Endangered Species | St. Louis Public Radio

Endangered Species

A section of the Big Piney River that runs through Fort Leonard Wood. This is one of the places that provides habitat to endandered species that live at the base. 10-02-19
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

Fort Leonard Wood is home to more than 6,000 soldiers and at least three endangered species.

Those animals and two more that are threatened are protected and cared for despite living among shelling and other military training.

And scientists flock to the installation, saying it’s a boon to their research and gives them an opportunity to help these animals.

Tobias prances around in an enclosure in the "Antelope Yards" at the St. Louis Zoo.
Emily Woodbury | St. Louis Public Radio

On July 30, St. Louis gained a new resident — Tobias, the Somali wild ass. His birth is special, since he is part of a subspecies that is both critically endangered in the wild and underrepresented in zoos nationwide. In fact, just by being born, Tobias increased the number of Somali wild asses in the United States by 1.5%.

Tuesday on St. Louis on the Air, Sarah Fenske spoke with Tim Thier, the acting curator of antelope at St. Louis Zoo, about the Somali wild ass and the zoo’s conservation efforts in the Horn of Africa, where the Somali wild ass resides.

Roger Ideker's farm in St. Joseph, Mo. during the 2011 Missouri River flood. Ideker is the lead plaintiff in the suit against the corps.
Ideker Farms

U.S. Sens. Josh Hawley and Roy Blunt want the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop focusing on protecting wildlife in the Missouri River and instead focus on flood control and navigation, a move that environmentalists are calling misguided.

In 2004, the Corps of Engineers changed its management strategy for the Missouri River to protect two endangered species of birds and one fish, the pallid sturgeon. However, landowners near the river have alleged that prioritizing wildlife over flood protection has caused them extensive property damage from major floods.

Tim Schroeder holds a hatchery-raised pallid sturgeon bound for the Missouri River. The species, which can grow up to six feet long and weigh 100 pounds, was once common in the Missouri River.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Tim Schroeder is a little bleary-eyed.

He left South Dakota before sunrise and drove 10 hours straight to Missouri — with a few hundred endangered fish in the back of his pickup truck.

Schroeder, who works for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was tasked with delivering a load of pallid sturgeon to biologists in St. Charles. It’s part of a long-running partnership between federal scientists and the Missouri Department of Conservation to jumpstart recovery of the endangered fish species, which was once common in the Missouri and lower Mississippi rivers.

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.

Zoo staff decided to bottle-feed the baby lemur after observing that her mother was unable to nurse her.
Ethan Riepl | St. Louis Zoo

A new, tiny resident will now greet visitors to the St. Louis Zoo Primate House.

Princess Buttercup, a female mongoose lemur, is the first of her species to be born and reared successfully at the zoo. The critically endangered lemur species, which is found only on Madagascar, is the focus of a national cooperative breeding program intended to build a healthy population in captivity.

Missouri Botanical Garden restoration biologist James Trager standing at one of the naturally-occurring glades in the Shaw Nature Reserve.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

While the Ozarks are known for forests, but visitors to the highland region also will find open, desert-like areas between trees that contain a special combination of rare plants and animals  found in few other places. 

The areas, called glades, are hot and dry places with thin soils. To a visitor, the rocky appearance of glades make them look like an old road that has been overtaken by tall grasses. They're defined by the type of rocks that lie underneath, which in Missouri are largely limestone and dolomite. Glades were once more common in Missouri's Ozarks, but since they need to be burned to exist, the areas have disappeared over the last century as forest managers sought to suppress fires. 

Scientists are conducting controlled fires at the Shaw Nature Reserve to understand how to best conserve them.

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 Eastern massasauga in southwestern Michigan.
Photo provided | Eric T. Hileman

Illinois scientists are studying an endangered species of rattlesnake to find ways to revive its numbers. 

The Eastern massasauga once was widespread in the Midwest, living mainly in the Great Lakes region. Over several decades, its population declined dramatically. The species lives in wetlands, many of which have been drained to to build farms. Northern Illinois University biologist Richard King said it's also the only venomous snake in its range, which has made it a target.

A gray bat cave on St. Clair, Mo., resident Nick Norman's property. It is located several hundred feet from where Mermamec Aggregates has built a surface mine for gravel.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

It would be an understatement to call Nick Norman an animal lover. A visit to his family's 200-acre property in St. Clair, Mo., will reveal quickly that his mission in life is to save them.

For example, he has shared his home with Charlie, a 170-pound African spurred tortoise. When Norman found Charlie, he was a malnourished company mascot. Charlie now spends his days marching slowly around Norman's yard, feasting on watermelons. 

Missouri Department of Conservation's wildlife biologist Shelly Colatskie conducting a survey at a gray bat cave on Norman's property.
Provided by Nick Norman

A group of residents in Franklin County want to sue state and local officials for authorizing a gravel mining project that could threaten the gray bat, an endangered species. 

The Citizens for Preservation of the Meramec River on Aug 3., filed a notice to sue the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Franklin County Planning and Zoning Commission and Meramec Aggregates, Inc.  The Great Rivers Environmental Law Center is representing the 25-member group.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 5, 2009 - The future of wild animals -- among them the mighty elephant, the lowly hellbender salamander and the American burying beetle -- will be the topic of discussion when the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums meets this week in St. Louis.

Leading conservationists, including keynote speaker Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, will join about 200 heads of zoos and aquariums from all over the world at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. They will meet for two days of presentations followed by work on plans to implement the organization's updated conservation strategy.