at Rio Grande Zoo
The Rio Grande Zoo in Albuquerque welcomed
a baby to the chimpanzee group in February, bringing the total number
of chimps at the zoo to eleven. Thirty-year-old Elaine and her newborn
will be on exhibit when the weather is mild. The father is nineteen-year-old
Alf. This is the first chimpanzee birth at the Zoo since the new
Adventure Africa exhibit opened in 2004.
Chimpanzees are native to Africa and
the most intelligent nonhuman on the planet. Newborns weigh approximately
four pounds. Their diet includes fruits, leaves, stems, bark, resin,
insects, eggs, and meat, and their lifespan is about sixty years.
Their natural habitat is tropical rainforest, forest-savannah, and
mixed and montane forest. They are presently on the endangered status
Like people, chimpanzees have learned
to use tools. They use stones as hammers and anvils to crack nuts.
They use sticks as weapons, as hooks to pull down fruit-laden branches,
and for various other purposes.
The BioPark is an accessible facility
and a division of the City of Albuquerque’s Cultural Services
Department. There is no fee for access to Tingley Beach. Combo admission
to the Zoo, Aquarium and Botanic Garden is $12 for ages thirteen
to sixty-four; $5 for ages 65 and older; $5 for ages three to twelve;
and children aged two and under are free. For assistance in visiting,
please call (505) 768-2000 or 311 (NM Voice/Relay or 711), preferably
with three days advance notice. Visit the BioPark website at http://www.cabq.gov/biopark/for
more information about our facilities and programs.
The Albuquerque Biological Park is accredited
by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Look for the AZA
logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that
you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care
for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for
all living things. With its more than two hundred accredited members,
AZA is a leader in global wildlife conservation and your link to
helping animals in their native habitats.
Conservation groups warn Catron County of suit for
In response to a recently passed Catron County wolf killing ordinance,
a coalition of conservation groups sent the county a formal notice
of intent to sue under the Endangered Species Act.
In their notice, Forest Guardians, Sinapu, the Center for Biological
Diversity, and the Rewilding Institute state that the ordinance
unlawfully undermines federal wolf management by authorizing a county
contractor to kill Mexican grey wolves, contrary to the January
12, 1998 Federal Register notice authorizing the reintroduction
that year and the 1973 Endangered Species Act, under which those
regulations were promulgated. The ordinance would increase wolf
killing over the already-unsustainable current rate driven largely
by federal predator control.
Catron County Ordinance No. 001-2007 seeks to ratchet up wolf
killing on behalf of the livestock industry under the guise of protecting
people from wolves. Yet the Endangered Species Act already allows
the killing of wolves to protect human life.
While mountain lions, black bears, rattlesnakes, and other animals
present in Catron County have been known in various locations to
attack people, Mexican wolves—the smallest subspecies of grey
wolf in North America—never have.
The Catron County ordinance is one of a series of anti-wolf political
gestures undertaken by the livestock industry. A state bill that
also conflicts with federal law, dubbed the Little Red Riding Hood
Act, fared no better this year than it did when first introduced
in the legislature in 2003. An equally histrionic anti-wolf memorial
also died due to widespread public opposition. The livestock industry
has twice sued to remove all the wolves from the wild, and twice
been rebuffed by the courts.
Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, a co-signatory
to the notice, warned that Catron County must respect federal supremacy
under the United States Constitution, stating, “We will not
allow vigilante justice to further imperil the lobo.”
Wolves have a reputation that’s larger than
—DAN WHIPPLE, HIGH COUNTRY NEWS
Ever since he ate Little Red Riding Hood’s grandma and blew
down the houses of two-thirds of the little pigs, the wolf has been
Big and Bad. Everyone knows what big teeth he has. But can those
gleaming incisors explain the startling decline of elk herds in
the Yellowstone area?
Some people think so. Hunters and some wildlife managers are howling
that the wolf, reintroduced into the ecosystem in 1995, is responsible
for the roughly 50 percent decline in the northern Yellowstone elk
Here are the numbers, as compiled by the Northern Yellowstone
Cooperative Wildlife Working Group: In December 2006, there were
6,738 elk on Yellowstone’s northern range. This was lower
than the January 2005 number of 9,545, and it’s a whole lot
lower than the 19,359 elk counted in January 1994, the year before
wolves were introduced.
Case closed, then. Before wolves, nearly 20,000 elk; after wolves,
less than 7,000. Wolves are obviously a threat to both elk and the
hunters who want to kill elk. But upon closer examination, that
conclusion is premature at best. “People give wolves these
supernatural powers,” says Ed Bangs, Yellowstone wolf recovery
coordinator. “It’s not about reality, and it’s
not about wolves. It’s about what people think reality is
and how they perceive wolves.”
One reality is that the state of Montana deliberately reduced
the Yellowstone area elk population by issuing a larger number of
hunting permits. The state made that decision because 19,000 elk—or
even 9,000—can’t be supported by the area. In fact,
the Montana elk plan calls for a winter population that’s
only 3,000-to-5,000 elk north of the park.
Another reality is the climate. In a 2005 paper in the journal
Oikos, Michigan Tech University biologist John Vucetich and coauthors
found that drought and hunters killing elk accounted for almost
all of the decline in elk in the northern Yellowstone area between
1995 and 2004. But they considered hunting much less an impact than
drought, estimating that for every elk shot by hunters, the population
declined by 1.55 elk.
“To the extent that harvest and climate largely account
for the decline in elk abundance,” they wrote, “wolf
predation would have been ... numerically minor.”
Which is not to say wolves have no effect on game populations.
Each adult wolf kills an average of 22 elk a year. There are now
about 96 adult wolves in Yellowstone, so they take just over 2,000
elk a year. But the overall impact on population is less than the
total number would suggest, because research shows that wolves often
kill prey animals that are less likely—for one reason or another—to
contribute to the elk gene pool in the following year. If the elk
population is declining, wolf predation may accelerate the decline.
If it’s growing, they may slow the growth.
One thing is sure: Wolves cause their prey to act more like wild
animals. Elk spend a little more time in cover in the presence of
wolves, and are more wary on open ground. This chivvying around
has other impacts as well: It makes it harder for hunters to find
Oregon State University forestry professors William Ripple and
Robert Beschta found that wolves prevent elk from spending too much
time in Yellowstone’s degraded stream banks and riparian areas
munching on tender saplings, with the result that these areas are
recovering nicely from years of overgrazing. Ripple and Beschta
call this situation, unfortunately, “the ecology of fear,”
which may spur wolf advocates to come up with a happier description.
Before the federal government brought wolves back to Yellowstone,
there was one beaver dam in Yellowstone. Now there are 10, because
willows are growing better. Beavers have something to eat, streams
are healthier, and we can thank wolves for the improvement.
The wolf controversy “isn’t about wolves or predators,”
says Bangs. “This is about human values and what people think
they want. People want to reduce elk density by shooting elk, not
by having wolves. It’s a social and philosophical question.
How much hunter success is enough? How much do you share with mountain
lions and grizzly bears and wolves? The questions aren’t really
biological.” For now, at least, we can’t target wolves
as the primary elk killers. Blame that old standby, the weather,
and Montana hunting policy for baring the bigger teeth.
Dan Whipple is a contributor to “Writers
on the Range,” a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colorado
(hcn.org). He is
a writer in the Denver area of Colorado.