In the 1940s, the magnificent whooping crane was approaching extinction. Only fifteen individuals remained. Today, following painstaking conservation efforts and rigorous research, over 600 whooping cranes exist. A recovery like this required tackling habitat management, captive breeding, legislation, and research.
The Wild Animal Health Fund helped this effort. It provided funds for research on the impact of disease on wild whoopers. And the disease of greatest concern to the population is called disseminated visceral coccidiosis. This disease results in inflammation in a variety of organs. It is a disease caused by tiny parasites called coccidia. It is an important disease to study because it can affect the health of the population. Studying this parasite required analysis of a vast number of fecal samples. And feces were a challenge to collect from wild birds without disturbing them. Using remote cameras, though, researchers could identify periods of high activity. They could then go to those locations and collect the samples for analysis back at the laboratory.
The researchers needed to know whether the cranes had this disease. They looked at the samples under a microscope and discovered many had parasite eggs. Further analysis using DNA "barcoding" revealed the particular parasite. They also compared the eggs to those found in a similar crane species, the sandhill crane. The findings and technical advances will help the populations of both species of cranes as well as many other bird species.
100% of every dollar you give to the Wild Animal Health Fund goes to fund research grants like these.
Check out this episode of 60 MINUTES where veterinarian, Mike Cranfield, plays a crucial role in the health of the mountain gorilla. The collection of blood will contribute to evaluating the health of the mountain gorilla and used as a parameter for understanding the health of other related species. This is a prime example of research needed to save zoo animals and wildlife.
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