Zoo Miami Conservation and Research Projects
Herpetofauna survey of Pine Rocklands
Zoo Miami’s General Curator, Steve Conners, along with the Zoo’s Ectotherm staff has been conducting daily surveys of the critically imperiled Pine Rockland habitat surrounding the zoo and the developed grounds of Zoo Miami since 2005. This survey has currently identified 23 species of reptiles and amphibians that inhabit the remnant habitat. Pine Rockland is a unique habitat that used to span the entire Miami Rock Ridge where the greater city of Miami now sits. This survey is documenting the herpetological biodiversity of the area and their respective population numbers that will aid researchers, conservationists and government agencies in making informed decisions about preservation and restoration efforts.
Steve and the Ectotherm staff check 4 different sites daily that are spread over hundreds of acres of the natural areas surrounding the Zoo. They have assembled arrays of pitfall traps with drift fencing and shelter boards in these areas to aid in capturing these specimens. All Zoo Miami staff contributes to the survey by documenting sightings or captures of reptiles and amphibians on grounds and reporting them to the Ectotherm staff. Each individual animal is identified and has its morphometric measurements recorded, if possible. Sometimes this is as simple as taking a photocopy of the belly scale patterns on snake which are as individual as a human fingerprint.
This survey has helped document the importance of this unique habitat and will hopefully provide justification for protection and funding to help preserve it for future generations. One of the most exciting and significant discoveries of this survey was the documentation of the presence of the rare and elusive Rim Rock Crowned Snake (Tantilla oolitica) found at one of the survey arrays in 2009.