CINCINNATI (June 2, 2015) – Staff and volunteers from the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden released 50 pairs of federally endangered American burying beetles (ABB) this morning at the Fernald Nature Preserve. Each pair, carefully matched by the Species Survival Plan (SSP), was placed into a hole in the ground to breed. The repopulation effort is in cooperation with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Department of Energy (DOE), Fernald Preserve, Ohio State University and Ohio Division of Natural Resources (ODNR).
The Fernald Nature Preserve is the former site of a uranium processing facility that ceased operations in 1989 and underwent a superfund cleanup. They spent a few billion dollars stripping the soil and replacing the habitat at Fernald and it is still owned and managed by the Department of Energy. It is now home to hundreds of species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and of course invertebrates. It is a famous bird watching destination that has attracted visitors from all over the country. The Zoo picked this location for the endangered ABB reintroduction because of its flourishing wildlife. This is the third release at Fernald. See video from the first release in 2013.
American burying beetles now inhabit only 10% of their historic range. The reasons for their decline include habitat degradation, the extinction of the passenger pigeon and increased competition for prey from mammalian scavengers. In 1986, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) designated ABBs as endangered and a short time later the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initiated a project to save the species from extinction. The idea was to collect a limited number of beetles from the wild, establish a zoo population and eventually reintroduce ABBs to their former habitats.