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Small Mammal Conservation & Science

Recovery of the Black-footed Ferret

JoGayle Howard led studies of the biology of the black-footed ferret to enhance reproduction, maintain genetic diversity, and provide animals for reintroduction to the western Great Plains. more

Golden Lion Tamarin Project

National Zoo scientists have led a long-term effort to save the golden lion tamarin from extinction in the Atlantic forest of Brazil.

San Joaquin Kit Foxes in California

Katherine Ralls and her collaborators have been studying kit foxes since 1989. Topics include kit fox population dynamics; interactions between kit foxes and coyotes; and survey methods. more

Fishing Cats and Rusty-spotted Cats

Zoo scientist John Seidensticker is working with Sri Lankan conservation biologists to study the Distribution and Ecology of the Fishing Cat and the Rusty-spotted Cat (another little-known small cat) in Suburban Habitats of Sri Lanka. This will represent the first detailed study of these species and the results will aid their conservation. It will also raise awareness of the conservation needs of these charismatic cats, which already have semi-flagship status in Sri Lanka. The results will be used to develop a conservation strategy for the cats and other medium-sized carnivores to be integrated into urban development plans.

There are about 100 fishing cats in North American zoos, but the population lacks genetic diversity and is not self-sustaining. Assisted breeding techniques will enable us to import new genes (in the form of sperm or embryos) from fishing cats in the wild or in Southeast Asian zoos without transporting live animals or removing them from natural habitats. Led by David Wildt, Zoo scientists are developing artificial insemination and semen freezing techniques. They are studying reproductive cycles, sperm quality, semen cryopreservation, and artificial insemination so that assisted breeding results in consistent production of offspring. Their findings will be related to parallel studies of animal behavior, nutrition, and genetics.

Small Mammal Surveys in Gabon

National Zoo scientists Bill McShea and Melissa Songer and their colleages are studying the small mammals of the Gamba Forest Complex in Gabon, West Africa, as part of the Gabon Biodiversity Project. Mammals are important components of tropical ecosystems. Small mammals, both terrestrial and flying, directly affect the distribution of plant species in tropical forests through seed dispersion and pollination. Bats, for example, are important agents in re-seeding disturbed areas.

Terrestrial small mammals are also the main food source for many small- and medium-size carnivores; and as their abundance changes so may that of their predators.

Many small mammals are sensitive to structural changes in the forest brought about by development activities such as clearings for roads and oil wells and waterflow obstruction due to construction. It is expected that changes in small mammal populations will have pronounced effects on the composition of forests in the Gamba Complex.

Small Mammals in Mexican Coffee Farms

Coffee is an important cash crop worldwide. It is the second highest traded commodity next only to oil. The lives of millions of people are intertwined in this cash crop. Additionally, many studies have shown that coffee farms can serve as refuges for wildlife.

The way that coffee is grown varies drastically from highly managed sun coffee to coffee that is basically grown in the understory of forested areas. However, most of the research for coffee as habitat has focused on birds and insects with few studies that seek to understand if coffee can also provide a refuge for mammals. more