Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Zoo News Digest 20th March 2019 (ZooNews 1010)

Zoo News Digest 20th March 2019  (ZooNews 1010)



Dear Colleague,

Take a read of "Elephants are smart. What if tourism jobs were good for them?" if you have not done so already. It rather turns everything the Animal Rights Anarchists have been saying on it's head. For myself I have always been in favor of people riding elephants providing there is no abuse or cruelty.  

I note that Vigan Zoo has just imported "27 giraffes and about 900 antelopes as added attractions to his 120-hectare zoo". Interesting. It is a relatively short flight from here in Thailand to the Philippines but just outside my budget. I would dearly like to visit and have the opportunity to update my REVIEW of 2009. One day maybe.

I note that David Gill is in the news yet he has changed his name. Sometimes I wonder.

I hope everyone will take some time to ponder on the fate of those unfortunate Cheetah Researchers locked up in Iran. It is a truly terrible situation. Their work was doing nothing but good.

The situation in Islamabad Zoo is not really surprising. Blame is being cast right left and centre when the truth of the matter is that there are 'too many chiefs and not enough indians'. It is the keepers that count in these zoos, trained keepers. You can bring in 100 vets and it will not change anything. Just a dozen trained keepers would make only one trained vet a necessity.

"good zoos will not gain the credibility of their critics until they condemn the bad zoos wherever they are." Peter Dickinson

Lots of interest follows. 

Did You Know?
ZooNews Digest has over 109,000+ Followers on Facebook( and over 109,000 likes) and has a weekly reach often exceeding over 350,000 people? That ZooNews Digest has subscribers in over 900 Zoos in 155+ countries? That the subscriber list for the mail out reads like a 'Zoos Who's Who?'
If you are a subscriber to the email version then you probably knew this already. You would also know that ZooNews Digest pre-dates any of the others. It was there before FaceBook. It was there shortly after the internet became popular and was a 'Blog' before the word had been invented. ZooNews Digest reaches zoo people.

I remain committed to the work of GOOD zoos,

Jailed researchers trying to protect threatened cheetahs in Iran await verdict
AS THE CASES of eight conservation scientists and researchers in Iran enter a critical phase, prominent wildlife scientists and NGOs around the world continue to rally in support of the accused.

The conservationists, from the Tehran-based Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation (PWHF), have been accused of using camera traps to spy—a claim being rebuffed on technical grounds by camera trap experts.

Those who know them paint a picture of a dedicated team of environmentalists, researchers, and scientists whose work to conserve critically endangered Asiatic cheetahs and other species has unwittingly been politicized, with tragic results.

‘Give us a sniff, love’: giving marsupials scents from suitors helps breeding programs
Smell is a vital part of sexual attraction for all kinds of animals (including humans). We may be able to use smell to improve breeding programs by giving the female animal a sample sniff of potential mates and letting her choose the best one before introducing them.

Our new research found female marsupials paired with the male of their choice in captive breeding programs had a higher chance of becoming pregnant, a shorter time to pregnancy and may produce healthier young.

Founder of Cumbrian zoo where 500 animals died plans horse ranch
The founder of a zoo where nearly 500 animals died in less than three years from causes including emaciation and hypothermia is opening a horse-riding ranch in the Lake District.

Two years ago inspectors concluded that scores of animals had died in often cruel conditions at South Lakes Safari zoo in Cumbria between December 2013 and September 2016, when it was owned by David Gill.

The catalogue of deaths included two snow leopard cubs discovered partially eaten in their enclosure, and a squirrel monkey whose decomposing body was found behind a radiator. A diagnosis of chlamydia was reported in the zoo’s peacock population.

Vigan zoo visitors to soon see new animals from S. Africa
Visiting Vigan in Ilocos Sur is never complete without going to the Baluarte Zoo, a free-admission zoological park located in Salindeg village, and owned by former governor Luis “Chavit” Singson.

This summer, more tourists are expected to visit the zoo with the arrival of more animals such as giraffes and antelopes from South Africa.

As an animal lover himself, Singson said in an interview at his new Safari Hotel over the weekend that he is excited to show to visitors some of the newly-arrived animals, which are all legally acquired and being taken cared of by licensed veterinarians and farm workers.

“I waited for almost five years and finally, they have arrived,” he said, noting that he needed to rent a whole cargo plane to accommodate 27 giraffes and about 900 antelopes as added attractions to his 120-hectare zoo.

California Senate Bill 313: A “Traveling Animal Act” Prevention Bill with Potentially Massive Unintended Consequences.
At the end of 2017 / in early 2018, we talked about a bill on the blog called Nosey’s Law - an “anti-circus bill” in New Jersey that, if passed as written, would have also banned normal 4H activities, ended outreach programming with rehabilitated raptors or rescued small exotics, and even made taking snakes and frogs into a classroom for show and tell illegal. I thought that was a really important bill to focus on, because I fully believe legislation pertaining to animal use and animal welfare needs to be accurate, well written, and fully thought out no matter what specific issue it addresses. Nosey’s Law was a great example of what it looks like when legislators haven’t put in that effort: the state senator sponsoring the bill had blindly trusted representatives from the NJ Humane Society of the United States chapter and other animal rights groups when they told him that amending the language of the bill - in a way that massively broadened it’s area of impact - wouldn’t hurt any business in the state that wasn’t a circus. The man genuinely had no idea that the overly broad, unspecific language of the law he wanted passed would shut down a majority of animal education and outreach work done in New Jersey. Luckily. it got vetoed, and a much more well-written and specifically targeted version of the law was passed during the next legislative season in 2018.

Legalising rhino horn trade the obvious answer to SA's poaching problems
Those who are opposed to legal rhino horn trading either do not understand the realities of rhino conservation, or have a vested interest in rhino remaining endangered, writes Peter Oberem.

Seven hundred rhino murdered in one year can never be good news. Why must we accept the deaths of almost two rhino a day in South Africa alone when there is an answer? To my mind, and the minds of hundreds of conservationists and game ranchers, the solution is legalising rhino horn trade.

This step will restore the value of live rhino, and give honest users of rhino horn access to legal and sustainable products. As a result, humans and the natural environment a

Can You Identify Insects and the Horse Diseases They Transmit?
1987, Central Spain. Dozens of horses fall ill and die. Then it’s hundreds. Before it’s over, an exotic disease will have wiped out 1,400 Spanish equids. The cause? African horse sickness (AHS), which hitched a ride with a herd of zebras imported into a zoo. Investigators determined a key element in the disease’s spread was a simple one: lack of awareness. Owners and veterinarians just didn’t know what to look for or recognize when they saw it.

Nearly 30 years later, researchers in the U.K. want to make sure their country won’t repeat that mistake. And, with the changing climate and the increase in global mov

Zookeepers Don’t Exist; Associative Learning Happens All The Time
For those of you who work in zoos, what if I told you that zookeepers don’t exist?
In my current role at Kolmården Wildlife Park we try to train as many animals as possible. I am constantly working very closely with the keepers in a team, to help develop training plans and I often come across quite a few challenges. Comments like “we don’t have time”, “we don’t have enough people”, “that’s not a priority” are used as excuses very often.

My answer is always, ‘Don’t you have to feed them?’

Animals learn by previous outcomes. This helps the animal survive in the environment they are in. Experiences are important regardless if they are good or not. Animals are constantly learning and behaving.

Humans have an instinctive survival like many other species have. We know what we can eat and what we shouldn’t eat; what is safe or what we should avoid due to dangerous outcomes. We also know that particular outcomes may result in an elevation of mood.

Dozens Of Animals, Birds Die In Islamabad Zoo Due To Negligence Of Officials
Dozens of birds and animals died at the Islamabad Zoo under the supervision of Capital Development Authority (CDA) and Metropolitan due to negligence and bad performance of the ineligible officials.At least 48 birds, eight Nilgais, a deer and monkeys and four lioness cubs have been recently died in the Zoo.Sources said that sub-standard medicines have been given to the birds in order to save them from bird flu but instead of reviving to their health, every year hundreds of birds died due to these low quality medicines.Ostriches have also been died due to bird flu.On the other hand, animals at the Islamabad Zoo worth hundreds and thousands of rupees have been handed over to high officials of political and social sector as a gift and no one dare to ask from the zoo staff in this regard.Water motor at Zoo has also remained dysfunctional for two weeks in a month that is why animals at the Zoo fell in several diseases due to water scarcity and lack of quality food.

Edinburgh Zoo is a force for conservation – Barbara Smith
Thomas Gillespie was the founder of the ­Royal ­Zoological Society of ­Scotland and a true visionary. As we celebrate our 110th anniversary this week, it is tempting to wonder ­whether even he could have ­imagined the impact RZSS would one day have in protecting vulnerable and endangered wildlife around the world. A lawyer with a passion for ­zoology, Thomas opened Edinburgh Zoo in 1913 with support from the city council, four years after the Society was formed. Millions of visitors have since passed through our doors, captivated by the incredible species in our care and learning about the ever-increasing challenges they face in the wild, principally from climate change, habitat loss, ­pollution, ­disease and hunting.

Andrew Reeve, Tropical Butterfly House manager: ‘Zoos have stepped up to the mark’
Tucked away in a corner of South Yorkshire, down a lane past rows of everyday houses, lives a menagerie of extraordinary animals. Exotic, vibrantly-coloured insects, rare bats, cheerful birds and fascinating reptiles all await visitors to the Tropical Butterfly House, Wildlife and Falconry Centre in North Anston, heading towards Worksop 15 miles from the middle of Sheffield.

'People are getting emotional': Employees at the zoo unsure if they'll have jobs April 1
Dane County is ending its partnership with the Henry Vilas Zoological Society, the nonprofit that fundraises for the zoo and employs people to work the concessions and attractions. Dozens of employees are unsure if they will have a job once the current contract expires at the end of the month.

"If I wasn't able to work here it would be devastating, to be honest. The reason I've stayed here for so long is because I love our zoo and it's just a part of me," said James Scott, food services manager at Henry Vilas Zoo.

Are We In A 'Galactic Zoo' Protected By Aliens? Scientists Meet To Investigate The 'Great Silence'
Are we alone? Probably not. After all, astronomers have already found 4,001 confirmed exoplanets in our Milky Way galaxy, and expect there to be over 50 billion exoplanets out there. For scientists gathering in Paris today, the question is different: why haven’t we made contact with alien civilizations?

What is the Fermi Paradox and the "Great Silence?"

Italian physicist Enrico Fermi asked 'where is everybody?' back in 1950 in what's now called the Fermi Paradox. It addresses a contradiction in astronomy, and can be summarized thus: if extraterrestrial life and even intelligent alien civilizations are not just likely, but highly probable, then why have none of them been in contact with us? Are there biological or sociological explanations for this "Great Silence?"

The Giza Zoo as colonial archive
Starting 2014 and over a period of two years, Bryony Dunne — an Irish visual artist and filmmaker — spent many Friday mornings at the Giza Zoo, taking pictures of the park’s antiquated cages, eerie grottos, eager visitors and fallen seeds. She had just moved to Cairo (where she lived from 2013 before relocating to Athens in 2018) and was keen to acquaint her camera with this massive, unruly city. But the zoo meant more to the artist than an image-playground: she also found in it an undeniably compelling social setting. As one of the largest green areas in a city strikingly lacking in public space, it draws millions every year — from large,

Panda's bare necessities improved on
The giant panda pavilion at Shanghai Zoo in Changning District is being expanded.

Giant panda Ya Er, born in August 2013, is the current resident.

The indoor area of the pavilion will be about 300 square meters after the expansion, and a new visitor hall will be set up with a 30 percent increase of space. 

There will also be four rest rooms for the panda — a monitoring room, a treatment room and two feeding rooms.

An outdoor activity area totalling more than 600 square meters at the north of the pavilion is also on the agenda, featuring rich plants and facilities.

The goal of the expansion is to create a better environment for both the panda and visitors, the zoo operator said.

The new pavilion is scheduled to be complet

Back to the drawing board for conservationists battling against infectious parrot disease
A study into the effectiveness of disinfecting birds' nests, carried out by the University of Kent, has led to a breakthrough in the understanding of biosecuity measures for the endangered echo parakeet in Mauritius. The research team found that annual disinfection of parakeet nest sites prior to the breeding season, intended to reduce the spread of infectious disease in endangered parrot species, didn't have the impact conservationists expected leading to recommendation for a different approach.

The research team found that annual disinfection of parakeet nest sites prior to the breeding season, intended to reduce the spread of infectious disease in endangered parrot species, didn't have the impact conservationists expected or indeed, had hoped for, leading to recommendation for a different approach.

Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD), is a globally emerging infectious disease affecting parrot species, and researchers were looking at methods to reduce infection rates in the endangered birds.

The Wild Animal Trade is a Roaring Business in Pakistan
Chaudhry Usama Wains received a message on his Facebook page in January 2018. An aspirant for a Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly seat was interested in buying a lion and wanted it delivered to a specific location in Peshawar.

Wains, who deals in animals, drove from his home in Faisalabad along with an African lion and a couple of companions a few days later. As they were about to reach the designated spot, two cars approached. Some men got out of them and took away the lion forcibly — without paying a penny for it.

Wains does not know who the lion-snatchers were, but he suspects that they were sent by the politician.

Politics and lions have a close association in Pakistan. Politicians who make a name for themselves often come to be known as the lions – undisputed rulers – of their respective constituencies or districts. A few of them have gone on to earn the title of Sher-e-Punjab — the lion of Punjab province – the most famous of them being a former CM and provincial governor, Malik Ghulam Mustafa Khar.

Pandanomics is a grey area, but to us the value of giant pandas is black and white
Wang Wang and Funi came to Australia from China a decade ago. Their relationship is best described as complicated. Despite considerable medical assistance, they have never managed to produce offspring. It has put a big question mark over whether they will be permitted to remain in Australia.

The fate of the two giant pandas may now depend on the outcome of the federal election. Keeping the couple at Adelaide Zoo includes paying about A$1 million a year to the Chinese government. The federal Labor Party has promised it will pay that bill for another five years. The Coalition’s position remains unclear.

It’s just another chapter in the story of an iconic species where politics, economics and international diplomacy often eclipse conservation

Why people risk their lives for the ultimate animal selfie
IT GOES WITHOUT saying that it’s a terrible idea to enter a wild animal’s enclosure.

But a few days ago, in the quest for a selfie, a woman climbed over the concrete barrier of a jaguar enclosure at Wildlife World Zoo, outside of Phoenix, Arizona. The jaguar grabbed her sweater and ripped into her arm—the grisly wound caught on video. Bystanders pulled her away before the animal could injure her further. She’s fine—so is the jaguar—and has admitted

North America’s most endangered bird faces a new threat: feuding wildlife managers
North America’s most endangered bird, the grasshopper sparrow that inhabits Central Florida’s shrinking prairie, is facing a new threat: a feud among wildlife managers and scientists.

In a letter to researchers last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it planned to shut down a Palm Beach County breeding program, the larger of only two in the nation, amid ongoing concerns over a newly identified parasite making the birds sick. Federal managers want to free some birds and move others to the second facility in North Florida. Researchers fear those actions could spread the parasite and endanger the last wild population.

The Fish and Wildlife Service also wants to end its partnership with the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation, saying disagreements with the director and a University of Georgia vet are “paralyzing” efforts and could hasten the extinction of the golf ball-sized bird.

The Rapid Decline Of The Natural World Is A Crisis Even Bigger Than Climate Change
Nature is in freefall and the planet’s support systems are so stretched that we face widespread species extinctions and mass human migration unless urgent action is taken. That’s the warning hundreds of scientists are preparing to give, and it’s stark.

The last year has seen a slew of brutal and terrifying warnings about the threat climate change poses to life. Far less talked about but just as dangerous, if not more so, is the rapid decline of the natural world. The felling of forests, the over-exploitation of seas and soils, and the pollution of air and water are together driving the living world to the brink, according to a huge three-year, U.N.-backed landmark study to be published in May.

In Assam, turtles are breeding again — in temple ponds
In 1994, the residents of Hajo, a small town in middle Assam, remember congregating around a rickety old wheelbarrow. Later, as the cart moved around the town, so did the small procession — each person wanting to pay their respects and see Mohan one last time.
Mohan, a 40kg jet-black turtle and resident of the pond that lay next to the town’s Hayagriva Madhava Temple, had died. And everyone, who had grown up around the pond, had a “Mohan story” to tell.

OM in the News: The Tiny Plastics in Clothes Are Becoming a Big Problem
Makers of sportswear and fleece jackets are trying to address concerns about tiny plastic particles from synthetic clothing finding their way into seafood and drinking water. While the plastics backlash has focused on single-use products like straws, bottles and coffee cups, synthetic clothing is gaining attention because such garments shed plastic every time they are washed.

Each year, more than a half-million metric tons of microfibers—the equivalent of 50 billion plastic water bottles—enter the ocean from the washing

Ex-employees protest Austin Zoo in wake of animal care controversy

County ending partnership with nonprofit group at Vilas Zoo, changing zoo operations
Dane County is terminating its relationship with its longtime partner at the Vilas Zoo, in part over the nonprofit organization’s cash reserves the county says have gotten too large and too far removed from zoo operations.

The Henry Vilas Zoological Society has worked with the county since the county took over the zoo’s operations from the city of Madison in the 1980s, and has been supporting the zoo for more than a century. The society currently operates all of the zoo’s concessions, carousel and train ride, and also manages fundraisers for the zoo, but all that will end March 31, said Josh Wescott, chief of staff for the county executive’s office.

UAE approves new regulations about owning dangerous animals
Regulations governing how dangerous animals should be kept and cared for in the UAE have been approved in a bid to tackle abuse and trafficking.

In 2016, the UAE passed a law banning ownership of dangerous, wild or exotic animals except by licensed zoos, wildlife parks, circuses, breeding and research centres.

It also revoked permits issued to other authorities to import such animals.

The Cabinet has now approved detailed regulations related to the law, with 12 articles setting the requirements for the transport of dangerous animals and their accommodation, as well as measures for their seizure, care and disposal.

Dr Susan Aylott, who established and runs Animal Welfare Abu Dhabi, welcomed the regulations.

“It’s a great law for everybody,” said Dr Aylott. “It’s great initiative which shows that we are an animal loving nation that respects the environment and all those who live within it. We have a requirement to protect and preserve animals and humans.”

The law says dangerous animals must be provided with veterinary care, including vaccinations, and kept in a suitable environment.

 A Crisis Has Hit Our Chimps
That crisis has hit Chimfunshi. There is an outbreak of respiratory infection throughout our largest enclosure of chimpanzees at Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage. Nearly 50 chimpanzees are sick: coughing, wheezing, sneezing, and getting dangerously close to becoming fatally ill.

The chimps’ survival is in the hands of Dr. Thalita Calvi, a Brazilian veterinarian who has dedicated her life to this work. She and the staff are monitoring and caring for the group of chimps around the clock and they need our help. In fact, when care cannot be interrupted, Dr. Calvi must take the babies to her home-clinic to provide round the clock, overnig

Zoo Animal Welfare: The Human Dimension
Standards and policies intended to safeguard nonhuman animal welfare, whether in zoos, farms, or laboratories, have tended to emphasize features of the physical environment. However, research has now made it clear that very different welfare outcomes are commonly seen in facilities using similar environments or conforming to the same animal welfare requirements. This wide variation is almost certainly due, at least in part, to the important effects of the actions of animal care staff on animal welfare. Drawing mostly on the farm animal literature, we propose that this “human dimension” of animal welfare involves seven components: (1) positive human–animal interaction, (2) consistency and familiarity of keepers, (3) treating animals as individuals and taking account of their personalities, (4) the attitudes and personalities of keepers, (5) the keepers’ knowledge and experience, (6) the keepers’ own well-being, and (7) the influence of facility design on how keepers and others interact with the animals. We suggest that attention to these human factors provides major scope for improving the welfare of animals in zoos

Only 10 Vaquita Porpoises Remain in the World, Scientists Announce
Scientists announced Thursday that only 10 vaquita porpoises likely remain in the world and that the animal's extinction is virtually assured without bold and immediate action.

The vaquita, the world's smallest and most endangered cetacean, is found only in Mexico's northern Gulf of California. The release of the new vaquita estimate comes just two days after reports of the possible first vaquita mortality of 2019. More details are expected in the coming days.

Thursday's announcement from the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita also calls on Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to end all gillnet fishing and adopt a "zero tolerance" policy of enforcement in the vaquita's small remaining habitat. The committee is an international team of scientific experts assembled in

The Problem with China’s White Tiger Obsession
This is the second piece in a series on Chinese zoos. The first piece in the series can be found here.

The white lion exhibit might be the pride of the northwestern city of Urumqi’s Tianshan Wildlife Park, but curious visitors would do well to temper their expectations: The park’s white lions are really more of a dirty beige, mangier than they are menacing.

So, you may be in for a shock if you turn your eyes to the plaque explaining the nigh-unbelievable story of the lions’ provenance. “Research conducted by scientists has shown that white lions may be an ancient species that once lived in the Arctic and other cold, snow-covered lands,” it reads. Arctic lions would indeed be quite the draw at any zoo. There’s just one problem: There’s no such thing as an “Arctic lion.” The animals are actually the result of naturally occurring genetic mutations in African lions. The nonsense on the plaque appears to have been copied word-for-word from Baidu Baike — China’s version of Wikipedia. I wish I could say Tianshan was the only park to have made this mistake, but I’ve seen the same passage at two other Chinese zoos.

Influence of season, tourist activities and camp management on body condition, testicular and adrenal steroids, lipid profiles, and metabolic status in captive Asian elephant bulls in Thailand
We previously found relationships between body condition and physiological function affecting health and welfare of female tourist camp elephants in Thailand, and used that approach to conduct a similar study of bull elephants in the same camps (n = 13). A body condition score (BCS) was done every other month, and fecal glucocorticoid metabolite (FGM) concentrations were measured twice monthly for 1 year. Effects of season, camp management and tourist activity on lipid profiles [total cholesterol (TC), low density lipoproteins (LDL), high density lipoproteins (HDL), triglycerides (TG)] and metabolic factors [insulin, glucose, fructosamine, glucose to insulin ratio (G:I)] were determined and correlated to measures of body condition, testosterone and FGM. Positive correlations were found between BCS and TG, between FGM and TG, HDL and glucose, and between testosterone and HDL, whereas BCS and testosterone were negatively associated with the G:I. There was a significant positive relationship between FGM and testosterone. Elevated FGM concentrations were associated with altered lipid and metabolic profiles and were higher in winter compared to summer and rainy seasons. Insulin and glucose levels were higher, while the G:I was lowest in the winter season. Strong positive associations were found between TC and HDL, LDL and HDL and glucose, and glucose and insulin. By contrast, negative relationships were found between the G:I and HDL and glucose, and between insulin and G:I. Differences also were found between High and Low tourist season months for FGM, insulin, and G:I. Last, there was notable variation among the camps in measured parameters, which together with tourist season effects suggests camp management may affect physiological function and welfare; some negatively like feeding high calorie treats, others positively, like exercise. Last, compared to females, bull elephants appear to be in better physical health based on normal BCSs, lower insulin levels and higher G:I ratios.

The Benefits of Zoos and Aquariums
For today’s post, I have decided to tackle the benefits of zoos and aquariums. I was prompted to write this article when I saw The Rocks recent Instagram post of him posing with a sea lion. The comment section of this post was upsetting, to say the least, there were a few supportive voices saying it was a nice picture, but the loudest voices on the post were saying things like “OMG stop supporting captivity…. you have the influence to help them not encourage people to see them as strictly entertainment” and “Unfortunate that you choose to support captivity”. In today’s media, there are many loud voices calling for the shutdown of animal care facilities across the world, especially with social media platforms featuring contextless, education-less, anti-zoo content. I’m by no means saying that there is nothing wrong with zoo’s and aquariums, there are pros and cons to everything and since the cons seem to be widely understood and perpetuated, (whether they are true or false) in this article ill simply be going over the benefits of zoos and aquariums. Let’s start off by debunking some myths and misconceptions surrounding zoos and aquariums.

This Songbird Is Nearly Extinct in the Wild. An International Treaty Could Help Save It — but Won’t.
Fewer than 500 black-winged mynas remain in the wild in Indonesia, but each year more of the songbirds are captured and sold as pets.

Banteng — “the most beautiful and graceful of all wild cattle,” according to the World Wide Fund for Nature — were listed as endangered in 1996, but their horns still are sold in markets across Southeast Asia.

And the critically endangered giant carp, a Mekong River native that can weigh up to 600 pounds, recently began turning up on restaurant menus in Vietnam. Experts warn that the fish might soon be pushed into extinction.

A viral video and pet lemurs on Twitter
Content shared on social media platforms can impact public perceptions of wildlife. These perceptions, which are in part shaped by context (e.g. non-naturalistic setting, presence of a human), can influence people’s desires to interact with or acquire wild animals as pets. However, few studies have examined whether this holds true for wild animals featured in viral videos. This study reports on opportunistic data collected on Twitter before, during, and after a video that featured a habituated ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta), called “Sefo”, in southern Madagascar went ‘viral’ (i.e. circulated rapidly on the internet). Our dataset of 13,953 tweets (from an 18.5-week time period in early 2016) referencing lemurs was collected using targeted keywords on the Twitonomy Service. We identified 613 individual tweets about people wanting a lemur as a pet. In addition, 744 tweets that were captured in our dataset linked to the Sefo viral video. We found that as the number of tweets about the viral video increased, so did the number of tweets where an individual wanted to have a lemur as a pet. Most tweets (91%) did not make reference to a specific species of lemur, but when they did, they often (82%) referenced ring-tailed lemurs (L. catta), ruffed lemurs (Varecia spp.), and mouse lemurs (Microcebus spp.). This study serves as a case study to consider how viral content can impact how wild animals are perceived. We close by noting that social media sites like Twitter, which are increasingly providing their users with news and information, should carefully consider how information about wild animals is shared on their platforms, as it may impact animal welfare.

SeaWorld, Illumina assemble highest quality genome of dolphin to date
Advancements in genetic mapping technology and assembly algorithms have enabled scientists at Illumina to construct a high-quality reference genome of the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus). Mapped from DNA samples provided by SeaWorld, San Diego, the completed genome is the most comprehensive and ambitious sequencing of a dolphin to date and it has the potential to evolve our understanding of comparative biology, breeding, medicine and conservation planning.

“When we were contacted by Illumina, we knew immediately this was a project that we wanted to be a part of, not only because of our commitment to research, but because involving our dolphin was going to help produce the highest quality results,” said Dr Hendrik Nollens from SeaWorld.

Nashville Zoo celebrates major breakthrough; 24 Hellbenders born in captivity
The Nashville Zoo is celebrating a major breakthrough -- 24 Hellbenders born in captivity.

"They're North America's largest salamanders. They can get up to about 2 1/2 feet long," said Sherri Reinsch, lead herpetologist at the Nashville Zoo.

"They live in rivers. They like fast-moving clean, clear, cold water because they breathe through their skin. Cold water has more oxygen in it so it makes it better for them," she said.

Elephants are smart. What if tourism jobs were good for them?
Work, including offering tourists rides, is “not bad” for elephants — in moderation — so long as it takes into account the workload, stress, and welfare of each individual elephant, according to Dr Pakkanut Bansiddhi, Researcher, Center of Excellence in Elephant Research and Education, Chiang Mai University.

Dr Pakkanut revealed this at the Global Sustainable Tourism Council conference in Chiang Mai, February 28, much to the surprise of some, including “GT”. After the event, Dr Pakkanut kindly supplied “GT” with a summary of the main findings of six recent research projects that looked into elephant welfare in northern Thai camps (PDF).

Noting that the research took place against the background of poor general conditions for elephants and mahouts, there were more surprising findings:

Delhi zoo’s oldest chimpanzee now in record books

Authorities setting elephant export regulations
The Department of Foreign Trade, under the administration of the Ministry of Commerce, is drafting regulations requiring advance authorization for elephant exports.

The Director-General of the Department of Foreign Trade, Adul Chotinisakorn, said his agency is in the process of drafting regulations and protocols for elephant exports from Thailand, in compliance with the Ministry of Commerce’s announcement.

The department is accepting input from related sectors through its website until March 22nd, 2019.

IAAPA's Statement of Support for the Barcelona Zoo
Dear Mayor Colau:

IAAPA, the global association for the attractions industry, supports accredited facilities around the world with animals in their professional care. Well-managed zoos and aquariums provide up close and personal experiences for people and can help them develop an appreciation and respect for animals and the natural world.

Zoos and aquariums play a critical role in conservation of endangered species, education, research, and serving the communities in which they operate. IAAPA supports zoos and aquariums that are accredited and follow best-practice standards for the care and well-being of animals and staff members. IAAPA’s zoo and aquarium members worldwide are dedicated to professionally caring for thousands of animals, as they inspire millions of visitors.

Through ongoing research, zoos and aquariums provide critical contributions to wildlife conservation efforts around the world. The knowledge and expertise of the husbandry, veterinary, and scientific zoological teams at such facilities is essential in helping manage threatened and endangered species in the wild at a time of rapid global change.



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About me
After more than 50 years working in private, commercial and National zoos in the capacity of keeper, head keeper and curator Peter Dickinson started to travel. He sold house and all his possessions and hit the road. He has traveled extensively in Turkey, Southern India and much of South East Asia before settling in Thailand. In his travels he has visited well over 200 zoos and many more before 'hitting the road' (many more before that) and writes about these in his blog

Peter earns his living as an independent international zoo consultant, critic and writer. Currently working as Curator of Penguins in Ski Dubai. United Arab Emirates. He describes himself as an itinerant zoo keeper, one time zoo inspector, a dreamer, a traveler, an introvert, a people watcher, a lover, a storyteller, a thinker, a cosmopolitan, a writer, a hedonist, an explorer, a pantheist, a gastronome, sometime fool, a good friend to some and a pain in the butt to others.

"These are the best days of my life"

Peter Dickinson
Independent International Zoo Consultant

Tuesday, March 19, 2019



In the early hours of Tuesday morning 19 March 2019, a Caribbean manatee was born at Royal Burgers’ Zoo. The manatee calf appears to be in good health.

Arnhem, 19 March 2019 – The 5.5-year-old pregnant Caribbean manatee kept the Arnhem zookeepers and biologists in suspense for weeks, but in the early hours of Tuesday 19 March, the wait was over, and a healthy-looking manatee calf was born, most likely a male. The relatively young female is a first-time mother so that the coming period will remain exciting for the zookeepers and biologists. Royal Burgers’ Zoo is the only zoo in the Netherlands home to manatees.

Living with uncertainty 
Caribbean manatees have a gestation period between 12 and 14 months. The pregnant female showed noticeable swelling around her vulva and had visibly swollen nipples for quite some weeks. Performing an ultrasound on an aquatic mammal of this size is incredibly impractical, and the unnecessary stress it would cause is undesirable. All the zookeepers and biologists could do was keep a close eye on the animal and be patient. 

The excitement is not over
On Tuesday 19 March at 7.30 a.m., zookeepers discovered the manatee calf, which is probably a male. Male manatees have no external genital organs, and the gender of a manatee can only be distinguished by the location of the genital opening in relation to the anus. In females the opening is closer to the anus and in males the opening is more towards the middle of the abdomen and the umbilical cord. At first sight, it looks to be in good health, but as it concerns a first-time mother, the coming period will remain exciting for the zookeepers and biologists.

Normal behaviour when suckling
A manatee calf drinks from one of two of its mother’s nipples, located in the armpits behind the flippers. Normally the mother floats horizontally, and the calf swims toward the nipple. The only assistance a mother gives is to keep her flipper aside. A calf will drink from its mother for approximately two years but will often try to eat solid food as early as one or two weeks old. Usually, a young manatee will eat solid food after about forty days.

Peter Dickinson
Independent International Zoo Consultant