The Good Zoo was recently recognized as one of only 21 out of over 220 AZA-accredited zoos in the country for our strong commitment to the conservation of wildlife in the wild.
We’re sure that many of our Good Zoo members are aware of the work that the zoo does to care for and breed endangered species like the Grevy’s zebras, African wild dogs, red pandas, and Panamanian golden frogs (just to name a few) at the zoo, but zoo staff, interns, and volunteers also perform a substantial amount of field conservation with the wildlife in our region as well. Over the past decade the zoo has trained nearly 60 local students in field conservation and wildlife medicine techniques through our college internship program. Some of the projects that we have and are currently working on include conservation of the Eastern hellbender, wildlife diseases in the local region, and raptor rehabilitation.
The Eastern hellbender is the largest salamander in the Western Hemisphere, growing up to 30” long. This fully aquatic salamander is considered rare or endangered in each of the 17 states that it inhabits, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Since 2005, with funding support from the West Virginia Division of Wildlife, Good Zoo staff have studied the populations and habitats of this species throughout the state of West Virginia.
While doing an internship at the Good Zoo, Marissa Gnoinski from State University of New York – Cobleskill campus examines a Hellbender salamander found in a local stream.
In 2007 during one of his surveys, zoo curator Joe Greathouse encountered a nest of hellbender eggs that had been abandoned by the father and was growing a fungus on the clutch of eggs that would have devastated the embryonic salamanders still in the eggs. He brought those eggs back to the zoo and we raised over 120 of these individuals to the point of the eggs hatching. This was a critical moment in the conservation of this species, as it was the first time that eggs from this species had been hatched in a zoo or aquarium anywhere in the world!
Our friends at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, and the Fort Worth Zoo helped in raising several of these animals to nearly one foot in length. While we were raising these individuals, Joe studied habitats in West Virginia to determine the best place to return these salamanders to the wild, and physiological assessments and genetics studies were conducted on these individuals through collaborative efforts with the Wilds, San Diego Zoo, and Purdue University.
With funding assistance from the West Virginia Division of Wildlife and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, veterinarians at the Good Zoo were able to equip 30 of these individuals with tracking devices, and he will be studying how these individuals move in the wild over the coming months. Several of these individuals are also being utilized in reintroduction programs in the states of Ohio and Indiana as well in an attempt to hopefully be able to one day bolster the populations of this rare species in association with habitat protection.
Working with local citizens, humane officers and conservation officers, the Good Zoo provides veterinary care and rehabilitation to ill or injured birds of prey so they can be returned to the wild.
Over the past decade, Good Zoo employees have also conducted surveys to look for a variety of diseases in local wildlife. Did you know that an ill great horned owl that was brought into the Good Zoo for rehabilitation was the first animal to have tested positive and confirmed the presence of West Nile virus in wild birds in the state of West Virginia? Since that time, we have collaborated with Cornell University and local public health officials by sending blood samples from birds that are brought into the zoo’s raptor rehabilitation program to Cornell University for analysis in order to monitor the presence of this disease in our local wild birds.
The amphibian chytrid fungus is a pathogen that is driving frogs and salamanders to extinction throughout the world. With funding assistance from the West Virginia Division of Wildlife, zoo employees and interns have collaborated with scientists from Marshall University, Washington State University, the Wilds, San Diego Zoo, and Smithsonian’s National Zoo to study the presence of this disease and its impact on amphibian populations in West Virginia.
The Good Zoo is also one of only four federally licensed facilities for the rehabilitation of wild raptors in the state of West Virginia. With the assistance of local citizens, humane officers, and conservation officers who transport injured raptors to the zoo and funding assistance from the West Virginia Division of Wildlife, we work to provide veterinary care and rehabilitation to ill or injured birds of prey with the goal of enabling their release back to the wild. Over the past decade, zoo employees have treated and returned more than 130 of these individuals to the wild in our region.
If you have any interest in supporting or participating in any of the zoo’s conservation programs, please contact us at (304) 243-4029 or e-mail Joe Greathouse at firstname.lastname@example.org or Penny Miller, Director of the Good Zoo, at email@example.com.