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Conservation

The Wilds currently maintains 31 rare and endangered species from around the world, 20 of which are part of programs managed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), and 13 are federally listed endangered species.
 
 

BREEDING PROGRAMS

The unique environment at the Wilds results in successful breeding programs.
 
  • In 2011, more than 50 animals were born at the Wilds including four southern white rhinos. Three of the rhino births were particularly significant since they are the only fourth generation rhinos born in human care. 
  • The Wilds was involved in developing the AZA’s sustainability plan for the endangered cheetah. Since the Carnivore Conservation Center was built at the Wilds in 2007 there have been four litters of cheetahs born there (11 of 15 surviving).
  • Research at the Wilds has had a direct impact on conservation breeding programs. Tools like artificial insemination provide more options for genetic management.
    • Two endangered Persian onager foals born in 2010 were the first wild equids ever produced by artificial insemination.
    • Three endangered banteng calves were born from artificial insemination, two from banked semen from sires that were no longer alive.
  • Nearly 60 acres are set aside for the bachelor male Przewalkski’s wild horse herd, another endangered species, allowing continued breeding when other facilities stopped breeding due to lack of space for offspring.
  • In 2007 an endangered scimitar-horned oryx, born at the Wilds, was part of a group returned to Tunisia as part of a reintroduction program.
  • The Conservation Medicine department actively studies issues surrounding stress and reproduction of ungulate species.
 

REGIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL FIELD CONSERVATION

The Wilds is a founding member of the Conservation Centers for Species Survival (C2S2), a consortium of five very large AZA institutions dedicated to applying combined land and scientific resources to population sustainability.
 
  • The Wilds maintains a breeding colony of American burying beetles and has provided hundreds of beetles to support the efforts to reintroduce this federally protected endangered species to the state of Ohio.
  • The Conservation Medicine department has developed ground-breaking techniques to help understand the health of freshwater mussels, one of the fastest declining animal groups on the continent, and factors affecting the success of mussel conservation efforts. The Wilds, along with their partners including the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, have reintroduced thousands of mussels into Ohio waterways representing the largest release of a federally endangered species in the state of Ohio. In 2011, the Wilds and their partners won the AZA’s North America Conservation Award which recognizes exceptional efforts toward regional habitat preservation, species restoration, and support of biodiversity in the wild. 
  • Recent surveys conducted on eastern hellbenders in southeast Ohio have determined their population has declined by 80 percent in the wild. In response a partnership consisting of government agencies, zoos, soil and water conservation districts, a land trust, and education institutions was formed to aid in the recovery of hellbenders. The Wilds is involved in the continued monitoring and assessment of their health in the wild to better understand the threats to this endangered species.
  • The Wilds is home to North America’s largest herd of the unique Sichauntakin. Research done on the takin herds at the Wilds have resulted in the development of techniques used by researchers working with this species in its native China. This is a collaborative project with the Wildlife Conservation Society, Smithsonian and Chinese partners.
  • The Wilds, working with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, has reestablished the trumpeter swan and osprey to Ohio.
 

RESTORATION ECOLOGY

The Wilds is a living laboratory that is helping us to understand how ecosystems can recover from significant impacts like surface mining. Long-term ecological research has been underway at the Wilds for the past 10 years.  These processes are working to understand local biodiversity methods to increase plant biodiversity, wetland restoration techniques, tree planting within damaged landscapes, demonstration of how marginal land can be used for sustainable agricultural practices, and ecological recovery following large-scale disturbance.  Current projects include prairie establishment, reforestation initiatives, invasive species management, restoration of original forest habitat and wetland restoration.  There is a partnership underway, in partnership with Muskingum University, to survey and monitor imperiled populations of grassland nesting birds. The Wilds is uniquely suited to provide habitat for these species that are otherwise in decline throughout the state.
 
CLICK HERE to view a research case study on Restoration Ecology.
 
 

CONSERVATION SCIENCE TRAINING

The science team contributes to the collaborative dissemination of conservation research and participates in cooperative projects with a number of universities, zoological institutions, federal agencies, and other partners.  The new Conservation Science Training Center is an innovative research center, allowing the Wilds to work collaboratively with these institutions to initiate long-term projects in the environmental and conservation sciences. Built in 2010 with grant funds, it serves as an asset to Appalachian Ohio and beyond by drawing students, scientists, and conservation professionals to the region for unique research, cognitive, and training opportunities.