Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Zoo News Digest 1st - 4th May 2011 (Zoo News 746)

Zoo News Digest 1st - 4th May 2011 (Zoo News 746)

Peter Dickinson

Dear Colleague,

I remain prepared to listen to the 'other side' on any anti-zoo argument. It is only polite after all. Not only that but myself along with the vast majority of those working in good zoos are against the bad 'dysfunctional' zoos. We would have them close or change. Where I cannot go hand in hand with the anti-zoo lot is when they continue to lump all zoos into one basket such as in the article below "Do we still need zoos?". The author obviously has no understanding of what a good modern zoo is about. Then there is the 'Polar Bears to Chiang Mai' story which I am following with interest. I cannot give credence to the arguments against at the moment when they make statements like "Chiang Mai Zoo’s Polar World was not being constructed in compliance with the international standard"....There is NO INTERNATIONAL STANDARD in zoos. Then there is "Lastly, MD Rungsrit called for all zoo operators worldwide to refrain from acquiring more polar bears and other large predators for exhibit, adding that several developed countries, such as the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Germany, had already terminated such practices." What????

The eyes of the zoo world are focused on Edinburgh Zoo at the moment. I strongly sympathise with the staff who have been held in a certain kind of purgatory for so long now. It would be only common courteousy to allow three members of the keeping staff, selected by their colleagues, to attend the forthcoming meeting.

You may have noticed that yesterday I put out a blog posting entitled "At Last! Action For The Orangutans At Ragunan Zoo". The whole thing revolved around a newly released video which showed Willie Smits going around the Orangutans housed in Frau Ulrike Freifrau von Mengden's garden and clearly stating that the animals would be moving out to new housing in new locations. I was delighted. I have being drawing attention to these animals on a regular basis since I first saw them in 2006.

So what happened? The video was taken down before the day was out. This was not before I had been asked to remove the posting. As I had already spread the news far and wide there really was not any point. So what did happen? You tell me....I really don't know. When it gets onto the subject of Orangutans people just clam up. They don't say a word. So much infighting and political baggage spiced with corruption and lies. There needs to be some openess here. Speak the truth!!!!! I just wish I could travel on down to Indonesia once again and do a more in depth tour of the zoos there. Get the truth out and not just what the papers, the zoos own hyped up wensites and the NGO's say.

Happily I managed to beat off the bug which was trying to lie me low last month and feel quite fit. A bit confused as to my next moves at the moment. More on that later. Unless something more interesting turns up in the interim.

Thank you for the three donations recieved so far this month. They really were needed. I truly appreciate it.

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Zoo staff are banned from suspension crisis meeting
STAFF at Edinburgh Zoo have been told they are not allowed to attend a crisis meeting to discuss the suspension of two senior directors and the dismissal of another.
Employees, who claim they have been left "more or less in the dark" since the scandal broke, were told they cannot attend the meeting because they are "non-paying members" of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.
Angry staff pointed out that they have been told little of the problems occurring within senior management since the suspension of director of animals Iain Valentine, who was instrumental in signing a deal to secure the arrival of giant pandas, and the dismissal of director of development Anthony McReavy.
There was fresh speculation today that Mr Valentine is not returning after his employment details were removed from the RZSS website.
Details for acting chief executive Gary Wilson, who is also currently suspended but is expected to return in the forthcoming weeks, have not been removed from the website during the investigation.
Crunch talks are expected to be held on May 12, but only a maximum of 250 members out of a total 23,000 are permitted to attend due to limited space at the attraction.
One zoo insider told the Evening News that staff morale had hit an "all-time low".
The source said: "Frankly, people don't have much of a clue what's going on and staff were discouraged from applying to go to the crisis meeting. But we have more of a right than most people to know what's going to happen.
"You have to wonder if bosses will cherry-pick who can attend this meeting. They'll certainly have their pick of keen members and they aren't going to want any difficult questions.
"I've not been told of any similar meeting so that we (staff] can air our views and ask the questions all the sta

Do we still need zoos?
WHEN The Star first highlighted the exploits of wildlife trader Anson Wong in August 2009, the Wildlife Protection and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) accused us of rehashing an old story. Now, we risk being accused of that again with the Starprobe story on the deplorable conditions in Malaysian zoos.
Yes, we agree it is an old story. But it is a story that bears repeating, for despite numerous reports on inhumane treatment of wildlife in zoos in The Star, little has changed. Conditions in many zoos, instead of getting better, have worsened.
That, in itself, says something about our wildlife protection agency, Perhilitan. The very body that is supposed to protect our animals is not doing its job. Perhilitan cannot claim to be ignorant of all that is happening in the zoos.
Groups like Acres, Nature Alert and Sahabat Alam Malaysia, among others, have all sent letters to Perhilitan and the ministry alerting them of the problems.
Perhilitan is supposed to check each zoo at least once a year, usually during applications to renew wildlife licences and permits. Notorious zoos are said to get more visits. Perhilitan staff are also supposed to vet the stock books (which record births, deaths and purchases of animals) of the zoos.
So how did the zoos get away with housing animals in constricted, deplorable conditions, and make them perform silly shows despite a ban?
When criticisms about poor husbandry in zoos surfaced in the past, Perhilitan fell behind the excuse that it had no jurisdiction over them as the Protection of Wildlife Act 1972 was silent about these facilities.
This loophole has since been fixed under the new Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, yet Perhilitan now says that we have to wait until June for the enactment of new regulations on zoos. Judging from past experience, the June date might stretch to September, then December, then even years from now.
Will the animals then continue to languish in their cages? How long does it take to draft new rules when the department already has a set of guidelines on zoos (which it never enforced because of the “no jurisdiction” claim under the old Act)?
We actually have another legislation that checks on animal abuse, the Animal Act 2006, but it has hardly been used as it comes under the Veterinary Services Department, which does little enforcement work. Animal rights groups say the paltry penalty — a fine of RM200 or jail term of six months — is hardly a deterrent, but then it is better than nothing.
Poor animal welfare is just the tip of the iceberg of ills that plague our zoos. What about the harbouring of illegally-obtained endangered animals? And the keeping of animals unsuited to our hot climate and environment, such as penguins?
The unfortunate thing is that many of these acts are sanctioned by Perhilitan, which issues the permits to keep the animals. And offending zoos such as Saleng Zoo and Johor Zoo, which have been raided for illegal possession of animals, continue to operate, and have their special permits to keep endangered species renewed.
Perhilitan should list on its website full details of every special permit given out so that everyone from non-governmental groups, scientists and the public, can help the department monitor abuses of the special permits.
It is feared that some the poorly kept zoos are actually fronts for illegal trade in animals. Action against errant zoo operators should also be listed on Perhilitan’s website, so as to shame the offenders into compliance in future.
Perhilitan has talked about the formation of a Zoo Task Force but until now, there are no details about its composition and how it will operate.
Until the zoos clean up their act, we should, as suggested by some NGOs, boycott them and not take our children to visit those places which ill treat animals.
Some NGOs have also pointed out: With already 39 zoos in Peninsular Malaysia, and many of them below par, why allow the opening of more zoos? Perhilitan should make sure the existing ones are up to standard before allowing new ones to open.
We should also ask ourselves: Do we still need zoos? Do putting animals in enclosures, even open and big

Six months for zoos to comply with guidelines
Zoos have six months from June to comply with guidelines issued by the Natural Resources and Environment Minis­try in order to be issued with operating licences.
The operating licence requirement is compulsory under the new Wildlife Conservation Act 2010.
“A set of guidelines is currently being drafted by the ministry for zoo operators to comply with and it is expected

Private menageries deny claims of animal mistreatment
Private zoo operators are denying claims that they are mistreating animals under their care.
The director of a large zoo in Perak said he could not understand why visitors would want to jump into animal enclosures.
He added that the open concept of the zoo was to maintain the naturalistic environment and to ensure

Special Report: Controversy over Chiang Mai Zoo’s Polar Bear Exhibit
Chiang Mai Zoo is forging ahead with the construction of its newest attraction exhibiting live polar bears. However, animal activists have denounced the project, saying polar bears are vulnerable in captivity and the new facility is also substandard.
President of the Lanna Bird and Nature Conservation Club MD Rungsrit Kanjanavanit, accompanied by over 20 members of the Thai Wildlife Protection Network, the Hug Chiang Mai Club and the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation, traveled to Chiang Mai Zoo in the northern province of Chiang Mai to submit a letter to Mr Thanapat Pongpamorn, Director of the zoo. The letter protested the zoo’s new addition, called the Polar World, which is being built to showcase a couple of polar bears as well as King Penguins.
Despite the zoo’s vision to use Polar World to stimulate local tourism and contribute to the research and conservation effort, MD Rungsrit expressed strong disagreement with the project, particularly the polar bear display. He explained that statistics worldwide had indicated that polar bears had difficulties thriving in captivity and adapting to their confines.
Another reason is that polar bears live in the sub-zero temperatures of the Arctic all year long and, therefore, life in the tropical climate of Thailand would be brutal. Even though the air-conditioning system could come in handy, building a space to imitate the bears’ natural habitat is still a challenging task as they also need a vast expanse of land and water to roam and hunt for food. Many countries with hefty budgets have failed to keep polar bears in healthy conditions, physically or mentally, within their fences.
MD Rungsrit cited research by the University of Oxford as suggesting that nearly all polar bears on display across the globe had mental illnesses. The animals’ unfamiliarity with their new environs and limited space can cause depression as well as unusual and repetitive

Pune to have India’s first walk-through aquarium
A hundred bright fishes, swimming around you, while you have an insight to what the underwater world must look like. Such a privilege was given only to visitors of aquarium tunnels like Ocean Park in Hong Kong and SeaWorld in San Diego. But now the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) is proposing to build India’s first walk-through aquarium in the city.
“The aquarium will be around 35,000 sq ft. The corporation will bear 10 per cent of the project cost, while the government will bear the rest 90 per cent,” said Naresh Zurmure, Additional Municipal Comissioner.
“We are narrowing down on locations. Our first choice was to build it in Sambhaji Park, since it is centrally located and accessible from all parts of the city. Unfortunately, there is very little free area left in Sambhaji Park. We have not completely ruled it out but we are still

‘X-tink-shun’ illuminated at the Philadelphia Zoo
At the Philadelphia Zoo, action is being taken. In an effort to educate the public about endangered species, the park has teamed up with the Jim Henson Company. Together they have developed a new park-wide theme called “X-tink-shun.” Described as “an imaginative, multidimensional, Zoo-wide exhibition,” it encourages people to start considering and protecting our wildlife.
Since the endangered animals cannot speak up for themselves, through the use of puppet characters, the animals are given a voice. The entire cast includes Didi the Dodo, Leo the Golden Lion Tamarin, Alfreda Cheetah, Iggle the Eaglet, Phibi Frog, “The Douc” Langur and Amur the Tiger. Most of the cast of characters are endangered species, except for Didi the Dodo. Since the dodo has been extinct for more than 300 years, Didi has taken upon herself to become the main advocate for the endangered animals of today.
In the Big Cat Theater, a movie that is eight minutes long introduces everyone from the cast, explains what their purpose is while at the zoo, and they sing their theme song “Hail the Creatures,” written and recorded by Grammy Award-winning artist Dan Zanes. The movie is done with the help of the 6ABC news crew. As Matt O’Donnell, a reporter for 6ABC, explains in the movie, this exhibit is to “join forces for a common cause.” Didi agrees, saying that it is “advocating for their own protection.”
Other fun and engaging activities that “X-tink-sun” offers are the chalkboards set up against a wall. With a sign over the chalkboards that says “X-press yourself,” visitors are invited to write what is on their minds about protecting the endangered species. As the children run to the chalkboards to write down their feelings about the extinction problem, many adults do the same.
An additional feature of “X-tink-shun” is the “Save our Species Parade.” Which is presented by SEPTA. Guests and staff parade around the Bird Lake at different times during the day among high-flying animal puppets. They come together to help support the message of conservation of endangered animals. Many onlookers enjoy the experience of watching the show and there is a sense of empowerment from everyone uniting to help these animals.
People will also encounter live theatrical puppet presentations and street performances in Bank of America Eco-stages placed throughout the zoo. Each stage features a character that educates and engages the audience in understanding endangered animals and habitats. The message is a powerful one that persuades the spectators to take action in making a difference in the world of nature, especially

BELOW IS THE MISSING ORANGUTAN VIDEO...if you click on it. It will blank out. I thought I would include it so that you can see Willie Smits.

Plastic bags out at San Diego SeaWorld gift shops
SeaWorld says it will stop using plastic bags at its San Diego theme park's gift shops on June 18 to cut plastic pollution in the ocean.
Company officials told the San Diego Union Tribune they hope to save a million plastic bags from being used. Customers will be offered paper and reusable sacks instead.
The ban on plastic bags coincides with the opening of the park's Turtle Reef attraction, which focuses on ecology. Officials say plastic bags can be a major problem for some types of sea turtles

Cold feet over Chiang Mai's polar bears
The proposal to bring a couple of polar bears to Chiang Mai Zoo has prompted some heated debate. There's the obvious contradiction of bringing creatures whose natural habitat is the frozen wastes of the Arctic to battle with the steamy tropical heat.
However, unlike their relations in Safari World, these bears would be in air-conditioned enclosures of 18-22C, although that is admittedly hardly Arctic weather. But the reality is that the bears have been born and raised in European zoos and might not fancy real Arctic conditions any more than humans, although they do have some lovely ready-made fur coats. If they did bring the temperatures down to real Arctic weather, it would be unlikely that anyone would go and see them considering Thais feel anything below 20C means an immediate case of frostbite.
It's all about money, of course. In zoos around the world, polar bears have always attracted a lot of interest and boosted the coffers, and that's what the Chiang Mai Zoo has its eyes on. One local enterprise is already selling miniature porcelain polar bears. They don't waste any time do they?
A taste of nature
You may recall there was controversy, again in Chiang Mai, about five years ago when a new safari park announced plans to promote exotic wildlife dishes on the menu at the park's restaurant. Fortunately it was hastily abandoned after sparking considerable public outrage.
The whole episode was apparently an "unfortunate misunderstanding". But it was still bit of a worry that the wildlife menu was originally proposed by someone whose job was supposedly to promote the welfare of wild animals.
You don't really have to be St Francis of Assisi to realise that, after being entertained by zebras, giraffes and other creatures running around the park, to indulge in eating close relations of those creatures could prove to be something of a moral dilemma.
There was seemingly no moral dilemma for two Thai labourers from the Northeast who some years ago were deported from Israel after it was discovered they had feasted on a considerable number of creatures from the nearby children's zoo. They were originally caught sneaking out with a goat, but later admitted they had devoured 40 parrots, four goats, three geese, two love birds and a partridge in a pear tree. Fortunately they gave the giraffe a miss.
It sounded like they had quite a party although they must have

Discovery Cove - The Grand Reef
Discovery Cove takes immersion to new depths when it opens an all-new addition -- The Grand Reef -- in June 2011. The new reef features multiple levels of exploration, from shallow waters to deeper swimming adventures, from white sandy beaches and hammocks swaying in the breeze, to snorkeling among canyons inspired by reefs from around the world.

Exhibit Supports Legislation to End 'Shark-Finning'
A new exhibit at the Aquarium of the Bay brings attention to the practice of 'shark-finning' and how some Californians are trying to stop it.
The Aquarium of the Bay is currently hosting the No Fins, No Future exhibit in support of a California State Assembly bill–AB 376--to ban the possession, sale, trade, and distribution of shark fins in California.
More than 73 million sharks are killed each year for their fins, which are used to make shark fin soup, according to the Aquarium. As a result, the shark population surrounding California has declined by more than 90 percent.
The aim of the exhibit is to expose California voters to what Christina J. Slager, Director of Husbandry for the Aquarium, calls the horrific practice of shark-finning, and to help visitors show their support for the bill.
The exhibit includes a video and an informational graphic, and guests are encouraged to sign postcards showing their support for the legislation. Staff for the Aquarium will mail

World's oldest captive orangutan dies
THE world's oldest captive orangutan has died at a zoo in Tokyo.
Molly's age was estimated at 59 years and four months, according to Tama Zoological Park where she died overnight, Kyodo news agency said.
The animal arrived at Ueno Zoological Gardens, also in Tokyo, from Indonesia in 1955 aged three and became popular as an artist in recent years after starting to draw with crayons.
Her condition began to deteriorate in March, Tama Zoo said. Kyodo did not specify Molly's illness.
Another female orangutan at the zoo, named Gypsy, has become

Rush up, zoo pushes for more security
The rush of people to the Rajiv Gandhi Zoological Park and Research Centre, Katraj, has increased manifold and the 34 security personnel are proving inadequate to handle the proportionate increase in pressure, feel zoo authorities. To step up security, they say they have moved a proposal to the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) seeking an increase in security personnel.
They are also taking measures to ban use of polythene, gutkha and cigarettes inside the zoo to maintain the premises better and the hike in number of security personnel of the zoo will enable better enforcement.
PMC chief security officer, Ramesh Shelar, said, “We will soon issue tenders to enlist a security agency, which will provide us with additional personnel to guard the zoo.”
Director of the Zoo, Rajkumar Jadhav, said they have sought an increase in

Electrified Reefs Are Bringing Coral Back to the Future
Bora Bora, Society Islands, French Polynesia—I dove yesterday in the beautiful lagoon that surrounds the tall island of Bora Bora to have a firsthand look at how the coral reef is doing around this South Pacific resort island. The report is not good. Descending to 90 feet, it comes clear that the reef has been hammered in the past few years. I’ve dived here every year for the past decade and have seen incredible decay.
I spent most of the morning observing the still-growing reef system just 10 to 30 feet below the surface. Although the waters are warm and magnificently clear, invasive predators and natural disaster have taken big tolls. Populations of acanthaster—more popularly known as the Crown of Thorns starfish—mysteriously arrived in Polynesia in 2006. Here in the shallows surrounding Bora Bora—as they have done to reefs on nearby Moorea

Dance of the Sea Dragons - Wonderful

CZA to seal zoo revamp's fate in 10 days
The fate of the much-awaited Rs 433-crore Byculla zoo master plan will be decided in 10 days by the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) in Delhi as it will grant its final approval.
The CZA is in the process of formulating a fresh set of guidelines for the zoo. The civic body is expected to adhere to these guidelines in toto. The guidelines will be prepared by a group of experts and submitted by B S Bonal, member-secretary, CZA in 10 days. In a marathon meeting held on Thursday in Delhi, a lengthy presentation was made by zoo officials to the CZA.
CZA members categorically said that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) would have to modify the zoo within the existing situation, taking into consideration

Hyenas laugh as tigers prosper at Rajaji
The spirits of the Rajaji National Park authorities have been buoyed by the first photographic evidence of the presence of striped hyena in its western parts after a nine-year hiatus.
The movement of the striped hyena in this part of the park is being seen as a sign of improvement in ecological balance as well as increased movement of the big cats, especially tigers, here, the hyenas scavenging and surviving on the kills made by the felines, Rajaji field director SS Rasaily said on Friday.
Considered a near threatened species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which maintains a “red list” of at-risk and extinct species around the world, the rise in their numbers is in itself a cause for significant relief. According to the Rajaji field director, there are at least 15 striped hyenas in the national park.
The camera traps used in the latest tiger census have recorded an increase in the movement and presence of hyenas in the national park. So far, the hyena population had been restricted to small pockets in the Gohri and Chilla ranges.
Different signs of the presence of hyenas like pugmarks, scat and dens among others were last sighted in the western part of the national park in 2002.
Hyena pugmarks were first spotted in this area in January 2011 after which

Wolves endangered by political predators
WHEN Congress delisted the gray wolves in their recent budget cuts deal, I remembered the great conservationist — and one-time wolf hunter, Aldo Leopold —writing in 1949: "I was young then, full of trigger-itch. I thought that because few wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters' paradise."
But when Leopold watched the "fierce green fire dying" in the eyes of a female wolf he had just killed, he had a revelation: "There was something new to me in those eyes," he wrote. "After seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view."
In one moment of cross-species connection, Aldo Leopold's assumptions about wolf management changed. He realized he had too narrowly focused his sights on hunting — not habitat. His worldview had been limited to the needs of one human species dominating the whole ecosystem. The dying wolf taught Leopold what we teach our children: To share. Home. Habitat.
Leopold never killed another wolf. Instead, he devoted his life to conserving this much-maligned and scapegoated species. Leopold would have celebrated the successful wolf-reintroduction programs in this country that are a model for the whole world. Farsighted and wildly popular, the wolf-reintroduction programs in Yellowstone and the northern Rockies provide more than tourism income. These top predators also restore balance to elk and deer populations, which have long overgrazed grasslands.
Wolf biologist Cristina Eisenberg at Oregon State University and author of "The Wolf's Tooth" studies the wolves in Glacier National Park. She says that since wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone, scientists have documented "rapid recovery of over-browsed aspen, willows and cottonwoods, stream bank stabilization in eroded streams, and a dramatic increase in biodiversity of songbirds."
"Wolves are keystone predators who nurture the entire ecosystem," Eisenberg explains. "If we eradicate wolves or lower their numbers, the whole system will grow impoverished and collapse."
On April 15, President Obama signed a budget bill that included a rider that removes wolves from the federal endangered species list in Eastern Washington, Eastern Oregon, Idaho, Montana and north Utah.
This move turns wolf management over to the states. Because Wyoming has no federally approved wolf-management plan, wolves are still protected there.
"But wolves provide the

Penquin Parade - Welsh Mountain Zoo - Good Friday

Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Sighted and Recorded
Michael Collins, Naval Research Laboratory scientist and bird watcher, has published an article titled "Putative audio recordings of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis)" which appears in the March issue of the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. The audio recordings were captured in two videos of birds with characteristics consistent with the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. This footage was obtained near the Pearl River in Louisiana, where there is a history of unconfirmed reports of this species. During five years of fieldwork, Collins had ten sightings and also heard the characteristic "kent" calls of this species on two occasions.

Endangered penguins in rehab
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSBP), an IUCN Member, other conservationists and volunteers, are working hard to save a colony of threatened Northern Rockhopper penguins (Eudyptes moseleyi) after a devastating oil spill in the Tristan da Cunha archipelago.
On the 16 March 2011, a cargo vessel the MS Oliva, crashed into Nightingale Island, which includes nearly half of the world population of the Northern Rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes moseleyi), one of the world’s most threatened species of penguin.
At least 1,500 oil-soaked Northern Rockhopper penguins (Eudyptes moseleyi) have now been put into ‘rehab’ but those assessing the disaster believe more than 10,000 birds could have been affected.
Katrine Herian, who works for the RSPB on the island, says: “The priority is to get food into the birds as they are very hungry. We are trying locally caught fish and some are starting to take small half inch squares of the food.
“We will do all we can to clean up as many penguins as possible after this

Alien Giant Tortoise Helps Restore Ecosystem
Rather than wreaking havoc on a tiny island in the Indian Ocean -- as alien species can sometimes do -- a giant tortoise appears to be helping to restore the native ecosystem.
Wildlife scientists introduced Aldabra giant tortoises -- which can reach up to 661 pounds (300 kilograms) -- to an island, called Ile aux Aigrettes, off the coast of the island nation of Mauritius. By 2009, 19 adult giant tortoises called the island home. The tortoises were to replace the role of their extinct kin. [Extinct Giant Tortoises Could Be Revived]
Before humans first arrived on Ile aux Aigrettes, various giant tortoises lived there, as did giant skinks -- a type of lizard -- and, most likely, flightless dodo birds. The disappearance of these animals affected other things living on the island, in particular the native ebony trees, which have been devastated by people hunting for firewood.
The giant tortoises and the skinks ate the fruit of these trees, spreading the seeds. Without these fruit-eaters around, the trees could no longer disperse; young trees only grew directly below the adults.
Worldwide, invasive species are considered one of the greatest threats to biodiversity, so, the idea of replacing an extinct creature with a foreign one is controversial. It has been done elsewhere with the new species often closely related to the one being replaced.
For example, the North American peregrine falcon was re-established from seven subspecies from four continents, and yellow crowned night herons have been introduced to Bermuda to replace extinct herons and

Cheetah gives birth to 7 adorable cubs (Photo Cheetah Cubs Fei Long)
SEVEN cheetah cubs were born at Shanghai Wildlife Park in what officials described yesterday as a rather rare event.
Usually a cheetah gives birth to between one and five cubs, officials said.
The cheetah mother, however, couldn't provide milk for all seven cubs, so feeders had to "recruit" two dogs to help, officials added.
The father Da Hu and the mother Lao Da are both five years old and grew up together. From a young age they interacted well and keepers decided to mate the two. Several months after staying together, Lao Da was p

Phuket Opinion: Captive dolphins pitied, even in the Land of Smiles
The recent announcement that a Canadian investor has sought provincial support for his plan to develop a 900-million-baht aquarium, resort and retail facility in Rawai has generated much debate over the ethics of keeping dolphins in captivity.
Soon after the announcement that dolphin performances were slated to be among the attractions at the aquarium, forum comments and letters arguing passionately against the practice arrived on the Gazette Online and at the Phuket Gazette offices in large numbers.
Holding dolphins in captivity unfairly sentences these intelligent creatures to a highly artificial and unhealthy existence, in surroundings enormously different from their natural environment, the authors said.
Shortly after the release of our news article on the proposed project, the investor, Daniel McDaniel, contacted the Gazette to explain that the project would include a science center and marine petting zoo, all part of a commitment to raise public awareness and increase education about marine life and the environment that sustains it.
While not arguing the accuracy of the description, he commented that the term “performing animals” as used in the Phuket Gazette article tended to convey a negative impression, as evidenced by the more than 50 negative comments in our online readers' forum.
The Gazette empathizes with Mr McDaniel as a Phuket-supportive

Bonobos break out and end up with the gorillas
The Surprised the Wuppertal Gorilla Horde bad: Suddenly, excited eight bonobos were sitting in their outdoor enclosure and brought the cozy Zooalltag disoriented. What had happened, the Wuppertal Zoo? Probably was a sliding door in the monkey house not closed properly, speculates zoo veterinarian Arne Lawrenz. For through that door escaped the eight-member bonobo troops on Friday (29.04.11) without permission. The bonobos were not very far. They landed straight on a large outdoor enclosure of lowland gorillas. Fortunately this was noticed a Zoomitarbeiterin that had to do in the next exhibit.
As a precaution we had then in Wuppertal first

Snake venom: Groovy, baby!
A team of six scientists from the University of Massachusetts Lowell and the Technische Universität München (the Technical University of Munich, Germany) used biophysics to explain how snakes use grooved fangs to deposit venom in victims.
Some snakes have tubing inside their fangs that distributes globules of venom in prey like a syringe. Most venomous snakes, however, along with many other reptiles, deposit venom in prey via a groove that runs down the middle of each fang.
Bruce Young, from the University of Massachusetts Lowell and his German colleagues, Florian Herzog, Paul Friedel, Sebastian Rammensee, Andreas Bausch and J. Leo van Hemmen, all of the Technical University of Munich, studied how the viscosity of the venom and the fang-prey interaction affected the venom delivery during a snake bite.
Snake venom is a non-Newtonian fluid, meaning it behaves sometimes more like a solid and sometimes more like a liquid. Examples of other non-Newtonian fluids include ketchup, oobleck - the two parts corn starch, one part water gooey concoction - and Silly Putty.
The flow of liquids is affected by liquids' interactions with surfaces. How quickly they slide against a surface is called viscosity. Water has a low viscosity - it flows quickly over substances. Honey, on the other hand, has a high viscosity. It's stickier and flows more slowly, behaving almost like a solid. Snake venom also has a high viscosity, flowing about 500 times more slowly than water. Even so, it's fast enough to flow down a fang and into a victim at a pace of

Some Wonderful footage

Watch the full episode. See more Nature.

Abhaya the little jumbo was lucky but what about others?
Last week, the Dehiwala Zoo welcomed a new baby elephant “Abhaya” who had lost his family to a tragic train/elephant collision.
It was just another peaceful night in October last year for two elephant families roaming the jungles of Habarana. There were two baby elephants aged only a few months in their midst and grazing peacefully, they approached the railroad. It was only when the sound of the oncoming train disturbed the silence of the night that the mothers recognizing the danger tried to protect them but the collision was deadly.
The mother jumbos were instantly killed and the two calves injured. Wildlife officers reached the accident site at Kithulothuwa along the Kantale Trincomalee railroad at dawn and the baby jumbos were sent to the Girithale wildlife facility for treatment. The one that had all its legs broken didn’t survive long but, the other, believed to be only eight months fought hard for his life. His

SIW 27 April - Animal matchmaking techniques
Listen to this week's lesson about matchmaking endangered animals then take the online quiz.

Eggs head for the hills in project to save endangered frog species
DEEP in the Snowy Mountains a helicopter lands on boggy ground, bearing three scientists and their precious cargo of 100 frog eggs.
The tiny, delicate balls are the offspring of the southern corroboree frog, one of the most endangered animals in the world.
In an attempt to save the species, which is being wiped out by the chytrid fungus, scientists from the Department of Environment and Heritage have developed

Ape close and personal: Stunning images which capture primates at their most unguarded (GREAT PHOTOS)

Is China killing Africa's elephants?
The number of poachings has increased dramatically, as has the Chinese demand for ivory.
Many blame China for the rise in elephant killings in Africa.
The growing appetite for ivory in Asia, coupled with the increasing influence of China in countries across central and southern parts of Africa, has led to more elephants being killed for their ivory tusks.
In the latest incident to point to this trend, Thai customs officials seized two tons of ivory hidden in the hold of a ship arriving from the Kenyan port of Mombasa.
The 247 tusks discovered on March 30 are thought to are estimated to be worth about $3.3 million, illustrating the lucrative nature of a global illegal trade that threatens to decimate Africa’s wildlife.
The head of Kenya’s wildlife authority blamed the Chinese for the slaughter of more than 100 elephants and 20 rhinos in this East African country alone last year.
“Ninety percent of all the people who pass through our airports and are apprehended with illegal wildlife trophies are Chinese,” said Julius Kipng’etich, director of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).
China is investing billions in Africa every year in deals that swap roads and railways for the minerals and natural resources that fuel its growing economy. But wildlife experts say there is a dark side to the Chinese presence.
“China is the major driver for trade in ivory and that is linked to China’s phenomenal economic growth, the level of disposable income there, a re-embracing of traditional culture and status symbols in which ivory plays a role and the phenomenal increase of Chinese nationals on the African continent,” said Tom Milliken, regional director for east and southern Africa at TRAFFIC, a group which monitors the global wildlife trade.
An embassy cable written by the United States ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, in February last year and published by the website WikiLeaks said: “KWS noticed a marked increase in poaching wherever Chinese labor camps were located and in fact set up specific interdiction efforts aimed to reduce poaching.”
.Ranneberger added, “The [government of China] has not demonstrated

CK: Xayaburi still on course
Firm confident in soundness of EIA
Thailand's second-largest contractor, insists that banks and the government of Laos remain committed to the Xayaburi dam the company plans to build on the Mekong River.
Laos has given no indication that it plans to review the environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the US$3.8-billion project, said Anukool Tuntimas, a company director and executive vice-president for human resources and general administration.
"We've been assured our EIA report has followed all the correct procedures," he said. "If we had not compiled the report properly, the Lao government would not have okayed our doing this project."
Even if Laos did review the EIA, it was doubtful any major changes would be made, said Dr Anukool.
"The [four] banks we've asked for loans to finance the Xayaburi dam also remain committed to us. Nothing has changed," he said.
Germany's Deutsche Presse-Agentur recently quoted Viraphonh Viravong, director-general of the Electricity Department of the Lao Energy and Mines Ministry, as saying his country would review the EIA of the hydroelectric dam that is opposed by downstream nations.
"We will hire an international consulting firm to review the comments made by our neighbours," said Mr Viraphonh.
"And then we will see how serious it is and what the mitigation

Nature's Living Tape Recorders May Be Telling Us Secrets
Back in the 1930s there was a bird, an Australian bird, who had this thing for a human lady. The lady's name was Mrs. Wilkinson (I couldn't find her first name) and she lived in Australia. So did the bird. It visited her daily for food. She named it "James."
When James the bird decided to woo Mrs. Wilkinson, he built a mound in her backyard, stood on top of it, and sang. Mrs. Wilkinson, naturally flattered, invited some human friends to listen.
According to those who were there, on one occasion James sang for 43 minutes. Because James was a superb lyrebird (that's what they're actually called), his songs included sounds he had heard in the woods and suburbs where he lived. Lyrebirds are probably the world's most gifted mimics and according to Wikipedia, James' love song to Mrs. Wilkinson included a kookaburra's laughing song, the calls of cockatoos, wattle-birds, starlings, parrots, an automobile horn, a rock-crushing machine and a jackhammer.
These birds are amazing. If you've never heard a lyrebird do a perfect imitation of a chainsaw, let me introduce you to Chook, a superb lyrebird now resident at the Adelaide Zoo.
Chook lived in a cage next to a panda exhibit while it was under construction so presumably that's how he learned to do perfect renditions of hammers, power drills, and car alarms. Many birds can mimic sounds but lyrebirds are the masters. They are nature's living tape recorders, and sometimes their songs can be troubling.
For example, when the BBC's David Attenborough ran into a lyrebird deep in the Australian woods, the bird not only sang the songs of 20 other forest birds, it also did a perfect imitation of foresters and their chainsaws, who apparently were getting closer. That same bird made the sound of a car alarm.
These birds were, in effect, recording the sounds of their own habitat destruction. And they were doing this, ironically, inside their mating songs.
Are Lyrebirds Accidental Historians?
The birds, of course, don't "remember" where they picked up these sounds. For them it is just a noise. But scientists do wonder how old are these sounds? Lyrebirds can live 40 to 50 years.
In 1969, Neville Fenton, an Australian park ranger, recorded a lyrebird singing a song that sounded very much like a flute, a flute being played by a human. After much sleuthing, Mr. Fenton discovered that 30 years earlier, a farmer/flute player had lived near the park and played tunes to his pet lyrebird. That lyrebird downloaded the songs, then was allowed to live wild in the park.
Phrases from those flute songs apparently became part of the local lyrebird songbook. A scholar named Norman

Hanoi speeds up cleaning of Hoan Kiem Lake to save legendary turtle
The dredging and cleaning of the lake must be finished quickly to serve the treatment of the legendary turtle.
According to experts, the turtle is now healthy and it doesn’t need to live in its “sanatorium” anymore. However, Dr. Bui Quang Te, chief of the turtle treatment group, said that the turtle cannot return to its natural environment right now because the lake is not cleaned yet. However, if the turtle lives in cage for a long time, its skills to live naturally may be affected.
Te said the latest tests of Hoan Kiem Lake’s water showed that the water contained a lot of bacteria, fungi, toxic algae, etc.
“Putting the turtle back into the lake when the water is still polluted, means that the treatment for the Hoan Kiem turtle will become useless. We have asked the Hanoi authorities to urgently clean the lake,” Te said.
The turtle can return to its natural environment in two weeks. However, just a small area of Hoan Kiem Lake has been cleaned.
Dr. Nguyen Viet Vinh, a member of the turtle treatment group, said that if the legendary turtle lives in the cage for a long time, it would be familiar to the cage and to the food supplied by man. The turtle is highly possible tamed.
“The most important task right now is cleaning the Hoan Kiem Lake,” Dr. Vinh emphasized.
“Though the turtle lives in the clean tank, it still lacks natural


Say goodbye to Indera the Sun Bear
ONE-YEAR-OLD Indera has never ventured further beyond the Malayan sun bear enclosure at the Singapore Zoo.
But, come the end of May, the cub will leave sunny Singapore and take a 13-hour flight to Britain. His new home will be the Rare Species Conservation Centre (RSCC) in Kent in south-east England.
He is leaving behind his sister, mother and father but his relocation - under an animal-exchange programme - is for the greater good of his species.
'The parting is bittersweet,' said Mr Subash Chandran, 59, curator of zoology at the zoo.
'We are definitely sad to see him go as we've seen him grow over the year from just a tiny cub to what he is now,' he added, referring to Indera's current weight of 28kg.
However, he pointed out that Indera will have an important role to play in his new setting. It will help sustain the Malayan sun bear's population and

Tassie tigers cat-like hunters
Researchers in the United States believe the hunting style of the tasmanian tiger was more cat-like than wolf.
Early settlers dubbed the tasmanian tiger a 'marsupial wolf'.
But scientists at the Rhode Island's Brown University have released research showing its hunting style was more like a cat.
The last known tiger died in captivity in Hobart in 1936.
The research shows that even though the animal resembled a dog, it was not a pursuit hunter but a pounce predator.
The tiger's forearm bones show it was not built for speed but rather could twist its paws to grapple with prey like a cat.
But unlike other ambush predators, the tiger did not have retractable claws.
Researchers say it is possible the tiger evolved this way so the young marsupials could crawl into the mother's pouch.
The report says:
"Craniodental studies confirm the thylacine's carnivorous diet, but little attention has been paid to its postcranial skeleton which would confirm, or refute, rare eyewitness reports of a more ambushing predatory mode than the pack-hunting pursuit mode of wolves and other large canids."
"Here we show that thylacines had the elbow morphology typical of an ambush predator and propose that the 'tasmanian tiger' vernacular name might be more apt than the 'marsupial wolf '.
In light of their findings, researchers say the theory that dingoes caused the tigers' extinction on mainland Australia 3,000 years ago should be reconsidered.
The animals would have competed for the same prey but the research suggests dingoes may have been dominant because of their hunting

Giant Squid Killed by Sound?
"We now have proof" sonar blasts can harm squid, expert says..
When giant squid were found dead off Spain about a decade ago, scientists suspected that powerful sound pulses from ships had harmed the animals. Now the evidence may be in.
A new study says low-frequency sounds from human activities can affect squid and other cephalopods, not just whales and other marine mammals, which have long been thought to be vulnerable to such pulses. (See "U.S. Navy Sonar May Harm Killer Whales, Expert Says.")
The finding suggests noise pollution in the ocean is having a much broader effect on marine life than previously thought, said study leader Michel André, a marine bioacoustician at Barcelona's Technical University of Catalonia.
"We know that noise pollution in the oceans has a significant impact on dolphins and whales [which use natural sonar to navigate and hunt]. ... but this is the first study indicating a severe impact on invertebrates, an extended group of marine species that are not known to rely on sound for living," André said in a statement.
Giant Squid Mystery Solved?
In the early 2000s the remains of giant squid were found off Spain's Asturias province (map). In each case, the creatures' bodies appeared soon after ships had used air guns to conduct low-frequency sound-pulse exercises

Chimps are self-aware, study finds
CHIMPANZEES are self-aware and can anticipate the impact of their actions on the environment around them, an ability once thought to be uniquely human, according to a study released today.
The findings, reported in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, challenge assumptions about the boundary between human and non-human, and shed light on the evolutionary origins of consciousness, the researchers said.
Earlier research had demonstrated the capacity of several species of primates, as well as dolphins, to recognise themselves in a mirror, suggesting a fairly sophisticated sense of self.
The most common experiment consisted of marking an animal with paint in a place - such as the face - that it could only perceive while looking at its reflection.
If the ape sought to touch or wipe off the mark while facing a mirror, it showed

Southeast Asian palm oil firms are turning to Africa
Southeast Asian palm oil firms are turning to Africa as land runs out back home and world demand for cheap cooking oil soars, but the continent’s harsh weather, high costs and land disputes could derail their plans.
Malaysia’s Sime Darby and Singapore’s Golden Agri Resources have joined a slew of global firms entering Africa by snapping up hundreds of thousands of hectares of land in Liberia, but it could still take years to turn the region into a net exporter and help ease high palm oil prices.
With an increasing number of firms rushing to Africa as part of a global grab for land in the face of soaring food prices, African governments such as Nigeria and Tanzania have also thrown open their doors to planters by offering tax breaks and big land concessions.
But a lack of clear land titles, poor margins and weak yields could turn out to be massive stumbling blocks. “Africa is not a dream continent for palm oil,” said Gert Vandersmissen, director of operations in Gabon for Belgium’s Siat Group.
“We have been here for 30 years and we get on by with small profits. The costs can be high.”
But with Malaysia and Indonesia, which together account for 85% of the world’s palm oil output, likely to run out of land soon, the two Southeast Asian countries do not have many alternatives.
Nomura said in a recent note that strict environmental rules would see both Southeast Asian countries run out of land by 2020-22, a century after colonial


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April 2011 - Vol. 3 - No. 4
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