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Today is International Flamingo Day and Zoo Miami is committed to the conservation of Florida's American Flamingos - one of the state's most iconic and charismatic birds. Florida’s historic flamingo flocks amazed naturalists in the 19th century but were ultimately decimated by overhunting for food and feathers. Through the 20th century, flamingos in Florida were so rare that biologists believed any flamingos spotted were merely escaped birds from captive populations. Flamingos were ultimately classified as a non-native species, which would preclude any active conservation efforts to help them return to Florida.
In 2018, Zoo Miami and conservation partners published a landmark study to correct the record on flamingos’ status in Florida – showing strong evidence for large historical flocks, evidence for historical nesting, and surprising evidence for slow growth in Florida’s flamingo population since approximately 1950. With this data in hand, biologists led by Zoo Miami petitioned Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to review newly available data to determine whether flamingos warrant inclusion on Florida's list of endangered species. FWC conducted a nearly 3-year Biological Status Review (BSR), involving FWC staff, external conservation biologists and wading bird experts. Last week, FWC released a draft BSR which does not recommend listing but affirms that flamingos are a native species with historical presence. The BSR states a need for more research and monitoring for flamingos within Florida, and encourages their return to south Florida.
Zoo Miami is using cutting-edge research to understand the origins of Florida’s flamingos. In 2015, Zoo Miami and partners outfitted an American Flamingo, “Conchy,” with a satellite transmitter in an effort to understand the origins of Florida’s flamingos.
While the team expected Conchy to leave Florida quickly for Cuba, the Bahamas, or Mexico, Conchy remained in Florida Bay for nearly two years before his transmitter failed. This ultimately provided no information on his origins but suggested flamingos may find Florida a suitable home. The Zoo’s research team is currently working with partners on genetic analysis of flamingos through their range to better understand origins of Florida’s birds.
Today, Zoo Miami is happy to announce the creation of the Florida Flamingo Working Group (FFWG). The FFWG is a coalition of scientists and conservationists who share a mission to promote conservation and awareness of American Flamingos in Florida and throughout their range. Its goals are to help Florida’s native flamingo population recover, to ensure healthy habitats for flamingos everywhere, to help coordinate research and management needs for flamingos, and to raise awareness of flamingo conservation in Florida and beyond.
– Zoo Miami staff helped discover a brand new species of large spider in the critically endangered pine rockland forest surrounding Zoo Miami. The Pine Rockland Trapdoor Spider (Ummidia richmond) was first found by a zookeeper who was checking reptile research traps in 2012. The zookeeper shared the photo of the spider with the Zoo’s Conservation and Research Department for identification but it didn’t match any existing records for known species in the region.
More than two years later, another spider was found and sent out to experts for an evaluation. Eventually, it made its way to Dr. Rebecca Godwin of Piedmont College in Georgia who was in the process of looking at this group of spiders, which are related to tarantulas, and making detailed classifications and descriptions of the members of this Genus Ummidia found in North America. Dr. Godwin confirmed that it was a previously undescribed species.
"The fact that a new species like this could be found in a fragment of endangered forest in the middle of the city underscores the importance of preserving these ecosystems before we lose not only what we know, but also what is still to be discovered. Venoms of related species have been found to contain compounds with potential use as pain medications and cancer treatments," said Frank Ridgley, DVM, Zoo Miami Conservation & Veterinary Services Manager.
Spiders of this type are usually habitat specialists and can live for decades in the same burrow for their entire life. They are known to be some of the longest lived spider species known. At this time, it has not been documented for 35 years anywhere else except the pine rockland fragments around Zoo Miami. Our staff has only found a handful of males through the years and a female of the species has yet to ever be found.
Considering only about 1.5% of the pine rocklands outside Everglades National Park are left in Miami-Dade County, it is likely that this endemic and elusive spider is already imperiled. Zoo Miami staff is grateful to Dr. Godwin for years of work in confirming the identification of this new species and are inspired that discoveries like this can still be made, even in the middle of a large developed region like the Greater Miami Area.
To better understand trapdoor spiders and their remarkable lives, please read the following article “The extraordinary life and death of the world’s oldest known spider”
The full description of the spider has been published in the journal ZooKeys as “Taxonomic revision of the New World members of the trapdoor spider genus Ummidia Thorell (Araneae, Mygalomorphae, Halonoproctidae)”
Yesterday, Zoo Miami's newest baby giraffe made his exhibit debut!
For the first time, a yet unnamed male calf that was born on April 2nd, walked out onto the exhibit with his mother and other members of the herd, curiously exploring his new surroundings. Until yesterday, the newborn had been held inside a holding area with his mother to give them time to bond.
On Sunday, the calf received a neonatal exam where in addition to a general physical, he was weighed, had his blood collected and received a microchip for identification. He weighed a whopping 181 pounds and is the seventh baby born to Mia, his 14 year old mother. The first-time father is a 4 year old named Malcolm. This is the 54th giraffe born in the zoo's history!
As this newborn was making his exhibit debut, Zuri, a 6 ½ year old female was giving birth behind the scenes to the 55th giraffe born in the zoo’s history! The baby, Zuri’s second, was born yesterday at approximately 10:30AM, and has been observed nursing very well. Malcolm is also the father making this his second calf. A neonatal exam was performed this morning and it is confirmed to be a healthy female weighing 119 pounds. Should everything continue to go well, this baby and mother will join the herd on exhibit tomorrow.
Giraffe have a pregnancy of approximately 15 months and the mother rarely, if ever, lies down while giving birth. The baby falls about 4-6 feet to the floor where it receives quite an abrupt introduction to the world! Newborns stand nearly 6 feet tall at birth.
Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department announces it will host the Community Resilience Pod at county parks beginning this spring. The first-of-its-kind pod was first introduced in Miami in June 2020, making South Florida the starting point for this global project, sponsored by The Atlantic Council's Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center (Arsht-Rock).
Zoo Miami will be the first park of the Miami-Dade County Parks system to welcome the pod, a transformed 40-foot shipping container that is being deployed to relaunch efforts to build awareness of resilience solutions to local threats. Visitors to Zoo Miami will be able to experience interactive and educational displays in the pod that will highlight community-specific risks and provide guidance, resources and tools to "Be Prepared, Get Connected and Take Action."
Designed to face the growing challenges of rising seas and climate change, the pod is versatile in that it can be tailored to meet the changing needs of a community. And, in fact, the pod's initial unveiling addressed food insecurity in Miami-Dade County caused by the economic impacts of COVID-19.
"The Community Resilience Pod is a unique tool to educate our residents about the urgent environmental challenges we face," said Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. "Thanks to this groundbreaking resource supported by Arsht-Rock, our families can see and learn close-up about actionable measures to build a safer and more resilient Miami-Dade County including climate adaptivity and clean energy."
"Miami-Dade Parks is proud to partner with Arsht-Rock to support this initiative" said Maria Nardi, director of the Parks department. "Parks are critical infrastructure when it comes to enhancing the strength of a community, and, as we've seen during the pandemic, Parks serve as hubs for resilience during times of crisis."
Since Arsht-Rock launched the first Community Resilience Pod in Miami, it has served as a trusted center for food distribution, fruit tree distribution and hurricane preparation.
Now, Arsht-Rock has partnered with Miami-Dade County Parks to deploy the pod across Miami-Dade County parks where staff and volunteers will lead multilingual educational efforts to inform visitors about the necessary life skills to become more resilient in the face of climate impacts and extreme events.
The Community Resilience Pod at Zoo Miami will debut with solar power, a hydroponics system, a cooling station, as well as a feature on Zoo Miami's conservation efforts.
The Community Resilience Pod's immersive experience and vibrant art focuses on building new knowledge and resilience to improve lives and livelihoods within the most vulnerable communities. Through interactive and educational storytelling, advocacy and public service campaigns, the mobile and scalable pods reflect and engage the community around them. Arsht-Rock is partnering with cities and communities around the world to deploy Community Resilience Pods across other major cities, including Chennai, Melbourne, Paris, Athens and Mexico City over the next ten years.
About Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces:
Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces is the third largest county parks system in the United States, consisting of 278 parks and 13,769 acres of land. It is one of the most unique park and recreation systems in the world and focused on placemaking, health and fitness, and conservation and stewardship.
Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter or visit our website for the latest news and updates from Miami-Dade County Parks.
About The Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center (Arsht-Rock)
The Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center will reach One Billion People with resilience solutions to climate impacts, migration and human security challenges by 2030. We focus our efforts on people, communities, governments, and institutions to help them better prepare for, navigate and recover from the multiple shocks and stressors people all over the world face every day.
The Atlantic Council promotes constructive US leadership and engagement in the world based on the central role of the Atlantic community, working with its allies and partners, to meet global challenges. Through the ideas we generate, the papers we write and the communities we build, the Council informs public debates, shapes policy choices and forges sustainable strategies to create a more secure, free and prosperous world. For more information, visit www.onebillionresilient.org or contact Rosemary Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To request materials in accessible format, sign language interpreters, and/or any accommodation to participate in any Miami-Dade Parks sponsored program or meeting, contact Gisel Prado, 305-755-7848 or Gisel.Prado@miamidade.gov at least seven (7) days in advance to initiate your request. TTY users may also call 711 (Florida Relay Service).
Guests can enjoy a mobile in-park scavenger hunt with prizes as well as a Community Resilience Pod that empowers communities & people to prepare for, navigate and recover from climate shocks and stressors.
During Party for the Planet, from April 17, 2021 – May 2, 2021 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Zoo Miami guests can enjoy a mobile in park scavenger hunt with prizes. All super kiddos and adults can be a planet hero by participating in three educational missions to save our planet from environmental threats. Guests who complete one to two missions will receive a participation prize. Visitors who complete all three get a chance to spin an exclusive prize wheel with special Zoo Miami-themed goodies and be entered into a raffle to win a one-of-a-kind Zoo Miami animal painting!
Instructions to join the mobile hunt are at www.zoomiami.org under Party for the Planet as well as at Zoo Miami.
Zoo Miami is proud to host the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center’s (Arsht-Rock) Community Resilience Pod, a highly versatile, interactive, mobile space that will meet residents of Miami-Dade County with resilience solutions to local threats like extreme heat, flooding, sea-level rise, food security, and public health challenges. Through physical and digital displays, location-specific risks and guidance, resources, and other tools, the Community Resilience Pod will build awareness of individual and community risks and emergency and disaster preparedness acumen for neighborhoods in Miami-Dade County.
In June 2020, Arsht-Rock launched the first mobile prototype of the Community Resilience Pod in Miami-Dade County, designed in collaboration with world-renowned architects and local artists. Since then, the Community Resilience Pod has served as a trusted hub for food distribution, fruit tree distribution and planting and hurricane preparation.
Arsht-Rock has partnered with Miami-Dade County Parks to deploy the Pod across Miami’s thirteen districts, where staff and volunteers lead multilingual educational efforts, awareness building and emergency and financial preparedness to educate visitors about the necessary life skills to become more resilient in the face of climate impacts and extreme events.
The Community Resilience Pod at Zoo Miami will debut with solar power, a hydroponics system, a cooling station, a WiFi communication tower as well as a feature on Zoo Miami’s conservation efforts.
The Community Resilience Pod’s immersive experience and vibrant art focuses on building new knowledge and resilience to improve lives and livelihoods within the most vulnerable communities. Through interactive and educational storytelling, advocacy and public service campaigns, the mobile and scalable Pods reflect and engage the community around them. Arsht-Rock is partnering with cities and communities around the world to deploy Community Resilience Pods across other major cities, including Chennai, Melbourne, Paris, Athens, and Mexico City over the next 10 years.
You can also help protect our planet and learn how we can help to make it healthier and more sustainable by taking Zoo Miami’s challenge at www.zoomiami.org/party-for-the-planet-2021. Our challenge is a series of activities that you can do at home like documenting invasive species, building bird feeders, composting and shopping sustainably.