WCS’s Bronx Zoo Conducts Research on Reptile and Amphibian Populations in Bronx River

Turtle populations evaluated in New York City’s only freshwater river

Bronx, NY / November. 28, 2012 – Scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo have completed an assessment of reptile and amphibian populations in the Bronx River from 233rd St. to Soundview Park. The study was aimed at establishing baseline health levels for future analyses of the wildlife living in New York City’s only freshwater river.

Common Snapping Turtle

Common Snapping Turtle

The data collected were analyzed in the Bronx Zoo’s Wildlife Health Center. Some of the species encountered include snapping turtles, a painted turtle, and red-eared sliders (a non-native species common in the pet trade).

Each animal was inspected for visible parasites. The veterinary team from WCS’s Department of Zoological Health collected blood samples and swabs to test for disease, pathogens, and pollutants. Small tissue samples were collected from some animals for future genetic studies.

The study team, led by Valorie Titus, an Ecology PhD candidate working for WCS, focused on the lower section of the Bronx River from 233rd St. to the East River. They trapped and released reptiles and amphibians while noting species, location, age, and gender of the animals.

“Wildlife health issues are an important part of the human-wildlife interface in urban areas,” said Jim Breheny, WCS Executive Vice President and Director of the Bronx Zoo. “We are trying to gauge the overall health of the river system and help people understand the importance of the river and the ecosystem it supports.”

Said John F. Calvelli, WCS Executive Vice President of Public Affairs: “This project is one of several wildlife studies that WCS is conducting on the Bronx River. This important work is funded through a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This research would be impossible without the continued support from Congressman José E. Serrano – an invaluable supporter of the restoration of the Bronx River and a public servant who truly recognizes that a healthy Bronx River is vital to both wildlife and the community.”

U.S. Rep. José Serrano (D-Bronx) is a long-time champion of the restoration of the Bronx River and was instrumental in helping secure a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration through the WCS-NOAA South Bronx Waterfront Regional Partnership. This is one of several Bronx River wildlife studies funded by the grant.

Said Serrano: “Having the Bronx River as a thriving and vibrant ecosystem in the center of the Bronx is such a treasure for our community and the Bronx Zoo has long been a critical partner in the process of restoring the river. This new research into the river’s reptile and amphibian populations will allow us to better understand the river and how to improve its environment so that the people of the Bronx can continue to enjoy its natural beauty.”

The Bronx Zoo’s Department of Herpetology along with veterinarians from the zoo’s Wildlife Health Center worked in collaboration with the Bronx River Alliance, the New York Botanical Garden, and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

Said Linda Cox, Executive Director, Bronx River Alliance: “It’s great to have help from a renowned scientific organization like WCS in gathering baseline data about Bronx River wildlife populations so that we can measure our future progress.”

Beginning just south of the Kensico Dam in North Castle, Westchester County, the Bronx River travels approximately 23 miles before emptying into the East River. Almost two miles of the river run through the Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Garden. The ongoing restoration of the Bronx River is serving as a model for other projects that are part of the national Urban Waters Initiative.

Survey and assessment is a collaboration with WCS, the Bronx River Alliance, New York Botanical Garden, and the NYC Parks Department.

Bronx River research is made possible by continued support from Congressman José E. Serrano and funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Source: The Wildlife Conservation Society (press release)