You may love the Memphis Zoo for all of our wonderful animals, fun attractions and beautiful exhibits, but have you heard about our conservation efforts? The Memphis Zoo works diligently to protect potentially endangered species and endangered species around the world, within the U.S. and right here in our own backyard. Here are three ways we’re working to make a difference in the zoological community.
Studying the giant panda
Forty years ago, giant pandas, both captive and wild, were at risk of extinction. Because of this, the Memphis Zoo and numerous other national and international organizations made it their mission to further understand these beautiful animals. When Ya Ya and Le Le arrived at the Zoo in 2003, researchers began studying the duo in an effort to better understand their behaviors and reproductive systems. For example, studies are conducted daily to gather information on why, when and how they eat bamboo. Researchers also study chemical communication during the breeding season and the pandas’ urine to keep track of hormone levels as it relates to reproduction. As one of only four zoos in the country that have giant pandas as part of its collection, we are thrilled to be able to learn more about these fascinating creatures.
Dusky gopher frog reintroducion
Another focus of the Memphis Zoo’s conservation efforts is the dusky gopher frog. If no new families of dusky gopher frogs are introduced into the wild, the animal will likely become extinct. In an effort to save the dusky gopher frog, the Zoo utilizes cutting-edge technology that allows workers to assist in reproduction when the dusky gopher frog struggles naturally in the wild. Applying IVF procedures, new larvae is developed, matured and new tadpoles are produced for reintroduction into restored habitats. This technology allows workers to assist in reproduction when the dusky gopher frog struggles naturally in the wild. Along with our partners at the Detroit, Omaha, Dallas, St. Paul and Birmingham zoos, our research staff is set to produce thousands of baby frogs each year.
Louisiana pine snake
The Louisiana pine snake is one of the rarest snakes in North America and is currently listed as a candidate species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. In an effort to conserve the at-risk reptile, the Memphis Zoo has partnered with seven zoos across the country, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service Catahoula District and Texas A&M University. To properly breed the snakes, a research facility funded by the U.S. Forest Service Catahoula District and Texas A&M University was built on Zoo property near the giraffe barn and opened in September 2016. Since then, Herpetarium keepers have been hard at work taking great care of the pine snakes. Because of their efforts, five females laid a total of 28 eggs after the first breeding cycle. Considering only one-in-three reproductive male Louisiana pine snakes produce hatchlings each year, this is an impressive number!
And, this is just the tip of the iceberg! The Memphis Zoo is dedicated to conserving our wildlife and learning as much as possible about it to ensure fragile species are around for years to come. We can’t wait to share what we learn with you! Keep an eye out on our social media and website for information on our findings.