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5 ways your zoo uses science every day

From daily care of the animals at the Zoo to advanced research of husbandry, behavior and diet that is used to set standards for animal welfare, the Zoo’s research and animal care staffs use science in ways big and small.

Here are five ways your Zoo uses science every day.


1. Monitoring behavior:
Have you ever observed someone filming animals on a tablet during your trip to the Zoo? The Zoo’s research scientists are always collecting data to better understand the animals, monitor the effects of changes to their routines, and make recommendations for improving their care. Capturing video helps the scientists look for patterns and record enrichment activities. This data collection informs recommendations on diet, enrichment, and overall health.


2. Studying genetics:
Species Survival Plans (SSPs) are utilized across Association of Zoos & Aquariums-accredited institutions to genetically manage populations of animals. By maintaining genetic records on animals in human care and developing cooperative breeding and transfer programs, zoo scientists are ensuring the longevity and genetic health of zoo animal populations. A recent example at your Zoo: Lulu, the baby black rhino born in early 2018, was an SSP recommendation who constitutes a genetically valuable addition to the Zoo population.


3. Cognitive studies:
Zoo researchers and keepers integrate cognitive studies and enrichment programs into the everyday care of the animals. This important enrichment helps to ensure that animals are practicing natural behaviors, and provides opportunity to learn about – and stimulate – complex cognitive processes. A cool example of cognitive study done at your Zoo is touchscreen training with mandrills. Mandrills learn to memorize a series of symbols and replicate the series using a touchscreen. One of our mandrills is consistently accurate with a sequence of five symbols!


4. Veterinary services:
Your Zoo is proud to have a world-class veterinary program that provides the highest level of care to more than 200 species of animals. The Sarah Allison Steffee Center for Zoological Medicine is the Zoo’s hub for leadership development and research training. Working with such a wide variety of unique animals is a challenge, but the Steffee Center staff employs expert knowledge of endocrinology, epidemiology, behavior sciences and veterinary medicine to ensure optimal care for the animals. The veterinary team facilitates animal research and management programs at the regional and global level.


5. Building capacity:
One of the primary goals of the Zoo’s Future for Wildlife program is building capacity for conservation work around the world. Conservation capacity building means helping to strengthen the knowledge, skills and tools of individuals and communities, and to improve their ability to effectively carry out conservation activities. The Memoirs Program, which connects Zoo research staff with undergraduate biology students at the University of Rwanda for mentoring, is one way that the Zoo fulfills this goal. A successful partnership between Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, the University of Rwanda, and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International helps train the scientists and conservationists of tomorrow and makes it possible for Rwandan students to expand their knowledge and impact.

What ways do you see science in action at your Zoo?

Giraffe research and Memoirs photos courtesy of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

Blog originally posted April 2017. Updated April 2018.

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