Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Zoo News Digest 5th - 9th March 2010 (Zoo News 655)

Zoo News Digest 5th - 9th  March 2010 (Zoo News 655)


Dear Colleagues,

The repercussions of the Seaworld accident continue to rumble on with more people venturing an opinion. I defend their right to say what they have to say as long as I am not expected to take it seriously. How much credence do you give to the thoughts of someone who stared into the eyes of a Capybara as a child and was so changed by the experience that he never went to another zoo. Does his opinion matter at all? There are dozens of people out there just like that. The experts who had rabbits as pets as a child.
I was wondering how long it would be before someone brought religion into it and sure enough it happened this past week with the quotes:

"When an ox gores a man or woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner shall not be liable." (Exodus 21:28)

....... followed up by, "if your ox kills a second time, "the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death." (Exodus 21:29)

In another of the contributions there is the statement: "There is no need for facts, only a true conviction.".....Can you believe it? How many innocents would be hung on such an outlook on life? This is the madness of some of the anti-captivity clan. (Note I did say 'some'.)

Two people I know and respect are Tim Desmond of Ocean Adventure in Subic Bay and John Dinely. Their opinions have a mix of caring, extensive practical knowledge and expertise. They have both written in this issue. Compare their take on things to the rant of some of the others.

Sorry to learn of Taronga Zoo's loss. These things always hit hard but when you wait so very long I am sure the loss must be greater. I do hope the next one will survive. I am sure it will.

I hope that more zoos will follow the lead of Paignton and Newquay with regards to reducing carbon emissions. Ultimately we are all going to have to do something. Far better to act before we are pushed.

A few fingers and thumbs have gone missing this past few weeks. Visitors to zoos really need to respect the safety barriers.

Pata Zoo is still in the news. There is a link in the blog to an interview with the Gorilla Keeper which after much thought prompted me to write an article on the guy.

I see the theft of the penguin by a pet shop manager has resurfaced again. Papers must be short of news because this first appeared weeks ago. In fairness to the Telegraph though they do state that the incident took place in January. Also last week there was a report in a Canadian newspaper of a tiger killing a keeper in New Zealand. This was reported as 'new' news but clearly very old. Sadly too the report of the discovery of the new population of Orangutans in Sumatra is not new...but some paper dredged up the story again and reported it as new. Once again I state...take everything you read in the papers with a pinch of salt.

I was unaware of David Gill's fondness of Darwin. It struck me that it would make a wonderful TV debate if the South Lakes Wild Animal Park and Noah's Ark Farm Park were to get together.

I note that the story of Chinese Rhino farms has come to the fore. I have been following up rumours here for a couple of years but never got any concrete evidence, though I did hear of a private collection with 200 animals. True or untrue? Who knows. White Rhino breed reasonably well in captivity so it may well be true. The situation is slightly different to that of the Tigers which, if the stories are correct, are starved to death because it is illegal to kill them. The Rhino's can remain alive whilst 'farmed' for their product. Then there is the fact that these animals are sold out of South African animal auctions every year. If the Chinese didn't buy them then they would be sold for some prick with a pistol to kill. I'm none too sure how I feel about the whole situation but I know for a fact that rhino horn is not an aphrodisiac and believe it unlikely to have any other medicinal effects.

Sorry to learn about the problems with Gay. I do hope she recovers.
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Rhino at Caldwell Zoo

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On with links:

Biodiversity: Out of sight, out of mind

Once species disappear from the face of the Earth, they are quickly forgotten, says Samuel Turvey. In this week's Green Room, he warns that extinctions must be treated as a warning that human activities, such as overhunting and agriculture, are making the planet a poorer place to live.

It has been widely reported that the Earth's species are facing a sixth mass extinction and that human activity is to blame.

What is less well known is that humans have also been responsible for causing species extinctions throughout history and recent pre-history.

In the British Isles, we have lost most of our native large animals as a direct result of overhunting and the way humans changed habitats.

How many people living in the UK would consider lynx, wolves, or pelicans to be part of their native fauna, though? We have no direct cultural memory of any of these species ever being part of the British environment.

Sooner or later, communities will inevitably forget about the former existence of species that used to occur in their environment.

Local perceptions of past ecological conditions are expected to change over time, as older community members die and younger members become adults, because accurate information is unlikely to be passed down from generation to generation.

Over time, more and more degraded environmental conditions may therefore be seen as "normal". This social phenomenon is called "shifting baseline syndrome".

The existence of shifting baseline syndrome has been widely discussed and debated. However, few studies have investigated the rate at


Baby elephant dies at Taronga Zoo

A baby Asian elephant has died during labour at Sydney's Taronga Zoo.

The calf's 18-year-old mother Porntip was in and out of labour over the past week, after a pregnancy lasting almost two years.

Zoo keepers and veterinarians were concerned about the progress of the labour, with Porntip showing unusual movements and behaviour.

Taronga Zoo's director Cameron Kerr says the calf was in the wrong position to move down the birth canal, and an ultrasound this morning indicated it had died.

He says staff are still coming to terms with the news.

"Very tired and very sad I think for all of us really. It's very sad," he said.

Mr Kerr said Porntip still has to give birth to the calf which could take


Bills in Missouri House would create regional taxing district for Kansas City Zoo

A second bill to allow the creation of a regional taxing district for the Kansas City Zoo has been filed, this one in the Missouri House. It is a companion to one filed last month in the state Senate.

The bill would allow voters in area counties to levy a sales tax of up to a quarter-cent on themselves to support the zoo. It was sponsored by Rep. Chris Molendorp, a Raymore Republican, and co-sponsored by Rep. Jason Holsman, a Kansas City Democrat.

The Kansas City Council


Dallas Zoo slated to have 6 elephants soon

The Dallas Zoo plans to have six elephants on display just two years after animal rights activists were calling for the shutdown of an aging exhibit with just one pachyderm.

Zoo officials stirred controversy in 2008 when they said they planned to move their lone remaining elephant, Jenny, to Mexico. Activists wanted the facility shuttered and the elephant placed at a U.S. animal preserve.

Guidelines require zoos to keep at least two elephants because they need social interaction.

The Dallas Zoo decided to keep Jenny and added a new companion, Gypsy, last year. Two African female elephants — Kamba and Congo — were recently brought in, and two more are expected to arrive this month.

The new shipment will include 41-year-old Stumpy, who weighs 10,500 pounds, and Mama, 37, who weighs 4 tons.

The elephants are kept separate for now but will be introduced to each other gradually over the coming weeks. They


Elephant dung to power green energy plans at Paignton zoo

Zoo joins 10:10 campaign to cut carbon emissions with plan to use biogas from dung to generate electricity

Mucking out the elephant enclosure may not be the most glamorous job at Paignton zoo in Devon, but managers there are hoping that in future the task may help reduce its energy bills - and carbon emissions. It aims to use the animals' digestive ruminations to create biogas that can be burned to generate electricity.

Paignton and its sister zoo, Newquay zoo in Cornwall have signed up to the 10:10 campaign and pledged to meet the campaign's goal to reduce their carbon emissions by 10% by the end of 2010.

Paignton has already begun producing more food for the animals on site using a unique soil-free growing system, thus saving on food miles. But it also has plans to use the plants fed to its herbivores - such as elephants, giraffe and rhinos - when they come out the other end. The zoo's two elephants alone produce two tonnes of dung every week.

"We are looking into being able to produce biogas from our animal waste," said a spokesperson for the zoo, "It's something


Four arrested for aquarium fish smuggling in Phuket

Four residents of a Sea Gypsy community in Rawai were arrested yesterday for smuggling protected marine species.

The suspects, 34-year-old Pichit Bangjak and three minors, were arrested at 11am in a pickup truck parked along Thepkrasattri Road in Rassada, near the Phuket Highways Department Office.

A search of foam coolers in the bed of the truck uncovered 250 aquarium fish, 300 corals and 20 sea fans ready for transport in plastic bags and other types of packaging.

The value of the items was estimated in excess of 200,000 baht.

The arrests followed a report that men in a truck would be loading protected species onto a Bangkok-bound tour bus leaving the Phuket Bus Terminal in Phuket Town at 10:50am.

The operation was led jointly by Phuket Marine and Coastal Resources Conservation Center director Paitoon Panchaipum and Phuket Marine Police deputy inspector Lt Natthapong Preugtharathikul.

The officers followed the P2 company bus out of the station to Rassada, where the men were waiting to flag down the vehicle and load the containers into the storage hold.

The victims confessed to transporting the items, but insisted the marine life did not belong them.

They were simply hired to transport the fish and coral to Bangkok, they said.

All four suspects were taken to Phuket City Police Station for questioning and charged with possession of protected species without permission.

Police will try to expand the investigation and bring


Dubai aquarium leak: The inside story

Faulty application of acrylic cement on a panel joint or a structural snag may have caused last week's mishap

Improper application of acrylic cement or a pressure-induced structural problem on the panel may have caused the rear left side of the shark-filled aquarium at Dubai Mall to leak on February 25, sources told XPRESS.

Specialist teams from Australia and Japan were called to check the problem at the aquarium, whose size earned it an entry in the Guinness World Records when it first opened in November 2008.

The leak was detected around 11.45am on Thursday on the left-hand side of the tank near the entrance of the walk-through tunnel, sending shoppers scampering to higher ground


No Relocation for Rampaging Elephants Who Trampled Homes in Riau Village

Despite the threat of more elephant attacks in the Bengkalis district of Riau, an official said on Sunday that there was little chance of relocating about 40 wild Sumatran elephants that went on a rampage a day earlier and destroyed at least three houses in the village of Petani.

“At this stage, there is no way we can do a large-scale relocation of the elephants because, as territorial animals, they would find it difficult to adapt to a new habitat, wherever that may be,” said Trisnu Danisworo, head of the Riau Natural Resources Conservation Center.

Trisnu said that there had been suggestions of relocating the pachyderms to the Tesso Nilo National Park, the native habitat of the Sumatran elephant that stretches across the Pelalawan and Indragiri Hulu districts in Riau and is home to hundreds of endangered flora and fauna, including about 80 Sumatran elephants.

The 40-odd elephants began entering Petani village a little over a week ago before going on a rampage on Saturday, destroying at least three houses and leaving 20 other homes with minor structural damages. Although no fatalities were reported, 11 families, fearing for their lives, have moved from the village since the attack.

Trisnu said on Sunday that the center had already dispatched a special taskforce to drive the elephants away from the villages



TO commemorate the bicentenary of Charles Darwin's birth reporter JO DAVIES looks at how the pioneering scientist's work remains a hot topic of discussion today, despite it being 200 years since he was born.

IT is testament to the ongoing impact of Charles Darwin’s work that the debate over how to tackle alternative versions of the origin of the world is still waging on, some 150 years after he published The Origin Of Species.

But what exactly do creationists believe, why all the controversy and what actually is or should be discussed in the classroom?

The publication of The Origin of Species became an immediate success in the 1850s and revolutionised our understanding of how all life came about.

His theory that living things evolved by keeping the traits that helped them survive and losing the ones that didn’t has helped us understand the natural world.

Darwin’s theories are often presented as adversarial to Christian beliefs – that God created the universe and everything in it – but church leaders locally believe the two can sit alongside.

Father John Watson, of St Mary’s Church, in Duke Street, Barrow, notes that the Vatican accepts evolution.

He says: “The Roman Catholic C.............................Director of South Lakes Wild Animal Park, David Gill, is a passionate believer in Darwin’s theories, so much so that he named his youngest son Indiana Darwin Gill.

He believes there’s a range of possibilities and polarising people isn’t necessarily helpful.

“These arguments about religion and theories, I’m sure they balance out somewhere,” said Mr Gill.

“It makes you wonder in religion whether they use stories to illustrate meanings.

“Do you believe God created the


Paphos Aquarium closes its doors

Paphos Aquarium has closed its doors for the last time.

Owner Takis Tsiolis told the Cyprus Mail, “The business is no longer viable for us. We have been losing money hand over fist for the last two years and we can no longer sustain these kinds of losses. It’s a very sad situation.”

The aquarium closed on March 1, fourteen years after it opened in Paphos at an initial cost of £500,000.

The privately owned attraction opened in 1996 and has been popular with visitors and locals in the past. No expense was spared in creating a natural environment for the residents and fish and marine life from oceans, seas and rivers graced the venue’s specially designed and filtered tanks.

Seventy-two tanks held the creatures, including a crocodile tank.

But according to Tsiolis a number of factors have all led to the current situation.

“Most of the aquariums in other places are supported by the municipality or the authorities, but we are a private, family-run company.

“We have asked for help from the mayor and the municipality and other bodies, but no one came forward,” Tsiolis said.

According to the Paphos businessman, he presented a tender for the space of the En Plo gallery, which is situated in the harbour area of Kato Paphos two years ago.

“That would have been a perfect solution for us,” he said. “The port authority gave us the tender but the municipality refused to grant the licence – they


Sea Life London Aquarium opens Rainforests of the World area

The Sea Life London Aquarium has opened a new Rainforests of the World area featuring crocodiles and piranha fish.

The section contains more than 4,000 marine animals in 13 themed displays featuring forest foliage, mists and waterfalls.

Creatures featured in the exhibit include a pair of six-foot West African dwarf crocodiles sisters, 15 poison arrow frogs and 30 piranhas.

The Sea Life London Aquarium general manager of events Michael Aldridge said: "Guests will literally be within snapping distance of the crocodile sisters. The new Rain Forests of the World exhibit offers


Bristol Zoo's Alfred the gorilla becomes an unlikely media star

Bristol Zoo's much-loved gorilla Alfred has become an unlikely media star after his kidnapping was revealed as a student prank.

Evening Post reporter Liz Webster exclusively revealed that Alfred, who died in 1948 and was stuffed, was kidnapped from Bristol Museum in 1956 by three Bristol University students.

The story and photographs of Alfred dressed up in various guises has gone all around the country.

The truth which came to light after the death of estate agent Ron Morgan, 79, from Clevedon, made page three of the Daily Mail as well as getting coverage in the Daily Mirror, Daily Telegraph, The Times and the Metro.

Closer to home the Western Daily Press and


Woman Loses Fingers Feeding Bear at Manitowoc Zoo

A woman lost several fingers when she and her boyfriend were bitten by a bear Friday morning at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Manitowoc.

Police say both adults admitted they'd been drinking in the park.

Police say 47-year-old Tracy Weiler wanted to impress her three-year-old granddaughter.

She started feeding the bear Bugles snack chips from a plastic bag when the animal clamped down on her hand.

Weiler's boyfriend, 51-year-old Larry Bosworth, then jumped the observation deck to try to help.

"He tried opening the jaws of the bear and she eventually did get released from the bear. She's missing some fingers. He also got bit," Officer Larry Perronne, Manitowoc Police Department, said.

Both adults were transported to the hospital.

Police say the woman lost two full fingers and severed several others.

Weiler went past the designated viewing areas, ignored the safety signs, and went up to the fence.

"There's a protective lower fence. Because she's taller, she had to actually physically reach in to try to feed those bears, and that's more than what most people would do," Perronne said.

The three-year-old was safe the entire time, police say.

Police are investigating whether any laws were


Jaguar Tears Off Visitor's Thumb at Florida Wildlife Sanctuary

A jaguar at a privately owned wildlife sanctuary in South Florida recently tore a visitor's thumb off.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported Friday that a woman, whose name wasn't released, had her hand in a cage at the Panther Ridge Conservation Center in Wellington when a jaguar bit her. The Feb. 19 attack remains under investigation.

Panther Ridge's owner, Judy Berens, was cited for not having the proper supervision and barrier between the public and the exotic cat. She faces a fine of up to $500.

The jaguar will not be euthanized.

The 10-acre center, founded in 1999, is home to 22 large cats including


Seven cases against popular zoo, says Perhilitan

The zoo that came under the spotlight over breeding and trading in endangered animals has had at least seven run-ins with the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) since 2003.

These have resulted in two court cases and one compound notice being issued. The rest are currently at various stages of the legal process, the department said.

The department, however, did not provide details on the nature of the offences, or the outcome of the court cases.

Media reports of some of the seven cases relate to the zoo being in possession of animals without the requisite permits.

As a result of these cases, animals have been seized from the zoo, among them a baby elephant, two slow lorises, a baby wild boar and an unspecified number of pythons and storks.

The most shocking case was a raid on June 11, 2008, that unearthed 19 tiger cub carcasses in a freezer in the zoo.

Perhilitan, in a statement, said genetic sampling of 10 of the 19 carcasses showed that they were hybrid species, attesting that they were cubs bred in the zoo and not from the wild.

The zoo keeper explained that the carcasses were accumulated over a period of at least three years.

"We inform Perhilitan of every tiger birth and death. The carcasses are kept until Perhilitan comes to check."

On the high mortality of tiger cubs, the keeper said: "They died from the cold during the rainy season or because their mothers were not good at taking care of them. But we have improved now. There are fewer cubs dying."

As to the raids, he said that there had been 11 since 2003.

"I am not sure about the progress of the court cases."

The zoo is one of three facilities that caught the attention of NatureAlert, an organisation based in Britain that fights for the welfare and protection of orang utan.

It sent its observation report on the facilities to Perhilitan last month, and is awaiting a response on action to be taken by the department.

In its report, a copy of which was made available to The Star, NatureAlert director Sean Whyte questioned the inhumane and filthy living conditions of the pair of orangutan at the facility, which he believed contravened at least two provisions of wildlife law.

The report cautioned that the zoo was a potential breeding ground for zoonotic diseases that not only threatened the animals but also zoo visitors.

It further queried the perceived immunity enjoyed by the zoo management despite the string of offences.

It pointed to Section 44 (1) of the Wildlife


Radio Gibbon

Concern as elephant takes turn for worse

CONCERN is growing for the future of one of Paignton Zoo's most popular animals.

Elephant experts from around the world are helping zoo staff as they fight to save Gay the 40-year-old Asian jumbo, who has abscesses on her feet and suspected arthritis and has been on strong painkillers for months.

The zoo fears it is running out of choices as her condition worsens.

A zoo spokesman: "She is having the very best care, we are pulling out all the stops, no expense spared and no stone left unturned."

Four-tonne Gay, formerly a circus animal, came from Longleat Safari Park in 1977.

The zoo has called on vets and elephant experts from across the globe including zoos at Marwell, San Diego in California, Twycross, Chester, Whipsnade, Woburn Safari Park and Dublin Zoo, as well as vets from Nottingham and Bristol to discuss techniques for treating abscesses.

Neil Bemment, zoo curator of mammals, said: "Gay has taken a turn for the worse in recent weeks.

"We bought special boots to keep her feet cleaner during treatment but she has become less tolerant of these and has not been wearing them.

"She has been on painkillers for several months but there were signs that she was in greater discomfort.

"We have now put her on morphine for more effective pain relief but this is not a long-term solution.

"Welfare is always our first priority — with Gay it is a growing concern.

"We are considering our options. While the morphine is working well, she now has abscesses on all four feet and the suspected arthritis is incurable


Hawaii bringing back endangered birds

Hana Hou” in Hawaiian means, “one more time,” or “encore.” It can be heard in the islands after a concert or any other performance – like the hula. It is also the name of Hawaiian Airlines in–flight magazine suggesting you visit Hawaii “one more time.” Hana Hou is my favorite in–flight magazine. Every issue contains an article on the islands’ natural history. Birds are frequent subjects and I suspect the editor, Michael Shapiro, is a birdwatcher. On our latest trip, there were articles on birds in both the January and February issues.


Dallas Zoo says response to gorilla escape was by the book

For the past few years, the gorillas at the Dallas Zoo have behaved themselves. They're smart, and they're curious. The big apes are even being taught the names of their body parts so they can undergo routine checkups without leaving their wire enclosures.

"We're teaching the gorillas to come to the mesh and present an ear for a temperature probe or present a hip for a shot," said Gregg Hudson, the zoo's executive director.

But sometimes the oversized primates are too smart and curious for their own good. They watch their keepers' every move, noticing when someone leaves a door or gate open that promises them a quick trip to freedom.

That's what happened Feb. 13.

It was the fourth time in 11 years that a gorilla has escaped its confines at the Dallas Zoo. In comparison, one or more gorillas have escaped from a dozen other zoos around the world since the mid-1980s, The Dallas Morning News found.

"Gorillas are not more prone to escape than other primates," said Jane T.R. Dewar, who has studied apes for decades and operates Gorilla Haven, a sanctuary in Georgia.

"Chimps, monkeys and orangutans are more curious, whereas gorillas are more laid back," she said. "It also depends on the motivation for a gorilla to escape. Was it just because there was a chance to escape, or because there was something the gorilla wanted?"

Last month's escape at the Dallas Zoo occurred when a keeper was trying to clean a "community room," where gorillas hang out when they aren't on public display.

The keeper, who was not identified, was preoccupied with gathering her cleaning tools and didn't notice the two gorillas sitting high up on a ledge inside the two-story pen. She unlocked the door to the room, turned away and, by the time she looked back, one of the gorillas was walking down the hallway.

The escapee was 19-year-old Tufani, a 180-pound female described as having the temperament of a "sweet girl." She was just taking a little stroll – outside her cage.

The zoo's immediate response followed the textbook for dealing with dangerous animals that manage to get out of their cages, zoo officials said.

A "code red" alarm was sounded throughout


Questions raised about Birmingham’s nature reserves and aquariums

The Captive Animals’ Protection Society (CAPS) have criticised nature reseves and aquariums like the West Midlands Safari Park and Birmingham Sea Life Centre for the captivity and treatment of the animals they keep.

The Manchester based organisation commented after the recent death of trainer Dawn Brancheau at Seaworld in Florida, that it was a ‘consequence of the way that people have close contact with wild animals in captivity’.

The society who have campaigned in Birmingham before to put a stop to the National Cage & Aviary Birds Exhibition at the NEC told us that ‘Since 1990 over 200 people worldwide have been injured or killed by elephants in zoos, circuses and other captive environments’.

What the WDCS do

According to the Birmingham Sealife Centre website they have been working in partnership with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) to stop whaling and claim to be ‘working together to make the world a better place’.

Laura Stansfield from the society explained that they work towards completely banning captivity due to the breeding, transfer’s whales and dolphins go through and the way they are kept.

This is because whales are as intelligent as humans and have very complex brains, so being cooped up in barren tanks causes stress


Breeding and research center of Iranian cheetahs

There is only tens of critically endangered Asiatic cheetahs in Iran which are protected in a semi-captive breeding and research center in the eastern Province of Semnan. Approximately 12,400 cheetahs remain in the wild in twenty-five African countries; Namibia has the most, with about 2,500.


China buys up African rhinos ‘to farm for horn’

RHINOS, among the world’s most endangered and iconic animals, are being farmed on Chinese wildlife reserves in order to harvest their horns, a report by international conservation monitors has suggested.

The monitors have found that China has imported 141 live white rhino from South Africa since 2000, far more than is needed for tourism purposes.

They have also gathered evidence that the aim of the purchases is to set up rhino farms.

"The suspicion is that these rhinos are being aggregated into herds and farmed for their horns, which are valued for medicinal purposes,” said Tom Milliken of Traffic, the wildlife trade monitoring


Don't think coral is something found only in tropical waters

Conserving the planet's coral is a significant issue for people around the world. Some people in the Northwest see it as an issue unrelated to them. Commonly, people tend to associate coral and coral reefs only with warm, tropical waters. But some coral species live right here in the much colder, local waters of Puget Sound, bringing the issue a lot closer to home.

Among the coral species found in Puget Sound are Orange Cup, Sea Strawberry, Pale Soft Coral and Sea Fan.

Coral structures look like plants, but are actually groups of small, individual animals that live together in a colony. Corals, along with animals like sea anemones and jellyfish, belong to a group of animals, called Cnidaria, known to sting their prey. They also get food from algae living inside them. The algae make their own food from sunlight, just like a houseplant, and help feed the coral with the food they’ve made.

Coral colonies come in two basic types: hard or soft.

Hard corals secrete a calcium skeleton


Hopping to it to preserve the rare mountain yellow-legged frog

Researchers' efforts to breed more of the California amphibians include refrigerating them to mimic their winter hibernation.

Some like it hot. Apparently, the endangered mountain yellow-legged frog is not among them.

The 3-inch-long amphibians much prefer it cold as melting snow. So conservationists at the San Diego Zoo have placed two dozen of the nearly extinct frogs in refrigerators they joshingly refer to as "Valentine's Day retreats" in hopes the amphibians will emerge with the urge. To mate, that is.

The big chill at the zoo's Institute for Conservation Research represents one of the nation's most ambitious wildlife reintroduction experiments.

If it is successful, the frogs could produce upward of 6,000 tadpoles next month -- all of them scheduled for a spring homecoming in a remote San Jacinto


The five-year race to save India's vanishing tigers

With some conservationists claiming only 800 tigers still live in the wild, radical steps are needed if the species isn't to disappear from India within five years

The poachers perch on the rough platforms they have built in the trees about 15 feet above the forest floor, waiting patiently for the tiger to come. They have been searching the forests of India's Ranthambhore reserve for days, following the pug marks and other tell-tale signs. When they found the fresh kill, they knew it would only be a matter of time before the tiger returned to eat. Working quickly, they placed their traps on the path, scattering small stones across the dry sandy soil, knowing that tigers hate to walk on them and will pick their way around if they can.

The tiger pads forward, guided by the stones into the trap, which springs shut with a snap. The poachers have fashioned the device from old car suspension plates; there are no teeth, because a damaged pelt will fetch less money. In pain and desperate to free itself, the tiger thrashes around. Another foot catches in another trap, then a third.

The poachers watch to make sure it cannot free itself, then edge down to the ground, still cautious, because a male Bengal tiger can weigh up to 500lb (227kg) and a female 300lb (136kg) and a single blow from those claws could kill a man. One man carries a bamboo stick into which he has poured molten lead to give it more weight. The other has a spear on the end of a 10ft pole. As the tiger opens its mouth, the poacher with the spear lunges forward, stabbing between its open jaws. As the blood starts to flow, he stabs again and again. His colleague



Recently, a research team from Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE) and park staff from Royal Manas National Park (RMNP) confirmed the recording a new mammal species inBhutan. No record exists of any ferret badger (Melogale Species) sighted so far in the Kingdom and this is the first record for Bhutan. The colouration suggests that this species is the small-toothed ferret badger (Melogale moschata), but the team is conducting further research to make a definitive identification of the species. This small dark grey carnivore has a black bandit’s mask on its face, paler or white lips, chin, throat, belly, and inner legs. It has a dorsal white streak that starts on its head


Tigers chase zoo keepers into pool

On first glance, it appears as if a group of unsuspecting swimmers are about to become a tiger's lunch.

But despsite appearances, the picture actually shows the animal playing with zoo keepers in a pool.

Used to human contact, the tigers play a harmless game of chase with their trainers around the pool edge before diving into the water.

Although they look ferocious, the animals don't protract their claws, so no harm comes to their trainers as they tussle in the water.

The game involving six Bengal and Siberian tigers has become a popular attraction at the Africa Wildlife Park, in Camp Verde, Arizona, in the US.

Kathleen Reeder, 52, a wildlife photographer who captured the images, said: "The show starts with about three to five keepers coming into the pool area with the tigers.

"The tigers walk and run around the pool area, showing love and affection for their keepers by rubbing


Noah's Ark plans for elephants

A ZOO farm in Wraxall is hoping some new residents will lumber in to the attraction early next year.

Noah's Ark Zoo Farm has applied to North Somerset Council for permission to build a seven acre outdoor elephant enclosure to house a minimum of three adult elephants.

The enclosure will include a water pool, sand pit, acres of pasture and a heated house.

Staff plan to acquire African or Asian rescue elephants in need of a good home.

If permission is granted building work will hopefully start later this


No signs of cruelty at PATA zoo

Online social networks have joined forces to call for Bangkok's Pata Pinklao Shopping Mall to provide better living conditions for Bua Noi, a 25-year-old female gorilla.

The mall has been defending itself by inviting these Internet surfers to come and see things for themselves, and has also revealed that Dusit Zoo is planning to bring more gorillas over from Belgium.

After observing the comments on websites such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as forwarded e-mails, The Nation decided to visit Pata Zoo.

This writer saw parents and children being allowed to take pictures with Bua Noi, provided they kept the flash off.

The cage was kept clean, with carers hosing it down regularly - contrary to the allegations on the Net.

Bua Noi lives in a 10-by-10-metre air-conditioned cage, with the sunroof sometimes being opened when the weather is nice.

During the three-hour-long observation, Bua Noi was mostly seen sitting still, dozing off or sometimes snacking from the food tray.

Every time she saw a carer walk past, the gorilla looked excited as if she had caught sight of a parent, though she banged her chest to mark her territory when a stranger was sighted.

Every time the television in the hallway was turned on, the gorilla looked closely with great interest.

Pata Zoo director Khanit Sermsirimongkol said the veterinarians and carers were always at hand, and that the zoo's other gorilla, Bua Na, had been well taken care of. Bua Na died of old age when he turned 50.

These calls for giving Bua Noi a better life are nothing new.

The protests began two or three years ago but things went quiet after Pata Zoo proved that no animals were being tortured.

Khanit said a former employee, who wanted to get back at Pata after being fired over embezzlement charges, had released the false allegations and doctored photographs.

He said allegations that Bua Noi was tortured so much that she cried were not credible because monkeys and gorillas cannot cry.

In addition, he said, people making these allegations had never actually visited the zoo.

Khanit added that Dusit Zoo was planning to bring over more gorillas from Belgium to breed and therefore Pata Zoo would be given a chance to learn more about proper care for the animals.

However, a 37-year-old visitor, who visits the zoo often and wanted to only be identified as Kae, said though the cages were clean, they were rather small.

She also said Bua Noi was not as big and cheerful as she used to be, and that other animals were also confined in small cages.

She advised they be housed in a greener and bigger area.

Veterinarian Panthep Rattanakorn from Mahidol University said more disease-prevention measures should be adopted for


Roadside zoo comes under national scrutiny

If you've never stopped to go behind the pink fence and take a look inside the Collins Zoo on Highway 49, let the Humane Society of the United States become your eyes. The group conducted an undercover investigation at the zoo, planting an associate there under the guise of a volunteer.

"A 28-day operation at which time they allegedly found some serious discrepancies in the care of the animals, sanitary conditions and public safety," says Jim Walker with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

Their video reveals exotic animals in small enclosures and muddy conditions. Some of the animals are limping, others are pouncing at each other. A lion's ribs are protruding in the video.

The Humane Society of the United States says it also videotaped venomous snakes in an unmanned room that were housed in a manner that could put visitors at risk.

Also, the creatures do not appear to be kept in double


SPCA filing charges against Mountain View zoo

After winning its war this week to obtain a report on a giraffe death at the Mountain View Conservation Centre, the B.C. SPCA is now filing criminal animal-cruelty charges against the zoo.

Since December, three Masai giraffes have died at the rare-species centre in Fort Langley.

In early December, a four-year-old giraffe and a six-week-old named Gemma died during a cold snap. On Feb. 5, a nine-year-old male named Jerome died after being sedated for a hoof-trimming procedure.

The SPCA ordered Jerome's "dramatically overgrown hoofs" to be trimmed in late November, but Mountain View was not adequately equipped to complete the operation, which resulted in the tragedy, said Eileen Drever, senior animal protection officer for the SPCA.

Mountain View's management had previously co-operated with the SPCA in releasing results of the four-year-old giraffe's necropsy or animal autopsy.

But zoo vet Dr. Bruce Burton was advised not to pass over Jerome's death report, Drever said. Thursday, the SPCA successfully executed a warrant to obtain the report. "Jerome's hoofs were neglected, [Mountain View management] failed to trim the hoofs back and they failed to provide us with a copy of the necropsy report," Drever said Thursday. "We were successful in getting this warrant, and as a result we have enough evidence to present a charge to Crown counsel next week."

Marcie Moriarty, head of the B.C. SPCA's cruelty-investigations department, said charges will be filed under both the Criminal Code and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals act.

Shawn Eccles, B.C. SPCA's chief animal protection officer, said the maximum penalty for an animal-cruelty charge under the code is a five-year prison term or a $10,000 fine. Under the act, the maximum is six months in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Gordon Blankstein, Mountain View's


Zoo conducts experiment on preserving Va. state bat

From the outset, the National Zoo said, it knew it was risky to work with the Virginia big-eared bat, the odd-looking winged creature that happens to be Virginia's state bat.

But looking for a way to help the species survive a disease threat, the zoo set up quarters for 40 of the animals at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va. The idea was to learn how to keep at least some of the bats alive in case wild populations were devastated.

But efforts to maintain the big-eared bats in confinement "have proved challenging," and only 11 remain alive, the zoo said Friday.

A big problem was getting the animals to eat.

Normally, the big-eared bats dine in flight, picking juicy insects out of the air. In the experiment, some bats learned to eat mealworms (insect larva) from pans. But even some of them failed to thrive.

"They stress easily and do not do well in captivity," said Jeremy Coleman, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a sponsor of the Zoo's project.

In recent years, some wild


UW student group tries to stop tiger show

A UW-Madison law school student group is trying to stop a Wisconsin Dells resort from continuing to use tigers in a magic show and from building a hotel lobby habitat for the animals.

Law school student Roxie Rewolinski of the University's chapter of the animal legal defense fund said animal handler Mark Schoebel, the man who provides the Chula Vista resort with the white, Siberian tigers has a checkered history. Schoebel pleaded guilty in the nineties in a federal case involving Schoebel's provision of black bears for slaughter. In the 1999 book, Animal Underworld: Inside America's Black Market for rare and exotic species, author Alan Green and the Center for Public Integrity cite several instances of animal trafficking and questionable animal care by Schoebel.

"Mark Schoebel does not take animal welfare into consideration," Rewolinski told WKOW27 News.

Rewolinski also said preliminary plans for the construction of the animal habitat at the resort involve too small a space by animal care standards if housing more than one tiger.

Rewolinski is circulating a campus petition to try to stop the tigers' presence at the resort.

Chula Vista chief executive officer Mark Kaminski has told 27 News safety and proper care of the show's tigers are paramount, and has praised Schoebel's animal handling.

Wisconsin department of agriculture, trade and consumer protection spokesperson Donna Gilson told 27 News on March 1st state officials had referred an investigation into Schoebel's activities to Marquette County district attorney Richard DuFour and asked for Schoebel's prosecution. Gilson said one of the investigation's findings was Schoebel "illegally imported a tiger and a moose."

But late Thursday, Gilson revised


Korkeasaari Zoo’s Escaped Wolverine Found

A wolverine that escaped from Helsinki's Korkeasaari on Monday has been safely recovered some six kilometres south of the facility.

Large snowdrifts aided the male wolverine in its escape. Patrols searched for the escaped creature, advising the public it was no threat to humans.

The wolverine in question is already an elderly


Man Arrested For Causing Disturbances at Zoo

Zoo officials say the man has psychiatric problems

Police in Washington, D.C. arrested a man who was trespassing on the grounds of The National Zoo Saturday afternoon.

Kevin Brandon Wright of 16th Street NW was acting in a disorderly manner outside the elephant enclosure that has been closed for a multi-million dollar renovation, a source said. He was then escorted out of the park by zoo park police.

It's not clear what the dispute was about, but the man "never actually entered the elephant house," as was first reported, Lindsay Renick Mayer, a public affairs specialist for the zoo told NBC4.

Wright, 28, then returned to the zoo and was creating a disturbance near the Cheetah Conservation Station, according


Zoo review

The city and zoo are considering privatization.

Tulsa is joining other cities in considering the growing trend of privatizing the management of their zoos.

"There is a reason such a large percentage of accredited zoos are doing this," said Susan Neal, the mayor's director of community development.

Those reasons, she said, are to make the zoos more efficient, better able to respond to customer wants and needs, and other marketing trends.

"There also is no doubt that cities go this route with their government-owned assets because of budget issues," she said.

Neal said Mayor Dewey Bartlett is committed to the process and the opportunity to determine whether "we can have private management that will allow the


Pet shop manager caught stealing penguin from Japanese zoo

A pet shop manager has been caught attempting to steal a penguin from a zoo in southern Japan.

A security guard at the Nagasaki Bio Park noticed Akira Honda, 24, ushering the Humboldt Penguin into his suitcase in January. According to the zoo, the penguin is worth about Y400,000 (£2,960).

Mr Honda told police that he had run up debts which he intended to pay off by selling the creature to a collector.


Nature is zoo's pest control (Great Article - Peter)

Misty Minar descends the steps below the Amazonia rain forest exhibit at Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden and opens a refrigerator, reaching into its 44-degree coolness to lift a small, round container.

"There are about 50 ladybugs in here," said Minar, a horticulturist and caretaker for Amazonia where 270 animals and about 5,000 plants coexist in humid comfort.

Actually, there are a lot more residents inside Amazonia if you include the good, the


Zoo Breeding Beach Mice To Help Ecosystem

Brevard County Zoo officials say over the last three years, the zoo has spent roughly $50,000 working to breed Perdido Key beach mice. The zoo started this project in 2007.

Eighty of the mice call the zoo their home.

Experts say devastating storms, feral cats and land development are main reasons why there are not too many mice in existence.

They live in sand, and help with the growth of sea oats, which are plants that help the dunes.

Zoo leaders say these beach mice are vital to dune development, which ultimately protects the beaches and the homes and businesses that surround them.

"When you take out the mice, you are taking out a species that spreads seed,” said Michelle Smurl, Director of


Cruelty in zoos

Cruelty towards animals is all too common in Pakistan. Across the country we can see dogs with gaping head wounds inflicted by people who consider it normal behaviour to stone feral canines. Donkeys and other beasts of burden are beaten mercilessly, and even pet animals are sometimes subjected to the harshest of treatment.

But the savagery doesn’t end there. Zoos are supposed to be a refuge for animals, especially those on the list of threatened or endangered species. The modern concept of a zoo envisages an environment where animals whose numbers are dwindling in the wild are protected, and perhaps bred, in surroundings that resemble their natural habitats. Instead, what we get in Pakistan is the imprisonment of animals in conditions that are cruel and degrading.

As this paper highlighted on Monday, the situation is particularly alarming in ‘mini zoos’ such as the one located in Karachi’s Korangi area. There is simply no justification for these woebegone institutions when the authorities concerned cannot even address the pitiful conditions prevailing at the city’s main zoological garden. There and in other ‘zoos’ in Karachi, many animals tend to be malnourished and diseased, and are mistreated by staff and visitors alike.

Elsewhere in the country too, zoo animals die in mysterious circumstances in the absence of adequate care by staff and prompt treatment by


Deadly Australian snake bites man in face twice

A snake-handler was bitten twice in the face by a deadly Australian brown snake Tuesday, as experts warned people to avoid the reptiles, which have emerged from hiding amid warm weather and rain.

The 38-year-old man was recovering in hospital after the eastern brown bit him on the forehead and nose at his home in Aberdeen in the Hunter Valley north of Sydney, an ambulance spokesman said.

Jane Melville, a snake expert with Museum Victoria, said the face was an unusual place to be attacked by a snake.

"There are situations where people need to handle snakes with their hands of course, but I would say it is unusual to have a snake near your face," she told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"Often professional snake handlers are careful and take precautions in what they're doing."

Meanwhile, a woman was in a serious but stable condition after being bitten by an unidentified snake in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney also on Tuesday.

She was the eighth person to have been bitten


Reintroduction of Cheetahs

The Government will conduct detailed surveys and analysis to ascertain habitat suitability, etc. for reintroduction of cheetah in the country. So far, no decision on reintroduction of Cheetah in India has been taken. A consultative meeting on Cheetah reintroduction in India was held in Gajner, Rajasthan during last September. Wildlife Trust of India organized it in collaboration with other conservation organizations including International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and International Cheetah experts, apart from Central and State Government officials.

No Cheetahs have been imported from any country for the purpose of reintroduction in wild. However, four numbers of African Cheetahs (2 male and 2 female) were acquired by the Sakkarbaug Zoo at Junagarh, Gujarat on 29th March 2009 from Singapore Zoological Gardens, Singapore, under the ‘Zoo-to- Zoo Animal Exchange Programme’. There are no reports


Sea lions killed for eating too many salmon

Wildlife officials have tried everything to keep sea lions from eating endangered salmon, dropping bombs that explode under water and firing rubber bullets and bean bags from shotguns and boats. Now they are resorting to issuing death sentences to the most chronic offenders.

A California sea lion last week became the first salmon predator to be euthanized this year under a program that has been denounced by those who say there are far greater dangers to salmon — including the series of hydroelectric dams on the Columbia.

This is the second year of the program, which is administered by wildlife officials in Oregon and Washington and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Last year, 11 sea lions were euthanized. Another four were transferred to zoos or aquariums.

The sea lions represent a massive headache each year as chinook salmon begin arriving at the Bonneville Dam east of Portland, congregating in large numbers as they return from the ocean. Sea lions have become keenly aware that the dam is a great spot to feast on salmon, easy pickings as they wait to go


The Killer Whale Who Kills

The death of an animal trainer in an attack by a killer whale, or orca, named Tillicum (or Shamu) at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida, has raised inevitable questions. Are these shows necessary? Did animal cruelty trigger the attack? Should trainers work with orcas in this way?

Animal-rights activists followed with pronouncements: “The attack proves that this animal led a tortured life in captivity!” “Free Tillicum!” “Close the zoos! They’re just in it for the money!” Animal exhibitors countered, “It was a freak accident.”

The questions are legitimate and SeaWorld Orlando must answer them. The pronouncements by activists and exhibitors, however, are self-serving and damage the cause of conservation.

Calls to free Tillicum infer that exhibiting killer whales is illegitimate because a trainer died. No. This tragedy had nothing to do with the ethics of putting orcas on public display for conservation education. It is an animal-handling issue.

I agreed to train Keiko, the orca, for the 1993 movie “Free Willy” because the emotional story of a whale’s journey to freedom motivated kids to care about whales, despite the fact that the film oversimplified the issue.

Ethically speaking, the use of Tillicum at SeaWorld is the same as the use of any wild animal, be it a chimp, a bat or a hippo, at any zoo.

In “Ethics on the Ark (Zoo & Aquarium Biology & Conservation),” some of the world’s foremost animal experts, including ethicists, field biologists, zoo professionals and animal rights philosophers, sought to find a consensus on the use of wild animals by man.

They reached consensus on three issues and failed on three others. One question on which they did reach consensus was that taking an animal from the wild for conservation education at zoos and aquariums is ethical.

Yet if you fail to properly care for an animal, you should not keep it.

Was Tillicum well cared for? The activists claim that the attack proved a tortured existence doesn’t hold up. Successful reproduction is a recognized measure of animal wellbeing. Tillicum sired some 13 calves, and has lived with females rearing healthy offspring for decades.

Activists also claim that animals can’t be “normal” unless they live in nature. But natural habitats constantly change. Even bees change their behavior to deal with short-term environmental change — or they die.

The craft of maintaining animals on display is based on creating “adaptive” rather than “natural” environments. Zoo professionals don’t mimic nature per se. Rather, they provide comparable opportunities for exercise, mental stimulation and social interaction.

To provide adequate care for sentient animals, like orcas, caretakers must interact with them. Studies show that training animals is enriching for them. They have to work for their food just as they do in the wild. The problem is keeping humans safe while meeting the animals’ needs.

The working assumption must be that the SeaWorld trainer’s death was no accident. Killer whales know their trainers’ tolerances. While Tillicum may not have intended to kill Dawn Brancheau, he knew he was hurting her. He did it for a reason. Why? I’ll leave that to the investigators.

But I can comment on some underlying factors. Orcas are trained using positive reinforcement (giving the animal something it wants for doing something you want). However, orcas will manipulate training in many ways. They will refuse to cooperate. They will keep other orcas from performing. They will deliberately misbehave, trying literally to train their trainers.

All this is actually healthy because it gives orcas control, something fundamental to animal well-being. It’s fun for skilled trainers, too. But sometimes, in particular with breeding male orcas, it can be dangerous.

I worked with a male orca, Orky, in the 1970s and 80s at Marineland of the Pacific in California. Orky became more dominant and aggressive as he matured sexually. While Orky never killed anyone, he came very close. We handled him safely for years afterwards in much the same way SeaWorld handled Tillicum prior to the tragedy.

The quandary is how do you let a male orca like Tillicum be a dominant, breeding bull and safely provide for his needs?

Activist groups reportedly raised $40 million to “save” Keiko, the star of “Free Willy.” In doing so, they housed him alone for years. Keiko finally died in an environment he could not adapt to. What happened to Keiko stands as a lesson of what not to do about Tillicum.

On the other hand, the continued use by zoos and circuses of elephant training methods involving physical punishment, when options for more humane handling are well established, are difficult to defend.

Zoo organizations still using these archaic techniques need to review their ethical obligations to their animals. Ethical animal display (or activism) hinges on the use of the animal and its care.

My heart goes out to a fallen comrade, Dawn Brancheau, and


Evans: After Tilly -- What about zoos?

I`m impressed, but also a little surprised, at the public reaction to the tragic killing of a Florida SeaWorld trainer who was dragged beneath the water and killed by "performing" orca Tilikum on Feb. 24. I expected an outcry more or less calling for "Tilly`s" head.

Sure, we`ve come a long way from 1916, when Mary the elephant was hanged to death for crushing the head of Red Eldridge (a true circus freak: he poked and prodded Mary into a fury); crowds at the hanging chanted, "Kill the elephant!" and newspapers called her "Mary the Murderer."

But we`re still a little insane about animals we perceive as dangerous. To this day, wolves -- which have not attacked a human (with one possible, sketchy exception) in all of recorded North American history -- are labeled by some as "vicious" killers. Pit bull terriers, as nice a breed of dog as you could find -- until vicious humans get hold of them -- are demonized all the time in the press. Sharks are in precipitous decline, not just because they taste good, but because it`s still considered acceptable to kill "cold-blooded killers."

But our reaction to the Tilly tragedy was impressive. There were immediate calls to spare the whale`s life; big-hearted, if misguided, demands that he be set free, Hollywood style; and outrage over confining him in insanely unnatural conditions for the purposes of a few human giggles.

And why not? The real villain in this tragedy is jailing an orca and demanding that he perform tricks for his supper.

"Keeping a whale like Tilly in an aquarium is like putting a goldfish in a cup," except that the whale has powerful emotions and cognitive ability, says Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus at the University of Colorado, Boulder and one of the world`s experts in animal emotions.

Whales and dolphins, which use sonar to navigate, may experience life as incessant noise when confined in concrete and glass tanks. Where naturally they range over thousands of miles of open ocean, in captivity they literally can`t go anywhere.

Bekoff -- who has mellowed into a humane pragmatism over the years -- is especially opposed to captive breeding of large animals like orcas. Tilly, he notes, has sired 13 calves. As always, it`s about money.

"I think it`s safe to say SeaWorld is the equivalent of a puppy mill," he says. "It`s a whale mill."

But where the public has rallied to Tilly`s defense and called out SeaWorld for pimping such intelligent creatures for entertainment and money-grubbing breeding, many of us have not asked the next logical question: What about zoos?

Bekoff understands that zoos are likely to be with us always. But the benefits of zoos often pitched by zoos are often specious.

Education? Conservation values? In his latest book, "The Animal Manifesto" (New World Library, $14.95), Bekoff points out that the Association of Zoos and Aquariums itself has not been able to show that visiting zoos educates visitors in conservation. Just 4 percent of visitors to Scotland`s largest zoo said they went there to be educated. It`s all about entertainment.

With the heart-stopping quality and beauty of video today (e.g. the gorgeous series "Earth" ), Bekoff says, "what you can see is just as likely to instill awe and imagination, desire to study and learn about conservation."

And while many of us think living in a zoo is pretty keen -- free food, no predators, free health care -- it`s not, especially for large animals and carnivores. Tatiana the tiger, who leapt from her enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo in December 2007, attacking three men (who were, it should be noted, taunting her) and killing one, had been documented by zoo staff as "frantic for food." No wonder: her "rations" had been cut progressively over the years from 42 pounds a week to 32; she had dropped from 292 pounds to


In a better world, we wouldn't keep animals in captivity

I'm 10 years old and it's my first visit to a zoo. My parents and I walk past cages full of fascinating animals for several hours. At one of our stops my Dad points out the biggest rat I'd ever seen peacefully lumbering around in its enclosure.

”He weighs about 100 pounds,” Dad said, “which means he's heavier than you.” That sobered me up quick. As he talked about the capybara, I moved closer to the cage and came eye-to-eye with one of the big rascals.

What I saw was sorrow. A longing for home. “They can be found in Panama, Columbia, Venezuela, Peru...” Dad droned on, but his words were lost in my growing sadness.

I never went to a zoo again. I don't criticize others who enjoy going to the zoo. I understand they are entitled to their views. Most children love to see real animals; especially the exotic ones. So do curious adults.

A natural offshoot of zoos are the entertainment parks featuring wild animals doing tricks for the delight of an audience. Sea World Orlando is famous for its killer whale (orca) shows.

There is a dark side to using wild animals for entertainment purposes. Sometimes, as recently happened, animals kill their trainers. When a 40-year-old trainer at Sea World Orlando was drowned by a massive 12,000-pound killer whale named Tilikum, an old controversy came to the forefront.

”Humans trying to incarcerate orcas or elephants or any type of large brain o


None for the show

Killer whale performances are breathtaking, remarkable -- and sadly out of step with the times.

Like just about anyone with the ability to say, "Ooh! Aah!," we've gotten a kick out of watching those strikingly marked, black-and-white cetaceans leaping and waving and splashing in response to human commands at marine amusement parks. We've marveled at their size when we've gotten a close-up look through the clear walls of their tanks.

But it's time for the killer whale show to end, or at least to prepare for its final splash once the orcas in captivity today have died. In an era when society is growing more aware of the need for humane zoo enclosures for elephants -- if they should be enclosed in zoos at all, a question that hasn't been resolved -- we're still complicit in turning killer whales into circus animals, confining them to tanks that barely register as swimming space compared with the 100 miles a day they roam in the wild and that don't even pretend to mimic their natural habitat. Many a goldfish gets a better break.

The recent death of a trainer at SeaWorld Orlando, though tragic, isn't the reason to call for a halt to the performances by animals that are by nature wild, not domesticated. Dawn Brancheau surely realized that her chosen and beloved career carried inherent dangers. She, like her colleagues, found the rewards worth the risk.

It also would be a mistake to believe unquestioningly the would-be killer whale whisperers on both sides of the debate who claim to understand the thoughts, feelings and actions of Tilikum, the 12,000-pound male that pulled Brancheau into the water by her ponytail. He's a genetically cruel man-killer, some say, because he caused two earlier deaths. Others say he was just playing, not realizing the game was deadly. Or that he was "distracted" or "irritated" by the ponytail. Or his apparent attack was a sign of stress and anger. A conservative Christian blogger argued that all of this would have been avoided had SeaWorld followed the precepts of the Bible and, at least metaphorically, stoned the killer whale to death a long time ago.

These statements are as presumptuous as SeaWorld's assertion that the performances featuring Tilikum and other orcas show that its trainers have a “close relationship” with the animals, which are forced to depend on their keepers for food, space and mental stimulation.

The name of the show is "Believe," and frankly, it's hard to do, despite the heightened conservation theme. The trainers might well love the animals and care for them assiduously; what the orcas make of the whole thing, humans can never fully fathom. We certainly don't believe that intelligent, social animals that ordinarily live in free-swimming, free-hunting pods spanning familial generations are well served by their artificially manipulated lives as performers. The data don't back up the implied SeaWorld message that the killer whales are eager, happy collaborators


Bible ignored, trainer dies

You are aware by now that a 12,000 pound killer whale at SeaWorld Orlando killed his trainer Dawn Brancheau yesterday by pulling her into a pool and dragging her around until she drowned, in front of a crowd of stunned guests.

Chalk another death up to animal rights insanity and to the ongoing failure of the West to take counsel on practical matters from the Scripture.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, "SeaWorld Orlando has always know that Tillikum...could be a particularly dangerous killer whale...because of his ominous history."

The Sentinel then recounts that Tilly, as he was affectionately known, had killed a trainer back in 1991 in front of spectators at a now defunct aquarium in Victoria, British Columbia.

Then in 1999 he killed a man who sneaked into SeaWorld to swim with the whales and was found the next morning draped dead across Tilly's back. His body had been bit and the killer whale had torn off his swimming trunks after he had died.

What about the term "killer whale" do SeaWorld officials not understand?

If the counsel of the Judeo-Christian tradition had been followed, Tillikum would have been put out of everyone's misery back in 1991 and would not have had the opportunity to claim two more human lives.

Says the ancient civil code of Israel, "When an ox gores a man or woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner shall not be liable." (Exodus 21:28)

So, your animal kills somebody, your moral responsibility is to put that animal to death. You have no moral culpability in the death, because you didn't know the animal was going to go postal on somebody.

But, the Scripture soberly warns, if one of your animals kills a second time because you didn't kill it after it claimed its first human victim, this time you die right along with your animal. To use the example from Exodus, if your ox kills a second time, "the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death." (Exodus 21:29)

If I were the family of Dawn Brancheau, I'd sue the pants off SeaWorld for allowing this killer whale to kill again after they were well aware of its violent history.

SeaWorld is apparently, however, unrepentant. Chuck Thompson, its curator in charge of animal behavior, says Tilly continues to be "a valuable asset not only from a breeding standpoint but from a behavior standpoint, too." Chuck might want to ask Dawn's Mom what she thinks about that.

Thompson did add, helpfully, "I think we


The Ethics of Keeping Whales and Dolphins Captive

In February 1984, there was a workshop on "Animals on Display: Educational and Scientific Impact" held at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. In it, the AAZPA's Ethics and Law Working Group considered the ethics of keeping animals in captivity. The group, which included representatives from marine parks and Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute, acknowledged a "special responsibility to preserve and respect animals as part of the natural environment" and a "moral obligation" to show "compassion and humane treatment to animals in captivity."

Its report said: "Those who work with captive animals in aquariums and zoos have a special obligation to convey knowledge of the natural world to the public, to interpret the lives of animals accurately .. to portray animals as they are, to display animals under conditions that, so far as possible, allow them to behave naturally, and to offer them adequate social contact, ideally with others of their species. In addition, a workable ethic for the treatment of animals in captivity must include a requirement to provide appropriate space, nutrition, and health care."

The group felt that if "bringing animals into captivity .. causes adverse effects, these effects, on balance, are outweighed by such benefits as enhancement of human appreciation for all animals, conservation of species, and advancement of knowledge." But then, they took their views a step further, trying to pre-empt any possible argument: "Some people contend that it is morallv wrong to remove animals from the wild and hold them in captivity, either because they believe that some animals have evolved sufficiently to acquire rights equivalent to those recognized for human beings, or because they believe animals are severely harmed by life in captivity ... These beliefs are not currently supported by sufficient scientific evidence. Consequently, they do not provide a factual basis for an overriding moral objection to displaying animals in captivity."

The AAZPA statement, however, misses the whole point of a moral or ethical view, which is that is a matter of belief. There is no need for facts, only a true conviction. The AAZPA panel and other marine park proponents have a right to their beliefs, too, but they cannot disprove those who disagree with them.

The AAZPA workshop was partly a response to the "Whales Alive" conference (Global Conference on the Non-Consumptive Utilisation of Cetacean Resources) held at the New England Aquarium in Boston in June 1983. Whales Alive was attended by a wide group of whale researchers and environmentalists, as well as those affiliated with marine parks and aquariums. Consensus could not be reached on the moral issue, but participants came up with a number of recommendations, suggesting better standards for captive cetacea and further research into the possible effects of capture. A report of the conference noted that captivity for cetaceans would need "to be continually reviewed in the light of ... future research findings, aquarium experience and changing public sentiments." Yet in the end, the conference resolutions suggested: "Efforts should be made to bring to an end, in due course, the keeping of cetaceans in captivity."

Since then, at an April 1990 "Earth Week" symposium held in Ottawa, Canada, entitled "Whales In Captivity: Right or Wrong?", participants drawn from marine parks, as well as whale scientists and environmentalists, sought greater understanding and dialogue on the issues. But, after a day with some fierce arguing, they came up with no consensus.

In July 1990, as the issue became more polarized, the Bellerive Symposium on Whales and Dolphins in Captivity, met in Geneva. There were no marine park owners or curators in attendance, no one arguing in favour of keeping whales and dolphins captive. The Chairman's conclusions: "Whales and dolphins are self-aware beings that routinely make decisions and choices about the details of their lives. They are entitled to freedom of choice. Thus, they are entitled to freedom. Imprisoning them in captivity is, quite simply, wrong."

The greatest impact of this view - in changing the rules and regulations about keeping cetaceans captive - came in the state of Victoria, Australia where, in 1985, all further capture of cetaceans was banned. At the national level in Australia, the


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Hello Peter

Thanks for the various links on Zoo News regarding the sad events at SeaWorld last week. Knowing a number of people at SeaWorld it is all the more shocking.

My take on it from what I can understand from various comments was that this was human error. This whale is a breeding bull and SeaWorld have always had a policy of not going the water with him. It seems that the trainer was actually laying down next the animal on an underwater shelf when he grabbed her hair. There is an interesting comment from Thad Lacinak who up until a couple of years ago was the Director of Training – I know Thad and he does know his stuff. He comments: “Sometimes we get too comfortable working with these animals. Sometimes we forget what they are”. Very true.


Of course, once “Tillikum” had her the water he behaved like lots of predatory animals do; I have heard enough stories from old circus big cat trainers that many attacks take place when trainers have fallen or tripped over in the ring and the sight of them on the floor can sometime be a hard-wired trigger for a cat to attack and I suspect something similar is going on here. As this whale had no experience of humans in the water with him in a controlled setting his behaviour is hardly surprising.

I think that the staff and facilities at SeaWorld are excellent although on a personal note I admit I am not a big fan of some of the kissing and hugging that some SeaWorld trainers do. Yes cetaceans do like tactile stimulation but you have to careful. On the other hand it does make my blood boil when you hear people like PETA etal speak with such affirmed authority when basically they know nothing.

As to releasing him. That’s not going to happen. “Keiko” was a failure. See my page regarding this and also the link to the paper in ‘Marine Mammal Science’ – very interesting.


Moreover, “Keiko” was very, very docile and “Tillikum” isn’t. Can you imagine releasing this long-term captive animal which is habituate to humans – I think his current ‘death count’ would rise experdentually.

It will be interesting to see where this goes.


John Dineley

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Dear All,

As you may recall, the upcoming Annual Symposium of the European Association for Aquatic Mammals

(EAAM - http://www.eaam.org/ ) will be held in Lisbon, next week, between March 12 and 15.

The conference will be hosted by Lisbon Zoo (http://www.zoo.pt/) and will be dedicated to all disciplines of marine mammal husbandry, veterinary medicine, training, conservation, research, environmental education, display, et cetera.

This will be the first Green Conference of the EAAM and, as such, considerable changes will be implemented in the structure and dynamics of the event.

All relevant information can be obtained through the conference's website

(www.eaam2010.net/Default.htm ) and the Symposium's Committee (eaam@eaam2010.net ).

We do look forward to see you in Portugal!

On behalf of Claudia Gili, President-elect of the EAAM,

Kind regards,

Élio Vicente

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Twin Elephant Calves

(Thanks to Wayne Jackson for forwarding these photos)

Thai elephant gives birth to first known male twins
A Thai elephant has given birth to the world’s first known male twins, local media reported on Sunday.

The twin males were born to Phang Thong Khun, a 35-year-old in the north-eastern province of Surin, The Nation newspaper reported.

A crowd cheered when the twins were born about two hours apart early Saturday morning, elephant trainer Prapai Mokhorn trainer told The Nation.

The still-unnamed baby elephants are the first known male twins.

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Click HERE to order




ASZK Annual Conference

Adelaide 21-23 May 2010

The Conference will be held at Woodhouse Activity Centre, 37 Spring Gully Road Piccadilly SA. Tours include Adelaide Zoo, Monarto Zoo and Venom Supplies.

Call for papers closes 4 April 2010

Early-bird registrations close 11 April


Donate to help Siglo XXI primate rescue centre in Chile recover from Sunday's earthquake



Liverpool University Animal Conservation Society (LUCAS) - Annual Symposium
Updated Information

Take a look. There are some excellent speakers and interesting talks arranged. Well worth making the effort to attend.


The Zoo Biology Group is concerned with all disciplines involved in the running of a Zoological Garden. Captive breeding, husbandry,cage design and construction, diets, enrichment, man management,record keeping, etc etc




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Kind Regards,

Wishing you a wonderful week,

Peter Dickinson

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