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.