Research projects we participated in 2022.

Genetic screening of the ex situ population of the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx):

 The European lynx has been upgraded to an EEP (European Endangered species Programme) project within EAZA, and within this project a genetic screening will be carried out for all captive lynx. This analysis will be conducted by the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Frankfurt. The project is led by the EEP at Zurich Zoo in collaboration with Senckenberg Research Institute, WWF, KORA, DWV, IUCN Cat Specialist Group and EAZA Felid TAG.

The purpose of the project is to map out which individuals are suitable for breeding as well as for reintroduction projects. Previous releases of lynx born in captivity have been successful and a strength in using such individuals is that their genetics, behavior and health can be evaluated to determine their suitability for release. Previously, there have been some individuals in the captive population with unknown parents and these have been identified based on morphology and could therefore potentially be hybrids. To ensure that no hybrids can be subject to reintroduction (and further breeding), all lynx need to be screened. We have assisted the project with fecal samples from our two lynx.

Browsing patterns of a Scandinavian ungulate community revealed by a non-invasive sampling:

This is a study within a PhD project led by Julia Jansson and is a collaboration between SLU and North Carolina State University (NCSU), USA. New genetic food analyses of the four wild deer species' droppings suggest that berry bushes from the forest understory are a very important resource. Many species graze in the understory and their relative impact cannot currently be distinguished.

This research project uses genetic tools that allow identification of the species and gender of ungulates that browse on different tree species. This is done by sequencing the DNA left on the feeding sites in the form of saliva. Here, there is an opportunity to use the same technique to investigate the relative impact of deer on berry bushes and gain a better understanding of the different species' preferences and grazing patterns. However, since the genetic method is not developed for berry plants, it is unclear whether the technique works in the same way. Berry bushes have different physical and chemical properties than trees that could prevent DNA from being preserved and extracted from the saliva left on the bites. Therefore, the study aims to investigate whether deer bites on berry bushes can be identified using DNA. We have assisted the researchers in collecting saliva samples and obtaining samples from feeding sites on blueberry bushes from moose and red deer.

Availability and transfer of trace elements through Arctic terrestrial food-chains and their health implications to large Arctic wildlife (ATCAF):

In 2022, a collaboration was initiated with researcher Sophia V. Hansson at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) - Laboratory of Functional Ecology and Environment in France. She leads a project where geochemistry is combined with ecotoxicology to better understand the varying health status of different populations of wild muskoxen in Greenland. The goal is to compile the geochemical "signature" of health and to establish wool/hair as a health indicator for both individual animals and populations as a whole. The project is a collaboration between Sophia, French colleagues, and Danish researchers led by Niels Martin Schmidt at Aarhus University who have long been studying muskoxen in Greenland.

To ensure good results and establish reliable reference frames, a control group of musk oxen was needed, of which our musk oxen at Lycksele Zoo, together with musk oxen from Järvzoo and Musk Ox Center, were suitable for the purpose. Several times during the year, we have taken blood samples, as well as samples of wool and quill hair, hoof remnants, and feces to send to the project. As our musk oxen have a known history in terms of, for example, age, disease, food, reproduction, etc., they provide important reference data compared to samples collected from wild musk oxen with a completely unknown history.

Neurological disorders of polar canids (Vulpes lagopus and Canis lupus) in human care:

We have provided basic information to a study aimed at investigating neurological disorders in arctic foxes and polar wolves. The project is led by a researcher from the Veterinary School of Toulouse and it is of great importance for us to participate. This is due to the problem of meningitis that has affected arctic foxes in the zoo over the years. A more in-depth interview will be conducted with the researcher in 2023.

Muskox 2030:

Furthermore, the work on Muskox 2030 has progressed and the focus going forward is to establish contact with researchers who want to delve into the subject and the role that muskoxen can play in promoting biodiversity. The goal is to continue working towards a conservation program, either nationally or locally, for the muskox. Contact has been made in December 2022 with both national and international researchers regarding this matter.