They Call It “Puppy” Love

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Five Prairie Dog pups recently emerged from their burrows at their exhibit located in Franklin Park Zoo’s ‘Nature’s Neighborhoods’, the new George Robert White Fund Children’s Zoo.

The pups’ birth date is estimated to have been around April 1. Prairie Dog pups are born blind and hairless, and do not make an appearance outside of the burrow until they are about six weeks old. The pups can now be seen exploring the exhibit alongside the adult Prairie Dogs.

“It’s hard not to be amazed by these incredible little creatures. Prairie Dogs are highly social animals, and it will be fascinating for our guests to watch the pups grow up,” said John Linehan, Zoo New England President and CEO.

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3_prairie dog pupsPhoto Credits: Zoo New England / Franklin Park Zoo

Black-tailed Prairie Dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) are not actually dogs at all. They are small, stout, tan rodents with a lightly white or buff-white belly. They have short black tails, small ears, dark eyes and long claws used for digging.

Black-tailed Prairie Dogs are found in short-grass prairie habitats of western North America, from southern Saskatchewan down to northern Mexico. They form complex, widespread underground burrow systems, and avoid areas of heavy brush or tall grass due to reduced visibility.

They live in what are called “towns” or colonies. These colonies are further divided into territorial neighborhoods called wards. Within the wards are coteries, which are family groups comprised of a male, one to four females and offspring that are under two years old. They do not hibernate and can be seen emerging from burrows in mid-winter.

Their towns are known to be quite expansive, and they are considered to be pests by ranchers (burrow entrances become hazardous to livestock). In 1901, scientists in Texas reported finding a Black-tailed Prairie Dog town that allegedly covered about 25,000 sq mi (64,000 km2) and included 400,000,000 individual residents.

The species is currently classified as “Least Concern” by the IUCN. Prior to habitat destruction, this species may have been the most abundant Prairie Dog in central North America.

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Endangered Rhino Wins Hearts at Saint Louis Zoo

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A male Black Rhinoceros calf was born at the Saint Louis Zoo on May 17. The calf has been named Moyo (“heart” in Swahili). He is the second offspring for mother, Kati Rain, and father, Ajabu.

According to keepers, the little male is nursing well and being cared for by his mother. The pair has been bonding in their barn behind the scenes in their River’s Edge exhibit. A date has not yet been set for their public debut.

This is the second Black Rhino to be born at the Zoo in 26 years and only the tenth in

Saint Louis Zoo’s history. Moyo’s older brother, named Ruka, was born in 2011. In the summer of 2015, Ruka moved to the Oregon Zoo to pair with a compatible female there, as recommended by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Black Rhino Species Survival Plan (SSP).

Kati Rain and Ajabu arrived at the Zoo’s River’s Edge in 2007. Kati Rain is from Sedgwick County Zoo, and Ajabu is from San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Both are 13 years old.

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Black-rhino-Moyo_photo-by-Kathryn Pilgram-Kloppe Saint-Louis-Zoo_5-19-2017_webPhoto Credits: Saint Louis Zoo/ Images 1 & 2: Elizabeth Irwin / Image 3: Kathryn Pilgram-Kloppe  

The Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis), also known as the Hook-lipped Rhinoceros, is a species native to eastern and southern Africa including Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Although it is referred to as “black”, its colors vary from brown to grey.

The critically endangered Black Rhino has experienced the most drastic decline of any of the five surviving Rhino species. Between 1970 and 1992, the Black Rhino population in Africa dropped by 96 percent. By 1993, only 2,300 individuals survived in the wild.

Black Rhinos are being pushed to the brink of extinction by illegal poaching for their horns, and to a lesser extent by loss of habitat. The horn is falsely believed to be medicine in many Asian cultures. Because of conservationists’ intensive anti-poaching efforts in the 1990s and 2000s, the number of Black Rhinos in the wild began increasing slowly.

The species overall is classified as “Critically Endangered” by the IUCN, and three subspecies, including the Western Black Rhinoceros, were declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2011.

Current estimates show 5,055 individual Black Rhinos are alive in the wild. The Saint Louis Zoo’s Black Rhinos are part of the AZA Black Rhino SSP, a program to manage a genetically healthy population of Black Rhinos in North American zoos.

With the addition of Moyo, there are currently 60 Eastern Black Rhinos in 26 AZA institutions. The Saint Louis Zoo's WildCare Institute Center for Conservation in the Horn of Africa supports the Sera Rhino Sanctuary in northern Kenya in partnership with the Northern Rangelands Trust. Additionally, the Zoo’s WildCare Institute supports the Stop Poaching Now program through the International Rhino Foundation.


Titicaca Frogs Hatch for First Time in North America

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Denver Zoo is thrilled to announce the February 14th hatching of the first batch of Lake Titicaca Frog Tadpoles in North American history. The roughly 200 tadpoles are the offspring of two of the 20 frogs that arrived from the Huachipa Zoo, in Lima, Peru, in November 2015.

Currently, Denver Zoo is the only institution in the northern hemisphere to house this critically endangered species. Zookeepers have been watching the tadpoles carefully since their hatching and say they are doing great. Most of the tadpoles can now be seen at the Zoo's Tropical Discovery building.

It has been more than 20 years since a Lake Titicaca Frog has resided in the United States. Since the initial arrival of the Zoo’s Lake Titicaca Frogs, Zoo staff members have studied their behavior and looked to increase their population. The Zoo’s goal has been to raise awareness of the plight of these amphibians while also gaining important insight into the care of the species. Eventually, when the tadpoles develop into frogs, some will stay at Denver Zoo while many will be rehoused at other Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited institutions, furthering the message of conservation and awareness for this neglected species.

“In the time we’ve had the Lake Titicaca Frogs, we have gained so much insight to this unique species,” said Assistant Curator of Reptiles and Fish Tom Weaver. “We feel very proud that we are able to provide that opportunity.”

Since 2007, Denver Zoo has worked with partners in Bolivia and Peru to conserve the species and is currently the only zoo in the United States to support research in Peru. In addition, Denver Zoo also has staff based in Peru who are working with other zoos, local government, and in the field to further conservation efforts for the Lake Titicaca Frog.

“This hatching and the research we’ve done with Lake Titicaca Frogs at the Zoo and in Peru speaks to our role as a true conservation organization,” said Director of Conservation Education Matt Herbert, “Our work is raising much-needed awareness for the plight of this frog for our guests, children and adults, and will soon do the same for those who visit the other institutions which will soon be a home for the species.”

LT Tadpoles 2Photo Credits: Denver Zoo

The Lake Titicaca Frog (Telmatobius coleus), the world’s largest entirely aquatic frog, lives only in its namesake lake and the surrounding rivers and streams of the catchment. Lake Titicaca is one of the world’s highest navigable lakes, lying about 12,500 feet above sea level and straddling the Peruvian and Bolivian border.

The frogs can grow up to 20 inches long and weigh more than 2 pounds. The species’ saggy, seemingly excessive, skin absorbs oxygen, allowing it to remain submerged indefinitely while still breathing and able to respire.

The Zoo’s first population of frogs hatched as tadpoles in March of 2015 at Huachipa Zoo, in Peru. Their parents were the offspring of wild-born frogs that were confiscated by authorities on their way to a market for consumption purposes.

Although illegal, local Peruvians and Bolivians routinely harvest the frogs. In Peru, the frogs are consumed in a shake-like drink that is believed to enhance virility, among other benefits. This, along with disease, pollution and the introduction of invasive species, are main reasons the species faces extinction. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Lake Titicaca frog’s population has declined 80 percent over the last three generations and it is now classified as “Critically Endangered.”

While there is much conservation effort in Peru, there is little work being done on amphibians of the high Andes, which makes this project so important. Denver Zoo, working with local governments, leads conservation efforts in support of the frogs, such as conducting research and raising awareness about them, while also empowering local communities to prevent their extinction. Educators teach school children about the importance of the species and support local communities in their efforts to earn a living from the frog through handicraft sales and tourism.

Due to these efforts, the Lake Titicaca frog has recently transformed into a symbol of pride for the people of Puno, the largest Peruvian city that borders the lake. In 2012, the Regional Government of Puno issued an ordinance declaring the frog a tourist attraction in the Lake Titicaca region.


Here’s the Latest on Zoo Atlanta’s Panda Twins!

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The only twin Giant Pandas in the U.S. are well on their way to a series of exciting new milestones at Zoo Atlanta. Ya Lun and Xi Lun, who were 8 months old on May 3, are trying new foods, developing their climbing skills, and showing even more evidence of their distinctive personalities as they head into summer.

Although Giant Panda cubs continue to nurse until they are around 18 months old, Ya Lun and Xi Lun have already begun sampling some of the foods offered to their parents, including sweet potatoes and leafeater biscuits (the vitamin and mineral-rich squares which are a staple of the Zoo Atlanta Giant Pandas’ bamboo-heavy diet).

Play wrestling with their mother, and with each other, also tops the daily to-do list for Ya Lun and Xi Lun, who now weigh 38.8 pounds and 33.84 pounds, respectively. The twins are also refining their climbing abilities, which are essential skills for Giant Panda cubs.

Ya Lun and Xi Lun are the sixth and seventh offspring of Lun Lun and Yang Yang and are the second set of twins born at Zoo Atlanta. Ya Lun, the older of the duo by 47 minutes, remains the more adventurous cub. Her sister Xi Lun is more reserved and is less likely to be the first to try new experiences.

Ya Lun and Xi Lun_Zoo Atlanta 2Photo Credits: Zoo Atlanta

Giant Pandas represent Zoo Atlanta’s most significant investment in wildlife conservation. Fewer than 1,900 Giant Pandas are estimated to remain in the wild in China’s Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. Of these, more than 1,200 live inside nature reserves, eight of which are supported by Zoo Atlanta.

In September 2016, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) downgraded the Giant Panda’s status from “Endangered” to “Vulnerable.” The species remains heavily reliant on conservation programs, and Giant Pandas face ongoing threats from habitat fragmentation and habitat loss as a result of deforestation and other human activities.

Visitors to Zoo Atlanta can see Ya Lun and Xi Lun and their parents in the Zoo’s Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation Giant Panda Conservation Center. You can also catch up with the cubs on “PandaCam” hosted by Animal Planet L!VE on www.zooatlanta.org/pandacam .


Pair of Porcupettes Born at Utica Zoo

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Utica Zoo is excited to announce the birth of two African Crested Porcupines. The delightful pair of “porcupettes” were discovered on May 1 with their parents, Kutarna and Darius. At their neonatal vet exam, they were determined to be a male and a female.

Mom Kutarna is 7-years-old and has been at the Zoo since 2010. Dad Darius is 6-years-old and has been at Utica for about the same time. Although the two have lived and bred with each other for about 4 years, they have never produced young until now.

The species has a gestation period of 93 to 94 days, after which one to three young are born, just 300 to 350 grams and about 6 inches long.

“When I came in that morning and discovered two new adorable faces snuggled in with their parents I was so excited” said Kristy Bussard, one of the Porcupines’ zookeepers.

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3_Kristy Bussard porcupinePhoto Credits: Utica Zoo

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) encouraged the breeding of Kutarna and Darius. The SSP works to promote genetically diverse populations of African Crested Porcupines. These are the first offspring for this pair, although Darius sired another porcupette with a different female 5-years-ago. That animal, known as Joey, is one of the Zoo’s ambassador animals in the Education Department.

Porcupettes are born with soft quills that slowly become stiffer, more sharp, and longer with time. Once Porcupines have their armor and size, they have very few natural enemies.

“They are born so vulnerable, so we wanted to hold off on their public debut until we were more certain they had their natural defenses in place”, added Pearl Yusuf, Director of Animal Operations. “Because of their size and no protective quills, they could easily fall prey to native raptors like hawks that fly over the exhibit.”


Saved at Birth, Baby Otter Comes Out of the Nest

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An Otter pup whose life was saved by an emergency Caesarean section is out of the nest at Taronga Zoo.

When a female Oriental Small-clawed Otter named Pia went into labor on February 28, keepers noticed that she was having difficulty delivering her babies.  They called on the veterinary staff, who performed an emergency Caesarean section on Pia.  Unfortunately, all three of Pia’s cubs were unresponsive when they were delivered.

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Otter Pup 1_Photo by Paul FahyPhoto Credit:  Paul Fahy/Taronga Zoo

The staff tried to resuscitate the cubs, and amazingly, one survived.  That pup, a male named Intan, which means ‘diamond’ in Indonesian, has spent the last 10 weeks in the nest box with Pia and her mate, Ketut. Intan has just begun exploring outdoors and tasting solid food alongside mom and dad.

“They’ve been perfect parents. They’re both extremely attentive and occasionally even battle over who gets to look after the pup,” said Keeper Ben Haynes.  “Ketut is a first-time dad, but he grew up with younger siblings so he has experience collecting fish and caring for younger otters.”

The pup is the first successful Otter birth at Taronga in more than 15 years.

“He’s very curious, but still very much reliant on mum and dad for everything. They’ve started encouraging him into the water, swimming alongside him and teaching him to dive underwater,” said Ben.

The smallest of the world’s 13 Otter species, weighing less than 12 pounds as adults, Oriental Small-clawed Otters are found in the streams, rivers, marshes, and wetlands of southern India, southern China, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

Classified as a Vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, populations continue to be threatened by habitat loss, water pollution and poaching for the fur trade.

See more photos of Intan below.

Continue reading "Saved at Birth, Baby Otter Comes Out of the Nest " »


Meet Ping and Pong, Chester Zoo's Newborn Sengi Twins

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Two baby African Sengis at Chester Zoo named Ping and Pong are about the size of – you guessed it – ping pong balls. The twins were born on May 5.

African Sengis, also known as Round-eared Elephant Shrews, grow to a maximum size of just four inches and weigh 1.5 ounces – about the same as seven US quarters.

Despite their small stature, Sengis have a genetic link to much larger animals, including Manatees, Aardvarks and Elephants.

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Tiny sengi twins born at Chester Zoo (3)Photo Credit: Chester Zoo



Dave White, team manager of small mammals at Chester Zoo, said, “They may be tiny but our new Sengi duo are hugely fascinating creatures, whose closest living relative is eight thousand times their size. They were once thought to be linked to the Shrew but their genetic makeup is actually closer to that of an Elephant - the giveaway is their amazing trunk-like snout.”

The prehensile snout is used to sniff out insects to eat. The bugs are collected with a quick flick of the tongue.

“Sengis are extremely energetic little critters and have a top speed of 18 mph. If scaled up, they would actually be twice as quick as the world’s fastest land mammal – the Cheetah. They’re incredibly charismatic and one of the very few mammals that pair up for life,” White said.

African Sengis are native to Botswana, Namibia and South Africa where they are found in a range of habitats including deserts, forests and savannahs.

There are nineteen different species of Sengi, and little is known about most of them.  A new species was discovered by conservationists working in Namibia as recently as 2014.

More photos below!

Continue reading "Meet Ping and Pong, Chester Zoo's Newborn Sengi Twins" »


First Litter of Wolf Pups for Wingham Wildlife Park

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On May 3rd, Wingham Wildlife Park welcomed their first ever European Wolf pups. Wolves have been part of Wingham Wildlife Park since 2013, when Dakota (the mother of this litter of pups) and her sister Arya arrived at the UK from Parc Animalier de Sainte Croix in France, to be joined later in 2015 by male, Raksha, from Bern Zoo in Switzerland.

The new litter of four pups is a first for Dakota. However, having grown up in a fairly large pack in Sainte Croix, she is used to the mechanics of what should be done and how best to keep the litter healthy and safe, as Tony Binskin, the managing director of WWP explained: “We are really pleased with how she is doing with the pups. When animals have their first ever babies it can always be a bit of a worrying time. Do they know how to socialize them? Will they know how to make their own den? Will they know to use their artificial den if they don’t? There are so many variables which can potentially go wrong!”

Jackie Binskin, Tony’s wife finished by saying, “She really is a great mum though! So far, she has done nothing wrong, and as for how the pups are faring with here… The proof’s in the pudding – they look great.”

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4_20170518_085057Photo Credits: Wingham Wildlife Park

On the morning of May 13, the den, which Dakota had dug herself using a fallen over tree and its root system as a starting point and natural barrier, was inspected from a discrete distance by management staff at Wingham Wildlife Park.

The result of this inspection was a huge relief and surprise for the staff, as Tony explained; “Today was the clearest we have seen the pups so far. Before she had spent most of her time laying down with the pups huddle under her. In that position, we always only saw 3 but had our suspicions that there might be a 4th – after seeing the odd tail or foot hanging out which didn’t quite look right! Today however we saw all 4, clear as day.”

Markus Wilder, the parks curator interjected with; “…And to top it all off they all have their eyes open already and are moving around really well. When Dakota first made her den, it was quite shallow, but we can see now why she has been excavating it more – making it deeper and steeper. Whilst she is doing really well, it’s obviously also a bit of a learning curve for her!”

Continue reading "First Litter of Wolf Pups for Wingham Wildlife Park" »


Rare Rhino Calf Born with Help from Science

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A female Southern White Rhino calf, born April 30 to first-time mother Kiazi and father Maoto, curiously checked out her surroundings May 18 at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, under the watchful eye of her attentive mother.

Kiazi’s pregnancy was very exciting for researchers at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. She arrived at the Safari Park in 2008 and, despite breeding regularly since her arrival, she had never before conceived. At 16 years old, she is past the average age that most female Southern White Rhinos have their first calf.

“The birth of Kiazi’s calf gives us a great deal of hope that by feeding low phytoestrogens at our institution and others, we can once again have a healthy, self-sustaining captive Southern White Rhinoceros population,” said Christopher Tubbs, Ph.D., a senior scientist in Reproductive Sciences at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. “With the high level of poaching currently happening in Africa, having a healthy ex situ population of Rhinos is as important as ever. This calf is an example of how we are using cutting-edge laboratory science to lead the fight against extinction.”

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4_SWRhino96th_003_Med-1024x683Photo Credits: San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Tubbs and his colleagues have been working for nine years to determine why Southern White Rhino females born in zoos tend not to bear offspring as often as their wild relatives. This problem is not found in other species of Rhinos living in zoos. Through extensive research, it was discovered that the animals might be sensitive to compounds called phytoestrogens found in soy and alfalfa, which are a component of the animals’ diets in zoos. During their 16-month gestation, female calves could be exposed to the compounds through their mother’s diet, resulting in infertility issues later in their life.

On the basis of these findings, the nutritional services team at San Diego Zoo Global changed the diet for Southern White Rhinos in 2014. First, they reduced the amount of pellets rich with soy and alfalfa that are fed to the Rhinos. Next, they developed a grass-based pellet for the Rhinos that is low in phytoestrogen and supplies nutrients to support reproduction. Approximately two years after the diet changes, two females became pregnant. Since then, there have been three pregnancies in females that had not successfully reproduced before, which resulted in the birth of two healthy calves.

Although Tubbs and his team have only focused on the potential effects of dietary phytoestrogens in White Rhinos, it is likely that a number of species living in zoo settings receive diets containing levels of phytoestrogens capable of affecting reproduction. Therefore, future research efforts will focus on identifying species that are possibly affected, evaluating their sensitivity to phytoestrogens and, if warranted, developing new diets and feeding practices aimed at enhancing fertility.

The research project has reached a real point of urgency, due to the increase in poaching in recent years that has dramatically affected Rhino populations in the wild. When the project began in 2007, 13 Rhinos were poached (that year). In 2016, 1,054 Southern White Rhinos were poached in South Africa—with an average of three Rhinos killed every day. There are five species of Rhinos, with three of those species—Black, Javan and Sumatran—listed as “Critically Endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. The Greater One-horned Rhino is listed as “Vulnerable” and the Southern White Rhino is listed as “Near Threatened”.

Kiazi’s calf is the 96th Southern White Rhino calf born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park since 1972. Estimated to weigh around 125 pounds at birth, the calf will nurse from her mother for up to 14 months. She is expected to gain about 100 pounds a month in her first year. When full grown, at around 3 years of age, she could weigh 4,000 to 5,000 pounds. The Rhino calf and her mom can best be seen roaming their habitat from the Park’s Africa Tram Safari or a Caravan Safari.


Endangered Leopard Brothers on Exhibit at Hogle Zoo

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Utah's Hogle Zoo is pleased to introduce their new Amur Leopard cubs, Rafferty and Roman!

The cubs were born February 17 and have been bonding with mom, Zeya, behind the scenes, learning all the basics of being an Amur Leopard. Rafferty’s name means “one who possess prosperity”, and Roman means “strong, powerful”.

According to keepers, Zeya is doing a great job nurturing her little duo and is fiercely protective of the boys. At their recent check-up, Rafferty and Roman clocked in at 12 and 13 pounds and are now ready to meet Zoo guests!

Hogle Zoo is thrilled to contribute to the population of this critically endangered species. Experts estimate only 60 Amur Leopards remain in the wild.

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Rafferty RomanPhoto Credits: Utah's Hogle Zoo

The Amur Leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) is a subspecies native to the Primorye region of southeastern Russia and the Jilin Province of northeast China. The Amur Leopard is also known as the “Far Eastern Leopard”.

Amur Leopards are threatened by: poaching, encroaching civilization, new roads, poaching of their prey, forest fires, inbreeding, possible coexisting with disease carriers and transmitters, and exploitation of forests.

Due to the small number of reproducing Amur Leopards in the wild, the gene pool is so reduced that the population is also at risk from inbreeding depression.

The Amur Leopard is known as the most endangered of all Leopard subspecies. It is currently listed as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List. In 2007, only 19–26 wild Amur Leopards were estimated to have survived, and as of 2015, fewer than 60 individuals are estimated to survive in Russia and China.

According to the IUCN’s latest report, “Although the population of P. p. orientalis may have increased recently, especially on the Chinese side of the border (Xiao et al. 2014), the total population remains <60 individuals. With no noted population or range increase, the Sri Lankan Leopard (P. p. kotiya) should retain its current status as Endangered. The Leopard of southwestern Asia (P. p. saxicolor or ciscaucasica) has been recorded in previously undocumented areas of the Caucasus, such as Georgia and Azerbajian (Sarukhanova 2014, Voskyanyan 2014), however, due to overall low numbers and restricted range, this subspecies should remain listed as Endangered (Khorozyan 2008).”