Healing from the Rainforest
The tropical rainforests of the Americas are the most diverse living systems anywhere on earth. Some rainforest plants are the basis for important medicines. Researchers continue to search the rainforest for more medicines for the world's illnesses—we don't know yet what cures may be found.
With so many different kinds of plants in the rainforest, and so many groups of native peoples that practice healing, scientists believe there are many more medicines to be discovered. They are looking in the rainforests of the Americas for medicines to treat cancer, AIDS, and other diseases.
Protecting the Rainforest
It takes many people to help protect the remaining tropical rainforests of the Americas: scientists around the world, villagers in Peru, schoolchildren in North America, the Xingu and Kamayura Indians, the Brazilian government, and conservation groups — and that's just a few. One of the best ways to protect the diversity of the rainforest is to create nature and wildlife refuges. To be successful, the people who live near the refuges need to know that their livelihoods will improve by protecting the rainforest.
The Los Angeles Zoo participates in Species Survival Plans (SSPs) to carefully manage and maintain a healthy and self-sustaining captive population. We believe that our responsibility toward wildlife extends beyond just safeguarding the animals in our care. That is why we actively participate in the preservation of species in the wild. Rainforest animal projects we support include the following:
The Los Angeles Zoo Conservation Efforts
Red Uakari Conservation Project
The Los Angeles Zoo began working with this unique species in the mid 1960s and is currently the only zoological institution that exhibits uakaris outside of its native countries. Information gathered by field research contributes to what is known about the ecology of the uakari and allows us to better care for them in captivity. The Los Angeles Zoo is currently supporting the work of biologist Mark Bowler, as the principal investigator in the field projects for the ecology and conservation of the Peruvian red uakari monkey, previously thought to be restricted to the area between the Yavari and Ucayali Rivers in Peru. The decline of uakari populations in many parts of its original range suggests that the species could be more prone to population crashes than other primates. Although currently listed as vulnerable (2008 IUCN), an evaluation of the current response to local pressures could elevate the status of the species on the IUCN Red List to Endangered.
According to Mark Bowler's recent work, several isolated populations appear to be on the verge of extinction, making the maintenance of captive populations, such as the program here at the Los Angeles Zoo, very relevant to conservation efforts. Few institutions inside or outside Peru have held red uakari monkeys, as they have proven to be difficult to maintain and breed in captivity. Some collections have noted particular health issues, including unusually elevated iron levels in the blood. Establishing baseline parameters for health in uakaris is the first step in improving the health of captive collections of red uakaris. Health issues also threaten wild populations. As the habitat is changed and reduced in area and the populations of red uakaris decrease, changes to the occurrence and ecology of parasites and disease threatens remaining animals. Our collaborative group has a combined approach of studying both wild and captive uakaris to establish the threats to the health of all populations.
The Pacarana Conservation Program
The pacarana is a little-known rodent species found in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, and Bolivia. It is considered vulnerable by the IUCN due to a population decline of more than 30% over the last ten years. Over-exploitation, habitat destruction, and degradation are the primary causes of its decline.
Due to the declining species population, the Los Angeles Zoo has partnered with the Universidad de Ciencias Aplicadas Y Ambientales (U.D.C.A) in Bogota, Colombia, to gather more information about its natural history in order to more effectively conserve this rare species. The Los Angeles Zoo has been supporting the captive breeding efforts of this species at the Universidad since 2010.
Although this species is not exhibited in any zoological facility in North America, the Los Angeles Zoo recognizes that our efforts in conserving species goes beyond our home borders to save and protect the rare species of the world.
The Harpy Eagle Conservation Project
The harpy eagle is the top predator in the forest canopy throughout the American tropics, from the Brazilian Amazon north to Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. Like many species of eagle, big cat, and other apex predators, harpy populations are declining due to habitat loss, scarcity of prey, and human persecution. The species is endangered in the northern part of its range, where the Los Angeles Zoo has been supporting research, nest monitoring, and local education efforts. Learning the key survival elements for its habitats and changing perceptions to end persecution are essential to preserving and recovering one of the largest and most majestic of eagle species. For nearly 50 years, the Los Angeles Zoo has been working with harpy eagles and was the first to hatch chicks in the United States. Rainforest of the Americas houses a young pair of harpy eagles that have already shown interest in nesting.
The Blue-billed Curassow Conservation Project
The blue-billed curassow is a charismatic but critically endangered species, with fewer than 300 individuals now found only in the rainforest of the Magdalena Valley in Colombia. Related to pheasants and turkeys, curassows spend most of their time foraging the forest floor for fruit, tender shoots, insects, and other small animals and rely on a healthy rainforest to find food, mates, and nesting sites. But clearing for agriculture, logging, and mining are destroying this habitat at an extremely rapid rate. Preserves have been secured to protect at least a small proportion of the currasow's forest home, but this alone will not be enough to secure the future of this magnificent species. To ensure the species' survival, captive populations of blue-billed curassow are now breeding in zoos in both the United States and Colombia. The Los Angeles Zoo has a young pair of blue-billed curassow that will hopefully produce chicks. Our staff has also been involved in training Colombian biologists on egg incubation and chick rearing.
Please check the Zoo's main conservation section to learn about all of our conservation work!