Trunkline Magazine (Louisville Zoo) Trunkline Magazine: September 2016 | Page 7

CONSERVATION – A COLLECTIVE EFFORT Did you know? Twenty-five cents from every Louisville Zoo general admission ticket and one dollar from every membership now goes to conservation. Collectively, these quarters and dollars can make a huge impact! Last year, we collected over $77,000 toward conservation efforts through your support of the Louisville Zoo. Just by visiting the Zoo or becoming a member, you play an important part in helping vital conservation efforts around the world. Below, learn more about our flagship conservation program that you help support — the Black-Footed Ferret Recovery Program. A Momentous Year Did you know the Louisville Zoo houses one of the most endangered species in North America? You may not see them on exhibit, but blackfooted ferrets are at the Zoo and thriving in our flagship conservation program. This year we celebrated our 26th anniversary of the BlackFooted Ferret Conservation Center and our part in the Black-Footed Ferret Recovery Program. Black-footed ferrets were declared extinct in 1979. Their population was decimated partially due to sylvatic plague, a disease that spreads rapidly via fleas through prairie dog colonies, which are the ferrets’ primary food source. The ferrets become infected by fleas or by eating the infected prairie dogs. Sylvatic plague is 100 percent fatal in black-footed ferrets. In 1981, a remnant population of 18 ferrets was discovered near Meeteetse, Wyoming thanks to a ranch dog named Shep. The ferrets were able to bounce back from the brink of extinction through the efforts of a multi-institutional recovery program that has bred hundreds of ferrets for release. Current breeding sites include U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Ferret Conservation Center in Colorado, the Louisville Zoo, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, National Zoo’s Science and Conservation Breeding Institute, Phoenix Zoo, and Toronto Zoo. This is a very important year for the program. In late July, wildlife officials released 35 black-footed ferrets on two ranches near Meeteetse, bringing the descendants of the founding 18 ferrets back to Meeteetse for the first time. Protecting the site against sylvatic plague was imperative to ensure the released Meeteetse ferrets would thrive. All ferrets receive a plague vaccine prior to being released into the wild. In addition, during the weeks leading up to the release, biologists made sure the ferrets would have plenty of prairie dogs to eat by treating the local prairie dog population with insecticide and plague vaccine. Plague control will continue to be necessary as more black-footed ferret releases are planned next year and the year after. The Louisville Zoo participates in ferret releases. This year’s group of ferrets born at the Louisville Zoo will be released later this fall at a location yet to be determined. The Louisville Zoo has provided over 700 ferrets for reintroduction since 1991. Your Zoo’s Conservation Center has assisted greatly in the national program’s momentum. Not only have we played a role in developing the protocols that all institutions use, but we have also been the most consistent producer of kits (babies) each year. You can follow this year‘s 26 kits on their adventures as they grow up and get ready for release. Learn what they’re up to and get the latest on the planned release by visiting Inside Your Zoo Your Zoo is proud to support the release of black-footed ferrets back into Meeteetse, Wyoming. $5,000 was contributed by your Zoo’s conservation fund to assist in sylvatic plague management at the site to prepare the area for the safe reintroduction of this important species. Louisville Zoo Trunkline • Fall 2016 • 7