June 26, 2008

A Snip In Time Saves Nine

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — geoff @ 9:33 pm

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Good morning and greetings from the Pacific coast. Last week we took a look at a group of cormorants nesting on a shelf along West Cliff Drive. When I went to check them out later in the week I immediately noticed the females were sitting differently on the nests. That meant one of two things. Either there was a breakout of hemorrhoids or the eggs had hatched. Sure enough, it was baby cormorant central as most nests seemed to hold three youngsters. What made it challenging were the angry western gulls who were strafing my tender scalp in an effort to protect their black-coated friends. Fortunately I was wearing my “Mission Accomplished” safari hat which protected me from the attack.

I thought to myself, what an interesting place (photo #1) to raise a family. Right on the magical edge of the continent with waves crashing downstairs 24 hours a day. Great view and the rent is cheap. But as you can see from the final shot, not all of the cormorants are in the family way. You might say some are a still a little nervous, like they’re sitting on egg shells. These little ones will hang out until August when they’ll receive a map and their flight assignments.

Let’s move from birds to mammals. Scientists and gossip columnists at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoo have revealed they reversed a vasectomy on an endangered horse to allow it to reproduce naturally – the first-known operation of its kind on an endangered species. Immediately this question comes to mind? Why were they doing the scissors kick on this pony in the first place? Couldn’t they have told him to just stop horsing around or at the very least supplied this sacred stallion with a case of some extra large protection?

Veterinarians and racing fans said that the surgery was performed in October on a Przewalski horse named Minnesota. Luis Padilla, the zoo veterinarian who performed the reversal surgery with a spin move on the baseline, said the procedure was a first for this species and likely for any endangered species. The horses are native to China and Mongolia and were declared extinct in the wild in 1970. Since then several hundred have been bred and reintroduced to the wild in Asia along with enjoying the pleasures of a Mongolian barbecue.

“This is kind of interesting turnaround,” said Dr. Sherman Silber, a St. Louis urologist who pioneered reversible vasectomies in 13,000 humans and helped with the horse surgery. If I were in this guy’s office, the first thing I would do is turn around. “We’ve made so much progress because the human really is the perfect model.” I don’t know if you’ve been to a stable recently but I’m not sure if I agree with that visual assessment.

A similar surgery was successfully performed while Padilla was a resident at the Saint Louis Zoo in 2003 on South American bush dogs, which resemble Chihuahuas and former U.S. Presidents. They are classified as vulnerable but not endangered unlike our Commander-in-Chief, who would be classified as clueless and dangerous. By the way, this is my last shot at the administration for a while as I return to my kinder, gentler self.

The “temporary vasectomy” could have a significant effect on how animals are managed in captivity by giving zookeepers a new way to control the animal’s offspring without having to neuter them or use contraceptives that can change an animal’s behavior. How about just telling them to knock it off?

Minnesota, the 20-year-old horse, had a vasectomy in 1999 at his previous home at the Minnesota Zoo. Boy, they really gave a lot of thought into naming this stud puppet. A vasectomy may be performed on an endangered animal because of space constraints, the size of species or if an animal has already produced many offspring and its genes are overrepresented in the population, says Budhan Pukazhenthi, a reproductive scientist at the National Zoo’s Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, Va. I’m not that impressed by this scientist’s theory but I would love to use his last name in my next Scrabble conquest.

Scientists later realized Minnesota was one of the most genetically valuable horses in the North American breeding program based on his ancestry. Do you think a little research before might have be prudent so they wouldn’t have had to play snip to my lou. Zookeepers hope to find a suitable female for Minnesota in July. So far they’ve contacted eHarmony.com, Cupid.com and Yonkers Raceway.

Cheryl Asa, director of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association’s Wildlife Contraception Center, said the reversible vasectomy could be useful in isolated cases but probably won’t be adopted broadly. That good news for members of the animal kingdom. As for myself, when I’m thinking reversible, I’ve thinking jackets or maybe a practice jersey. As you can see, I’m more into sniping than snipping.

So there goes another week of blogging with the stars. I hope you are enjoying our summer program here on Monterey Bay. So enjoy the baby cormorants, have a fabulous weekend and we’ll catch you on the last day of June. Aloha, sports fans.

1 Comment »

  1. Funny, I didn’t see this article in the Times but I guess that’s a horse of a different color. And did I read correctly – no more shots at Bush – did some sort of cease fire go into effect that I’m not aware of? Well, I guess we’ll just have to settle for some beautiful photos and interesting news items for awhile – keep up the great work!

    Comment by Brad — June 27, 2008 @ 7:13 am

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