Friday, December 18, 2009

The Perfect Gift!!

Seasons Greetings,

Are you looking for that last, perfect Holiday gift for someone special? Consider giving a truly meaningful gift--a donation in a loved one's name to the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation. Simply visit us online and click the "Donate Now" button. Your gift will help support crucial wildlife conservation programs. You can specify a program or species to support--just e-mail a note with the person's name and address to the donation form, along with any specifics you'd like. Support bongo for Billy or parrots for Pam! We will send a written acknowlegement to the person named in the donation, along with an image of a Bongo Antelope, Amazon Parrot, Pygmy Marmoset, or Golden-lion Tamarin (you choose). Simply include your choice in your email to info@rarespecies.org. This is a gift you will love to give, and love to recieve! Thanks in advance for your much-needed support.

P.S. Please pass this on to your friends and family!

Happy Holidays,

Rare Species Conservatory Foundation
www.rarespecies.org

Monday, November 30, 2009

Invasive vs. Native Plants

Invasive exotics may be responsible for destroying more natural habitat each year than is destroyed through land development. Highly invasive exotic species severely disrupt native ecosystems. They may eliminate or severely alter habitat for wildlife by displacing food plants or altering the structure of the ecosystem. A few problem exotic species are extremely flammable and may pose a danger to humans, as well as wildlife and the native flora, when they burn. Some invasive species can invade and clog waterways. On the other hand, these exotic plants have invaded the natural wildlife of Florida for so long that some native animals have also become accustomed to using these plants for shelter, nest building or food. We, the staff of R.S.C.F., decided to pick a few invasive and native species to talk about and share some pros and cons on these plants.


Invasive Air Potato & Melaleuca

There are over 200 species of Melaleuca (genus Myrtaceae). Both air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera) and melaleuca are invasive plants. Most Melaleuca are native to Australia, and are considered shrubs and trees. They were introduced into Florida in the early 20th century, in an early attempt to dry up the everglades and make it a more agricultural habitat. Now they have swarmed southern Florida making it harder for native plants to grow.
Air potato was introduced to Florida in the early 1900s, and is native to tropical Asia and sub-sahara Africa. It is actually part of the Yam family, which in West Africa is considered a popular food item. However, uncultivated species such as the air potato can be poisonous. It is important to know this if you have animals on your property so they do not eat it accidentally. The best way to get rid of it is to dig up the root and remove it from the ground.
It is important for us to understand the problems with invasive plants. They drown out native plants, taking them longer to grow, if at all. With that being said, the animals that rely on those plants just lost their habitat, and it’s a vicious never-ending cycle. It just goes to show how one little invasive plant can make such a difference in the ecology of an area.


Brazilian Pepper vs. Dahoon Holly

Sinus terebinthifolius goes by many common names: Florida Holly, Christmas berry, Rose Pepper, but the more proper name would be Brazilian Pepper since it came from South America. It was introduced as an ornamental plant in the late 1800s and has now almost completely replaced many native floras such as the similar-looking Dahoon Holly. This holly (Ilex cassine) is a Florida native and it fights to regain a foothold as the Brazilian Pepper continues to blanket the landscape.
Both species are similar in appearance, but have differences to look for. The pepper grows more like a large bush with veined green leaves whereas the holly grows rather straight like a tree with darker glossy leaves. They both produce berries (in the female plants, not males), but at different parts of the year. The Brazilian's berry is dry while the Dahoon Holly's is juicy (but surprisingly disgusting) and the Pepper produces more berries per plant than the Dahoon so it spreads exceedingly faster. The berries are a very important food source for wintering songbirds. American robins wintering in Florida eat tons of "Florida holly" berries, and their population has probably increased since this weed was brought to Florida. It is, in fact, the birds that have spread Brazilian pepper all around. The seeds pass through their stomachs and germinate in little plops of fertilizer! Honey bees also make honey from the flowers.
Today, efforts have been put towards projects to eradicate the berried devil from Florida's landscape. It's a slow process because in order to remove it completely the land has to be practically clear-cut to ensure no remaining seeds, roots, or saplings. As Florida citizens however, we have a moral responsibility to try and keep our state intact with natives and remove what we can from our individual properties and although the work can be tedious at least there is a drive if not towards eradication than towards control.


Native Pines vs. Australian Pines

In North America there are 36 native species of Pines (genus Pinus). Pines are important for various reasons such as food, colonization of burned sites, cover for wildlife, and members of this group are sometimes used for reforestation. These trees reproduce through their cones. The small male cones provide pollen and the larger woody cones which provide the seeds usually have sharp prickled tips. Throughout Florida we have several Pine species such as Spruce Pine, Sand Pine, Loblolly Pine and Slash Pine. Due to the removal of Shortleaf Pine and Longleaf Pine, endangered Red Cockaded Woodpecker populations have plummeted. Also found in Palm Beach, Florida is a non-native flowering tree, which looks just like a pine called Australian Pine or Horsetail Casuarina. These trees were introduced to North America mostly to control erosion and improve soil fertility. Ironically this non-native tree provides a permanent home for a small population of non-native but very endangered Green-cheeked Amazon Parrots. This small population could be vital to the species for future reintroduction to east-central Mexico where its native range lies. Green-cheeked Amazon populations in Palm Beach, Florida are controlled by a finite number of Australian Pine, which are used as nest cavities. Rare Species Conservatory Foundation is home to a small rescued Captive population of a few individuals.


What can one person do?

Dealing with invasive plants is a Catch-22. They can cause serious damage to the native wildlife, however some animals have learned to cope with these plants and use them for security and food. They are typically difficult to eradicate. Hand clearing, broad-scale use of herbicide, bio-control, fire, flooding, and clearing followed by herbicide use are just some of the options used to control problem plants. It is nearly impossible to completely remove all exotics in Florida. There are so many exotics and invasive plants that have overrun the habitat it would simply cause mass habitat destruction if all exotics were cleared out. However, one can focus on keeping sections or islands of native plants, while keeping other areas of exotics maintained.

• Become informed, and share your knowledge.
• Learn how to tell the invasive exotics from less dangerous species.
• Remove invasive exotics from your own yard or land.
• Don't use nearby natural areas as places to throw yard debris.
• Volunteer to remove exotics from natural areas.
• Support bio-control programs.
• Let your elected representatives know that you support the control of exotic species.

Florida Native Plant Society:
http://www.fnps.org/pages/plants/invasives.php

Floridata:
http://www.floridata.com/index.cfm


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Team BLOGSQUAD!

We thought you might like to meet the members of RSCF's BLOGSQUAD. All are animal care specialists with RSCF.

Lead Keeper, Rosemarie Willms. "Hello. Rosie, here. I started at RSCF in the spring of 2007 and immediately loved it. I've learned a great deal working here; from identifying and treating avian diseases and parasites to caring for and managing psittacines, ungulates, primates and everything in between. I have even learned a thing or two about ATV repairs, setting pipelines, and exhibit design and construction. Our responsibilities here include riding an ATV through the swamp to feed 1,000 lb. bongo antelope, fighting off mosquitos to feed in the aviary, observing all the animals and their diet/behaviors, cleaning dishes, chopping fruit, and doing whatever odds and ends on the property need to be done that day. I also keep track of ordering insects (for our primates), feed/supplies, and anything else we might need. Before working here I attended Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach and not only with this job am I lucky to indulge my passion for nature, I also get to flex my artistic muscle by participating in RSCF's annual art show "Wild Things"."

Keeper I, Hollie Chiles. "Hello! I Graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science. Followed by an Associates of Science degree in Zoo Animal Technology. I aspire to continue obtaining knowledge on various animals and have a specific interest in large cats. Outside of work I enjoy dancing, outdoor activities and dream of traveling the world. "

Keeper I, David Reyes. "Hi! I was born and raised in Queens, New York, and recently graduated from Santa Fe Teaching Zoo in Gainesville with an Associates Degree in Zoo Animal Technology. The animals I am most interested in are reptiles, especially monitor lizards and large birds such as birds of prey. I'm fascinated with wildlife, and would love to work with all types of animals. Some of my hobbies are reading (science fiction), being outdoors, playing basketball and football, and I enjoy video games. "

Keeper I, Patrick Morin. "Greetings! Currently I am a student at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Before starting with RSCF, I participated in an internship with the Department of Environmental Protection. I learned a lot about environmental policy and law enforcement, studied mangrove growth patterns, and marine ecosystems.

Quote of the Month

The written word can be a powerful source of inspiration. With that in mind, we'll be printing an environmental "quote of the month". These passages are meant to inspire, challange, and enlighten. If you would like to submit a quote, please e-mail us.

October's quote comes from Dale Jamieson and was published in "Ethics on the Ark".

"One hope that I have for the future is athat we will recognize that if we keep animals in captivity, then what we owe them is everything. Whatever else we may believe about the morality of zoos, I hope we can come to the consensus that these animals are in our custody through no wish or fault of their own. They are refugees from a holocaust that humans have unleashed against nature. If we keep animals in captivity, then we must conform to the highest standards of treatment and respect...for the animals themselves have no voice in human affairs, and as nature recedes their voices are ever more silent."

Monday, September 14, 2009

Arranged Marriages



RSCF has one of the largest, oldest populations of captive pygmy marmosets (callithrix pygmaea) in the U.S. These tiny monkeys can easily fit in the palm of your hand and are found in the forests of Peru. Two weeks ago, we decided to create new breeding pairs from existing non-related family groups resident at our facility. We carefully considered age and personality when deciding who to pair with whom. The process isn't as easy as you might think. It's always stressful to capture these tiny primates, and disturbing family groups can create quite a bit of drama! Each new pair has to be closely observed after introduction--we always hope for "love at first sight". All in all, we created five new "arranged marriages" in addition to our existing two stable family groups and four other mature pairs. Everyone is getting along , and if all goes well we will be welcoming new pygmy babies to our growing families!

So far everyone is doing well and getting used to their new living arrangements. We placed the new pairs in large, planted exhibits full of palm trees and tons of great perching to run and play on. In the beginning it was difficult to find the new pairs (it's amazing how well they can hide) but now they’re more conspicuous and seem to be quite comfortable with each other and their new surroundings. Ah, love is in the air!!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Rescuing Rhino!

This just in...In June of 2009 RSCF trustee Dr. Mark Davis participated in the translocation of 29 endangered black rhino from high-risk areas (poaching) to safer, protected areas. The rhino are under constant attack by poachers seeking to harvest their horns. The relocation effort has never been filmed before. The short video below is just a sample of hours of video shot by Dr. Davis. We hope to bring you much more, very soon!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Goodbye Neil and Ellen!

Today we bid goodbye to Neil Grossman and Ellen Martin, our most recent summer volunteers/interns. We will miss them!! Both worked so hard, and were EXCELLENT workers. The entire staff of RSCF enjoyed their company and their obvious dedication to animal care.

Neil and Ellen will be returning to Gainesville for college and we hope they will visit us again in the not-to-distant future. We wish them the best! Both will soon be submitting blog posts about their experiences here at RSCF, so stay tuned.

Bye Guys!!!!


From left to right: Rosie Willms, Neil Grossman, Ellen Martin, Hollie Chiles, David Reyes and Dr. Paul Reillo.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Introducing "Rare Friends"


RSCF now has a support group called "Rare Friends". The group consists of chairpersons and members who are working together to help raise awareness and funds for RSCF. They just launched a retail shop on Etsy, called Rare Friends. Please take a moment to stop by, they are offering great T-shirts, posters, tote bags and more. Great gifts, and they donate all proceeds after cost to RSCF. So, get your wallet out and go shopping!!!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

In the News...

Dr. Reillo was recently interviewed by our local newspaper. The article has been posted online with the Sun Sentinel. Take a look!

Local Foundation is Acting Global to Save Rare Species...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Day in Pictures...

The staff took some great photos documenting an average day here at RSCF. We made it into a nice slide show--take a look!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

RSCF on the News...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Fireworks - A Love Hate Relationship


NewsChannel 5 visited us this morning to interview RSCF director, Dr. Reillo, about fireworks and wildlife. Since we lost a rare red-browed Amazon parrot in January to fireworks (the bird thrashed itself to death on New Year's Eve--neighbors shooting illegal fireworks), we have made it our mission to spread the word regarding the use of illegal fireworks and how this affects wildlife. Every year wild and captive animals are terrorized by public use of illegal fireworks. In Florida, it is illegal to use any fireworks that leave the ground and explode, yet every year these types of materials are bought, sold and used by the general public. The effects on wildlife are devestating, especially in rural areas. Loxahatchee, where we are located, is a rural, agricultural community with a strong equestrian presence. Anyone with livestock or captive animals hates the 4th of July and the ensuing 24-48 hours of exploding mayhem. Horses spook and slam themselves in their stalls, sometimes breaking free and crashing into fences. Many equestrian facilities have to litterally drug their horses during holidays when fireworks will be used, just to make sure they don't harm themselves or others.

For RSCF this is an especially critical issue. We house rare and endangered animals that are wild, not tame. We cannot move them or somehow enclose them during these times. The stress of capture would be the same or worse than the stress of fireworks. We have groups of 1,000 lb. African antelope spread over 20-acres. Exploding fireworks can spook them--luckily they have plenty of room to move about and hide.

It's different for the parrots we work with. Again, these are rare and endangered animals housed as wildlife in large, free-flight aviaries. When, in pitch-darkness, sudden explosions occur, their response is immediate flight--crashing into the walls of their exhibits in the dark. That's how we lost the red-brow in January due to head-trauma.

Let's not forget the toll on humans--every year someone, somewhere, blows off a finger (or worse) lighting illegal fireworks. Is it really worth it?

So, our message is simple. Don't break the law! Use fireworks that are LEGAL and attend community fireworks exhibits that are supervised. Respect your neighbors and the animals they keep. Wildlife has no voice or choice over what humans do. They are the unwitting and innocent victims of our excess and stupidity. It's great to celebrate our country's independance, and municipal fireworks displays are spectacular and fun. Shooting illegal fireworks in your backyard celebrates nothing and the resulting damage to animals and humans far outweighs the momentary thrill.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Animal Planet Star Visits Parrots

Earlier this week RSCF Director, Dr. Paul Reillo, spent the day filming a flock of ferel green-cheek Amazon parrots with Animal Planet host, Nigel Marven. Nigel has become a great friend of RSCF, and recently traveled to the Caribbean island of Dominica with Dr. Reillo to get a first-hand look at our conservation field programs and tour the "Nature Island".

While in Florida, Nigel gathered research and film footage for an upcoming documentary on exotic wildlife living in Florida. While in the Sunshine State, Nigel traveled to the Everglades to film wild pythons and green iguanas, and finished his trip with a day spent monitoring parrots with RSCF. We'll keep you posted regarding film release dates!


Monday, June 22, 2009

Feathered Fugitives...


Here they are...the two baby green-cheeked Amazon parrots stolen from thier nest last week. Had to snap this quickly, the camera freaked them out. They are doing well, starting to eat corn and some seed. Almost fully feathered--still have wing and tail feathers to come. They have adjusted to their new surroundings, and we are hoping to get them up and flying as fast as we can. Trying to handle them as little as possible so they stay as "wild" as possible. The good news--both now bite like crazy and hate people. Perfect.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Parrotphenalia


It has been a crazy few days, folks. Began last Thursday when RSCF staff visited a local feral population of green-cheek Amazon parrots. These birds are originally from Mexico, and are now endangered. The wild population in Florida is derived from escaped imports dating back to the 1940s. These birds are now an important group, one of the largest wild populations left. We (RSCF) have been studying this group for years, filming within nest cavities using a telescoping camera probe, banding babies, etc. We estimate up to 200 birds may be in this group. Every year we monitor nest cavities, which are in Australian pine trees. Last Thursday we discovered one of the active nests (had two babies in it) was empty...with a wire trap in the tree. The babies had been poached (stolen from the nest). WHAT A MESS! The trap was well-made, the thief obviously has done this before. Devestating loss to the flock and the police were called, reports made, and eventually the story hit the local press. We've been on the phone ever since.

Monday we got a call from a local pet shop--they had the babies. Someone tried to sell them to the shop, but the owners knew better and refused to buy them. Faced with the prospect of having to care for wild, baby parrots no one would buy, the thief simply left them at the pet shop, and then the owners contacted us. So, the happy ending is that we have the babies--tired, skinny and hungry. They are not fully flighted and cannot eat seed yet. We are hand-feeding them three times a day. We hope to rehabilitate them quickly (within a month or so) so we can return them to the flock before they leave the area (usually around the end of July). If we miss that window they will have to remain in captivity until the flock returns next year to breed (usually around April).

It breaks my heart to see these birds in a cage, and I am so disgusted by the entire event. Why must we constantly try to put a dollar value on wildlife? If the pet shop owners hadn't been decent, understanding people, these birds would have spent their lives trapped in a cage, miserable. What gives humans the right to take wild animals of any kind and force them into a life imprisoned for our amusement? Why can't we appreciate wildlife as it is naturally? I can tell you from personal experience, nothing compares to seeing a parrot in full flight, in the forest, screaming its lungs out as it flies FREE. I can only hope that humans can learn to appreciate wild animals in wild places, not in cages and pens, not as PERSONAL PROPERTY.

These babies have a chance now, we will do all we can to get them fat, happy and FLYING with the flock as soon as possible. We'll keep you posted...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Red-Brow Babies Run Wild!!

Okay, back to the cute babies. This is a short video (from a cell phone, sorry for the less-than-wonderful quality) of our four oldest red-browed Amazon parrot babies learing how to move around outside thier brooder boxes. At this age, they move up to actual cages with perches, and we have to teach them how to move around, flap, and generally behave like birds. They also loose a little weight at this stage, and begin to think about actually flying. Very exciting and frightening all at the same time. What a mob!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

And Now for Something COMPLETELY Different...

scorpion
We've been blogging a lot about babies recently. Baby parrots, baby marmosets, all the cute stuff. WELL, we discovered some not-so-cute babies recently. The lovely creature you see here is a native Florida bark scorpion. She measures about 2.5 inches in length and was found on our neighbor's property carrying 20 or so babies on her back. YES, I SAID 20 OR SO BABIES ON HER BACK! Pretty cool once you get over the EEEWWWWW factor. We released her, with her brood, into one of the fields on our 30-acre center. Scorpions are actually helpful, eating other, more destructive insects like termites--a real scorpion favorite snack. And, they glow under black light--how cool is that?? Yes, they do deliver one heck of a painful sting, but nothing deadly to humans...I SWEAR!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Baby Videos...Can't Resist!

Since starting this blog, we've been going through all our old video tapes for cool stuff to post here and found a treasure trove of video all starring "Mico" the King of Marmosets. Mico's mom died giving birth to him about 3 years ago, and we hand-reared him. He's quite the little star, a tiny creature with a HUGE personality. He is now all grown up, and lives with his girlfriend "Trixie". He still enjoys human company, but we try to resist and let him be a monkey. Hopefully, he and Trixie will have babies of thier own--soon if we're lucky. We'll keep you posted. In the meantime, here is a classic Mico montage from his impossibley cute baby days.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Just Hanging Around...



Here at RSCF we have several pygmy marmoset family groups. Family groups are comprised of an adult pair and their offspring. Only the dominant female will breed and raise young. The entire family group will help care for the babies and during the first two months of its life, it is passed between the backs of the parents and juveniles. Currently, we have two family groups raising young and the first baby is finally venturing off on his own. He is a brave little guy with a head full of hair, as you can see. Any name ideas for this little boy? Please e-mail us!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What's for Lunch?

In the wild, pygmies’ diet consists of berries, buds, fruits, flowers, lizards, frogs, various insects, and most importantly sap and gum from various trees. The sap and gum provides calcium and sugar, along with vitamins and minerals. Pygmies are known as "gum feeders" and their jaws and teeth are specially designed for gnawing away grooves in wood to collect the sap. Here at RSCF, we try to recreate a diet that is as close to their natural foods as possible. We feed our pygmies yams, insects, a variety of fresh fruits and veggies, yogurt, honey, bread, and a manufactured marmoset "chow". They love the worms that we feed them and often we find our pygmies munching on little lizards they catch in their enclosures. Here is a video of one of our males chowing down on a freshly caught exotic Cuban anole. YUM!
video

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Fun Day

Today we collected Red-brow fecal samples to test for parasites. We searched high and low for fresh bird poo (doesn't that sound FUN?). After gracefully collecting the samples, we brought them in the office and examined them under the microscope in search of parasites such as acanthocephalan eggs (Centrorhynchus sp.) and Capillaria eggs. Two of the three cages tested positive for the commonly occurring Centrorhynchus eggs. A simple water soluble treatment will clear this up in no time. We hope you enjoy these pictures provided courtesy of RSCF's crack team of "fecal technicians"!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Weezer

Weezer is our resident Brazilian hawk-headed parrot (Deroptyus accipitrinus fuscifrons), a subspecies of the more common Guyanese hawk-headed parrot (Deroptyus accipitrinus accipitrinus). Unfortunately, Brazilian hawk-heads are nearly extinct--less than 100 are believed to exist in the wild and less than a dozen remain in captivity in the U.S. The most visible difference between the Brazilian hawk-head and their more common relatives is that Brazilians have an entirely dark colored head and face, versus the white feathers found on the crown of the Guyanese hawk-head. Enjoy the video below of Weezer and his cage mate (a Guyanese) fanning and displaying at the camera. Hawk-heads are one of the few parrots that can raise the feathers around their head and neck in a spectacular "crown". Rather like an Indian headdress!
video

Sunday, May 3, 2009

FANTASTIC FOUR!!

Today's pic of our amazing ever-growing red-brow quartet....Aren't they CUTE????
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Baby Got Back!


This flattering photo is of our oldest baby red-browed Amazon chick...a whopping two weeks old. These chicks grow at an amazing rate. This guy (or gal, there's no way to tell at this point) started out at 15 grams, now over 200! And, as you can see, they carry all that weight in the rear. Boy, can I relate! The goal for most baby birds is to get as big as they can as quickly as they can to survive. From the looks of things, this bird is going to be HUGE! His clutch-mates are doing well, more pictures to come.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Baby Time!



These are our first baby Red-browed Amazon parrots (Amazona rhodocorytha) of the 2009 season! RSCF has been breeding red-brows in captivity for close to 20 years, with the goal of eventually re-establishing these birds in their native forests of Brazil. These chicks hatched during the second and third weeks of April. Since they hatched we have been feeding around-the-clock every 1.5 to 2 hours. Upon hatching, they weighed 15.8, 14.7, and 14.5 grams respectively. The chicks are weighed daily, prior to feeding, to track weight gain and growth. These guys gained over twice their hatch weight in just three days! Red-brows gain weight quickly, averaging a 15% increase in total body weight per day.

Since Red-brows are the rarest South American parrot and at one time less than a dozen remained in captivity in the United States, every egg laid at RSCF's breeding and research center is removed from the nest, artificially incubated, and hand-raised to ensure optimum growth and development. If we are lucky, the breeding pair may re-clutch, producing more eggs than would naturally occur if the hens were allowed to sit and incubate the clutch on their own.

The fourth chick just hatched this morning--photos to come soon. There are several more eggs incubating that should be hatching over the next few days and weeks. This will definitely be a busy and exciting summer! Stay tuned for more updates!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Life as an Intern at RSCF - Ashley Gray


In 2008, RSCF hosted two interns during the summer. Eva Kennedy and Ashley Grey spent several weeks living and working at RSCF's Florida breeding and research center. They share their thoughts and experiences here. If you are interested in RSCF internships please contact us!


Ashley Gray - Intern 2008

My trip began on August 7th and lasted until August 17th 2008. I left the infamous Virginia humidity for a new kind of weather pattern found in Palm Beach, Florida. I was greeted by Eva who was the other intern from Emory University. We were scheduled to stay in the cabin on site and become full-time employees during our stay. She had already been there a month prior to my arrival so she quickly told me what to expect. I had only a slight idea what I would really be doing when I got to Palm Beach. I just said “sign me up” when I heard I would be working with endangered species!

My future goal is to attend the Virginia Tech Veterinary School. In order to apply to Vet School, you must have animal related experience, veterinarian related experience, and research experience. I had heard about the Rare Species Conservatory through a connection at the University of Virginia. A quick phone call to Dr. Reillo, and I was set to be there in August. I knew I would never have an opportunity such as this one to work with these endangered species so closely. Not only did it fulfill my passion for animals, but it also helped provide me with deeper insight into the natural world than I had expected.

My first morning started at 7:30 am. Eva and I got ready in our cabin so we could begin our routine at 8 am. Since I had gotten there Saturday night, I was interested to walk around and see the actual facility. We made the rounds in the aviary checking on all the parrots and monkeys. Then, I met all the employees who were friendly and great to work with. The first task of the day is the prepare all the food bowls and set up the golf cart so we can easily feed all of the parrots, monkeys, bongo antelope, and iguana! I never had realized how extensive their diet must be in order for them to maintain perfect health. After this, I went with Justin into the Bongo Antelope compound and helped him give them hay, grain, and fresh water. I was shocked when I saw the Bongo’s for the first time! They were a lot larger than our Virginia White-tailed Deer, which was what I had pictured them to be like. We finished the day around 11 am once all the animals were happy and fed. This became my daily routine for the next 9 days, which was very convenient allowing us to do other things during the day.

Dr. Reillo and I went on Sunday night to the Breakers Hotel to check out the Red-cheeked Amazon parrot, which nests there all summer. It is a very endangered parrot that RSCF monitors during its stay in Palm Beach. I liked the bird already with its exquisite taste! I had never been to the Breakers before and enjoyed walking around the premises. We ended up only seeing about six birds since it was the end of their season, and they migrate to another food source the beginning of August.

Since my interest lies within the field of Veterinary medicine, Dr. Reillo became a great resource for me. He is very well connected around Florida and helped me find things that would interest me. One day, I got to shadow Dr. Hammond at Lion Country Safari, who is an Exotic Veterinarian. It was an amazing experience and one I had never had before. Another day, I shadowed Dr. Davis who is a Large Animal Veterinarian. I helped pregnancy check over 200 cows and saw my first full-scale cattle operation. It was an experience in itself. Not only did Dr. Reillo allow me to learn from Rare Species Conservatory, but he also helped me gain experience in other parts of Florida. I would have never had this opportunity if it weren’t for his help.

I hope to come back to Florida at some point in the near future to help out more because it really opened up my eyes. It made me understand the many other aspects of the animal world besides Vet Med. I recommend this experience to anyone who loves animals and is open to an amazing experience! I just want to thank everyone again at Rare Species Conservatory for helping me achieve my future goals while learning things along the way!

Life as an Intern at RSCF - Eva Kennedy


Eva Kennedy - Intern 2008

“There are thirteen African Mountain Bongo around you right now, so please keep your lights off, stay quiet, and follow my golf cart to your cabin.”

As I tentatively followed Paul and Karen into the night, contradicting feelings of excitement, relief and apprehension fell over me. Excitement – I had finally reached the long-awaited tropical destination in southern Florida with promises of caring for beautiful, rare animals, not to mention enjoying the palm tree lined beaches… Relief – I could finally escape the car that had held me captive during the 10-hour drive from Atlanta… and of course… Apprehension – not only was I blindly following a small cart down a dimly lit dirt road but also, it was apparently sandwiched between two groups of graceful but deadly antelope weighing in at over 700 pounds each.

Regardless, once Paul and Karen introduced me to my cozy cabin living space, the month of interning at the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation held greater promise than ever. I did always love a challenge and after working with brown capuchin monkeys for the last 3 years, I eagerly awaited the opportunity to gain experience with a greater variety of species… no matter how intimidating or mysterious.

Currently, I am entering senior year at Emory University in Atlanta and am majoring in psychology (with a focus in animal behavior and primatology). I am also pursuing a minor in visual art. I have been working with Frans de Waal in his Living Links capuchin lab at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center and have traveled to Africa with one of the RSCF board members, Richard Estes. Dr. Estes is not only the leading expert on Wildebeest, but he knows more about nearly every African mammal than anyone I have encountered thus far. It is people such as him, and Paul – who can perform surgery, hand-raise a baby parrot, and then erect a building – that make RSCF such a diverse and enriching community. Volunteering at the Conservatory provided me with invaluable experiences in habitat maintenance, behind-the-scenes visits to the surrounding animal parks (such as Lion Country Safari and the Palm Beach Zoo), access to talented and experienced professionals (like RSCF board member and veterinary, Mark Davis), the experience of caring for and raising exotic species, while also provoking a heightened consideration of the economic aspects of environmental design and of other problems facing modern conservation efforts in both the United States and around the world.

When I reflect upon my first impressions of the Rare Species Conservatory, they invoke both laughter and emotion. From going through the daily motions of feeding the numerous Amazonian parrots, Pygmy Marmosets, Golden Lion Tamarins, and African Bongo, to pulling high-tensile fences and digging up invasive plant species (such as Brazilian Pepper trees and potato vines), volunteering at RSCF provided a multifaceted experience in animal care and conservation. At the Conservatory, you quickly learn that nothing builds teamwork like “pokey-sticking” ten-foot wooden fence posts into the ground during the midday August heat in south Florida. I gained the essential hands-on experience necessary in creating successful animal habitats and received unique insight into the breeding and conservation techniques for multiple rare animal species. Rare Species shows that even a small organization can lead the way in saving an endangered species.

I thank Paul, Karen, Dick, and the rest of the board, as well as Rose, Justin, Kevin, and Anita on the RSCF staff, for welcoming me into their impressive organization and illustrating the dedication and determination involved in the preservation of our planet’s species.