Conservation | St. Louis Public Radio

Conservation

Kemet Ajanaku, right, spots an egret near the Audubon Center at Riverlands on July 1, 2019. Teens learn the basics of environmental conservation, then lead a series of summer camps for elementary schoolers.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

White, upper-middle-class Americans have held the reins of the mainstream conservation movement for decades — and some say change is long overdue.

A small group of biologists and educators in West Alton are working to jump-start that change through a series of outdoor camps. The Audubon Center at Riverlands’ Flight Crew program aims to help more young people of color connect with nature. 

The Missouri Department of Conservation has added 16 new conservation areas to a list of regions where hunters must use nontoxic shot.
Missouri Department of Conservation

Lead was removed from most consumer products, like pencils and pipes, long ago.

There’s still one product where lead is used routinely — ammunition.

This final holdout is becoming more heavily regulated, however. Beginning this spring, hunters in Missouri will no longer be allowed to use lead shot in specific conservation areas across the state. State officials say the rules are meant to protect wildlife from lead poisoning.

Two African painted dog puppies sit in their enclosure at the Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Earlier this year, the Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka had its first litter of African painted dog puppies, giving researchers a chance to compare how they develop in captivity versus the wild.

Over several decades, people in countries like Botswana and Zimbabwe have killed African painted dogs for preying on livestock and out of fear of them. The species is sometimes nicknamed “devil dogs.” Less than 5,000 members of the endangered species roams in sub-Saharan Africa.

A male prairie chicken
Missouri Department of Conservation

Even though Missouri conservation officials have shipped in hundreds of prairie chickens over the last 40 years, the native species has steadily declined in the state.

As the Missouri Department of Conservation prepares to count prairie chickens this spring, the agency reported this week that the population in Missouri has dropped to fewer than 100. In the 1800s, there were hundreds of thousands of prairie chickens that roamed throughout the state. The birds that remain can only be found in small patches of prairie in western Missouri.

Seedlings of a rare Tanzanian tree, the Karomia gigas, in a greenhouse at the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Andrew Wyatt | Missouri Botanical Garden

No one has seen the flower of the 60-foot-tall Karomia gigas tree in Tanzania; scientists at the Missouri Botanical Garden hope they’ll be the first.

For decades, botanists at the garden have been helping the Tanzanian government prevent rare and threatened trees from becoming extinct. Scientists recently started growing one of those trees, the Karomia gigas, in a greenhouse at the garden. There are 19 members of the species in the wild.

The garden’s scientists are cultivating the trees in St. Louis because conservationists have had no luck growing them in Tanzania. The seeds are extremely vulnerable to fungus and insect predators, said Roy Gereau, the garden’s Tanzania program director.

A three-week-old Mexican gray wolf pup is examined by scientists at the Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka. The pup was born from artificial insemination that used thawed semen.
Endangered Wolf Center

The future is looking brighter for the endangered Mexican gray wolf, as scientists have announced the birth of the first pup of the species to be born from artificial insemination that used frozen semen. 

There are 130 Mexican gray wolves that remain in the wild, largely in Arizona and New Mexico. Some live at the Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka, where the new pup was born. In collaboration with the Saint Louis Zoo, scientists at the center have been collecting and freezing semen from endangered wolves for more than 20 years.

An adult female bluebird caught by a Southeast Missouri State University researcher.
Kathy Hixson

It’s been nearly 300 years since lead was first discovered in Missouri.

But the element's important role in the state's economy may come at a price to another natural resources. Scientists are planning to study the health effects of lead on local songbird populations.

The research, conducted by biologists at Southeast Missouri State University and the University of Missouri-Columbia, will take place in the Southeast Missouri Lead District, which contains the world’s largest deposits of galena, an important source of lead.

Ray Meibaum | Saint Louis Zoo

Scientists are urging an international organization to reclassify the cheetah as an endangered species, given the animal's falling numbers. About 7,100 cheetahs exist in the world, mostly in Africa. But that is less than 10 percent of the animal's historic population. 

In the journal Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences, conservation experts reported that cheetahs are at greater risk of extinction than previously thought and are calling for increased protection of the species. The authors demand that the International Union for Conservation of Nature upgrade the cheetah's status from "vulnerable" to "endangered." It has been listed as vulnerable for three decades.

Echo Bluff State Park
Courtesy of Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Updated at 1 a.m. Nov. 9 with final results - The attempts to raise cigarette and tobacco taxes for roads or early childhood education went down to defeat.

Charlie Hoessle helped start the St. Louis Zoo's education department in the 1960s.
Courtesy of St. Louis Zoo

For St. Louisans of a certain age, the statue outside the herpetarium at the St. Louis Zoo depicts a familiar figure: Charles H. Hoessle — better known as “Charlie” — who taught them about snakes and exotic reptiles when they were schoolchildren in the 1960s.

Hoessle worked for the zoo for 40 years. He helped start the zoo's education department in 1964 and hosted the weekly “Saint Louis Zoo Show’’ on local TV from 1968 to 1978.

The World Bird Sanctuary is home to over 200 animals.
Kim Oswalt | St. Louis Public Radio

From the moment Katrina (“Trina”) Whitener met “Lonesome George” – the last tortoise of his kind - in kindergarten, she knew she wanted to dedicate her life to making sure no animal had to experience what George experienced ever again.

Provided by University of Missouri-Columbia/Julianna Jenkins

According to surveys by scientists and avid bird-watchers, many songbird species are declining in the U.S. Losing the birds that provide a natural soundtrack in our backyards is a critical environmental issue, since they also serve to control insect populations and as pollinators.

Adult Ozark hellbenders can reach up to two feet in length, making them one of the largest salamanders in the world.
Ray Meibaum | Saint Louis Zoo

The Saint Louis Zoo is sharing its expertise in matchmaking ... for salamanders.

It's part of the 7th Hellbender Symposium, which has drawn more than 100 participants from the Midwest, the Eastern U.S., Japan and China.

Peter Raven (left), the President Emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden, and Rudi Roeslein (right), CEO of Roeslein Associates
Áine O'Connor | St. Louis Public Radio

People in urban areas may not think about the importance of prairies. But beyond the asphalt, concrete and glass of the city, is a country rich in prairie land.

But, what is the importance of prairies and how do they affect our everyday lives?

On Thursday's “St. Louis on the Air” Peter Raven, president emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden, and Rudi Roeslein, CEO of Roeslein Associates, joined host Don Marsh to discuss the role of prairies conserving of natural ecosystems and their importance for production of next-generation biofuels.

St. Louis Zoo highlights conservation efforts, wildlife-saving research

May 15, 2015
The Saint Louis Zoo's curator of birds Michael Macek works to conserve Humboldt penguins in Punta San Juan, Peru.
Courtesy of Saint Louis Zoo

The St. Louis Zoo is spotlighting its efforts to save threatened wildlife Saturday with educational activities and a children's scavenger hunt during its 10th annual Endangered Species Day.

Zoo CEO Jeffrey Bonner called the institution a leader in animal conservation, but he acknowledges that many people don't know about its vital role in saving wildlife.

Marvin Moriarty | U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

The fungal disease white-nose syndrome and other threats to bat survival will be at the top of the agenda of an international meeting being held this week in St. Louis.

The conference is expected to draw about 350 bat specialists from government agencies, academia, environmental consulting firms and non-profits in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Lincoln Brower

The City of St. Louis and several partners are launching a project to help monarch butterflies.

It involves encouraging area residents to plant milkweeds -- a plant with large fruit pods that release fluffy seeds in the fall.

The Saint Louis Zoo is one of the partners in the “Milkweeds for Monarchs” initiative, along with the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Missouri Department of Conservation.

The zoo's curator of invertebrates, Edward Spevak, says milkweeds are critical to the monarch’s survival.

Lincoln Brower

Every year, monarch butterflies undertake what seems like an impossible journey.

By the millions, they leave their summer breeding grounds in the United States and Canada to fly thousands of miles to a small area of alpine forest in central Mexico.

Ecologist Lincoln Brower has been studying monarchs for almost 60 years.

Saint Louis Zoo Shows Off Plans For Its New Polar Bear Exhibit

Oct 9, 2013
(Saint Louis Zoo)

The Saint Louis Zoo is forging ahead with building a new, state-of-the-art polar bear exhibit.

The 40,000-square-foot McDonnell Polar Bear Point will more than double the zoo’s previous polar bear habitat, which closed in 2009.

Features of the exhibit will include:

Carol Perkins, Conservationist And Humanitarian, Dies At 95

Oct 25, 2012
(Courtesy Saint Louis Zoo)

Updated 5:52 p.m.

Carol Perkins, a conservationist and humanitarian and the widow of famed zoologist Marlin Perkins, has died.

The Saint Louis Zoo says Carol Perkins died Saturday at her home in Clayton, Mo. She was 95 and had been in declining health.

Marlin Perkins was the director of the Saint Louis Zoo who gained international fame after becoming host of television's "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" in 1962. The program aired for 26 years until his death in 1986.

(Courtesy Ian Nichols)

For more than a decade, Washington University anthropologist Crickette Sanz and Lincoln Park Zoo research conservationist David Morgan have lived and worked in a remote stretch of forest in Africa’s Congo Basin, studying chimpanzees and gorillas.

Together with local Congolese, they founded the Goualougo Triangle Ape Project, whose mission is to study and protect great apes and their habitat.

Sanz and Morgan are giving a talk about their work tonight at the St. Louis Zoo — they spoke with St. Louis Public Radio's Véronique LaCapra.

Swift fox kits born at Endangered Wolf Center

Jun 14, 2012
Regina Mossotti, Endangered Wolf Center

A litter of three swift foxes, two females and one male, has been born at the Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka – the first in a dozen years. The four-week-old foxes will get their first round of vaccinations today.

The kits are being raised by a trio of adult foxes – the breeding female’s sister is helping the parents care for their young.

(Missouri Botanical Garden)

The Missouri Botanical Garden has announced plans to help build an online database of the world’s plants.

Working with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, and the New York Botanical Garden, the Missouri Botanical Garden will compile information on as many as 400,000 land plant species, with the goal of having all the data available online by 2020.

(Frank Mbago/Missouri Botanical Garden)

Scientists at the Missouri Botanical Garden have confirmed the discovery of two tree species that were thought to be extinct.

Last year botanists from the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania set out to look for the trees. They discovered small populations of both species in a remote forest in southeastern Tanzania, along Africa’s eastern coast.

Missouri Botanical Garden botanist Roy Gereau worked with British scientist Phil Clarke to confirm the identity of the trees.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 8, 2011 - The Earth has more than 300,000 known plant species. With such variety, it's possible to believe that plant conservation is not a priority. But for Porter P. Lowry II, and fellow plant conservation scientists, every one of those different species of plants is crucial for life on Earth.

Elk released from holding pen, some with new calves

Jun 2, 2011

The elk brought to Missouri early last month as part of a restoration project have been released from their holding pen.

The Missouri Department of Conservation released the 34 elk along with five newborn calves on Wednesday.

The adult elk and calves have been fitted with GPS radio collars as part of a cooperative research project with the University of Missouri-Columbia. The collars will help researchers track the elk's health, movement patterns and preferred types of vegetation.

First global plant list available online

Dec 29, 2010

The Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in London have completed the first comprehensive list of world plant species.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 17, 2010 - Gov. Jay Nixon emphasized the need to balance economic and environmental interests on Friday, as he laid out a plan for the state's energy future.

Nixon told a room of industrial consumers and energy executives at Washington University that the balancing act would need to include increases in environmentally friendly practices and clean, renewable energy sources while keeping energy costs affordable for consumers and businesses.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 5, 2009 - When we think of rare and endangered plants, many of us tend to assume they are all in tropical rain forests. Not so. Rare plants from our area -- and indeed all over the United States -- are in danger of disappearing forever.

Sometimes housing developments destroy a plot of plants that grow only on a rocky outcrop called a glade. The white-haired goldenrod grows only under cave-like overhangs in Kentucky and Tennessee. Rock-climbers and hikers tend to trample it. Climate change may already be having a profound effect on plant survival.