JONESBORO – Arkansas State University plans to leverage its educational, research and communication resources this fall to increase its national role in the preservation of the endangered American red wolf species.
A-State projects with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Endangered Wolf Center in St. Louis were presented last week at the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan Education Summit and Conservation Centers for Species Survival meeting at the White Oak Conservation Center in Yulee, Fla.
Dr. Thomas Risch, professor of animal ecology and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, said the Arkansas Center for Biodiversity Collections on campus has been designated by the FWS as the national specimen bank for blood and tissue samples for red wolves. Remains of deceased red wolves will also be processed by the center.
“An estimated 274 red wolves remain in the U.S., and 234 of those are in captivity at wildlife centers and zoos,” Risch said. “We will catalog all specimens and provide valuable research guidance to Red Wolf SSP participants in ongoing breeding and protection efforts.”
A-State’s depository designation will be similar to the efforts of the University of New Mexico’s Museum of Southwestern Biology, which handles historic specimens of the endangered Mexican wolf. Tracy Klotz, a biology instructor, serves as A-State’s collection manager for mammals and will work with faculty and students in the department to process and research specimens submitted by facilities throughout the country that house red wolves. He provided participants with carcass, tissue and blood sampling protocols.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity for the Department of Biological Sciences to have a major role in the conservation and research of an iconic American mammal species that is the most endangered wolf in the world,” Risch said. “I’m happy that our university, and in particular our wildlife ecology students, can accept an important role in protecting a species that is also our beloved mascot.”
Jeff Hankins, vice president for strategic communications and economic development for the ASU System, also attended the Red Wolf SSP meeting and met with conservation leaders to discuss A-State’s efforts and ongoing role.
“Directors of wildlife centers and zoos across the country who are passionate about the American red wolf are very impressed with and appreciative of A-State’s plans,” Hankins said. “We’re in a unique position to educate our students and alumni about the plight of the endangered red wolves. Our Red Wolves athletics program significantly enhances these efforts with prominent national media attention for the red wolf name.”
The A-State Wildlife Ecology Club in January hosted a screening of the “Red Wolf Revival” documentary. This fall, all A-State freshmen will use “The Secret World of Red Wolves” as its First-Year Experience common reader. The biology department is organizing a “Red Wolves for Red Wolves” organization to promote conservation, and the campus is embracing new Chancellor Kelly Damphousse’s overall theme of “Every Red Wolf Counts.”
“I’m thrilled about all our efforts related to red wolves conservation and education,” Damphousse said. “I appreciate the leadership of Dr. Risch and his team, and I love the enthusiasm of the students who want to make a difference in preserving the nation’s ecosystem as Red Wolves saving red wolves.”