Jacobo Lacs, director of Zoologico del Istmo in Panama, stands out as an accomplished bird and plant breeder. Jacobo Lacs enjoys raising and cross-breeding orchids in his Panama greenhouse.
Orchid growers typically propagate their plants in one of four ways. They may choose to breed, which by definition involves hand-pollination of a flower using the pollinia of another plant. This simple yet delicate process requires the breeder to use a toothpick or other tool to gather material from the stamen of a “father” plant and then deposit this material into the stigma of the “mother” plant’s flower. This particular method, the plant’s form of sexual reproduction, can allow a breeder to experiment with new varieties and characteristics.
Orchids may also reproduce asexually via division or the harvesting of offshoots. Many beginner breeders find this method of propagation simpler, as it requires only the separation of one part of a plant from another. A breeder may begin division by breaking a growing plant into two or more pieces, each of which contains several pseudobulbs that then instigate new growth. Some plants display new growth along the stem; these offshoots, or “keiki,” can become additional plants if the grower repots them after they has grown a few leaves and roots.
As the director of Zoologico del Istmo in Puerto Lindo, Panama, Jacobo Lacs manages animal rescue, rehabilitation, and breeding efforts. Jacobo Lacs also acts as a board member for The Peregrine Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting birds of prey around the world.
According to a new study in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (B), vulture deaths in India caused by diclofenac poisoning decreased by more than 30 percent between 2005 and 2009. In 2006 India banned diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory drug used on livestock, and the study reports that the number of livestock carcasses (the main food source for vultures) carrying the drug was consequently reduced by 50 percent. However, researchers note that six percent of carcasses still contain the illegal drug, even though veterinarians and livestock owners could use a vulture-safe alternative called meloxicam.
The study’s findings support the movement to ban large-dose use of diclofenac in South Asia. Over ten years ago, several species of South Asian vulture were near extinction due to the prevalent use of diclofenac. These species are now experiencing a period of recovery since India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan barred the use of veterinary diclofenac.
As director of the Zoologico del Istmo in Puerto Lindo, Panama, Jacobo Lacs has earned a global reputation for his knowledge of exotic bird species. Jacobo Lacs collaborates with the Dallas World Aquarium Zoo to develop preservation plans for the green aracari and other toucan breeds.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a nationwide professional organization, currently oversees more than 500 Species Survival Plans across the country. Each of these plans falls under the management of a Taxon Advisory Group, which develops breeding and transfer plans to help captive populations remain healthy, strong in numbers, and genetically diverse. The organization currently oversees reproduction of many of DWA Zoo’s toucan populations, including the green aracari.
Native to South America, the green aracari toucan once struggled in captivity. Over the past 30 years, however, zoos such as DWA have implemented reproduction programs that have hatched enough birds to help the breed become self-sustaining. More than 50 green aracaris have hatched at the DWA Zoo since 2001, and the breed’s Species Survival Plan (SSP) helps to ensure the breed’s continuation. Similar plans also manage the successful reproduction of other Central and South American breeds such as the keel-billed toucan, the Toco toucan, and the Swainson’s toucan.