Pete Villarreal

Pete Villarreal

Times at the Texas Zoo have been very exciting lately.

The acquisition of the Daily Dairy Animal Movement and Tracking Tags from Wildbyte Technologies has opened an entire new frontier when it comes to wildlife research and animal welfare.

As published last month, the Texas Zoo has been working collaboratively with scientists from across the Atlantic, including Dr. Andreas Fahlman from Oceanographic in Valencia, Spain, as well as biologging engineers from Swansea University in the United Kingdom. Data has been collected from a variety of mammals at the zoo, including Flo, our American black bear (Ursus americanus); Nova the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx); Clyde the ocelot (Leopardus pardalis); and Tate, our ambassador white-nosed coati (Nasua narica). Lately, efforts have been focused on the application of this technology with our lemur collection, and we are proud to say that our red-ruffed lemur (Varecia rubra) ambassador, Brighteyes, is now part of the species data collection. Lemur comparative physiological research is well on its way.

Primates such as lemurs have been particularly of interest to scientist due to a behavior known as “torpor.” The occurrence is a controlled depression of virtually all bodily function during scarce periods. Previous investigations include the relationship of daily torpor or hibernation to that of habitat type and climatic conditions of Malagasy lemurs (Dausmann and Warnecke 2015). One conclusion drawn was that at least in a specific family of lemurs, torpor might be exhibited as a means to control water homeostasis, meaning that it would be an efficient way to preserve water in harsh Madagascar ecosystems (Dausmann and Warnecke 2015). Perhaps Brighteyes as well as Ringo and Mamma (ring-tailed lemurs; Lemur catta) may aid in the understanding of how their bodies are adapted to preserve water through the use of torpor themselves.

In fact, through the use of disciplines such as comparative physiology, one may study the difference between the two lemur species. This is where animal behavior comes in handy, and with the tags from Wildbyte Technologies, we at Texas Zoo are now working on that task.

So when guests visit one of our lemur ambassadors, or perhaps all three, they will be having an interaction with a true “wildlife ambassador.”

How so? Brighteyes, Ringo and Mamma are model organisms in the understanding of primate behavior and ecophysiology; thus, they may help their cousins in Madagascar, who are in need of conservational efforts and management.

Pedro Villarreal is the wildlife care specialist supervisor of the The Texas Zoo. The Texas Zoo is in Riverside Park, 110 Memorial Drive. It is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years Day. For more information, call 361-573-7681 or visit texaszoo.org.

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