Monday, January 3, 2011

Zoo News Digest 1st - 3rd January 2011 (Zoo News 715)

Zoo News Digest 1st - 3rd January 2011 (Zoo News 715)

The Year of the Rabbit

Dear Colleagues,

I am concerned to see the TV footage of the flooding in Australia. No news mentions of any zoos being affected. Let us hope it stays that way.

It is a fact that if you repeat an untruth enough times then people will begin to believe it. This is why I tend to jump on most press reports describing White Tigers as a rare, endangered species which you and I know to be a lie. I have tried a time or three writing to newspapers and telling them they are wrong. Sometimes they print and at other times not. Whilst I must express my admiration for the success of the programme on Sir Bani Yas Island and especially with the Cheetah breeding there. There are however aspects of the reported story (which is a rehash of one published last year) which are incorrect. These were incorrect the first time they were stated and incorrect when they were repeated in other newpapers. The breeding is described as "the first cheetah cubs to be born in the wild in the UAE in 38 years." Really? So where exactly was this momentous breeding 38 years ago? Where is this cheetah and its progeny now? This factual untruth was even reported by CNN and Wildlife Extra news amongst others but they said 40 years. This lie is well on its way to becoming an established fact regardles that the Cheetah have NEVER been endemic within the UAE. The second part of the story is that dealing with the re-wilding. Yes, I believe these Cheetah are re-wilded but, in spite of catching their own food they are not in the wild. They are in an enclosure on an island. If man were to move off the island tomorrow I doubt the Cheetah would survive to the years end. There is no sweet water on the island. Without irrigation the introduced plant life would die and along with it the 'game' animals. Masses of food is brought to the island to feed these animals daily. So no, sorry, these animals are NOT in the wild. Returning briefly to the White Tigers, I don't know whether you recollect the story in November 2009 "the first white tiger born in the wild since 1951". Big joke. This was born in Africa (see: ), and, once again, in an enclosure and NOT in the wild. Besides anyone putting Tigers into the actual wild in Africa wants locking up. Some incorrect stories can be forgiven as the one about Tigers in the Yemen (see below)...pure mistranslation.

As to my special interest in Sir Bani Yas Island? Simply because I was one of the people taking some of the early consignments of animals there. You can read a story about the giraffes in my hub Should I Be Here Or Somewhere Else?

New Years Eve was a blast. Even though I could not afford it I had a whale of a time and rolled back to my room at 06.30 in the morning. Not bad for an old man I thought but then could not quite remember everywhere I had been. Ah well, never mind it was worth it because I am really going to settle down and work hard for the next few months. I started the evening with a feast of freshly cooked mussels and raw prawns dipped in chili. Followed that up with deep fried duck heads which are a favourite of mine. Who could ever imagine eating a beak or that matter that a beak could be so tasty. The cheeks and brains are delicious too. (With apologies to my friend and colleague Richard who has recently been diagnosed to having anatidaephobia).

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Older animals mean more deaths at zoo
It's been a tough year for the staff at Reid Park Zoo.
Fivelarge animals died in 2010 - most as a result of age-related ailments - and the new year could be just as challenging. Nearly a dozen animals have reached the average life expectancy for their species.
"An elderly zebra, two lions, a rhino, we knew that string of deaths was coming," said education curator Vivian VanPeenen. "We have a very geriatric collection of animals. We really tried to prepare our visitors and our community that those animals were going to pass away. You can still expect deaths in the very near future from our elderly animals. There's no preventing it. The public needs to be prepared."
Boris, an 11-year-old male polar bear, was the fifth animal to die this year. His death Dec. 10 likely was the result of an allergic reaction to anesthetic after routine veterinary procedures.
"Talking about life expectancy and longevity can be confusing," VanPeenen said. "Life expectancy is an average number of years you would expect an animal to live. Longevity is how long an animal can live. There will always be cases of animals dying younger than expected or living longer than expected. The key for us is not how old the animal is, but how we care for the animal on a daily basis."
Older animals are afforded special privileges by their keepers. They are fed geriatric diets, monitored closely for changes in behavior and allowed to sleep late or remain off display and in their dens all day if they want.
"The older animals really get to choose. If they don't feel like getting up, that's perfectly acceptable to us," VanPeenen said.
The growing number of geriatric animals "is a testament to the great veterinary care animals at zoos receive," said Steve Feldman, spokesman for the the nonprofit Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) based in Silver Spring, Md. Reid Park Zoo is one of 223 facilities accredited by the AZA.
Accreditation is based on a zoo's animal care and welfare practices; guest services and safety; and conservation and education. Reid Park Zoo undergoes a three-day inspection every five years to make sure it meets AZA standards. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is AZA

Mohammad releases 170 houbaras at desert conservatory
His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has set free 170 Asian captive-bred Houbara bustards at the Al Maha desert conservatory in Dubai.
The release was in line with strategy of President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan to increase the number of houbaras and re-locating them in the UAE and the Arabian peninsula, in addition to the interest of Shaikh Mohammad in important environment issues.
Shaikh Mohammad, who was accompanied by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, listened to the presentation by Mohammad Salih Al Baidani, Director-General of the Fund, regarding the preservation and breeding of the houbara bustards.
The birds were bred at the National Avian Research Centre (NARC) of the International Fund for Bustards'

Lim deploys more cops at Manila Zoo
MANILA Mayor Alfredo Lim yesterday ordered the deployment of additional security personnel at the Manila Zoological and Botanical Garden, or the Manila Zoo, as crowds gather in the area starting today.
Lim made the move after engineer Deng Manimbo, parks and recreation bureau director, reported that 30,000 people are expected to troop to Manila Zoo to spend their New Year’s Day.
The mayor told Manimbo to coordinate with Station 9 Commander Senior Supt. Frumencio Bernal for the deployment of more policemen to secure the zoo’s visitors.
Lim meanwhile called on the public to maintain

Zoo is looking to Hollywood for a revival in fortunes
DARTMOOR Zoo is recovering from a "miserable" Christmas when poor road conditions forced it to close.
There are hopes that a Hollywood blockbuster about the attraction will revive its fortunes.
The zoo, in Sparkwell near Plympton, was forced to close for the first three days of the holidays, as snow and freezing temperatures rendered minor roads almost impassable.
Some staff had to stay at the zoo overnight to ensure there were enough people on site to look after the animals.
Recent news of the zoo's financial difficulties resulted in a groundswell of local support with many companies offering help, but the Christmas holidays usually bring a much needed boost in visitor numbers during the winter.
Dartmoor zoo's operations manager, George Hyde, said: "It's been fairly miserable. Christmas is our last opportunity of the year to make some money.
"The first three days of the holidays we were completely closed to the public because of the weather conditions."
Mr Hyde said access roads to the zoo were treacherous, with bus services cancelled and little or no gritting.
He added: "After that we were under four inches of snow. The zoo looked beautiful, but it took a lot of backbreaking work to get the car park and paths clear."
Fortunately, the zoo's management had anticipated the bad weather and had extra stocks of all the specialist food it needed for the animals.
Staff were also kept busy keeping the moats around the jaguars and tigers ice free – the water is an important element in the safety of the enclosures.
Mr Hyde said visitor numbers were now picking up following the thaw, although the weather remains less than ideal for an outdoor attraction.
But Boxing day, usually one of the busiest days of the year at the zoo, saw just 30 visitors.
Because the animals still need to be fed and cared for, the zoo cannot make savings by closing during quiet periods.
Dartmoor Zoo's owner Ben Mee will be buoyed by news that filming on the adaptation of his book, "We Bought a Zoo," is to start on January 17.
The film will star Matt Damon as Ben and Scarlett Johansson

We Bought A Zoo

Rewilding of Cheetahs a big success in Sir Baniyas Island
The three cheetahs are getting used to their natural instincts of survival in the wild.
Sir Baniyas Island: Safira, a free roaming female cheetah on Sir Baniyas Island, is pronouncing that the Earth is no more a male dominant bastion. She is not doing it noisily by outshining two male cheetahs in the same territory in hunting skills.
Safira hunted down a sand gazelle within a couple of hours of her release into the wild. But her male companions — Gibbs and Gabriel — had to roam here and there until the second day [of their release to the wild] to manage a successful hunt, Aimee Cokayne, Conservation and Research Officer at Tourism development and Investment Company (TDIC), told Gulf News.
The trio [Safira, Gibbs and Gabriel], who are part of six free roaming cheetahs on the island, were taught to hunt by the conservation team of TDIC as part of rewilding process.
Rewilding is a term used to describe the process by which an animal bred in captivity or raised by humans is taught natural behaviour to be able to survive in a wild environment.
"As part of the Sir Bani Yas Island Carnivore Project, we have taken three adult cheetahs bred in breeding centres in the UAE and applied methods to encourage their natural instincts, have taught them to hunt and be self-sufficient requiring no more aid from humans to survive," Cokayne said. The male cheetahs took longer than Safira to learn their skills.
Safira took four months to rewild whereas Gibbs and Gabriel took six months.
Safira has been free ranging on the island for over a year and Gibbs and Gabriel for almost 10 months. They never needed any assistance from humans during this time. They have not only been feeding themselves but also successfully bred.
Safira made headlines in April 2010 when she gave birth to four cubs as they were the first cheetah cubs to be born in the wild in the UAE in 38 years. Safira raised the four cubs as wild cheetahs with no help from humans.
Baby animals learn a lot from watching their mother's behaviour and from playing with their siblings.
The cheetahs were moved into separate but adjacent enclosures within the Arabian Wildlife Park on the island so they could get used to the area and environment and have a large space to learn their hunting skills.
The rewilding of cheetahs on the Island has a two-fold purpose. As part of creating a working ecosystem, these predators will control the herbivore population like gazelles and create a natural balance.
The second phase of the project was a breeding program for both the cheetah and the striped hyenas to preserve these species for future generations.
Striped hyenas and cheetah are both extinct in the UAE and are internationally classified by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List as ‘near threatened' and ‘vulnerable' respectively.
Creating more space
- 4,200 hectare -area of Arabian Wild Life Park on SirBaniyas Island n 87 Square kilometre-area of the island.
Balancing the nature
The Arabian Wildlife Park on Sir Baniyas Island, developed by Abu Dhabi's Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), is a nature reserve that aims to recreate a working ecosystemSpanning over 87 square kilometres the natural island is located 250 kilometres from Abu Dhabi.
The park is surrounded by a 32km fence and is home to several thousand free-roaming animals, indigenous to the Arabian Peninsula. These animals include the endangered Arabian Oryx, Sand Gazelle, Arabian (Mountain) Gazelle as well as predators and scavengers such as the cheetah and hyena.
"We have several species of ungulates (antelope, gazelles) in the park. In order to control the herbivore population and prevent them from destroying the island fragile eco-system, we introduced different species of predators which will eventually create a natural balance," said Aimee Cokayne, Conservation and Research Officer.
Male and female striped hyenas have also been re-wilded and are free-ranging in the Arabian Wildlife Park since August 2009. This project has also been very succes

Decrepit zoo left donated cash in bank
SYDNEY'S neglected Koala Park Sanctuary has done nothing with more than $400,000 worth of donations from the public.
The West Pennant Hills wildlife park has let the funds, intended for a new koala hospital, sit in a high-interest savings account for more than 20 years, while the park has grown decrepit and neglected.
The park began collecting funds in 1989 to build what was said to be an urgently needed koala hospital - enlisting the help of a Sydney newspaper to spread word of the appeal. Thousands of schoolchildren helped raise the cash, donating bags of five cent coins.
Residents, business owners and children who gave generously from their own pockets are now demanding the park owners come clean on their plans for the cash. Castle Hill resident Frances Harding, now in her 80s, contributed some cash

Study on Arabian tigers' wildlife in Yemen
Ibb Governor Ahmed al-Hajri met on Saturday with Executive Director of the Foundation for the protection of the Arabian Leopard in Yemen David B. Stanton, who is currently visiting the province.
Stanton's visit to Ibb province aims to conduct an environmental study on the growth of the Arabian leopard in al-Jannat Valley and some areas in the province.
At the meeting, al-Hajri and Stanton reviewed the tigers' shelters and their appropriate environment and supporting the local authority to implement such studies.
Al-Hajri confirmed the attention of the local authority in all animals and providing a suitable environment for them in protected areas and natural forests, as well as raising the community awareness on the importance of maintaining the predators and not harming them.
For his part, Stanton affirmed that Yemen is one of the most important countries where there are descendants of Arabian tigers, and evergreen

London Zoo’s bid to help the world’s ugliest animals
THEY may not be the most attractive of species but these ‘ugly ducklings’ of the animal world are in danger of losing out to the ‘poster boys’ of extinction in the struggle for survival.
The Ganges River dolphin, rondo dwarf galago, and saola – or ‘Asian unicorn’ as it is known – are just some of the rare species to have recently been added to a list of the top-100 most evolutionary distinct and globally endangered mammals in the world.
Conservationists in the Zoological Society of London’s EDGE team, based at London Zoo, have just conducted their latest update of the most unique, threatened species as they try to highlight the plight of a host of animals that don’t get the coverage they deserve.
Protecting some of the weirdest and most wonderful species on the planet, the programme specifically targets creatures that have few close relatives among animal species and are often extremely unusual.
Carly Waterman, EDGE programme manager, said: “A lot of what we focus on tends to be smaller, less charismatic animals.
“These are the species that are currently falling through the net.
“It does seem to be that it’s the large charismatic animals in particular that get the lion’s share of conservation funding.
“We don’t think the ones on the list are ugly but they tend not to be as charismatic in the traditional way and find it difficult to compete with the poster boys of conservation – things like elephants and rhinos.”
Working with the world’s most extraordinary species that are largely unfamiliar to the masses, Ms Waterman says these animals that provide the most unique characteristics which would be totally lost if they were to become extinct.
She says the programme is in a race against time to raise the profile of these animals and avoid the same fate of the original number one EDGE mammal, the Yangtze River dolphin, which is now believed to have died out.
“These animals are the ones with the fewest relatives in the rest of the animal world so they have unique characteristics,” she said.
“There are things like a species of toad that gives birth through the skin on its back or the long-beaked echidna which is unique in that it is a mammal that lays eggs.
“These are the most remarkable animals

Lions of Tower of London recalled
An elephant that drank a gallon of wine a day was among the menagerie at Britain's first zoo - and their story is to be told in a new exhibition.
Many centuries before animals were kept at London Zoo in Regent's Park, they were kept in the Tower of London.
Lions, ostriches, tigers and bears were kept at the venue. Dogs were used to bait them for sport.
Now an exhibition there, featuring specially-commisioned animal sculptures, will tell their tale.
The first record of a lion in England

Roar and peace for Highland park's polar bears
"I wouldn't say they have got on like a house on fire," said David Barclay of the Highland Wildlife Park's two polar bears.
The senior keeper of carnivores, primates and birds added: "There was a bit of hostility from Mercedes but we knew that was going to happen given she's been on her own for about 15 years.
"For Mercedes it was going to be a bit of shock."
Mercedes, an aged female brought to the park at Kincraig from Edinburgh Zoo in 2009, was joined in her enclosure by young male Walker in November this year.
For a short while it was less than a walk in the park for the newcomer from Holland's Rhenen Zoo.
First, Mercedes stamped her authority in a series of open-mouthed charges and hurling her 291kg (45 stone) frame through undergrowth in hot pursuit of the smaller, lighter Walker.
Next the boy bear had to be sedated and treated by a vet for a wound under his tongue, possibly caused by a splinter from a piece of wood he had been chewing on.
A few days later, on my visit to the park, Walker looked to be in rude health and appeared to have settled at least some of his differences with Mercedes.
She was stretched out to her full length along a fence of the enclosure, occasionally throwing Walker a dirty look.
Keeping his distance, Walker made his way to the enclosure's pond, jumped in and rolled onto his back.
Mr Barclay said: "Walker has been very well behaved.
"He has been approaching Mercedes in all the right ways, starting by being submissive to her, but now he realises that she isn't that aggressive.
"He is being bolder and standing up to her more and she has been letting him get closer to her without her being too aggressive."
When he first arrived at the park, Walker was kept separate from Mercedes.
He rolled around in earth so much that only the fur around his eyes and nose was still white.
The combination of filth and his natural colouring gave him an almost blue tinge.
Park staff have been amused by his youthful enthusiasm for sliding down the enclosure's hillside and diving into the pond.
Once he reaches sexual maturity, Walker will be a key part of efforts to breed polar bears at the park.
Mercedes, however, does not figure in the project.
Mr Barclay said: "Bringing Walker to the Highland Wildlife Park is a bold statement.
"It shows that we are being looked at in an international light.
"When Walker was listed as requiring to be moved from his zoo in Holland we were at the top of the list."
The Highlands are now home to the only polar bears in the UK.
In a historical link, the region produced what are believed to be the only polar bear to have been found in Britain.
A skull was discovered in 1927 in the Bone Caves at Inchnadamph, in S

Zoo visitors hit 30,000 by mid-day
Thousands of visitors have packed Ragunan Zoo in South Jakarta during the three-day New Year holiday, with up to 30,000 people flowing into the zoo by mid-day Sunday.
Zoo public relations and promotions chief Wahyudi Bambang Prihantoro said zoo operators had added 17 additional ticket booths to the usual 24 booths in an effort to cope with the visitor surge.
“We also opened [certain] areas of the zoo as locations to park cars,” he said, as reported by
Zoo operators have also set up a special information center to deal with reports of lost children, he added.
“Our attendants are ready to help reunite [lost] children with their families,” he said, adding that the zoo had employed another 300 attendants to add to

Ocean Park fish set for aquarium move
Ocean Park is moving the inhabitants of its Atoll Reef to the new Grand Aquarium over the next few weeks, but not all of the marine life will stay in the park after the relocation....



Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives

On October 26, 2010, the New York State Bar Association Committee on Animals and the Law hosted a teleseminar with Tom French, author of Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives. Professor French, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Committee members and other colleagues engaged in a thoughtful discussion of the book and numerous Animal Law related considerations. Available here for listening or complimentary download is the entire teleseminar courtesy of the Committee and the NYSBA. Go to


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