Thursday, July 23, 2015

Freaks in Zoos

Freaks in Zoos

I don't like zoos exhibiting freaks. They make me ashamed of parts of the industry in which I love and work. Zoos are about conservation breeding and education they are not some 18th Century sideshow where the Bearded Lady and the Dog Faced Man sit alongside the Six Legged Sheep and Three Eyed Goat.

People don't like me using the word 'Freak' so it is worth dealing with that definition first:

Wikipedia - "Freak" continues to be used to describe genetic mutations in plants and animals, i.e. "freaks of nature."

The Free DictionaryAn abnormally formed organism, especially one regarded as a curiosity.

Merriam Webster - a person or animal having a physical oddity and appearing in a circus sideshow

Oxford Dictionary - A person, animal, or plant with an unusual physical abnormality

So my use of the word in connection with White Tigers, White Lions, White Alligators, Two Headed Snakes and Turtles is entirely correct.

There is no question about it...All of such "abnormally formed organisms" can, will and do occur in nature. That is nature. The vast majority of such physically disadvantages creatures are unlikely to survive too long. If they live to old age in the wild then I for one would be both happy and just a bit amazed.

Such freaks also occur in captivity and I have no problem with that if they are naturally occurring. Let them live, let them play a part in education. Their quality of life needs to be seriously assessed however and euthanasia must be an option. Keeping physically disadvantaged animals alive and on show just to get people in through the gate can be both cruel and wrong..

Claims that such creatures will be raising money for 'conservation' should be given serious investigation.....does even one cent actually ever go to conservation?

Where things go really wrong in my world is when 'freaks' are deliberately bred with other freaks or closely related animals to produce yet more freaks. This is clearly the case with White Tigers and Lions and other freak mutations. These animals are conservationally useless. What these Dysfunctional Zoos are doing is very very wrong. All they are concerned about is getting more money in their coffers regardless of whatever argument they put forward to justify their sins.

Then there are the collections which go out of their way to purchase freaks to put on display. Such collections, to me, instantly slot themselves into the Dysfunctional Zoo category. One wonders just what they are going to come up with next? The bearded lady?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Critically Endangered Scottish Wildcat Kittens Born

     Critically Endangered Scottish Wildcat Kittens Born

RZSS Highland Wildlife Park is pleased to welcome three young Scottish wildcat kittens to the Park. Also known as the Highland Tiger, this incredibly rare, native species is facing the very real threat of extinction due to hybridisation with domestic and feral cats, habitat loss and accidental persecution. However, with coordinated conservation efforts and a new conservation breeding programme for eventual release now established, the future for the species is looking much brighter.

The three young kittens were born at the end of April, but spent the first couple of months safely tucked away in their den with their mother Betidh, only recently starting to wander out and explore their territory. This year’s births add to a long line of successful breeding at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park, which has been instrumental in maintaining a healthy captive population which acts as a safety net for the species.

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, along with more than 20 other organisations, is involved in the Scottish Wildcat Action, a partnership project – supported by Scottish Government and the Heritage Lottery Fund – which represents the best chance the wildcat has of surviving in the long term. The project includes many of Scotland’s leading conservationists, working together with local people to save the Scottish wildcat. The Priority Areas Team, which is part of the project, is working hard to reduce the threats that wildcats face in the wild, which includes extensive neutering of feral and poor hybrid cats to prevent further hybridisation, whilst the Royal Zoological Society is undertaking a new conservation breeding programme to build up a robust and sustainable population for future release.

Photo credit Alex Riddell/RZSS

David Barclay, RZSS Cat Conservation Project Officer commented on the recent arrivals: “Without Scottish Wildcat Action the future of the Scottish wildcat is bleak. The team is working hard all over Scotland to ensure measures are put in place to reduce threats, raise awareness and protect the remaining wild population. With such a small and declining population another important element to our action plan is establishing a new conservation breeding programme to increase numbers for future re-introductions. The high standards of husbandry and breeding success from animal keepers at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park are an asset to the breeding programme, and important genes from these new arrivals may one day be represented in released cats roaming the wilds of Scotland.”  

Although some similarities with domestic tabby cats exist, the two species are not to be confused. With their big, bushy, black-ringed tail and tenacious behaviour it is no surprise that the Scottish wildcat was used historically in many Highland clan crests. The Scottish wildcat is an incredibly rare and elusive creature, thought to be critically endangered, it is clear there is an immediate need for effective conservation measures across the whole of Scotland. All of the different wildcat species across the world are endangered for similar reasons, however the Scottish wildcat is one of the rarest cats in the world and is probably the nearest to extinction.

The Scottish wildcat is the same subspecies of wildcat as is found in continental Europe, but has been separated from them since the end of the last ice age, over 8000 years ago. Domestic cats originate from Near Eastern (African) wildcats and have been through a process of domestication. Hence they have a quite separate evolutionary history to Scottish wildcats and behave quite differently. Wildcats prefer to live alone but will come together for a short period for breeding, normally then giving birth to around two to three kittens, which the mother will protect fiercely.

Friday, July 17, 2015

How Seriously Do You Take TripAdvisor?

How Seriously Do You Take TripAdvisor?

With the latest release from TripAdvisor, zoos and aquariums around the world or their local newspapers are shouting out that they are this, that or the next position. TripAdvisor do get it right occasionally but these ratings are not gauged by their peers but by Joe and Jane Public who have an entirely different idea of what makes a good zoo.

Even within the zoo world opinions differ and my opinion is probably not shared by everybody. No is MY opinion. Personally I would not like any zoo that I worked in to be included in the same list as a collection that is way way down of what I consider is a good zoo. What would really rub salt into the wound would be if my zoo was further down the list than the zoo which offended my personal criteria.

Before I name the collection my opinion in no way reflects the staff working there who I am sure are caring and dedicated professionals. Even the worst zoo has such staff. They stay because they care, they love their work and the animals and, regrettably sometimes because they know no better.

The zoo I would not like to see on the list is number 9, The Zoological Wildlife Foundation. Why? Because it carries out so many activities that I believe should not take place in a Good Zoo.

I am against the breeding or keeping of white lions or color morphs of big cats. I am against the public posing with big cat cubs or walking in with big cats on chains. I am against anybody posing with primates with perhaps the exception of some Lemurs. Cubs and young primates should be with their mothers....and if not then their husbandry needs a serious review. Breeding or keeping Tiligers is so very wrong as is having any dealings with places who deliberately breed such creatures. Primates dressed in wrong. I could go on but you can visit their website yourself. Again remember, this is MY opinion but I would not include this place in my top 100.

You can learn a bit more below...which did not come from their website:

Mario Tabruae Zoological Wildlife Foundation FKA Zoological Imports

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Marwell Wildlife Mammal Nutrition Seminar

Marwell Wildlife Mammal Nutrition Seminar

3rd – 4th November 2015

Topics will include:
Effects of carcass feeding on carnivore behaviour
Paddock management in relation to ungulate nutrition
Wasting syndromes across a range of species
The benefits of fruit-free diets for primates
A One Health perspective of the role of microbes in nutrition
The role of Vitamin D in mammal diets
Applied nutrition workshops
Discussion panel

For more information or to register please go to our website:

For any further queries please contact Ollie Szyszka:

This event is kindly sponsored by:
Mazuri Zoo Foods
Charnwood Milling Co Ltd

Supported by: University of Surrey

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Dr. Jane Goodall Would Not Be Amused

Dr. Jane Goodall Would Not Be Amused

Last night Dr. Jane Goodall gave a talk as part of the Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed lecture series.

See story HERE

Meanwhile just down the road apiece in Sharjah we have this.

Totally wrong of course. For every baby Chimpanzee you see in somebody's hands outside of a zoo a whole lot more were killed to obtain it. The mother is killed of course, because no mother is going to give up her infant and so often a whole family has been killed. Get that, KILLED, dead, finished, gone forever just to provide some super rich individual with a new plaything. It isn't clever, it isn't funny, it is just plain horrible. It doesn't matter how much care love and attention is lavished on the baby after the event the damage has been done. Lives have been taken.

What will happen to these babies when they become older? Adult and even pre-adult Chimpanzees are dangerous, exceptionally so. Hand reared Chimpanzees are the most dangerous of the lot.

It's not just the Chimpanzees of course. A few weeks back it was baby Orangutans. Their mothers killed as well. Burned to death or butchered or shaved and tied down in some cheap Indonesian brothel.

The UAE needs to get its act together and take these people to task. They should not be too difficult to find.

The Chimpanzee is CITES Appendix 1 and cannot be traded commercially.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Is City zoo a curse for cubs?

Is City zoo a curse for cubs?

This story in the press today got my back up. I thought it needed to be examined in more detail. I have posted the full story further down the page. Why does it bother me so much? Because I see countless similar stories (Sadly a lot from Indian zoos). It is going to continue until someone in authority pulls their finger out and teaches people what big cats need, It isn't the cats to is the staff.

 He said that both the cubs were suffering from lung infection and respiratory problems since their birth.

Just how do they know that? Nobody should know it. It points to human interference right at the very start. Big cats need somewhere quiet, secluded and secure to cub. That is obviously not the case here. This is the root cause of their problems.

On Wednesday night, a guard noticed the 20-day-old cub of Diya lying unconscious. He informed zoo authorities about it

What is any 'guard' doing checking on 20 day old cubs at night. Again disturbing a mother with her cubs.

They rushed to the tigress enclosure, but its mother did not allow them to examine it. Later, somehow the zoo staff managed to lock Diya in another shelter and took the cub for examine.

More pointless stressful disturbance. Suggests a significant time of trying to split the mother off. She obviously didn't want to leave the cub. Just what did they do to get her away?

They, however, had died due to mishandling by their respective mothers. Megha and Diya had picked their cubs up by the flesh rather than the skin around their necks.

This sort of injury is caused by stressed mothers. It isn't is stress caused by interfering staff.

This is a proper cubbing den in ZSL

Is City zoo a curse for cubs?
Indore : The city zoo is proving a curse to newborn cubs of big cats as they continue to die for one or other reasons. A pall of gloom descended on the city zoo on Thursday as the last surviving cub of white tigress Diya died nearly 20 days after he was born.
Diya had given birth to two cubs on May 28. One of them had died of lung infection about 10 days back. “The second also passed away due to lung infection,” zoo in-charge Dr Uttam Yadav said. He said that both the cubs were suffering from lung infection and respiratory problems since their birth.
According to zoo officials, the deceased cub was declared dead only after post mortem which was done early morning on Thursday. On Wednesday night, a guard noticed the 20-day-old cub of Diya lying unconscious. He informed zoo authorities about it. They rushed to the tigress enclosure, but its mother did not allow them to examine it. Later, somehow the zoo staff managed to lock Diya in another shelter and took the cub for examine.
Yadav said that the cub was not breathing. “He had died in the enclosure,” he said adding that the post-mortem found that the cub was suffering from the lung infection just like the first one.
Three cubs die in last 35 days
In past 35 days, three newborn cubs had died at city zoo. Earlier, one of the five newborn cubs of lioness Megha had also died in the first week of May due to respiratory problems.
Last year also, six cubs, three each of Diya and Megha had died at the zoo. They, however, had died due to mishandling by their respective mothers. Megha and Diya had picked their cubs up by the flesh rather than the skin around their necks. The move proved fatal for the cubs. The number of big cats in the city zoo has reduced to 30 from 33.

Friday, June 12, 2015



Keepers at Chessington World of Adventures Resort were congratulated by the Zoo world last night at the prestigious 2015 BIAZA Award ceremony for their work in hand-rearing and rehabilitating an orphaned spider monkey.

Keepers were honoured with a Bronze award in recognition of their ground-breaking work with Chantico, a spider monkey orphaned at just two-weeks old who was hand-reared and then successfully integrated into a larger troop with no mother present. This is the first time a spider monkey has successfully been re-introduced into a larger grouping size -  this has only ever been done in smaller troops of two individuals, and when the mother is present. Due to its success, this approach has now been added to the husbandry guidelines for this species.

Lisa Britton, Primates Supervisor at Chessington World of Adventures, said: “We are so pleased to be recognised for our work with Chantico, as this has been a labour of love for the Zoo team here at Chessington. When the baby was orphaned at two weeks, we had to make the difficult decision to hand-rear her to ensure her safety. We handled her as little as possible and housed her close to the main group for the first year, which proved to be a successful strategy as the integration into the large troop was seamless and Chantico is now fully settled within the group. We are so proud that our approach is now being added to the husbandry guidelines for other zoos in the same situation.”

This award particularly highlights Chessington’s efforts in conservation and in maintaining high levels of animal welfare, and is a testament to the work done by the dedicated keepers at the Resort.

The BIAZA awards recognise outstanding contributions and achievements in the fields of wildlife conservation, advances in animal welfare and husbandry, marketing, PR, education, research, and enclosure design.

Dr Kirsten Pullen, CEO of BIAZA said: “The BIAZA awards highlight the vital work carried out in zoos and aquariums. All of this year’s award-winning projects show the exceptional contributions our members are making to wildlife conservation, animal husbandry and welfare, and public understanding for species both in the UK and overseas. We congratulate all the winners.”