World Oceans Day - A Zoo Journey with Deb Bree the Puffin

June 05, 2019

Hello! My name is “Deb Bree,” and I am a horned puffin here at the Saint Louis Zoo. You can just call me Deb. In honor of #WorldOceansDay this Saturday, I really want to make sure all of you know that our oceans aren’t looking so clean. My friends here at the Zoo are dedicated to teaching everyone ways they can keep the oceans clean, even if they live in the middle of the country. Saturday is an extra special day for all the animals that call the ocean their home. Come celebrate #WorldOceansDay from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and learn all about ways you can help keep oceans clean. Follow me along today for a special #puffintakeover as I wander around the Zoo and show you all the places you can visit on Saturday!

Hi, it’s Deb again. Did you know recycling is an easy way to help animals everywhere? On Saturday,  come to the Emerson Children’s Zoo to see the sea jellies and coral reef. While there, learn how easy it is to help keep items out of landfills and our oceans by recycling. You can recycle all sorts of things: paper, plastic, glass, electronics, batteries, light bulbs, clothing and even food! #puffintakeover

Come to Penguin & Puffin Coast (my favorite place at the Zoo) and take the pledge to say no to plastic straws. Did you know over 500,000,000 plastic straws are used each day in the United States? It’s easy to say no to straws, or to get a nifty reusable straw to take with you everywhere you go. There might be penguins around here, too, but I personally think puffins are far superior. See you Saturday! #puffintakeover

Down at Stingrays at Caribbean Cove presented by SSM Health, you can learn about microplastics, which are very small pieces of plastic. Aquatic life can easily mistake these teeny tiny pieces of plastic for food, which can be harmful to their stomachs. Learn more about this threat to marine life at World Oceans Day this Saturday. #puffintakeover

It’s a full-on SEALebration over at the Judy and Jerry Kent Family Sea Lion Sound! Come wish a happy birthday to all the pinnipeds (seals and sea lions) that have June birthdays, which is almost all of them! Take the #byetobags pledge and make a commitment to yourself to remember to use reusable bags. One person switching to reusable bags can keep about 500 plastic bags out of the environment every year! #puffintakeover

Since a human needs the equivalent of four bottles of water a day, you can save around 1,460 single-use plastic bottles a year by switching to a reusable version. My water bottle is 10 years old, so it has saved about 14,600 bottles from being used. It is also a nice way to express yourself with art or fun stickers. Mine even glows in the dark! Here at the Zoo, we have water-filling stations to keep your bottles full during your visit. Don’t forget to stop by the Zoo on Saturday for World Oceans Day. #puffintakeover.

One Health Capacity Building in Kenya: Notes from the Field Part I

May 28, 2019

By Maris Brenn-White, Institute for Conservation Medicine Research Fellow

The idea that the health of all living things and the ecosystems that support us are inextricably connected is central to the work of the Saint Louis Zoo Institute for Conservation Medicine (ICM).  Watching herders guide cattle to forage in the arid Northern Kenyan landscape while impala, zebras and reticulated giraffes graze in the background brings this idea sharply into focus: humans, livestock and wildlife share space, resources and often disease. 

Understanding and addressing the unique challenges that this type of interaction presents in Kenya and neighboring countries requires strong, local One Health practitioners. 

Along with collaborators from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Smithsonian Global Health Program, ICM team members recently traveled to Kenya to help build One Health capacity through intensive trainings with veterinarians, medical doctors, ecologists and other scientists from throughout the region. As the ICM Research Fellow, I was lucky enough to join the journey, share my wildlife veterinary and epidemiology knowledge, and learn from exceptional instructors, participants, and many others along the way.

My first stop was the incredibly beautiful and ecologically important Mpala Research Centre. Lying in the shadow of Mt. Kenya, Mpala supports a rare pack of African painted dogs, endangered Grevy’s zebras, scores of African elephants, and a myriad of other native animal and plant species. Like many Kenyan wildlife conservancies, Mpala also contains a working ranch that brings cattle, camels and other livestock side to side with protected wildlife.

This made it an ideal location for the One Health Regional Network for the Horn of Africa (HORN) summer school. HORN brought more than 20 early-career scientists from Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somaliland to Mpala for a hands-on introduction to a few of the many disciplines and skill sets needed for One Health work.

For four days, an interdisciplinary team of instructors from the University of Liverpool, ILRI and ICM guided the participants through a crash course in research techniques for studying disease vectors like mosquitoes and ticks, microclimates in different habitat types, livestock health and epidemiology, and human behavior and attitudes. 

As the fifth and final day approached, Kimani Ndung’u, a Mpala field biologist and new friend, and I were handed the reins with the task of bringing a wildlife health perspective and research skills to the group. This meant introducing the participants to tools they can use in their research to determine which, where and how wild animals are sharing space, resources and potential diseases with livestock and people in their study areas.  

We led the participants on a road transect, identifying, counting and recording the locations of the mammals that we saw along the way. Dung surveys came next, which, while arguably less glamorous, can provide rich information about the animals using an area over a longer period and can provide samples of pathogens and host animal DNA.

As we navigated our way back to camp, Mpala provided the perfect final lesson of the day. Just across the river, we could see African painted dogs running and chasing unseen prey. They had many puppies to feed – a remarkable fact given that a canine distemper outbreak in 2017 had decimated the pack. Canine distemper has caused serious population declines in a number of wild carnivores, both felids and canids, and it is often acquired from domestic dogs. Watching the wild dogs race through the brush as the daylight began to fade was beautiful and exhilarating. It was also the perfect reminder that studying how wildlife, domestic animals and humans interact and share this landscape is essential to protecting all of our health and well-being.

After wrapping up an excellent week, we traveled back to Nairobi where I began final preparations for the next phase of my trip. I would soon be on the road headed south this time to ILRI’s Kapiti Estates to meet up with ICM Director Sharon Deem and team member Stephen Leard. While there, we led an intensive dromedary camel health and welfare training for Kenyan veterinarians. We’ll discuss this in our next blog post, so stay tuned! 


World Turtle Day 2019

May 23, 2019

 There are nearly 350 species of turtles and tortoises on the planet today. Sadly, over half of these species are currently threatened by extinction. Major threats to turtles and tortoises include habitat loss, over-hunting, pollution, infectious diseases, climate change, road mortality and increased predation. - Jeff Dawson, Herpetarium Keeper. #turtletakeover

Southeast Asia is home to a large diversity of turtles and tortoises; however, over 80 percent of Asia’s turtle species are now threatened. The Saint Louis Zoo is helping to ensure the future of Asian turtles, both at the Charles H. Hoessle Herpetarium and in the wild. I have been able to collaborate on field research of endangered turtles in China and Vietnam. In addition, a new program of the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute is contributing to Asian turtle conservation by supporting the Turtle Survival Alliance and the Asian Turtle Program in Vietnam. - Jeff Dawson, Herpetarium Keeper. #turtletakeover


There are 14 species of turtles that you can see at the Charles H. Hoessle Herpetarium. Unfortunately, hunting for the food, traditional medicine and pet trades has threatened many of these species. The giant Asian pond turtle (Heosemys grandis) is one species that is vulnerable to trade. Be sure to look for a male pond turtle in the central atrium of the Herpetarium. This handsome gentleman can be found “smiling” on his favorite rock most afternoons. - Katie Noble, Herpetarium Keeper. #turtletakeover

Turtle Road Watch: Give Turtles a Brake!

Our extensive road network in the United States may be leading to turtle declines. In the United States, road mortality alone is estimated to account for 10 to 20 percent of turtle deaths each year. Help researchers identify areas of high turtle road mortality in the St. Louis region. A new crowd-sourcing project, Turtle Road Watch, has been developed by concerned members of our community to monitor the direct impact of our road systems on local turtle populations. Help researchers identify areas of high turtle road mortality in the St. Louis region by joining the Turtle Road Watch community at the link below. #turtletakeover

Learn more here

The Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute Center for Chelonian Conservation takes a comprehensive "One Health" approach to turtle conservation, both locally and abroad. In St. Louis, we try to better understand how the environment affects the health of wildlife and humans alike by monitoring the health and movement of our tagged box turtles in Forest Park and at the Tyson Research Center. Not so close to home, on the Galápagos Islands, we also focus on conserving the giant Galápagos tortoises using cutting-edge science alongside our inspiring tortoise-based outreach and education program. #turtletakeover

It’s not easy being a turtle. Freshwater turtles and tortoises are one of the world’s most threatened groups of species; today, more than 40 percent are at serious risk of extinction. While their shells provide great protection against predators, they can’t protect them from habitat loss, illegal pet trafficking or pollution. Learn how you can help turtles! Come to the Saint Louis Zoo tomorrow to celebrate #WorldTurtleDay#turtletakeover - Samantha Capel, Herpetarium Keeper

Have you ever seen a turtle with a runny nose? If you have, that turtle may have been suffering from an upper respiratory tract disease caused by a Mycoplasma infection. The symptoms include fatigue, swollen eyelids, a runny nose and watery eyes, similar to the colds you experience during the winter! A few years ago, we noticed that Georgette, one of our tagged box turtles in Forest Park, was suffering from this disease. Luckily, when we gave her a check-up a few weeks later, she had fought off the disease! #turtletakeover