Sunday, August 22, 2010

Zoo News Digest 17th - 22nd August 2010 (Zoo News 683)

Zoo News Digest 17th - 22nd August 2010 (Zoo News 683)

Peter Dickinson

Dear Colleagues,

Last year I went on and on about the International Vulture Awareness campaign. I would like to think I contributed in a small way to the number of participants taking place. The plight of wild vultures is still not fully recognised by people. They need to know. All zoos are meant to educate. Any zoo which keeps vultures/condors is duty bound to take part in making their visitors aware. Vulture Awareness Day is just a couple of weeks away. Please take part this year....IT IS NOT GOING TO COST YOU ANYTHING..... please click on the link HERE. Then click on a name in the list and see what others are doing. Please sign up now, on line and do your part. If you are a good zoo, you will. So far this year there are only 43 participants!!!!!!! (and that includes me) Which is considerably less than last year. Very few zoos on board which I think is very sad. You don't even have to have vultures....but you can make people aware. Look at what the Phoenix Zoo is doing. Check out Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, etc etc
So easy, just five minutes of your time:
  1. Click on link
  2. Click on a few internal links and see what others are doing.
  3. Decide what you are going to do
  4. Sign up. Remember it is free.
  5. Participate on September 4th and/or on other days at your convenience.
Good luck.

The Taiwanese Ligers are still making the news. I note that the Environmental and Animal Society of Taiwan are calling for ‘harsh punishment’. Okay I do believe that such a breeding is wrong but these things happen….especially when you keep closely related animals of opposite sexes together. So far, it would seem, it is only me who is calling for the cubs to be euthanased. It is the sensible way to solve the problem. Every day thousands of puppies and kittens are put quietly to sleep. These little Liger cubs should go the same way.

Cloning has been mentioned as a possibility for Scottish Wildcats. So far the loonier sections of the British media have not got hold of this story. Just a few weeks ago they learned of Cloned Beef and Milk on the British market. They went into feeding frenzy mode without fully understanding what cloning is. To them it meant genetic engineering in the ‘glow in the dark’ sense. Whereas I personally would much prefer natural breeding of domestic livestock I see nothing wrong with cloning where the gene pool is shallow.

I loved the idea of Paignton Zoos sunflowers. I had a similar idea some years ago but it never got quite off the ground. It went like this. Local visitors to the zoo and schools were invited to enter a competition. For 50 pence they were provided with 12 sunflower seeds and an official entry form. They were then in competition to grow the tallest sunflower and/or the sunflower with the biggest head. Two days prior to the competition deadline they could ring in the height and the zoo would drive out and check out the tallest three for elimination purposes. Those returning to the zoo with their sunflower heads and entry form would be given their 50 pence back. Everybody benefits, everyone has fun and the local area is ablaze with sunflowers.

I believe that Chester Zoo is being unfairly attacked by disabled campaigners. I appreciate that no-one wants to be disabled but with some people (and here they just happen to be disabled) they look for any excuse to moan. Chester Zoo has done much more than many for their disabled guests.

It is great to see the release of the Riffleshell mussel and the return of the Kihansi spray toad. Positive contributions to conservation with zoo involvement. They may not be mega fauna but are no less important.

The RSPCA seem to have got it in for elephants at the moment. Nobody is saying the situation is perfect in British Zoos but to state that “Zoo elephants 'treated as badly as intensively farmed chickens' is just plain bloody daft. Have they ever been in an intensive chicken farm? I have and I have worked with elephants and there is no comparison. The situation with elephants in the wild can be a bit dire too. It is important that zoos keep elephants and learn to keep them well. At the end of the day it may be their last hope. They have also used the word ‘cruel’ in the news stories. Zoo elephant keepers are not cruel. All those I have known and worked with loved their animals with a passion that not even dog or horse owners know.

Whilst we have the RSPCA jumping up and down I note that the CZA have very sensibly decided that some of their zoos are good enough to keep elephants. It is as I said at the time the animals were probably better off in zoos than dumped unseen in some jungle camp. It is improving the zoo facilities which is needed and not sweeping the problem under the carpet by passing it to someone else. Well done CZA.

I was right too about Surabaya Zoo. Reading between the lines in the stories last week there was a suggestion of a clash of personalities. This week the stories make that very clear. This IS the problem. The sooner they get it sorted the better. I still believe they need independent advice from the outside from zoo people.

White Tigers for Shoushan Zoo. What a waste.

Sad as the bear attack was these things are inevitable. It is always an accident waiting to happen!

I took a very rare 'time out' on Saturday night and went to see the movie 'Salt'. I had read crap reviews but thought I would give it a go anyway. I did not have a date and will not usually go to the cinema alone but I am so glad I did. Brilliant movie. Rounded the evening off with a glass of wine and 'Family Guy'.... I feel relaxed now. Building up to the next biopsy on Friday.

On the Sunday I woke with, for some odd reason, Sir Richard Burton in my mind. Not the actor (Not the actor who I especially admire especially in his reading of Dylan Thomas's 'Under Milk Wood') but the real man, the explorer Richard Burton and someone I have admired for a long time. I checked out where he was buried and took the bus there. The tomb was as I have seen in photos, in the shape of a large bedouin tent (but not like any bedouin tent I have seen) and under renovation. I was glad of this because such a great man does not need to be forgotten in a hurry.

I walked back along the Thames passing along the way the house of Gustav Holst of 'Planet Suite' fame. The wooded path alongside the river was muddy in places and well frequented by runners, joggers and cyclists. If one wasn't avoiding being bowled over by one it was to risk being knocked down by another. All trying to get fit of course. Not my way. I'd prefer to make love.

Ragwort - A reminder from Zoo News Digest in 2001

The ragwort Senecio jacobeae season is upon us once again. Plants are now in full flower all over the UK. I hope action is being taken in all collections. I have visited a number of zoos in the past few years where prime botanic specimens of ragwort figured highly amongst enclosure foliage. Within the horsey fraternity there exists a "Ragwort Awareness Week" and I reckon that something similar is essential within zoos.

It is an annual problem, and one not easily won. I believe I can honestly state that no ragwort has seeded in the Welsh Mountain Zoo's 35 acres in recent years, and yet there are as many, or more plants to deal with each summer. Apart from the risks to livestock we are obliged under the Secretary of State's Standards of Modern Zoo Practice, Section 2.3 (c) which states "any vegetation capable of harming animals must be kept out of reach".

Harmful it certainly is. It is highly toxic to equines, cattle, sheep, llamas and pigs amongst others. It does more damage to livestock within the United Kingdom than a total of all other plant poisonings.
Symptoms include weight loss, sunburn, diarrhoea, yawning, poor condition, uncoordinated movement, abnormal gait, blindness, inability to swallow, anorexia, jaundice, in some cases mania but ultimately it will lead to death.

All parts of the plant are poisonous. Some animals are more susceptible to the effects than others. Many species will ignore the green fresh growing plant but eat it when it is dry. This causes problems when weed killers are the choice for eradication. Plants that
were previously ignored are eaten with gusto as they shrivel up. More and more often it is turning up in hay. Keepers should be trained to recognise the plant within bales. Make sure you trust your hay supplier.

Perhaps the greatest worry is that effects of poisoning are not necessarily seen immediately. The liver damage can build up slowly over the years. Failure to deal with the plant now may mean a tragic loss to someone in years to come.

Although I have discussed this noxious weed within a UK context, it is a problem elsewhere too. It is found through much of Europe and Asia as well as having been introduced into South Africa, North and South America as well as New Zealand and Australia.

A single ragwort plant is capable of producing 150,000 plus seeds. Some of these seeds can remain dormant for up to twenty years. Use gloves to uproot it. Dispose of it properly. It is a formidable foe!

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Why Cute Little Liger Cubs Are So Controversial
The Taiwanese government recently confiscated some pretty cute contraband -- two newborn liger cubs. The hybrid offspring of a male lion named Simba and female tiger named Beauty were housed together in a private zoo, and now the zookeeper could be fined close to $1,600.
It's illegal to breed rare, protected animals in Taiwan, but zookeeper Huang Kuo-nan maintains that these feline lovers mated on their own.
So why are these baby ligers so controversial? Scientists and activists say that breeding hybrids shows a disregard for animal welfare and, moreover, is simply not what Mother Nature intended.
"We disagree [with] any kind of breeding program, including hybridization or intensive inbreeding, which aims only to create individuals for human attraction, especially those [that] will not exist in the natural world," Kurtis Jai-Chyi, the director of the Pingtung Rescue Center for Endangered Wild Animals at National Pingtung University of Science and Technology in Taiwan, where the ligers are being held, said in an e-mail to AOL News.
Certain animal hybrids, like the pizzly bear (a cross between a polar bear and a grizzly bear), have been known to occur in nature, but the liger is not one of them. While lions and tigers may historically have been friendly neighbors, today their geographic ranges do not even overlap.
In captivity, lions and tigers will occasionally mate, producing either ligers or tigons (hybrids of female lions and male tigers). But most liger cubs bred in captivity never make it to adulthood -- the two Taiwanese cubs had a third

Zoo keeper defends liger cubs
A private zoo keeper in Taiwan has claimed that he did not intentionally cross-breed a lion and tiger to create two liger cubs.
Huang Kuo-nan will be investigated by the authorities and faces a fine of around £1,000 if he is found guilty of breeding rare protected animals, Sky News reports.
The two cubs were the surviving offspring of the first pregnancy of African lion Simba and Bengal tigress Beauty, who have reportedly been mating for three years.
Huang said: "Usually when a lion and a tiger are kept together, they will for sure attack each other to death, but these two have been spending time together since they were small."
The cubs, which lack the ability to reproduce, are being hand-reared

Advocates urge harsh punishment for 'liger' breeder
An animal rights group on Monday called for the immediate seizure of two newborn ligers -- a hybrid of a tiger and lion -- from a private zoo in Tainan County, saying the operator should be severely punished for illegally cross-breeding two different species of protected animals.
Environmental and Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST) said Huang Kuo-nan, the owner of an educational farm, violated the Wildlife Conservation Law by allowing two types of protected animals to mate.
The group is urging the government to mete out harsh punishment on Huang, known as the "snake king, " to deter others from copying the behavior.
On Sunday, a six year-old tigress gave birth to three ligers but only two survived, according to Huang.
Kuo Yi-pin, the head of the Tainan County Government Agricultural Department, said tigers and lions are protected animals and therefore, it is illegal to artificially cross-breed the two.
The county officials are scheduled to visit the farm and will slap Huang with a NT$50,000 fine and confiscate the cubs if any legal discrepancies are found, he said.
"Cross-breeding two protected species is completely against nature. We are urging the Council of Agriculture (COA) to seize the two cubs immediately and bring Huang to real justice. A fine of NT$50,000 is a mere slap on the wrist, " said Lin Tai-jing, an EAST researcher.
Lin said a light fine of NT$50,000 is "too little to pay to legalize an illegal behavior."
"It is like paying the government for a permit to breed ligers, " she argued.
Huang, however, said he did not artificially breed the animals but

Keeping Orangutans Active-Cincinnati Zoo

Cloning technology suggested for Scottish wildcats
Cloning technology could be used to create Scottish wildcats if numbers of breeding pairs in the wild collapse.
The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland's Highland Wildlife Park confirmed the proposal was in the early stages of being discussed.
Talks have been held with the Medical Research Council's Human Reproductive Sciences Unit in Edinburgh.
A house cat-wildcat hybrid could be used to give birth to "pure wildcat kittens".
It has been estimated that 150 breeding pairs of wildcats survive in parts of the Highlands.
Disease, loss of habitat and inter-breeding with domestic cats have been blamed for devastating wild populations.
Douglas Richardson, animal collections manager at the wildlife park at Kincraig, told

Manly secret of non-mating sloth at London Zoo
Keepers at London Zoo have discovered why a male sloth seemed reluctant to mate with its arranged partner - his "girlfriend" Sheila turned out to be male.
Sheila was brought to the zoo in the hope of breeding the first two-toed sloths there for more than a century.
But the patter of tiny feet was not forthcoming and an ultrasound scan revealed why.
The sloth - a notoriously hard animal to sex - was not female.
'Very secretive'
Now Sheila has been shipped out and replaced with playful three-year-old Marylin.
And this sloth is most definitely a lady.
Senior zoo keeper Lucy Hawley said: "Two-toed sloths are very secretive creatures so we are never quite sure what they're up to but we like to encourage them to meet as often as possible.
"It would be amazing if we were to have a two-toed sloth baby at London Zoo.
"We haven't bred them

An interesting video of a Kangal Dog in with a Lion and Tigers

Paignton Zoo asks gardeners for sunflower donations
Gardeners have been asked to help feed animals at a Devon zoo, by donating home-grown flowers.
Paignton Zoo is asking people for sunflowers, which will be used to enrich the diet of its monkeys.
The nutritious seed heads from the sunflowers will also be given to agoutis and porcupines at the park.
"It's a great way for gardeners to help a wildlife charity and provide the animals with a locally-grown treat," zoo spokesman Phil Knowling said.
He said people should take their cut seed heads to the zoo by 29 September for weighing.
"Whoever brings in the largest sunflower head will win the chance to see it given to some of the animals, plus an animal adoption of your choice."
In 2006, pupils from Kingsbridge

Two more rhinos gunned down by poachers in South Africa this week
The slaughter of South Africa's rhinos continues unchecked. At least two more white rhinos fell under poachers' guns this week and their horns were removed. As many as 300 rhinos may have been felled in South Africa over the past 20 months. The following account about the latest atrocities is compiled from reports from the South African media, (Beeld) and the Zululand Observer, and a blog post by Rhishja Larson, founder and Program Director of Saving Rhinos LLC.
Two white rhinos were poached for their horns in South Africa this week, according to South African news reports and conservation organizations.
A male white rhino was struck down viciously on Wednesday morning by poachers armed with an AK-47 assault rifle. The bold attack reportedly occurred close to Masinda Camp in the iMfolozi Game Reserve--a place that is world famous for its successful restoration and conservation

Chester Zoo charges extra for disabled carers
DISABLED campaigners have locked horns with zoo officials over a controversial policy which charges them extra for their carers.
Since 2008 Chester Zoo has charged a nominal rate for the admission of carers who accompany disabled guests, following a period of consultation with other organisations across the country.
However, members of Trailblazers, a support group for people suffering from congenital muscular dystrophy, have now called on the zoo to change the rule, which they claim is “discriminatory”.
Catherine Alexander, 19, who uses a wheelchair and needs a constant carer, said she discovered the policy when she helped out with a survey to investigate tourism for disabled people.
She planned to go to Chester Zoo for a day out but

Judge boots legal action over Lucy the elephant
An Edmonton judge has punted a legal application by animal rights activists upset over the fate of Lucy the elephant.
Well-known Toronto-based lawyer Clayton Ruby argued earlier this year on behalf of Zoocheck Canada and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that the 34-year-old elephant is sick, isolated and being treated inhumanely at Edmonton's Valley Zoo, which contravenes provincial legislation.
John Rooke, associate chief justice of Court of Queen's Bench, ruled Friday that the notice filed on behalf of those groups is an abuse of the legal process and threw out the case.
He stated there is a "comprehensive legislative and regulatory scheme for the care of controlled animals in a zoo, such as Lucy."
In throwing out the argument made by the animal rights groups that there's nobody else who can bring the issue to court, Rooke said there are officials who have the "duty to take steps or lay charges when required," under provincial legislation.
Those rules also provide an "effective mechanism" to bring the issue of alleged breaches before the courts," the judge said.
A PETA spokeswoman said the ruling proves how little legal protection captive animals have in Alberta, calling it "despicable."
"This is a technical, procedural setback. But we fully intend to pursue other legal action on behalf of Lucy," said Lisa Wathne, a Seattle-based spokeswoman with the group.
She said enforcement officers in Edmonton

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Mollusk species reintroduced to Big Darby Creek
Riffleshell mussel last seen in 1990
The release of dirt-colored mussels into Big Darby Creek doesn't garner the same public adoration as a mass of tiny turtles marching into the ocean or gray wolves returning to the wild.
But biologists hope the public at least will take note of the 1,500 northern riffleshell mussels they dropped into the muddy creek bottom yesterday.
"The end goal is for boy to meet girl and make babies," said John Navarro, a program administrator for the Ohio Division of Wildlife. "We want a population that will sustain itself."
The freshwater creatures, about the size of chicken nuggets, once were prolific in Ohio. But pollution and flooded habitat killed them off and put them on state and federal

Blocked culvert floods Duluth zoo
Kingsbury Creek backed up across the street from the blocked culvert into the zoo, resulting in a washed-out bridge and the flooding of the Polar Shores exhibit’s underground area and the playground.
About 12 percent of the Lake Superior Zoo was flooded today after a piece of culvert liner near the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad in Norton Park created a blockage.
BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth said the railroad was in the process of repairing the culvert and heavy rains Tuesday and this morning turned the culvert liner on its side, damming Kingsbury Creek. The rainfall, 2 inches or more in some areas, was enough to fill streams and cause local flooding in several areas, but the zoo was especially impacted.
Kingsbury Creek backed up across the street from the blocked culvert into the zoo, resulting in a washed-out bridge and the flooding of the Polar Shores exhibit’s underground area and the playground. The turkey vulture was the only animal that needed rescuing

White tigers from China pledged to Kaohsiung in ceremony
A ceremony was held Friday to mark the donation of two white tigers from China's Guangzhou to Kaohsiung City on Friday.
Guangzhou Vice Mayor Wu Yimin presented symbolic pictures of the two tigers to his hosts, and Kaohsiung City Council Speaker Chuang Chi-wang and Kaohsiung Tourism Bureau chief Lin Kun-shan accepted them.
Chuang also exchanged gifts with Guangzhou Mayor Wang Qingliang and accepted 15 million yuan (US$2.2 million) for schools in southern Taiwan that were damaged by flooding triggered by Typhoon Morakot last August.
Chuang said the two tigers, which are currently being kept in Xiangjiang Safari Park in Guangzhou, have been under quarantine and will be sent to Taiwan soon.
Chang Po-yu, director of Kaohsiung's Shoushan Zoo, said members of the zoo staff have prepared for the arrival of the two tigers based on their experience in raising similar breeds.
Roughly a dozen protesters led by city councilor Huang Chao-hsi

Man dies after bear mauling
Investigators continue to gather statements and other evidence in a deadly bear attack in Lorain county Thursday. The attack happened at an exotic animal sanctuary on North Marks Road in Columbia Township.
Lorain County Sheriff's Department Captain Jim Drozdowski says it appears 24-year-old Brent Kandra and the property owner, Sam Mazzola, were feeding the bear when it attacked, wounding Kandra.
Kandra was taken to the hospital by life-flight and later died.
The animal was put back in its cage. No one else was hurt.
Mazzola also became ill during the incident and was hospitalized. He was later released.
Drozdowski says the victim often helped out with the many exotic animals on Mazzola's property and was very familiar with the bear.
Drozdowski says investigators will check to see if a video system on the property captured any of the incident.
In the past, Mazzola would bring his bears to public events and invite members of the audience to wrestle the animals. His exhibition

Local Animal Expert Explains Why Bears Attack
Animal experts say black bears are known for being a "pleasant" animal but just like any other wild creature, they can attack in an instant.
Geoff Hall is the general curator at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. He says, "Wild animals attacks can happen very quickly. It usually comes as a surprise to the keepers."
Thursday night, 24-year-old Brent Kandra of Elyria was mauled to death at a wildlife compound in Columbia Township. The bear's owner, Sam Mazzola said Brent worked with wild animals for six years. Thursday night, he fed the bear and was being playful when the bear suddenly attacked. The attack lasted less than ten seconds.
"Wild animals are wild animals, no matter how long they are kept in captivity. At the Cleveland Metropark zoo, we ensure staff safety by always having a barrier between the staff and all the animals, especially bears," said Hall.
Hall said although bears tend to form bonds with their keeping staff, deadly attacks can still happen-- and the reasons aren't always clear.
"It's mostly because bears are looking for food. People are in the wrong place at the wrong time or it could be a mother bear protecting its kids. At the end of the day, bears are wild animals. They might be tamed but that doesn't make them domesticated. At any moment, a wild animal can act unpredictably and potentially,0,1880350.story

It Was An Accident Waiting To Happen

Gorilla saved by French doc's hip op
A French surgeon may have entered the record books by saving a 70-kilo (154-pound) female gorilla that sustained a crippling injury after falling from a tree in a safari park.
Louis-Etienne Gayet, an orthopaedic surgeon at the University Hospital Centre in Poitiers, central France, was called in to help eight-year-old Kwanza after the ape snapped her thighbone at Vallee des Singes (Valley of the Apes) in Romagne.
The break occurred very close to where the thighbone, or femur, enters the hip, where its ball-like end is enclosed by a ring of bone, the park said in a press release on Friday.
The problem was that, because the femur had been completely fractured, the ball end twisted around in the hip casing. As a result, the two bones were left back-to-front.
Delicate cases such as these are relatively common in human surgery but almost unheard-of for veterinarians.
Gayet rolled up his sleeves and in a three-hour operation at a veterinary clinic last Monday gently turned the bone's ball end in the right direction and reattached it to the rest of the femur with a 15-centimetre (six-inch)

RSPCA: End zoo jumbos
There should be a ban on importing elephants into UK zoos, demands the RSPCA.
The call comes as a report, commissioned by Defra, raises serious concerns about their welfare.
Rspca scientist Dr Ros Clubb said: "Elephants are without question suffering in zoos. Adding yet more to an ailing population simply masks the problems."
Bristol University experts found elephants were obese, suffered behavioural problems and

Zoo elephants 'treated as badly as intensively farmed chickens'
Elephants should be banned from British zoos because they are treated as inhumanely as intensively farmed chickens, according to a new report by the RSPCA.
They have a far shorter life-span and higher infant mortality rate than wild elephants and also suffer from high levels of obesity, a report found.
They also show behavioural abnormalities and a level of lameness equivalent to that endured by intensively farmed livestock "recognised internationally as cause for great welfare

'Cruel' treatment of elephants in zoos must stop, says RSPCA
No more elephants should be imported into Britain, the RSPCA has said, calling for the animals to be phased out from British zoos.
Recent research has shown that they were suffering from severe welfare problems which range from lameness and obesity to obsessive behaviour, and that it was inappropriate and cruel to keep them in confinement, the society said.
The RSPCA was reacting angrily to a report from the Government's own advisory committee, the Zoos Forum, which endorsed the research findings on welfare problems, but stopped

Chhatbir zoo may not have to shift elephants
The Mahendra Choudhary Chhatbir Zoological Park is likely to retain the elephants, which were the main source of attraction for visitors, after a team of Central Zoo Authority (CZA) found adequate arrangements and facilities for the upkeep of elephants here. In November 2009, CZA had issued a notice to all the zoos across the country, asking to shift all the elephants to national parks, sanctuaries and tiger reserves as soon as possible. The directive had cited that a zoo environment was not the best place for elephants, who require a large area to move about freely. Chhatbir zoo authorities had, however, claimed to have the sufficient space and a suitable atmosphere for the elephants and requested the CZA to check the zoo before calling back its elephants. A team of two officials, comprising Monetary Evaluator Brij Kishore Gupta and Suparna Ganguly from

An ill-fitting new home for the National Zoo's elephants
I visited the National Zoo for the first time on a cold and rainy afternoon last fall. For more than 15 years, I have been deeply engaged with questions about captive elephant welfare, so I was particularly interested to see how the Smithsonian Institution had spent a colossal $50 million on Elephant Trails, the new home for its elephants set to open in early September.
Since that visit, I have continued to follow the work on Elephant Trails. As a former zoo curator and director, I know that zoo development projects are complex and time-consuming, with many competing issues to balance. There are engineering and design challenges, visitor needs to be accounted for, restrictions imposed by the landscape and climate, and, of course, the welfare of the animals to consider.
The needs of wild animals in zoos can be hard to define, but there are a few basic rules. Top of the list is checking carefully the key aspects of a creature's life in the wild. What does it do with its days and nights? How far does it move and why? How does it interact with others of its kind?
Generally speaking, this sort of accounting works well, and many zoo programs create conditions and routines for animals that are broadly analogous to life in the wild. But the bigger the animal, the more difficult this becomes, especially where space is limited, the terrain difficult and the way of life of the species so complex that it is almost impossible to simulate.
Take, for instance, elephants at the National Zoo.
Elephants need space. Zoo people will often say it's the quality of the space that matters, and indeed it is -- to a point. Why, then, is the Elephant Trails landscape so unimaginative? There are sweeping green lawns and a shallow-looking pool, but little

Mysterious 'bearded' antelope photographed
Hirsute creature appears to be a young, female Thomson's gazelle
When Paolo Torchio set out across Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve a few weeks ago, it was just a typical Thursday morning for the veteran wildlife photographer, who has lived and worked in Kenya for two decades.
Torchio is intimately acquainted with the beasts that wander the nearly 600-square-mile game reserve, so he was astonished to see a terrier's face poking out of the tall grass.
"I was wondering, what is this dog doing?" Torchio said. "And when it came out from the grass, that was a surprise."
The hirsute creature that emerged was clearly not a dog. The animal had all the markings of a Thomson's gazelle (a type of antelope) — but, like that old song from "Sesame Street," one of these kids was

"Snot Otter" Sperm to Save Giant Salamander?
Cryopreservation may be the last chance for the hellbender, aka the snot otter.
It may be a shot in the dark, but freezing sperm is one of the last chances to save the hellbender, North America's biggest salamander, conservationists say.
Hellbenders—also known as snot otters and devil dogs—have dwindled throughout their range, which once encompassed streams from northeastern Arkansas to New York.
The 2.5-foot-long (0.7-meter-long) amphibians have declined by 80 to 90 percent in most of their traditional watersheds in recent decades, and now haunt only isolated pockets of southern Appalachia (see map), said Dale McGinnity, curator of reptiles at Nashville Zoo.
All of the states in the hellbender's range have listed the animal as a "species of special concern," and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently reviewing whether to add the hellbender to the federal endangered species list, McGinnity said.
The reasons for their decline is unknown, but it's likely environmental contaminants such as pesticides are harming the creatures via their highly permeable skin, he said.
To make matters worse, hellbenders don't seem to be breeding at all in the wild, he said, possibly because human-made pollutants containing synthetic hormones are damaging the amphibians' reproductive systems.
As a result, there are apparently no young wild hellbenders in existence, only aged individuals—the

Runaway zebras escape in Sacramento suburb, leave unanswered questions
It's still unclear who will foot the bill for the damage caused during the search and capture of two runaway zebras that escaped from a local animal facility.
California Highway Patrol investigators are working to determine who will be responsible for the incident that caused traffic hazards for drivers on a busy residential street.
The striped pair fled the animal training facility on the 6600 block of Sutter Street just after 7 p.m. Saturday, according to Sacramento County Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Tim Curran.
Witnesses said drivers slammed on their brakes as the animals weaved in and out of traffic on Fair Oaks Boulevard near California Avenue.
Sheriff's deputies along with park rangers worked to corral one of the zebras, while the other made a mad dash toward Jameson Court.
The second zebra was finally captured in a nearby wooded area where Sacramento Zoo officials were on hand to offer support while Michael Mustagni, the animals' owner, lured the zebra into a trailer around 11:00 p.m.
"Law enforcement did a fantastic job," said Mustagni. "These gentlemen are cool, calm and collected. Some of them have equine experience and they did a great

EU suspends seal trade ban
A European Union ban on the sale of seal products traded by the Inuit was suspended on Friday after the bloc's top court accepted a moratorium request by the indigenous populations who traditionally hunt the animal.
EU member states and the European Parliament decided last year to restrict trade in seal products, heeding environmental groups' arguments that commercial seal hunting is cruel and inhumane.
The sales ban was due to come into force on Friday, but on Thursday the European Court of Justice (ECJ) blocked its enforcement for at least one month.
"It is in the interest of the proper

Bronx Zoo ships 100 rare Kihansi spray toads to Tanzania to help create a new colony
The cargo wasn't just precious - it was almost extinct.
An official from the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo flew to Tanzania last week with some seriously exotic carry-on luggage: 100 rare, tiny toads.
The Kihansi spray toad has vanished from its native habitat, and scientists hope to create a new colony by importing some from U.S. zoos.
"It's an amazing feeling," said Jim Breheny, director of the Bronx Zoo.
Last Tuesday, their handler, Alyssa Borek, packed 50 toads from the Bronx Zoo and 50 from the Toledo Zoo into plastic deli containers after swaddling them in paper towels soaked in purified water.
They were loaded into two cardboard boxes that Borek hauled onto a KLM Royal Dutch Airlines jet for the trip from Kennedy Airport to Africa.
She delivered them to a state-of-the-art propagation center. The goal is to eventually move them to the Kihansi Gorge, where the Tanzanian government has installed sprinklers in an attempt to recreate the toads' habitat.
The toads were discovered in 1998, living on less than five acres of a spray zone created by waterfalls in the gorge.
The 2000 opening of a

Building a Framework to Read Animal Emotion
Pet owners might like to think they can judge the moods of their cats or dogs with ease, but finding true scientific methods to evaluate animal emotion is difficult.
In a review published in The Proceedings of the Royal Society B, researchers describe a framework that may help other scientists measure animal mood.
Because it is difficult to otherwise judge an animal’s emotional state, the researchers devised a model that correlates emotional state to decision making. An animal that adopts a “safety first” stance to a rustle in the forest is probably feeling pessimistic, according to the framework. Conversely, an animal feeling optimistic would interpret the same rustle as a sign of prey.
In creating the framework, the researchers used earlier data they gathered

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson intervenes in probe of SeaWorld trainer's death
U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, a vocal supporter of SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, acknowledged Thursday that he intervened in a federal investigation into the death of a SeaWorld killer-whale trainer.
Grayson, D-Orlando, personally contacted the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration earlier this week to discuss the agency's probe of the death of Dawn Brancheau, a SeaWorld Orlando trainer who was drowned Feb. 24 by a six-ton killer whale named Tilikum.
OSHA is in the process of finalizing that investigation. The agency must issue any citations, proposed fines or recommended remedies by early next week.
Grayson would not answer questions about his exchange with OSHA when reached on his cell phone Thursday, and his office said he was unavailable for an interview later in the day. But Grayson's chief of staff, Julie Tagen, said in an e-mail that Grayson wanted to learn "first hand" the status of OSHA's probe and to "share his own views and impressions regarding,0,293357.story

Inside a bear bile farm in Laos
Despite increasing international outrage, extracting bile from endangered black bears is still rife in south-east Asia
On a post outside a nondescript property on the outskirts of the historic city of Luang Prabang, there is a small, handwritten notice. It declares in simple Laotian: place where bears are kept.
Entering the family home behind the sign, I am greeted by a scene of comfortable domesticity. A baby crawls on the dark teak floorboards; a teapot sits on a table in the front room; a dog pants in a shady corner, sweltering in the exhausting summer heat. Through an open door, down a short corridor and out through the rear of the house, the scene is rather different. Trapped in tiny, cramped cages above urine-soaked floors there are eight large Asiatic black bears.
Bear-farming is a relatively new business in Laos. The practice involves keeping Asiatic black bears in battery-farm conditions where they have their bile, which is used in traditional Chinese medicine, regularly extracted.
This small Vietnamese-run farm, an offshoot of a larger one in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, is one of at least eight such farms – one of which holds about 100 bears – known to have opened across the country in the past decade. Welfare organisations believe other smaller farms exist in Laos, although they do not appear on government records.
Bear bile has been used in Asian medicine for thousands of years. The bitter yellow fluid is made in the liver, then stored in the gall bladder until it is released to help break down fats during digestion. Traditionally it is believed to 'relieve internal heat’, but its supposed powers are myriad and it is prescribed for everything from hangovers to

Government takes over management of conflict-ridden Surabaya Zoo
The Forestry Ministry has taken over management of Surabaya Zoo on Friday following the death of hundreds of animals, including endangered species such as a Sumatran tiger.
The ministry set up a new team to take over day-to-day operations of the 15-hectare zoo, which is one of the largest in Southeast Asia and in Indonesia.
“We were forced to take over the management because no improvement has made since early this year,” Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said at a press conference Friday.
He said the previous management by a group of so-called animal lovers failed to meet government-set management standards, leading to the deaths of 689 animals between 2008 and 2009.
“Since February this year, 26 animals including a Sumatran tiger and a lion died of old age and poor facilities,” he said.
Surabaya Zoo is home to 4,200 animals from 315 species.
Most of the deaths were due to various illnesses such as pneumonia, enteritis and malnutrition and the poor facilities at the zoo.
The new management run by the Forestry Ministry and the Surabaya city administration will be headed by Tony Sumampau, the chairman of the Indonesian Zoo Association.
The team is required to submit quarterly reports to the Forestry Ministry.
The ministry also gave the new management

Tiger overcomes shyness, open for public view
The visitors to the Mysore zoo have a special attraction. The eight-year-old tiger that was rescued at Virajpet and treated at the zoo hospital has made its way to the enclosure, which could help the zoo in its plans for captive breeding.
Initially, when he was captured in the Kodagu forests, there were apprehensions that he might be crippled and not able to move to the open for injured animals are barred from public display. But braving odds, he has recovered fast and acclimatized to the new environs at the conservation centre too allowing the officials to move him open space.
When he was moved here some three months back, the eight-old-year was ferocious, yet dull. He had suffered injuries and was weak. The zoo vets attended on him with care and now he is out there in the open treating the visitors. Says animal keepers: "Initially when

Council updated on Tulsa Zoo management transition
The City Council was updated Tuesday on the transition of the Tulsa Zoo as it moves toward a private management structure for the zoo.
Tom Baker, a former fire chief, city councilor and deputy mayor, was recently hired as the transition coordinator for Tulsa Zoo Management Inc.
Baker has a 90-day contract with Tulsa Zoo Management.
Baker told councilors that there is a lot of detail work that needs to be done to complete the transition.
"The employees are very optimistic about the transition," he said.
Baker said employees have compiled a list

To the circus: conservationists warn of elephant exodus from Laos
Once worshipped as gods, the endangered elephant population of Laos is under threat from a legal loophole
Mahouts (elephant keepers) are being offered incentives to conserve the elephant population of Laos. Photograph: David Longstreath/AP It may be known as the Land of a Million Elephants, but conservationists are warning that the imminent exportation of more than a third of Laos's remaining domesticated elephant calves to a Chinese circus could prove disastrous for the endangered species.
Once worshipped as gods, the animals are still considered sacred by many in Laos, but loss of habitat and tradition means there are now just 20 domesticated elephants under the age of 10 left in the country.
The agreement with the circus company will see seven of these youngsters, along with four older animals of breeding age, exported from the remote Thongmixay district, in Laos's Sayaburi province, to southern China this autumn.
Although Laos signed up in 2004 to the CITES international agreement against trading endangered wildlife, a loophole is being exploited. Elephants are being taken out of the country on "long-term loans" to zoos and circuses in foreign countries but are never returned.
With the most recent government estimates suggesting there are now as few as 600 wild and only 480 domesticated elephants left in the country, hopes for the survival of the species in Laos are pinned on breeding programmes involving the domesticated population. The loss of so many young elephants will place that under threat, the NGO ElefantAsia has warned. The group has official responsibility for the animals, having been charged by Laos's department of livestock to manage the Laos Elephant Care and Management Programme.
"We are very concerned to see so many elephants – especially young ones and females – being exported to foreign countries," said Sebastian Duffillot, co-founder of ElefantAsia. "The best and healthiest animals have been leaving the country steadily for several years despite existing laws condemning the export of live elephants."
Korea and China are the main destinations for the "loaned" elephants. Because elephants are privately owned, ElefantAsia has no mandate to prevent the animals leaving the country. "Laos needs

What The Elephants Know (Long Article)
The Toronto Zoo has lost four elephants in as many years, and the fate of the remaining herd—Iringa, Thika and Toka—is uncertain. Can a one-hectare habitat in the middle of a northern city be any kind of home for exotic animals with complex thoughts and feelings?
On the morning of November 30, at around 7:45, three keepers entered the elephant enclosure at the Toronto Zoo to begin their daily routine. The elephants live on a dusty one-hectare tract of land with huge umbrellas for shade and three simulated termite mounds. During winter, they spend their nights in a concrete building with a corrugated roof, a poured rubber floor and metal bars as thick as tree trunks. That morning, the keepers were greeted with an alarming sight. Tara, the 41-year-old matriarch of the group, was on her side, unable to get up.
Most elephants can’t lie on their sides for extended periods of time—their sheer mass puts too much pressure on their internal organs—so zoo staff immediately began trying to raise her. Getting into the pen with an elephant is dangerous work—one elephant gored a keeper in 1993. But there wasn’t much time, and the team was desperate.
The eight staff who tend to the elephants had agreed that they wanted to be called in if one of their charges ever went down, and soon off-duty keepers were rushing down to the enclosure to help out or, more likely, to say goodbye. The African animal supervisor, Eric Cole, a 30-year zoo veteran with short-cropped hair and the remnants of an Irish brogue, had had some success coaxing fallen elephants back to their feet in the past. At first, Tara swiped angrily at the keepers with her trunk. She eventually calmed down, allowing Cole and his team to get straps underneath her. Using a winch, they raised the 3,800-kilogram animal to her sternum. Tara struggled. She managed to lift her hind legs but wasn’t able to pull her front legs under her. Keepers tried a few more times to raise her, but she wouldn’t budge. At around 11 that morning, Tara died. “She didn’t appear to have the will,” recalled Maria Franke, curator of mammals. “It’s like she decided to let go.”
The keepers were devastated. “It was pretty shattering,” Cole told me. “Everyone was just drained; the staff was all crying.” They brought Tara’s body out to the paddock so that the other elephants, Thika, Toka and Iringa, could mourn her. Elephants are highly social animals, and females live in tight-knit groups their entire lives. When an elephant, particularly the matriarch, dies in the wild, the loss can reverberate for months or even years. There are stories of elephants returning to the bones of a family member years after the death, rubbing their trunks along the teeth of the skull’s lower jaw in the same way they greet one another in life.
Tara had to be autopsied, so mourning could last only a few hours. The zoo’s remaining elephants—animals who lived with Tara for decades—straddled her and stroked her skin. They used their trunks to throw dirt on her. At the end of the day, keepers transported Tara and brought the rest of the elephants back inside for the night. Because the elephants don’t always get along, they are often kept in separate pens and spend the night apart. When keepers arrived the next morning, however, they found all the elephant dung piled close to the connecting corners of their respective pens. The three elephants—the final members of a haphazardly formed family group that had once been eight—had spent that night huddled together, as close to one another as possible.
Two days later, the Toronto Zoo was quiet, empty save for a few groups of teenagers playing hooky and a handful of daycare kids who toddled past the simulated Serengeti bush camp toward the empty Africa Restaurant (a Harvey’s and a Pizza Pizza outlet in a jungle-themed pavilion). It was a bright, unseasonably warm day, and most of the animals were in their outdoor display areas: tigers stretching out in the sunny section of their Indo-Malaya enclosure, muddy-looking polar bears in the new Tundra Trek area, a group of impalas and kudu blinking in a broad pasture, indifferent to the intruding raccoon and flock of Canada geese that compromised the verisimilitude of their savannah habitat.
At the African elephant exhibit, the mood was sombre. A young zookeeper in gumboots and khakis told me that she’d had an emotional few days. “We look after these animals eight hours a day,” she said. “We become close.” Since Tara’s death, the elephants had been unusually subdued, keeping near to one another, acting tentative. Thika, a 30-year-old female, stood motionless under one of the large wooden umbrellas, one foot cocked at

White tigers from China pledged to Kaohsiung in ceremony
A ceremony was held Friday to mark the donation of two white tigers from China's Guangzhou to Kaohsiung City on Friday.
Guangzhou Vice Mayor Wu Yimin presented symbolic pictures of the two tigers to his hosts, and Kaohsiung City Council Speaker Chuang Chi-wang and Kaohsiung Tourism Bureau chief Lin Kun-shan accepted them.
Chuang also exchanged gifts with Guangzhou Mayor Wang Qingliang and accepted 15 million yuan (US$2.2 million) for schools in southern Taiwan that were damaged by flooding triggered by Typhoon Morakot last August.
Chuang said the two tigers, which are currently being kept in Xiangjiang Safari Park in Guangzhou, have been under quarantine and will be sent to Taiwan soon.
Chang Po-yu, director of Kaohsiung's Shoushan Zoo, said members of the zoo staff have prepared for the arrival of the two tigers based on their experience in raising similar breeds.
Roughly a dozen protesters led by city councilor Huang Chao-hsing a

Wild animal park to shut down before it even opened
A wild animal park in Polk County never opened to the public and after a recent court ruling, it never will.
The Safari Wild Park has been in the works since 2007 and recently, a judge decided the park should shut down because of its location.
The judge ruled that the park was in violation of Florida rules because it sits on an area of land that is environmentally protected by the state, called the Green Swamp.
The park sits about a half-mile drive from a paved road just north of Lakeland and is comprised of two buildings and a lot of open land.
One of the buildings is used to store food for the animals and the other would have been a visitor welcome center for up to 500 people per day.
Veterinarian Stephen Wehrmann co-owns the park with Lex Salisbury, the former president of the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa.
“These are the only two buildings on the property,” Wehrmann said. “And

6-figure aquariums: The new status symbol
Karin Wilzig has a hard time choosing a favorite color from among the 64 that she and her husband can use to illuminate the 14 1/2- foot, 450-gallon aquarium in their TriBeCa town house. The default is fuchsia, which turns the dozen koi a deep pink.
"Not pink," said Mrs Wilzig, 40, an artist and a mother of two small children. "Alan, go to the turquoise."
Her husband, Alan Wilzig, 45, a former banker who collects motorcycles and prides himself on the orange tanning bed in his basement, goes to the James Bond-like control panel in the kitchen, where a touch of a button turns the fish -- which are specially bred to be colorless -- a vivid blue.
"I think they like that," he said, walking down the steps to the sunken living room to admire the fish from another angle. (Given that they do nothing but swim from one

New face in Solomons dolphin trade
Animal rights activists are outraged by a Solomon Islands businessman who has virtually imprisoned eight "totally stressed" dolphins in a tiny pool for months while he tries to sell them to marine parks in Australia and the US.
Despite opposition from both the Australian and New Zealand governments, Solomons dolphins are captured and sold to aquariums, marine parks and even hotels around the world, often fetching as much as $200,000.
Solomons dolphin activist Lawrence Makili, who is the Earth Island Institute's Pacific Regional Director, has told AAP that despite the institute's tireless efforts to end the live trade, another dolphin dealer had emerged.
The American-based Earth Island Institute earlier this year began paying Solomon villagers to stop hunting dolphins.
At the time, Canadian Chris Porter, the so-called 'Darth-Vader' of the Solomons dolphin trade, had a change of heart and switched from dolphin seller to dolphin saver.
But for the past six months local businessman Francis Chow has been trying to sell eight

Rare Turtle Hatchlings at the Tennessee Aquarium
Tennessee Aquarium herpetologists have been quite busy recently caring for some new baby turtles.
Six red-necked pond turtles, Mauremys nigricans, hatched recently from eggs that were laid in the Asian River exhibit about two months ago.

Nets are a dead loss for sea life
ALMOST 4000 sea creatures have been caught in shark nets lining NSW beaches over the past 20 years, new government figures reveal, prompting calls from environmentalists to immediately ban the meshing.
Of the official count of 3944 creatures trapped, about 60 per cent were sharks and less than 4 per cent were considered ''target'' species (or those particularly harmful to humans) - that is, 100 great whites and 49 tiger sharks.
The haul - as recorded in the Department of Primary Industries' Report into the NSW Shark Meshing (Bather Protection) Program - included a total of 2521 sharks.
Among them were 15 grey nurses, a harmless species considered critically endangered.
Also on the list were stingrays (1269), dolphins (52), turtles (47), whales (six), seals (four), a penguin and a dugong.
Humane Society International's director Michael Kennedy said the public would be shocked to know how many animals were killed in the nets, which are strung off parts of 51 popular beaches from Stockton in the north down to South Wollongong, from September 1 to April 30.
''We know from our own research and from the government's research that these nets do kill a large amount of threatened marine animals,'' Mr Kennedy said. ''It is very hard to justify their continued use.''
The Humane Society is calling on the NSW government to invest in alternative protection measures, such as radio signals, sonar technology and electric nets.
''The government needs to be brave enough to use these new devices rather than kill the animals,'' Mr Kennedy said.
Primary Industries Minister Stephen Whan said shark control measures were constantly reviewed but there were no viable alternatives to meshing, although the government would again trial a

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Wildlife Photography Contest
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2011 ZooKunft
26 February 2011
Kronberg, Opel Zoo
On the theme of
Animal Presentation

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By 15 October 2010.


Disease invasion: impacts on biodiversity and human health


Disease invasion: impacts on biodiversity and human health joint ZSL and Royal Society symposium -

Thursday 18 and Friday 19 November 2010

in the ZSL Meeting Rooms

The transmission of infectious diseases from one species to another is not only causing problems for humans (for example, SARS and influenza) but is also threatening wildlife conservation and even the survival of large and robust populations.

Wild animals are both recipients of infections from humans and other species and reservoirs of new infections that can spill over to threaten humans, particularly when human-wildlife contact rates are increased. This conference will focus on the extent to which wildlife pathogens threaten biodiversity and human health; the processes driving these disease threats; where future threats will arise and how these can be mitigated.

Most threatening diseases are caused by infections that move between species, where one species acts a reservoir and then infects another, more vulnerable species that may suffer high-mortality rates. We will explore our understanding of the dynamics of these diseases, the processes of circulation in wild reservoirs, the interesting and rare process of spill-over and how establishment occurs in the new host species.

We will evaluate the biological and anthropogenic mechanisms that facilitate the spill-over and spread of infection into new species (including humans) and geographic regions, and the selection pressures that can lead to new infections evolving. Aspects of control will be addressed, including the control of infections within their reservoir hosts and the target species.

We will examine a range of issues, from molecular processes to large-scale ecosystems, in order to identify and predict future threats. Finally, policies for mitigating disease threats to conservation and human health will be examined and science-based recommendations made.

This symposium has been organised by Andrew Cunningham (Institute of Zoology, ZSL), Peter Hudson FRS (Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics at The Pennsylvania State University) and Andrew Dobson (Princeton University) in partnership with the Royal Society as part of its 350th anniversary celebrations in 2010.

Full information including a programme for this 2-day event is available HERE .


The fourth Student Environmental Enrichment Course (SEEC):
September 20th - 23rd

Following positive feedback and high demand for places, Howletts and Port Lympne Wild Animal Parks are pleased to announce their fourth student course on Environmental Enrichment to be run by Mark Kingston Jones and Chris Hales, in collaboration with keepers from both institutions. The course is specifically designed for college and university students (past and present) who do not currently work within a zoo setting, but are looking to do so as a career. Over the 3.5 days students will gain a background in animal welfare and enrichment, dealing with welfare needs of different species, as well as providing practical skills in designing, building and testing enrichment within the settings of both Howletts and Port Lympne Wild Animal Parks, in Kent. Our aim is to provide valuable experience and an overview of additional useful skills to your CV as a would-be keeper. Please note you must be 18 or over to attend this course. Places are limited so please register early to avoid disappointment.

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Don Redfox
I would appreciate if you would pass this on:

I would like to thank everyone for their cards, emails and calls; the numbers have been overwhelming. I wish I could thank each and everyone personally for their prayers and support; at a time like this they are very much appreciated. I am out of hospital and on the long road to recovery with my family by my side. It is a journey made easier with the support of family and friends. THANK YOU AGAIN TO ALL.

Don RedFox


Nominations are now open for the 2012 Indianapolis Prize


Private Zoo For Sale
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