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Diana_Levey

Staff

Joined:

Jul 2, 2014

Dangers of endangered species matchmaking

What a great headline: “Date Night at the Zoo, if Rare Species Play Along.” This New York Times story got my attention because I love date night. I also love many different species of animals – many of which are, sadly, threatened or endangered.

This article is a great reminder that some beloved rare species could be looking at extinction, whether they’re in the wild or in captivity. The article delves into behavioral issues that clearly affect captive breeding attempts at zoos and conservation centers.

That’s nice, but what does it have to do with JMP? Quite a bit, actually. Similar research programs are conducted in various parts of the world with JMP powering the data exploration and visualization pieces.

In fact, some of the most unexpected statistical discovery stories come from some of the wildest places on Earth. A researcher at one world-renowned facility that is both a zoo and a conservation center told me about how he and his colleagues use JMP for a variety of programs. I don’t have permission to tell you the name of the organization, but I can tell you that these researchers are making a real difference for animals in captivity and in the wild.

One interesting finding that’s comparable to the big cat stories told in The New York Times article centers on Andean bears. The story starts with a chronic and seasonal skin condition that affected bears at quite a few facilities across North America. The vets ruled out parasites and couldn’t figure it out. But when the zoos began sharing information and examining that data using JMP, they learned that all the affected bears were female and that, in a nutshell, it was the guys’ fault. The female Andean bears that lived with males experienced the problem, probably, the researchers think, due to stress.

I’m not a biologist, so I can’t conclude that the above problem extends across species and, say, to Homo sapiens. So I’ll let you make your own guesses about that one. But it would make a great study, wouldn’t it?

1 Comment
Community Member

Zoe Jewell wrote:

Kudos to JMP for working this out :-) Andean (spectacled) bears co-habit only for a few breeding weeks a year, and not year-round. Captive facilities have endless challenges to mimic natural social and environmental conditions for endangered species, and even if they do succeed in breeding, getting offspring to survive back in the wild is another huge hurdle. Organisations like The Nature Conservancy (TNC), which buy and protect habitat, are doing what needs to be done.