Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Who would you vote for? 2016 Indianapolis Prize

Who would you vote for? 2016 Indianapolis Prize

The 2016 Indianapolis Prize marks a decade celebrating true heroes in the field of animal conservation and endeavors to sustain the planet's wild things and wild places. Recognized as the world's leading award in animal conservation, the biennial Prize shines a spotlight on the victorious men and women who are solidifying the future for millions of people and animals.
These inspiring individuals have turned values into accomplishments, obstacles into successes and have dedicated their lives to courageous efforts across international borders. Twenty-eight nominees for the 2016 Indianapolis Prize now join the ranks of recognized conservationists making strides to save species.
With work that spans the globe, these individuals represent an incredible range of species from the sky to the sea, including snow leopards, orangutans, swans, sea horses, cheetahs and many more.
"The 2016 Indianapolis Prize Nominees represent many of the most significant and accomplished wildlife conservationists in the field today," said Michael Crowther, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Zoo, which initiated the Indianapolis Prize as part of its core mission. "They are protecting species and creating successful conservation methods that ensure future generations will live in a flourishing and sustainable world. We applaud their accomplishments and encourage individuals, organizations, companies, and governments to join them in advancing animal conservation."
Internationally renowned professional conservationists and local representatives make up a Nominating Committee and Jury who will select six finalists and determine a winner, respectively. These finalists will then be honored at the next Indianapolis Prize Gala presented by Cummins Inc., to be held Oct. 15, 2016.
The winner of the Prize will receive an unrestricted $250,000 cash award while the five finalists will each receive $10,000. In addition to the monetary award, the winner will receive the prestigious Lilly Medal, a cast bronze medal showcasing the relationship between people and the natural world, a fitting remembrance to the individuals creating positive outcomes for species. The commemorative piece reflects the commitment of the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation, which has provided funding for the Indianapolis Prize program since its inception.
In alphabetical order, the nominees for the 2016 Indianapolis Prize are:
Timothy Becker: (ZooAmerica North American Wildlife Park) Dedicated naturalist at the forefront of captive rearing strategies and reintroduction for the regal fritillary butterfly.
Joel Berger, Ph.D.: (Wildlife Conservation Society, Colorado State UniversityDistinguished scientist leading projects on pronghorn antelope migration corridors, impacts of energy development on wildlife in Greater Yellowstone, climate change on musk ox in the Alaskan Arctic, and saiga antelope conservation in Mongolia. Finalist for the 2014 Indianapolis Prize.
P. Dee Boersma, Ph.D.: (University of Washington Department of Biology) Conservationist dedicated to the study of global warming's impact on penguins; successful in stopping harvesting and development of oil tanker lanes through penguin colonies as director of the Center for Penguins as Ocean Sentinels.
Sheila Bolin(The Regal Swan Foundation, Inc.) Advocate for humane treatment and veterinary care for swans worldwide through conservation, research, veterinary medicine, education and swan-related product development.
Lincoln Brower, Ph.D.: (Sweet Briar CollegeUniversity of FloridaDedicated to researching the conservation of endangered biological phenomena and ecosystems, overwintering, mimicry, chemical ecology and migration biology of the monarch butterfly; field work throughout the species migratory routes, including pioneering work in the discovery and protection of nesting grounds in Central Mexico.
Gerardo Ceballos, Ph.D.: (Instituto de Ecologia, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de MexicoChampion for jaguars in Mexico, conducting the first country-level jaguar census; developed successful conservation strategies for endangered mammals in North America, including the black-footed ferret; a key proponent in the passage of the country's Act for Endangered Species. Finalist for the 2010 and 2014 Indianapolis Prize.
Lisa Dabek, Ph.D.: (Papua New Guinea Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program, Woodland Park Zoo) Founder of the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program; responsible for the first Conservation Area in Papua New Guinea; used Crittercam© technology for the first time on arboreal mammals, allowing scientists to record animal behavior through mounted video cameras and transmitters.
Tim Davenport, Ph.D.(Wildlife Conservation Society Tanzania Program) Focused on African wildlife conservation; discovered the kipunji, one of the 25 rarest primates on the planet and the first new genus of primate discovered in Africa in more than 80 years. Helped to establish Kitulo National Park and the Rungwe Nature Reserve to protect core habitat for the species.
Joseph Duff(Operation Migration) Co-founder and lead pilot for Operation Migration; devised protocol for guiding migratory birds with ultralight aircraft, including endangered whooping cranes.
Dante Fenolio, Ph.D.: (San Antonio Zoo) Committed to bioinventory efforts worldwide studying population ecology, trophic dynamics and conservation status of amphibians and subterranean salamanders; projects include developing and managing the Chilean Amphibian Conservation Center.
Biruté Mary Galdikas, Ph.D.: (Orangutan Foundation International) More than 35 years of advancing research on wild orangutan ecology and behavior; established rehabilitation and release programs and saved millions of acres of tropical rain forest in Borneo.
Glenn Gauvry(Ecological Research Development Group) Founded Ecological Research Development Group to conserve the world's four species of horseshoe crabs.
John Halas(Environmental Moorings International, INC) Created an anchor and mooring system to prevent damage to coral reefs and the sea floor that is now implemented worldwide.
Rodney Jackson, Ph.D.: (Snow Leopard Conservancy) Conducted in-depth radio-tracking studies of snow leopards since the 1980s; dedicated to building local communities' capacity as key players in conserving the species. Finalist for the 2008, 2010 and 2012 Indianapolis Prize.
Christopher Jenkins, Ph.D.: (The Orianne Society) Founder of the Orianne Society, dedicating numerous years to snakes, one of the most vilified and persecuted group of animals in the world.
Carl Jones, Ph.D.: (Mauritian Wildlife Foundation) Biologist who pioneered the techniques of applied population management to reverse the decline of highly endangered species; instrumental in the creation of the first national park in Mauritius; involved in the recovery of five bird species coming from populations of less than ten specimens. Finalist for the 2012 and 2014 Indianapolis Prize.
Peter Knights(WildAid) Founder of WildAid; created the Active Conservation Awareness Program, aimed at reducing demand for endangered species products by forging an approach of conservation through communication.
Laurie Marker, Ph.D.: (Cheetah Conservation Fund) Founded the Cheetah Conservation Fund, leading a conservation program from humble beginnings in rural Namibia to an unparalleled model for predator conservation. Finalist for the 2008 and 2010 Indianapolis Prize.
Charudutt Mishra, Ph.D.: (Snow Leopard Trust & Nature Conservation Foundation) Conservation biologist working to protect threatened species and habitats throughout Central Asia, with a focus on the charismatic and endangered snow leopard.
Russell Mittermeier, Ph.D.: (Conservation International) Visionary leader able to motivate every level of conservationist to support the greater good of many species; one of the first academic primatologists to become concerned with the welfare and conservation of primates. Finalist for the 2012 and 2014 Indianapolis Prize.
Peter Pratje, Ph.D.: (Frankfurt Zoological Society) Conservationist focused on protecting Sumatran orangutans; led the building of a rehabilitation complex in the Bukit Tigapuluh Landscape and implemented guidelines for rehabilitation and reintroduction, including the first release of a zoo-born orangutan.
Alan Rabinowitz, Ph.D.: (Panthera) Advocate for wild cats; helped create the Cockscomb Basin Jaguar Preserve, the world's first jaguar sanctuary; generated the first scientific research on Indochinese tigers, Asiatic leopards and leopard cats leading to the World Heritage designation of the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary.
Carl Safina, Ph.D.: (Blue Ocean Institute) Brought ocean conservation into the environmental mainstream by using science, art and literature to inspire a "sea ethic." Finalist for the 2010 and 2014 Indianapolis Prize.
Joel D. Sartore(National Geographic Magazine) Renowned photojournalist with mission to give vanishing species and habitats a voice before they're gone forever; co-founder of The Grassland Foundation.
Jigmet Takpa: (Government of Jammu and KashmirIndiaFocused on evidence-based landscape-level conservation programs in Ladakh northern India, resulting in population recovery of snow leopard, Tibetan argali, gazelle and antelope, lynx, Pallas' cat, Tibetan and black-necked crane; introduced projects and technologies for local communities to regard wildlife as assets rather than threats.
Fernando Trujillo, Ph.D.: (Foundation Omacha) Conservationist dedicated to South America's pink river dolphins and affected change for unsustainable fishing practices that threaten two of the largest river systems in the world – the Amazon and Orinoco river basins.
Amanda Vincent, Ph.D.: (The University of British Columbia) First person to study seahorses underwater, document extensive trade and initiate a seahorse conservation project, Project Seahorse. Finalist for the 2010 Indianapolis Prize.
David Western, Ph.D.: (African Conservation Centre) Field biologist devoted to monitoring ecosystems and habitat in Kenya'sAmboseli region; established Amboseli Ecosystem Trust and the African Conservation Centre to protect wildlife, educate children and develop infrastructure.
A History of Indianapolis Prize Winners
The Indianapolis Prize was first awarded in 2006 to Dr. George Archibald, the co-founder of the International Crane Foundation. The 2008 winner was George Schaller, Ph.D., known as one of the founding fathers of wildlife conservation, and both a senior conservationist for the Wildlife Conservation Society and vice president for Panthera. In 2010, Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Ph.D., founder of Save the Elephants, received the Prize for his pioneering research in elephant social behavior and for leading the way in the fight against the poaching of African elephants. Steven Amstrup, Ph.D., chief scientist for Polar Bears International, received the 2012 Prize for his work promoting the cause of the world's largest land carnivore. Last year, Dr. Patricia C. Wright, founder of Centre ValBio, became the first woman awarded the Indianapolis Prize for her dedication to saving Madagascar's famed lemurs from extinction.
Multimedia content to accompany this story may be found here.
The Indianapolis Prize was initiated by the Indianapolis Zoo as a significant component of its mission to empower people and communities, both locally and globally, to advance animal conservation. This biennial award brings the world's attention to the cause of animal conservation and the brave, talented and dedicated men and women who spent their lives saving the Earth's endangered animal species. The Indianapolis Prize has received support from the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation since its inception in 2006.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

What do a conservation charity, ex banker and a cartoonist have in common?

What do a conservation charity, ex banker and a cartoonist have in common?

RZSS appoints a Cartoonist in Residence to their flourishing Residency Programme

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland has appointed Dr Cameron McPhail and his Kartoon Faktory as RZSS Cartoonists in Residence.

Dr McPhail is a former banker turned writer and cartoonist. After stints in academia and Scottish Enterprise, he joined the Royal Bank of Scotland and rose to be Chief Executive of Wealth Management, before leaving to pursue a career in writing and cartooning. He and his talented team at the Kartoon Faktory (based in Jersey) create unique cartoons and memorabilia based on political and social satire.

Kathy Sorley, RZSS Thinker in Residence and Manager of the RZSS Residency Programme, said: “The RZSS Residency Programme allows collaboration with a number of experts in their fields, enabling RZSS to engage with many different audiences about the conservation work we undertake at home in Scotland and elsewhere around the globe. To date over a dozen Residents have been appointed, including a Sculptor, Beekeeper, Environmental Scientist, Storyteller, Silversmith, Wildlife Artist, Nature Photographer, Palaeontologist, Adventurer/Explorer and an Organic Chef.

“Humour is a brilliant avenue to bring topical issues to people’s attention, and to pique their curiosity about conservation matters we care deeply about through clever use of wry and insightful cartoons, which Dr McPhail creates in abundance. We are delighted he and his illustration team at the Kartoon Faktory have agreed to become our RZSS Cartoonists in Residence.”

The first two cartoons in a unique series for the conservation charity, one celebrates the latest batch of meerkat pups at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo’s Meerkat Plaza, whilst the second features Dr McPhail and illustrator Oli Nightingale getting an authentic ‘behind the scenes’ look at life in the Zoo.

Upon receiving his appointment Dr McPhail commented, “This is a wonderful time to be associated with RZSS Edinburgh Zoo and RZSS Highland Wildlife Park, and given the wealth of subject material we are bound to have a lot of fun during our Residency.”

The Cartoonist in Residence allows the promotion of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland through humour and illustration, and will help to raise awareness of the mission of RZSS to connect people with nature and safeguard species from extinction. In the future it is hoped that RZSS will offer visitors the chance to watch the Kartoon Faktory at work both at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo and RZSS Highland Wildlife Park and that ultimately signed, limited edition prints will be developed for our shops. Long term goals also include cartoon books based on the animals at both visitor attractions, speeded-up footage of illustrations being created at both parks, and possibly even RZSS’s own cartoon strip!

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