Oakland, CA, August 18, 2015Oakland Zoo is collaborating with Sonoma State University’s Primate Ethology Research Lab to test smart feeder technology. The goal of the research project is to increase lemur activity and pique the interest of guests observing them. “I’m really excited about this collaboration with Oakland Zoo. Because our smart feeders are battery powered, they do not require keeper presence to work, and promise to enhance the great work with enrichment that Oakland Zoo already engages in. My husband, David Jaffe, a former zookeeper and amateur woodworker, has already built the smart feeder prototype, and it works great! Now we just need funding to build the feeders that will go in the exhibit,” said Dr. Karin Jaffe, professor of anthropology at Sonoma State University and director of the lab.

Eight smart feeder devices have been specially designed and will be built for the research project and funds raised via crowdfunding will finance the endeavor. The estimated cost to build all devices is $2,560. On August 18, 2015, the crowdfund will kick off on Experiment.com, which is a platform for funding scientific research. All projects through Experiment.com are rigorously reviewed by a team of researchers. “When we found the Experiment.com site, I was really excited! Not only can crowdfunding support the building of our lemur smart feeders, but Experiment.com provides everyone, both donors and visitors to the site, with unprecedented information about scientific projects. In the case of our project, people who login to https://experiment.com/lemurs can learn about the basics of the project, see our budget, and read researcher biographies. Plus, we’ll be posting Lab Notes every week during the month-long campaign, on topics ranging from enrichment and lemur behavior to biographies of the student researchers and the lemur keepers. People will really gain insight into why the project is so important to us,” Dr. Jaffe said. “With the cut-backs in funding from local and federal granting agencies, I believe crowdfunding sites like Experiment.com are the future of funding for smaller research projects, like ours, and I’m excited that Oakland Zoo and the SSUPER Lab are on the cutting edge of this new type of funding.” 

Oakland Zoo's focus on maintaining and enhancing the psychological wellbeing of animals means zookeepers are trained to address the issue of reduced animal activity. Currently, zookeepers provide animals with the opportunity to make choices, engage in species-appropriate behaviors, and enhance their welfare through the Zoo’s extensive enrichment program. The new smart feeders will further these goals by allowing enrichment to occur throughout the day, without human intervention, and in habitat locations difficult for zookeepers to access. “I am so excited about these new enrichment devices and can’t wait to see how the lemurs will interact with them,” said Elizabeth Abrams, Lead Keeper at Oakland Zoo. “The lemurs greet their Keepers at the door when they hear us coming, as they recognize the sound of our keys and the sound of doors to their area being opened. It will be interesting to observe how this behavior is altered once the feeding is not dependent on a Keeper being present. Will they regularly check the devices for food? Will random deliveries cause more activity as they check the devices around their exhibit? I look forward to the answers and know that it will be an adventure for the lemurs along with their Keepers and the folks from SSUPER Lab.” “As an intern in the Animal Care Department at Oakland Zoo, I was surrounded by staff dedicated and passionate about the animals in their care,” said Penelope Wilson, SSUPER Lab student and former Oakland Zoo intern. “Their drive and enthusiasm inspired me to help obtain a greater understanding of the animals they care for. By partnering with Oakland Zoo, my research with the SSUPER Lab can help answer important questions about the animals, while assisting to create a more interesting and natural environment for them.”

This experiment is important because in the wild, food is unpredictable, so animals must move constantly in search of it. In zoos, enrichment often aims to increase unpredictability but Keepers are usually involved in providing the enrichment at times based on their daily routine. Because SSUPER Lab’s devices are automated, they will simulate a more natural environment by increasing the unpredictability of when food is available. Researchers are attempting to find an ideal balance between predictable disbursement (which can lead to boredom) and complete randomness (which can lead to stress). “The welfare of animals depends on their ability to cope with environmental, physical, and mental challenges,” said Darren Minier, Zoological Manager and Research Program Chair at Oakland Zoo. “At Oakland Zoo, we take this charge seriously, by being committed to providing the best quality of life for the animals under our care and addressing the animals’ psychological needs with the same degree of thought, process, and goal-making used to address their physical needs. Our overall goal is to ensure the environments animals live in are engaging --allowing them to thrive, and we believe the collaboration with Sonoma State University is a great step in that direction.”

After the installation of the smart feeders, there is an expectation that visitors will show higher interest in the lemurs by staying at the exhibit longer to watch them search for food. Studies have shown that zoo patrons will spend mere seconds at an exhibit if an animal is not visible and only ten to twenty seconds more in front of an exhibit if an animal is active. By engaging the lemurs in their environment, SSUPER Lab and Oakland Zoo hope to better understand the link between animal activities and guest engagement. The crowdfunding campaign will be active from August 18-September 17, 2015, and the research project itself will continue through March 30, 2016. Those more curious about the project may also follow the endeavor on twitter @researchOZlemur. Upon completion of the experiment, Oakland Zoo will have the opportunity to purchase the feeding devices from SSUPER Lab.

ABOUT OAKLAND ZOO:

The Bay Area's award-winning Oakland Zoo is home to more than 660 native and exotic animals. The Zoo offers many educational programs and kid's activities perfect for science field trips, family day trips and exciting birthday parties. Oakland Zoo is dedicated to wildlife conservation onsite and worldwide. Nestled in the Oakland Hills, in 500-acre Knowland Park, the Zoo is located at 9777 Golf Links Road, off Highway 580. The East Bay Zoological Society (Oakland Zoo) is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization supported in part by members, contributions, the City of Oakland and the East Bay Regional Parks.

ABOUT SONOMA STATE UNIVERSITY’S PRIMATE ETHOLOGY RESEARCH LAB:

The Sonoma State University Primate Ethology Research Lab is run by Dr. Karin Jaffe, professor of anthropology, and strives to involve Sonoma State graduate and undergraduate students in a variety of behavioral research projects at Bay Area zoos and animal preserves. The lab’s mission is to help zoos better understand the behavior of their animals and enhance their welfare while providing affordable and accessible research opportunities for Sonoma State University students.

###

 

MIAMI, FL - (August 18, 2015) -  The Zoological Wildlife Foundation (ZWF Miami) announces the arrival of two Asian small-clawed otter siblings. A nearly sixteen-week-old female was named Kappa and her twin sibling, Kawauso, arrived at the South Florida based zoo and conservation facility this past weekend. "We feel so happy to have these two sibling otters join our family of more than 150 wildlife species," said ZWF Miami Founder Mario Tabraue. "We hope these new pups will be the first of many for us." Asian small-clawed otters are vulnerable to extinction in their native Indonesia, southern China, southern India, the Philippines and Southeast Asia. They are known as the smallest yet the most social otter species in the world.  At ZWF Miami, Kappa and Kawaso will reside in a temperature-controlled glass enclosure featuring lush landscape as well as a waterfall and a watering hole. The playful otters will be available for up close and personal encounters with visitors of the facility for a limited time.
 
Located south of Miami on five breathtaking acres of land, ZWF Miami is home to everything from domestic animals, leopards, big cats, primates, large predatory birds and mammals to dozens of exotic species, most of which are available for interactive encounters with the public. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., ZWF Miami offers visitors tours of its facility by appointment only. For more information or to book a tour at ZWF Miami, visit
 
 
Pictured: 
Kappa and Kawauso, sixteen-day-old Asian small-clawed otter siblings
 
About the Zoological Wildlife Foundation:
The Zoological Wildlife Foundation (ZWF Miami) is an organization accredited by the Zoological Association of America as a zoo, preservation and conservation facility that is dedicated to educating the public about rare and endangered animal species in captivity and in the wild. Located south of Miami on five breathtaking acres of land, ZWF Miami is home to everything from domestic animals, leopards, big cats primates, large predatory birds and mammals to dozens of exotic species, most of which are available for interactive encounters with the public. ZWF Miami has a sister facility that is a private reserve where confiscated and unwanted exotics reside, the Wildlife Conservation and Education, which breeds endangered species in captivity, helps injured animals and rescues animals from being terminated or from being raised to be hunted.
 

Campaign features new website, short video voiced by actress Selma Blair, and children’s storybook

Washington, D.C., August 17, 2015 -- Born Free USA, a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, has launched a new educational campaign for children called “What Elephants Like” (www.whatelephantslike.org). The aim is to help parents start an important conversation about the delicate issue of elephant suffering, without using any graphic language or images. The initiative includes an interactive website; a powerful 30 second video voiced by actress Selma Blair; and a children’s storybook, all designed and produced for Born Free USA by Goodby Silverstein & Partners. 

According to Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA and the Born Free Foundation, “The shocking mistreatment of wild animals used for entertainment has gone on far too long. The goal of this initiative is to provide families with attractive, kid-friendly, non-graphic tools that can help promote an age-appropriate, meaningful conversation. Born Free is dedicated to empowering future conservationists by helping them understand at a young age what is happening in wildlife conservation, and learn how they can make a difference. Elephants—and all wild animals—belong in the wild, and no one is too young to understand that.”

The 30 second video features five elephants, with one attempting to stand on a barrel in the wild. The message is that elephants in entertainment have no choice and are forced to do something that is unnatural. 

The storybook, What Elephants Like, by Joel Lugar, produced by Born Free USA, with illustrations by Evan Schultz and Tyler Jensen, is a beautiful children’s book that appropriately entertains and enlightens readers with the message of keeping wildlife in the wild. The book is available at www.whatelephantslike.org as a free e-book, downloadable PDF, and coloring book, and can be purchased ($15.99, softcover, color, 8" x 10", 28 pages) at www.createspace.com/4856106.

The website also offers fun facts about elephants and more information about how people can get involved. 

Roberts adds, “The goal for the book, video, and website is to explain that these are extraordinary animals, and when you see them confined behind bars or forced to do tricks and perform, it is not natural, humane, or acceptable. We want kids to understand that these highly intelligent, sensitive, gentle giants deserve to thrive in the wild.” 

Fun Facts about Elephants

  • There are three species of elephant: African savannah, African forest, and Asian.
  • Elephants live in family groups that combine to form herds.
  • Elephant family groups are matriarchal, which means that one of the older females is the leader.
  • Elephants are very social. They like to hang out with other elephants and communicate in various ways, from loud trumpeting to low rumbling (so low that humans can't even hear it) that other elephants can hear more than two miles away.
  • Elephants use their trunks for a lot of different things, including reaching for food, blowing water onto their backs to cool off, and even as a snorkel for breathing while under water.
  • Elephants can live up to 70 years in the wild.
  • Elephants are happier in the wild; they should live free. But, they are at risk of being captured for circuses and zoos, or being killed by poachers for their ivory tusks.
  • They are herbivores, meaning they only eat plants like grass, fruit, bark, and twigs.
  • They use their tusks to dig and find water, clear pathways through the forest, shake fruit out of trees, and make scratches on tree trunks to mark their territory.

Born Free USA is a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation, and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic “pets,” trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Born Free USA brings to North America the message of “compassionate conservation”—the vision of the United Kingdom-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film Born Free, along with their son, Will Travers. Born Free’s mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally. More at www.bornfreeusa.org; www.twitter.com/bornfreeusa; and www.facebook.com/bornfreeusa.

Feds' Violation of Environmental Laws Cited

Contact: Robert Johns, 202 888 7472, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Bald Eagle, Chris Hill/Shutterstock

Bald Eagle, Chris Hill/Shutterstock

(Washington, D.C., August 12, 2015) The U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, in San Jose has ruled that the Department of the Interior violated federal laws when it created a final regulation allowing wind energy and some other companies to obtain 30-year permits to kill protected Bald and Golden Eagles without prosecution by the federal government. The court decision invalidates the rule.

American Bird Conservancy (ABC), a plaintiff in the lawsuit, hailed the decision. “We are pleased that the courts agreed with us that improper shortcuts were taken in the development of this rule,” said Dr. Michael Hutchins, Director of ABC’s Bird Smart Wind Energy Program. “The court found that important laws meant to protect our nation’s wildlife were not properly followed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, putting Bald and Golden Eagles at greater risk.”

The court wrote: “… substantial questions are raised as to whether the Final 30-Year Rule may have a significant adverse effect on bald and golden eagle populations.”

In particular, the courts cited a lack of compliance with the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). "We’re ready to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct the required NEPA analysis and formulate a better system to protect eagles from poorly-sited wind energy projects,” said Hutchins. “We must come up with a better system to assess the potential risks to birds and bats prior to a project’s siting and construction and to track and mitigate project impacts post-construction.”

The previous “eagle take” rule, adopted in 2009, provided for a maximum duration of five years for each permit to kill eagles. A key part of the court’s ruling held that:  “… FWS has failed to show an adequate basis in the record for deciding not to prepare an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) — much less an EA (Environmental Assessment) — prior to increasing the maximum duration for programmatic eagle take permits by sixfold.”

“ … While promoting renewable energy projects may well be a worthy goal,” the ruling continued, “it is no substitute for the [agency’s] obligations to comply with NEPA and to conduct a studied review and response to concerns about the environmental implications of major agency action. … Accordingly, the Court holds that FWS violated NEPA’s procedural requirements and that the Final 30-Year Rule must therefore be set aside and remanded to FWS for further consideration.”

The court cited concerns that had been raised by FWS staff during development of the 30-year eagle rule, stating: “The record [in the case] bolsters the Court’s conclusion, as FWS’s failure to adequately ‘address concerns raised by its own experts’ is cause for the Court to find a NEPA violation.”

ABC filed the lawsuit on June 19, 2014 in federal court against the Department of the Interior, alleging multiple violations of federal law in connection with the December 9, 2013 rulemaking. ABC contended that DOI violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and other statutes.

ABC believes that wind energy and other renewable energy sources can be encouraged without putting Bald and Golden Eagles, and other protected wildlife, at risk. Proper siting of turbines is critical: New ABC-funded research has revealed that more than 30,000 wind turbines have been installed in areas critical to the survival of federally-protected birds in the United States and that more than 50,000 additional turbines are planned for construction in similar areas.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is one of ABC’s most important partners,” said ABC President George Fenwick. “We collaborate frequently, share many goals, and have enjoyed many successes together. However, FWS is encountering unprecedented financial constraints that lead to shortcuts and poor decisions. We hope that this court decision shines a light on the need for the Service to be fully empowered to do the job it is mandated to do. Our nation’s wildlife – and the agency appointed to protect it – deserve nothing less.”

ABC is represented by the Washington, D.C. public interest law firm of Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal.

ABC's efforts to establish Bird Smart wind energy in the U.S. are made possible in part by the generous support of the Leon Levy Foundation.


American Bird Conservancy is the Western Hemisphere’s bird conservation specialist—the only organization with a single and steadfast commitment to achieving conservation results for native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With a focus on efficiency and working in partnership, we take on the toughest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on sound science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.

MEDIA RELEASE

http://www.abcbirds.org/picts/newsandreports/WesternBluebird_Wildphoto3_SS.jpg

(Washington, D.C., June 24, 2015) PVC pipes used to mark boundaries at over 3 million mining claims and other pipes are deadly traps for birds, say more than 100 groups in a jointletterto the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Agriculture Department’s Forest Service (FS). In the letter, the groups call on the two agencies to accelerate efforts to address this longstanding threat to birds at mining claims they govern.

According to the June 22 letter, small birds often see the opening of PVC mining claim markers and other pipes — such as fence or gate posts — as a hollow suitable for nesting. The birds enter the holes, only to become trapped because the walls of the pipes do not allow them to extend their wings and fly out — and are too smooth to allow them to grapple their way up the sides. Death from dehydration or starvation soon follows.

“Much work remains to be done to remove existing hazards, and long-term policies and procedures still need to be established to prevent this form of bird mortality from continuing to occur on public lands in the future,” the letter says.

The groups are asking the federal agencies to eliminate the problem and meet the respective agencies' responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Executive Order 13186.

The groups specifically ask BLM and FS to take three key actions:

  • Issue national policy directives to remove or modify existing pipes, and to delineate standards to prevent use of open pipes in the future.
  • Initiate a federal rulemaking to require that mining claim holders replace pipes that can cause mortality and to require non-hazardous markers on all current and future claims.
  • Dedicate sufficient resources annually to educate mine claim holders, to coordinate and carry out partnership efforts to remove pipes, and to carry out necessary infrastructure improvements on the Public Lands and National Forest Systems.

According to the BLM publication Public Land Statistics, in 2014 there were 3.5 million mining claims on record on BLM-managed lands in 11 contiguous western states and Alaska.  Nevada had the most with 1.1 million claims, followed by Utah, with 412,000; Wyoming (which includes minimal numbers from Nebraska), with 314,000; California, with 311,000; and Colorado, with 285,000.

One examination of 854 pipes revealed 879 dead birds (as well as 113 reptiles and 20 mammals) – an average of more than one bird death per pipe.  Of the 43 species of birds recovered from the markers by the Nevada Department of Wildlife, most are cavity nesters. The Ash-throated Flycatcher and the Mountain Bluebird were the most frequent victims, but others commonly trapped included woodpeckers, sparrows, shrikes, kestrels, and owls.

This threat to birds has been documented from Oregon to New Mexico. In November 2011, BLM specialists in Oregon documented alarming rates of bird mortality at claims in the Burns area with one stating in his written report that the toll to birds “…could be enormous…a single uncapped, vertical PVC cylinder can potentially entrap and kill dozens of native birds from multiple species.” Pipe-pulling efforts have so far documented as many as 26 and 30 bird mortalities in a single pipe.

In their letter, the concerned groups recognized that some efforts have already been undertaken to mitigate the threat, such as BLM's creation of a flyer endorsed by partners that include American Bird Conservancy and the National Mining Association. This flyer will be mailed to mine claim holders, alerting them to the problem and urging them to replace or remediate hazardous markers. Meanwhile, Forest Service staff are covering open vent pipes on outhouses that were trapping birds.

#

American Bird Conservancyis the Western Hemisphere’s bird conservation specialist—the only organization with a single and steadfast commitment to achieving conservation results for native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With a focus on efficiency and working in partnership, we take on the toughest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on sound science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.

 

Oakland, CA, June 12, 2015…Oakland Zoo and the 96 Elephants campaign praise the California Assembly for passing AB 96, state legislation that would ban the sale of ivory and rhinoceros horn in the state of California.

California is the second largest hub for ivory sales in the United States and ivory sales support the slaughter of elephants thousands of miles away in Africa. The Assembly has shown tremendous leadership by addressing this crucial issue. “Oakland Zoo commends Speaker Atkins and the Assembly for moving AB 96 forward,” said Dr. Parrott, President and CEO of Oakland Zoo. “This is a critical time for elephants and their survival, and as a progressive state we cannot contribute to their extinction. As a conservation organization focused on educating our visitors about the crisis, we'd like to thank those of you that took action with us on behalf of all elephants and rhinos to support a ban on the legal sales of Ivory and rhino horn in California.” 

Oakland Zoo and the 96 Elephants collation urge continued support of AB 96, and we will continue working with lawmakers as the bill moves to the California Senate, then on to Governor Brown whom we urge to sign AB 96 into law. Californians have an opportunity to show support of this critical issue. By banning the sale of all elephant ivory and ivory products, California can raise consumer awareness, reduce poaching pressures on elephants, and set a critical example for other countries. Please, Californians, ask your state lawmakers to support AB96. This bill is named for the 96 elephants killed each day in the name of ivory. Help pass legislation to ban ivory sales in our State, go to the below link and sign the letter: https://secure3.convio.net/wcs/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=687

The goal of 96 Elephants – named after the number of elephants gunned down each day in Africa by poachers – is to stop the killing, stop the trafficking and stop the demand. Banning the sale of ivory is a key step toward stopping the demand, and California is poised to play a direct role in saving elephants from the ravages of the illegal wildlife trade.

Oakland Zoo would like to thank our fellow bill sponsors Humane Society of the United States, Natural Resources Defense Council, Wildlife Conservation Society, and the California Association of Zoos and Aquariums and its dedicated members for their hard work in supporting Assembly passage of AB 96.

ABOUT OAKLAND ZOO:

The Bay Area’s award-winning Oakland Zoo is home to more than 660 native and exotic animals. The Zoo offers many educational programs and kid’s activities perfect for science field trips, family day trips and exciting birthday parties. Nestled in the Oakland Hills, in 500-acre Knowland Park, the Zoo is located at 9777 Golf Links Road, off Highway 580. The East Bay Zoological Society (Oakland Zoo) is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization supported in part by members, contributions, the City of Oakland and the East Bay Regional Parks. For more information please visit our website at www.oaklandzoo.org.

###

Bill will provide vital funds for conservation of vulnerable wild cats and dogs

Washington, DC, June 10, 2015 -- Born Free USA, a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, applauds Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) for introducing H.R. 2697, legislation to provide essential funding for the conservation of wild cats and dogs (felids and canids). Many of these wild species, once considered common, are now in decline due to pervasive threats such as habitat loss and disease. The long-term survival of many wild felids and canids is in serious jeopardy of survival.

Of the 37 wild felid species worldwide, all but three are currently recognized as species in need of protection. Of the 36 wild canid species worldwide, 20 are recognized as in need of such protection. 

According to Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA and the Born Free Foundation: “Reversing the global decline of felid and canid species demands a profound international investment and I commend Representative Grijalva for taking action. Felid and canid species around the world are simply unable to cope with the endless barrage of threats before them, including hunting, disease, and habitat destruction. Reversing the population declines that most of these species face requires the conservation leadership long shown by the U.S. government.”

The bill is based on other crucial laws enacted to conserve African and Asian elephants, tigers, rhinos, great apes, marine turtles, and migratory birds. The projects funded by these successful laws have produced marked results and significantly aided vulnerable species.

“Humans have been killing these species, destroying their habitats and driving them away for far too long, and the damage done to the world around us speaks for itself,” Grijalva said. “The best science we have, combined with a healthy respect for nature, demands that we pass this bill. At the end of the day, if we don’t protect these species, they’ll disappear and take large food chains with them. We’ll have nowhere to look but the mirror to understand the cause.”

Lions and Ethiopian wolves are of particular concern to Born Free USA.  An estimated 32,000 or fewer lions remain across Africa, which represents more than a 50% decline since 1980. They face indiscriminate poisoning, shrinking habitats, lack of prey species, trophy hunting, poaching, and illegal trade. The survival of the West African lion is in particular peril; they face possible extinction with only 400 remaining.  With fewer than 500 adult Ethiopian wolves, this species is one of the rarest carnivores in the world. Living in small, isolated populations within Afroalpine regions of Ethiopia, these wolves are severely threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, rabies, and hybridization with domestic dogs.

“There must be resources available so that meaningful action can be undertaken to protect these and other species,” said Roberts. “West African Lions, Ethiopian wolves, and other imperiled felids and canids are running out of time. I strongly urge members of Congress to support the Rare Cats and Canids Act and ensure its swift passage.”

Born Free USA is a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation, and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic “pets,” trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Born Free USA brings to North America the message of “compassionate conservation” — the vision of the United Kingdom-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film Born Free, along with their son Will Travers. Born Free’s mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally. More at www.bornfreeusa.org; www.twitter.com/bornfreeusa; and www.facebook.com/bornfreeusa.

Nature Chronicles a Diversity of Life in

The Sagebrush Sea

Wednesday, May 20, 2015 on PBS

An ecosystem tapped by energy development faces an uncertain future

It's been called The Big Empty - an immense sea of sagebrush that once stretched 500,000 square miles across North America, exasperating thousands of westward-bound travelers as an endless place through which they had to pass to reach their destinations. Yet it's far from empty, as those who look closely will discover. In this ecosystem anchored by the sage, eagles and antelope, badgers and lizards, rabbits, wrens, owls, prairie dogs, songbirds, hawks and migrating birds of all description make their homes. For one bird, however, it is a year-round home, as it has been for thousands of years. The Greater Sage-Grouse relies on the sage for everything and is found no place else. But their numbers are in decline. Two hundred years ago, there were as many as 16 million sage grouse; today, there may be fewer than 200,000.

The Sagebrush Sea tracks the Greater Sage-Grouse and other wildlife through the seasons as they struggle to survive in this rugged and changing landscape. The program airs Wednesday, May 20, 2015 at 8 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings). After broadcast, the episode will be available for online streaming at pbs.org/nature.

In early spring, male sage grouse move to open spaces, gathering in clearings known as leks to establish mating rights. They strut about, puffing up yellow air sacs in their breasts and making a series of popping sounds to intimidate other males. For weeks, they practice their elaborate display and square off with other arriving males, battling to establish dominance and territory. Successful males then display for discriminating females and are allowed to mate only if chosen as the most suitable. The criteria are a mystery to all but the females, nearly all of which select only one or two males on the lek each year. Once they've bred, the hens will head off into the protective sage to build their nests near food and water and raise their offspring alone. Within a month, the chicks hatch and follow the hens as they forage for food and keep a watchful eye out for predators. In the summer, the grouse head to wetlands, often populated by farms and ranches, in search of water, only to return to the sage in the fall. Shrinking wetlands that once supported thousands of grouse still manage to provide for hundreds.

Other species discussed in the program include the golden eagle and great-horned owl. Both bird species take advantage of perfect perches on the rocks and ridges sculpted by the area's constant wind to nest, hunt, and raise their families. Cavity-nesting bluebirds and the American kestrel return each year to raise their young in rock crevices. The sagebrush serves as a nursery for the sagebrush sparrow, the sage thrasher and the Brewer's sparrow, all of which breed nowhere else.

Sage survives in this arid environment through deep roots that reach to the water below. Like water, however, many key resources are locked below ground in the high desert, bringing an increasing presence of wells, pipelines and housing. As they proliferate, the sage sea is becoming more and more fragmented, impacting habitats and migratory corridors. And of the 500,000 square miles of sagebrush steppe that stretched across North America, only half now remains. For the sage and the grouse, the future is uncertain.

Nature is a production of THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET. For Nature, Fred Kaufman is executive producer. The Sagebrush Sea is a Cornell Lab of Ornithology Production.

Nature pioneered a television genre that is now widely emulated in the broadcast industry. Throughout its history, Nature has brought the natural world to millions of viewers. The series has been consistently among the most-watched primetime series on public television.

Nature has won over 700 honors from the television industry, the international wildlife film communities and environmental organizations, including 12 Emmys and three Peabodys. The series received two of wildlife film industry's highest honors: the Christopher Parsons Outstanding Achievement Award given by the Wildscreen Festival and the Grand Teton Award given by the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. The International Wildlife Film Festival honored Nature executive producer Fred Kaufman with its Lifetime Achievement Award for Media.

PBS.org/nature is the award-winning web companion to Nature, featuring streaming episodes, filmmaker interviews, teacher's guides and more.

Support for this Nature program was made possible in part by the Arnhold Family in memory of Clarisse Arnhold, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Estate of Elizabeth A. Vernon, the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust, the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, the Filomen M. D'Agostino Foundation, Rosalind P. Walter, George B. Storer Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and public television viewers.

###

   

 

About WNET As New York's flagship public media provider and the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than 5 million viewers each week. WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend, Charlie Rose and a range of documentaries, children's programs, and local news and cultural offerings available on air and online. Pioneers in educational programming, WNET has created such groundbreaking series as Get the Math, Oh Noah!andCyberchase and provides tools for educators that bring compelling content to life in the classroom and at home. WNET highlights the tri-state's unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Reel 13, NJTV News with Mary Alice Williams and MetroFocus, the multi-platform news magazine focusing on the New York region. WNET is also a leader in connecting with viewers on emerging platforms, including the THIRTEEN Explore App where users can stream PBS content for free.

H.R. 2016/S.1081would prohibit body-gripping traps on National Wildlife Refuges

Washington, DC, April 27, 2015 – Today, leading animal welfare and wildlife conservation organizations -- Born Free USA, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) –  announced support for the reintroduction of the Refuge from Cruel Trapping Act (H.R. 2016/S.1081) in both the U.S. House of Representatives by Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and the U.S. Senate  by Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.). This bill would ban the use or possession of all body-gripping animal traps -- including snares, Conibear traps, and steel-jaw leghold traps -- on lands within the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS).

Born Free USA, AWI, and IFAW commend Congresswoman Lowey and Senator Booker for backing the bill and urge swift passage of the legislation to ensure that all National Wildlife Refuges are safe havens for wildlife.

“Indiscriminate body-gripping traps on public land affect the welfare of wild animals and humans alike,” said Congresswoman Lowey. “That’s why I reintroduced the Refuge from Cruel Trapping Act to prohibit the use of inhumane steel jaw leghold traps, Conibear kill traps, and snares within our National Wildlife Refuge System. We need to address this inherent cruelty and restore the true meaning of ‘refuge.’”

"The use of body-gripping animal traps in federal wildlife refuges is contrary to the very mission and purpose of these protected areas. These cruel traps don't distinguish between targeted animals and protected animals, endangered species or pets, and are a safety hazard to people. It's past time to remove this antiquated and inhumane practice from federal wildlife refuges," said Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J).

According to Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA and the Born Free Foundation, “Animals and people should have the freedom to enjoy these Refuges without the threat of stepping into a body-gripping trap. The brutality of these traps is shocking; they can crush limbs and organs, and animals often remain trapped for days, in massive pain, before dying. It is inexcusable to subject any animal to such a fate on lands intended for their preservation.”

The NWRS encompasses the most comprehensive and diverse collection of fish and wildlife habitats in the world, and provides a home for more than 240 endangered species. Overall, the NWRS harbors species of more than 700 birds, 220 mammals, 250 reptiles and amphibians, and 200 fish. Despite the NWRS’ mission “to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans,” a staggering 54 percent of the refuges within the system allow trapping on refuge grounds.

"Body-gripping traps slam closed with bone-crushing force on any animal that trips the device, while strangling snares tighten around the neck or body of their victims until death finally ends the torture. This cruelty should not be permitted in any place that is called a ‘refuge,’” said Cathy Liss, president of AWI. “Passage of this legislation would be a crucial step toward reducing the suffering inflicted on our nation’s wildlife.”

IFAW Campaigns Officer Carson Barylak added, “The Refuge from Cruel Trapping Act will put a stop to the use of cruel and ecologically destructive traps on wildlife refuges, allowing these public lands to serve their intended purpose--preserving wildlife and ensuring that all Americans can enjoy our shared natural heritage on refuges.” 

Born Free USA, AWI, and IFAW assert that animals and people should have freedom to enjoy National Wildlife Refuges without that danger present, and urge other members of Congress to join Congresswoman Lowey and Sen. Booker in support of H.R. 2016/S.1081.

Born Free USA is a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation, and public education, the organization leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic “pets,” trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Born Free USA brings to North America the message of “compassionate conservation” — the vision of the United Kingdom-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film Born Free, along with their son, Will Travers. Born Free USA’s mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally. More at www.bornfreeusa.org, www.twitter.com/bornfreeusa, and www.facebook.com/bornfreeusa.

The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) is a non-profit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. For more information on AWI, visit www.awionline.org.

Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

MEDIA RELEASE

Robert Johns, American Bird Conservancy: 202-888-7472, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Red Knot, Mike Parr

(Washington, D.C., March 25, 2015) With Spring now here, baby birds and other young wildlife will soon be arriving and later venturing from their nests in a generally defenseless state. American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is reminding cat owners that even the most well-fed domestic cats pose serious threats to vulnerable wildlife.

“Spring is an incredibly dangerous time for wildlife because newborn prey don’t have the same physical defenses as their parents and have not fully developed the danger awareness regarding predators that comes with time,” said ABC Invasive Species Program Director Grant Sizemore. “Spring is perhaps the single most important time of the year for cat owners to protect wildlife by keeping their cats indoors or under their direct control,” he said.

For example, Sizemore said a study on the effects of urbanization on wildlife that tracked the early lives of Gray Catbirds in three Washington, D.C. suburbs found that outdoor cats were the number-one source of known predation on young birds. The peer-reviewed study by Anne L. Balogh of Towson University and Drs. Peter Marra and Thomas Ryder of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute found that almost 80 percent of the catbird mortality in the study was from predation and that cats were the source of almost half of the known predation.

Even brief appearances of cats near avian nest sites lead to an increase in nest failure according to another peer-reviewed study. Those cat appearances can cause behavioral changes in parent birds which can cause an approximately 33 percent reduction in the amount of food brought to nestlings following a predation threat.

Birds whose natural movements include time on or near the ground are most susceptible, especially those that breed or nest on the ground. Typical prey for cats includes a wide variety of birds including songbirds, game birds, and waterbirds.

People often believe that cats won’t hunt if they’ve been well fed. Research shows that cats instinctively hunt, no matter how much they’ve been fed, because the hunting instinct is independent of the urge to eat.
“People can do something to help native wildlife in their backyard, and it will likely help their pets live longer,” concluded Sizemore. “We advise cat owners to spay and neuter their pets, and protect them by keeping them indoors, on leashes, or in outdoor enclosures.”

peer-reviewed study authored by scientists from two of the world’s leading science and wildlife organizations—the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—found that bird and mammal mortality caused year-round by outdoor cats is much higher than has been widely reported, with annual bird mortality now estimated to be 1.4 to 3.7 billion and mammal mortality likely 6.9 to 20.7 billion individuals.

For a list of the top ten things people can do to help birds out in the Spring, click here.

#

American Bird Conservancy is the Western Hemisphere’s bird conservation specialist—the only organization with a single and steadfast commitment to achieving conservation results for native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With a focus on efficiency and working in partnership, we take on the toughest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on sound science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.

Page 1 of 4