In this case, survival of the species matters more than does survival of the exclusive traits of individual populations.”

Understanding these factors can help decision-makers better address how development affects populations of tigers and other animals, the study noted.

Conservation efforts for other top predators have shown the importance of considering genetic diversity and connectivity among populations, according to the report. One example is Florida panthers: since individuals from a closely related panther subspecies were introduced to the population, Florida panthers have seen a modest rise in numbers and fewer cases of genetic disorders and poor fitness.

“Captive Tiger Effects”

Aerial Palm Beach County

2014 Report: Expert Report on “Captive Tiger Effects” that Big Cat experts have determined:

Most Sanctuaries are glorified private owners or horders

Most certified Sanctuaries funding goes to spread false propaganda

Most certified Sanctuaries contribute nothing to true conservation or helping tigers in the wild

Most certified Sanctuaries harm the tigers by promoting bans that is contributing to tiger extenction

Big Cat & Public Safety Protection Act will have no effect on saving tigers in the wild

Big Cat & Public Safety Protection Act will have a significant negative impact on critical conservation efforts.

Proven by Big Cat Experts:

1) Zoo’s that do Cub Encounters or Animal Ambassidors contribute a large portion to true Conservation

2) Big Cats are more adjusted as exhibit animals that were raised and handled by humans

3) Big Cat cub interactions benefit the animals creating easier medical treatments or monitoring of health of the animals.

4) Big Cat cub interactions creates less stressful and healthier animals

5) Big Cat cub interactions creates a quality and passionate workforce in a low paying industry

6) Most AZA Zoo’s began as private owners and still today use animals as ambassidors for their species.

7) Big Cat’s face extinction due to habitat distruction and that US Big Cats have no effect on extinction of cats in the wild.

8) Raising and handling of big cats in captivity does not cause Cancer

9) Texas A & M University “Based on the data gained from their analysis in genetics it is apparent that among the white tigers and orange tigers sampled, there is no statistically significant differnece the tigers and it showed that the white tigers were outbred to orange tigers, maintaining high heterozygosity. It was clear from their results that white tigers presently in captivity are not significantly inbred.

10) There is no evidence that tigers bred and held in captivity in the US are entering the illegal markets, either as live animals or for their parts. Both the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the US Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) have acknowledged this fact.

11) Continued captive breeding of Big Cats in the US ensures a diverse gene pool for the future while we continue to address the challenges impacting wild habitat

Statements:

Jack Hanna: “The most important thing is to preserve the world we live in. Unless people understand and learn about our world, habitats, and animals, they won’t understand that if we don’t protect those habitats, we’ll eventually destroy ourselves.
The world is the true classroom. The most rewarding and important type of learning is through experience, seeing something with our own eyes.”

Texas A & M University: “As the tiger population continuously decreases in the wild, it becomes increasing apparent that we must ensure the welface of the tigers in captivity.
As a flagship species, the tiger serves as an ambassador for tigers in the wild, as well as conservation in general.

Kevin Richardson, South African Zoologicast and Animal Behaviorist: “Big Cats are actually very tolerant of people if you respect them. I’ve developed very intimate relationships with my lions over fifteen and a half years, and it’s based on mutual respect.”
“Like human parenting, the best way to develop a bond is to start when they’re young. Despite conceptions, lions are not mindless man eaters.”

Jim Fowler of “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom: “reconnect families and children to the natural world by combining education and adventure by helping help affect public attitudes so more people care about the existence of the natural world and understand that “How We Treat the Earth” is vitally important to our human welfare.

Jackie Navarro is a veteran of the wild animal world: “Outreach education programs designed to reach disadvantaged youth. Through expert animal care and enrichment, Zoofari animals can live out a happy and healthy life while giving back to the community as “creature-teachers”.

ZAA & AZA Zoo’s: Issued the following statements to Washington, DC, that the bill purports to address public safety issues and issues of illegal trafficking in tigers and their parts,
however, advocates for the bill have shown little evidence to support these claims or to demonstrate a need for a federal ban on the breeding and transport of these animals. We believe that the bill’s
“findings” are misleading, and will ultimately have a negative impact on conservation and the survival of this critical and highly endangered species. Simply put, this bill attempts to chase recent negative
headlines regarding animal welfare, but is poorly crafted such that it has a number of unintended consequences. It will have a significant negative impact on critical conservation efforts.

Peter Gros has nearly 30 years of field experience with captive wildlife and special advisor of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom on Animal Planet: “It is possible to use our natural resources in a sustainable manner. We simply need to educate our nation’s youth about the importance of wildlife conservation.”

Zookeeper’s experience while raising Two Monkey BOYS . . .

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boys10389563_856676797683781_2559585741680540654_n Its been quite an experience working with two monkey boys as apposed to single monks. My experience with these boys is enlightening me I have to say raising two kids close in age has helped. Its amazing but at a few months old they are so much like two brothers.

Dean is about a month older and he has more confidence that Jerry and there personalities could not be more different. Dean is definitely the older brother and Jerry will hang around him usually on his back. This is creating a continued issues as Dean is getting stronger due to the weight he carries and Jerry will continue to fall to his dominance.

Overall they get along very good, Dean is protective and does not like when they are separated. . But Jerry is more dependent but once Dean is out of the picture he has taken on more independence and confidence while they are separated. But, he falls back into the dependent roll when together.

A cute thing happened when they were eating together. Both Dean & Jerry actually get along great during bottle and food time. . they are patient with each other and share. But on this particular day, it was different. They bypassed all the foods for the chopped apple pieces. As there was plenty to go around the problem did not occur til Jerry got the last piece which did not go unnoticed by Dean. So Dean quickly snatched it away which caused Jerry to throw himself down screaming and throwing a royal tantrum.

But at other times Dean is quite helpful to the Trainers. They are eager to greet the trainers in the morning for bottle time. Most times they do 1 monkey feeding at a time. . which causes allot of noise as the one left screams as he is not sure that you will remember him. They are quite impatient. This particular time Dean was the quickest into the Trainers hands so Jerry impatiently and loudly let his presence be known. When it came time to switch Dean jumped right into the cage and on this day Jerry did not run to the trainer as he was still in the process of throwing his tantrum. So Dean jumped back into trainers arms which stopped Jerry in his tracks and he ran to the trainer thinking he was going to loose out. The second Jerry reached the trainer. . Dean jumped off and went back into the cage. I guess he was tired of Jerry’s tantrums and decided to help the trainers by tricking Jerry. It was extremely cute and helpful.

A fun thing happened yesterday with one of our guest meeting Jerry. He has recently been introduced to the leash and has more freedom to explore with humans. This particular time Jerry jumped over to the little girl and pulled the top of her shirt away and peered into it. She screamed and Jerry jumped back to the trainer hanging on and looking at her like “what was that noise”. . they don’t mind making noises but are not sure when humans make it. Being a curious monkey he was just curious to what was hiding in all those cloths.

Jerry is the jumping bean, when he is excited he will jump up and down continuously in place til you come do what he wants as for Dean, he just waits patiently.

As close as they are they have not adapted to a stuffed animal as a single monk does, even when separated. They still get excited with connecting with humans and are very curious and love to be held, although Dean will wonder and try and explore. . as Jerry tries to keep up.

Since Dean is older we are starting to expose him to different environments. One being a tree ! ! We placed Dean on the tree trunk and let him explore (with a leash). He was very timid at first but then he became interested. . as such we stepped back some to give him room. . WRONG. . panic set in and he leaped to the trainer. . but time stood still for seconds as Dean realized he had not jumped out far enough and was going come up short. He had this “Oh Crap!” look and started to contort his body not knowing how to stop and go back in midair. Oh course the trainer was on her toes and caught him without incident. Allot of clinging went on and he decided tree climbing can wait another day.

Dean was also introduced to water as Rhesus monkeys love water and can swim very well in the wild. We took him on his leash to a bucket of water but he was having trouble reaching the water. The trainer decided pool time ! ! She placed him on her knees and he watched her swooshing the water with her fingers. Dean being the independent boy he is imitating her and swooshed the water. He then reached up and smelled his fingers and sucked the water off and repeated over and over. This water thing is not so bad. We did not push our luck yet with a swimming lesson.

It will be some exciting posting coming soon with two monkey boys in a tree or swimming. .

Tiger Move across the US

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Tigers Move across the United States from Florida to their new home in Montana.

The adventure begins as The Zoo in Montana calls Dade City’s Wild Things inquiring to adopt two tigers for their exhibit since their tiger died. The Community was missing the tigers on exhibit. We told them we had the perfect tigers for them.

Sophie and Jasmine are sister cubs around 3 years of age. They have always been together and love being with people. Since being raised at Dade City’s Wild Things they have had lots of experience in being moved, shifted and working with the trainers and public. This would make for perfect candidates for such a big change.

We at Wild Things always researches the Zoo’s and does personal visits to assure our animals are going to a great place and that they will be able to continue the Conservation message that is important, especially for the plight of tigers. In this case one of our trainers also has family in Montana and we can continue to keep an eye on them.

Proper Permits and health certificates were acquired and the necessary preparations began.
We had to make sure we were equipped for the long trip for the many stops to feed, water, clean and let the tigers rest as they proceeded to cross the United States. We prepared the transport for them and sent 3 keepers with the two girls on the long trip.

As the trip progressed, the girls did awesome. They ate well and seemed to enjoy the ride. Once arriving at the Zoo in Montana, they stood to check out the new adventure ahead in their new home. As they were being moved to the indoor shift are, they just stood up and looked around. The staff at the Zoo in Montana were amazed how calm they were and commented that they were so healthy and not a mark on them. The girls were wheeled up to the door and as the door was opened they just sniffed the air and walked out and jumped up on the shelf and laid down. Once together they chuffed and head rubbed a greeting. Our girls made us proud on how well they handled the trip and adjustment at the Zoo.

As our keepers stayed on to assure the new staff was educated and trained on our girls. Jazzy and Sophie loved the new area and meeting all the new staff. They were fed and quickly gobbled up the meal and took a nap.

They loved exploring their new outdoor exhibit playing and running into the water. The only mishap they had was when guest came to the observation window, Sophie went running up to the guest to greet them and came quickly at a stop when she hit the window. But she quickly realized the barrier and just rubbed the window and chuffed at the guest.

The Zoo turned on the waterfall with trepidation not sure what they would do. . but the girls knew. They immediately went running up to, under and thru the running water, loving every minute of it. Unfortunately, when the water is turned off the girls become very demanding tapping on the rocks thinking they can make it come back on til they sulk away, only to be excited once its back on again.

The Zoo staff in Montana are extremely surprised and pleased at how much the girls love seeing the people and how they were so extremely well adjusted to the changes. We knew the girls would be a perfect match for this Zoo and Community. The Community is glad to have tigers back and they are doing a great job to continue educating the plight of tigers.

Everyone is excited to see their first reactions to SNOW ! ! !

Dade City’s Wild Things presents Hank the Zebra

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Hi!  My name is Hank and I came to Dade City’s Wild Things at the age of 2 weeks. I was picked up in a van and I got to ride with one of my owners. He talked to me and sang songs and I was so excited to get to know him. I stood by him and my owner allowed me to rest my head on his shoulders at times I needed comfort. About half way thru the drive back to Florida he discussed with me name options and he settled on the name HANK. I have grown to love the name and run up everytime some one calls me HANK. He was so much fun the first time he gave me my bottle and it tasted sooo good. He made me a soft bed out of shaving and hay but I preferred to stand by my new friend.
Once I arrived at Dade City’s Wild Things I was happy to see all green. I met my other owners who seemed happy to see me but I was alittle scared to leave my van as I enjoyed my ride. But once I got out they walked me to my new large GREEN pasture and I ran and ran kicking up my heels and my new owners laughed and clapped me on. I have sense grown more and more and I love it here. I especially love when the summer camp kids get to come visit me and we have races. I occasionally let them win, but mostly I win the race and kick up my heels in celebration while the kids clap and laugh. Today I had more visitors who chose me as their encounter animal and I really like this as I get to meet new friends and get a scratch on the nose and then they give me treats – my favorite is the sweet potator fries . .raw of course.
So if you come to the Zoo – Please pick me as I am always ready for more treats.

ZEBRA FACTS:
Several species of African equids (horse family) united by their distinctive black and white stripes. Their stripes come in different patterns, unique to each individual. They are generally social animals that live in small harems to large herds. Unlike their closest relatives, horses and donkeys, zebras have never been truly domesticated. The unique stripes of zebras make them one of the animals most familiar to people. They occur in a variety of habitats, such as grasslands, savannas, woodlands, thorny scrublands, mountains, and coastal hills. However, various anthropogenic factors have had a severe impact on zebra populations, in particular hunting for skins and habitat destruction.
It was previously believed that zebras were white animals with black stripes, since some zebras have white underbellies. Embryological evidence, however, shows that the animal’s background color is black and the white stripes and bellies are additions. The stripes are typically vertical on the head, neck, forequarters, and main body, with horizontal stripes at the rear and on the legs of the animal. The “zebra crossing” is named after the zebra’s black and white stripes.

A wide variety of hypotheses have been proposed to account for the evolution of the striking stripes of zebras. The more traditional of these (1 and 2, below) relate to camouflage.

1. The vertical striping may help the zebra hide in grass by disrupting its outline. In addition, even at moderate distances, the striking striping merges to an apparent grey.

2. The stripes may help to confuse predators by motion dazzle—a group of zebras standing or moving close together may appear as one large mass of flickering stripes, making it more difficult for the lion to pick out a target.

3. The stripes may serve as visual cues and identification. Although the striping pattern is unique to each individual, it is not known whether zebras can recognize one another by their stripes. Zebra in Ngorongoro: its pattern may reduce its attractiveness to large biting flies.

4. Experiments by different researchers indicate that the stripes are effective in attracting fewer flies, including blood-sucking tsetse flies and tabanid horseflies.

Like horses, zebras walk, trot, canter and gallop. They are generally slower than horses, but their great stamina helps them outpace predators. When chased, a zebra will zig-zag from side to side, making it more difficult for the predator. When cornered, the zebra will rear up and kick or bite its attacker.
Zebras have excellent eyesight. It is believed that they can see in color. Like most ungulates, the zebra has its eyes on the sides of its head, giving it a wide field of view. Zebras also have night vision, although not as advanced as that of most of their predators. Zebras have excellent hearing, and tend to have larger, rounder ears than horses. Like horses and other ungulates, zebras can turn their ears in almost any direction. In addition to eyesight and hearing, zebras have an acute sense of smell and taste.

Life of two tiger cubs

Life of two tiger cubs and the people in their lives

Life of two tiger cubs and the people in their lives

Before the dawn. Before the crow of the Rooster. Lions are stiring restless. They announce their presence for all to hear. My Mother who has been watching over my sister and I, begins to nuzzle and clean us. We are hungry once again, and search for her warm milk. We were born three days ago. Still unable to hear or see, we make haste to find our precious milk. We are getting better at finding her now. Our mothers chuffing breath is sweet and loving. Being able to chuff from our birth, our cries to her are pleasant to her ear. In our enclosure is our owner. She is vigilant and satisfied how well our mother cares for us. she has been ever on guard with our mother. Caring for her needs. Mother looks up at her with pride. She comes closer to inspect us. Our mother calmly allowing her into her presence, for she has been well cared for by our owner. Who has given not just security and food, but genuin concern and partnership. As the days pass, our eyes open and we can now hear. Our world is full of many things. Other animals are close to us. There are many people from time to time in our compound. When we are a few weeks old, the weather turns cold and she brings us extra hay. I snuggle up close to mom and sleep. My sister never stays still and becomes restless. Mom geys up and i feel chilled so i snuggle deeper into the hay and doze off. Mom comes back and I stir as my belly rumbles. Noelle starts to move around shifting under the hay. Suddenly I hear a cry from my sister and mom shifts to late as my sister is steped on as mom did not see her moving under the hay.   She doesn’t join me for milk and I get concerned. I go to snuggle woth her and realize that she can’t snuggle like she use too. Our Owner comes to check on us and she too realizes My sister seems wrong. She takes Her out and a friendly man called the Vet holds her softly. He weighs her and checks her out. So our owner decides to put us in the Nursery where we will get plenty to eat, and have round the clock care. We even sleep next to our owners, who talk to us and chuff like our mother.  Every day My sister starts to play and be more like herself. We play everyday and have many people who love us. I now know my name. It is Mobo! I am proud of my name. I answer my owner when I hear it!! Such a joyful name!!! My sister is Noelle, for the time of year we came into the world. We are Siberian tigers, we are special. My owner wants us to be ambasadors. We are endangered. Our kind are few in the wild. So few in fact that we may become extinct in the wild. I am innocent of all this. But not Mankind. If I were human, I would be indignant and angry this is happening. My owner understands why this is happening, and is fighting to protect and defend us from extinction all together. Innocent as my sister and I are, we just live the life we have with our owners. Not knowing or understanding all that goes on around us. We are happy, loved, well cared for and safe. As the days and weeks go by I want to relate to you the many things that are happening to us. I want to tell you our story. One that will teach you of us. That will bring you the truth. We hope you follow us on our journey…….. Till our next encounter. Be Brave, Be strong. Mobo. 🙂