Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Zoo News Digest 6th - 8th June 2011 (Zoo News 758)

Zoo News Digest 6th - 8th June  2011 (Zoo News 758)

Peter Dickinson

Dear Colleague,

Today is World Oceans Day. If there is an aquarium or oceanarium anywhere that is not doing something today to make visitors aware of the importance of the seas around us then I would question their raisons d'être. There are a lot of aquariums out there and a great many of them have a lot to prove.

You may have noticed that that Idiot Lion Man is still going ahead with his insane plans. He trains by kicking and punching dogs apparently...what a hero???? All I can do is make people aware. If you have any political clout then please use it to get this fight stopped. I know the guy could probably kill me with one punch but I would be prepared to take the place of the unfortunate lion.

I am in full agreement with Dr Reza Khan of Dubai Zoo. Setting up a Cheetah Owners Club in the UAE would be a big mistake. It WOULD encourage more smuggling. I would love to know who are the irresponsible South African Cheetah farms which are supplying the 'legal' animals. True enough there should be responsible ownership but these are NOT pets. In the right hands they are a good ambassador for the big cat species but in good zoos not in dysfunctional zoos or the hands of irresponsible owners. Far better than Lions and Tigers.

Not all of these Cheetah are pets either. Some are used for hunting as can be seen HERE. As this becomes more popular there is going to be an increased bout of smuggling. It all needs nipping in the bud now.

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Update on Zoo d'Abidjan

Elephant researcher works with Birmingham Zoo
Take it from an expert -- an elephant never forgets.
Bob Dale is such an expert. A professor of psychology at Indiana's Butler University, he teaches undergraduate courses in animal learning and evolutionary psychology and an honors course on elephants. He has studied elephants for 10 years, their social behavior and, among other things, their memory.
And part of his time observing the animals is being spent at the Birmingham Zoo with its three male African elephants.
"This is the only exhibit of its kind in North America, and as far as I know, in Europe," Dale said. "So it affords an opportunity that you could only get perhaps in Africa."
Elephants travel in female-dominated herds in the wild, with males pushed out between the ages of 10 to 15 to roam on their own. The Birmingham Zoo's Trails of Africa exhibit has three male elephants, with a fourth expected later this summer. Zoo officials have said they hope to make the Trails exhibit a center for elephant research.
Because of this, Dale recently spent time in Birmingham getting to know 29-year-old Bulwagi and 10-year-old Callee. He

Zoo calendar helps out charities
PROCEEDS from Dudley Zoo’s 2011 calendar, which features animals with their favourite Best of British foods, has been split between its Madagascar Campaign – supporting lemurs in the wild – and Help for Heroes.
Zoo chief executive, Peter Suddock said: “The calendar has sold tremendously well this year.
“We have despatched funds to Madagascar and are sorting out a date to hand over the Help for Heroes £500 cheque.”
“Our Madagascar Campaign was set up several years ago and to date we have sent more than £9,000 to this very worthwhile project.”
He added: “It is the first year we have supported Help for Heroes, but with the calendar’s Best

Zoos 'boost conservation knowledge'
A trip to the zoo can boost a child's knowledge of science and conservation more than simply learning through books or lessons, research suggests.
Youngsters knew more about issues such as endangered species and conservation efforts after a visit, according to a study by researchers at Warwick University.
The study, conducted at London Zoo, asked more than 3,000 schoolchildren aged seven to 14 about their knowledge of animals, habitat and conservation before and after their trip.
The findings show that after visiting London Zoo, more than half (53%) of pupils knew more about at least one area of the zoo's education or conservation efforts, such as understanding animals and their habitats, endangered species or conservation.
Youngsters were more likely to say that zoos are for saving animals from extinction and that they are for learning after their visit.
They were also likely to have more personal concern for wildlife conservation, and to use terms such as "canopy" and "rainforest" correctly.
Pupils were asked to draw pictures of a

My Conservation Park (Good idea? Or not?)

Cheetahs leave UAE for new life in Ireland
It is the first plane journey for six rare North African cheetahs, and it will be spent in wooden cages at the back of the plane.
The animals, raised as part of a private collection in Dubai, were leaving for Ireland early today as part of a conservation effort.
The four females and two males were born in captivity at the Wadi Al Safa Wildlife Centre, owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance.
With 31 captive-bred cheetahs and other rare animals, the collection is a member of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria. It has been part of efforts to breed the North African cheetah, the numbers of which have declined steadily in the wild.
At 2.30am today, the cheetahs were to have boarded an Emirates Airline flight to London. Each animal would be in a wooden box, about 86cm tall and large enough to turn around in.
From London, the cheetahs are to continue to the Fota Wildlife Park in Cork.
"They will spend about 24 hours travelling

Bear Bile Trade in Vietnam

Tiger population in state zoos static for five years now
The state wildlife department is concerned about the tiger population in Punjab zoos, which has remained static for the last five years.
Chief Wildlife Warden (Punjab) Gurnaaj Singh said experts from Guru Angad Dev veterinary sciences university (GADVASU) will be approached for suggestions in this regard.
While the Ludhiana zoo has five tigers, Chattbir zoo has 10. Only one tigress, in Chattbir, has given birth last year. It had later died.
In the city zoo, there are two tigers and three tigresses but interestingly, experts have only allowed one couple to mate.
“The others are very violent and there behaviour needs to be studied,” said Singh.
He added: “But even in this couple’s case, no success has been achieved. I

Zoo blunder sees work grind to a halt on panda enclosure
EDINBURGH Zoo bosses have been forced to halt work on the panda enclosure because they did not apply for planning permission, the Evening News can reveal.
Officials admitted that due to turmoil caused by recent suspensions and a vote of no confidence in ex-chair Donald Emslie, bosses "forgot" to submit plans to the council's planning department when they decided to expand the enclosure and surrounding walkway.
The £250,000 panda pad did not originally need planning consent because bosses were only aiming to refurbish the old gorilla pen, but developments have become so extensive that permission is now required. The Health and Safety Executive has also raised concerns about risk assessments being carried out on site.
Newly appointed chief executive Hugh Roberts held his hands up to the error and said the zoo was taking swift action to get building back on track. Director of business operations Gary Wilson, who last week returned to the zoo after being suspended following "malicious and unfounded" allegations against him, has now taken up the reins.
Mr Roberts admitted that a senior official had told zoo officials last week that it needed to submit its plans immediately, and most work will have to stop for the time being.
He said: "We should have applied for planning permission a few weeks ago. The original design didn't require planning permission, but we needed to do more than originally thought. There should have been bells ringing, we should have said 'hang on', we should have applied, but we didn't. This has very much slowed things down for us, but

Waste Slime Turns Jellyfish Into Ecological Vampires
That waste is useful is one of the animal kingdom’s cardinal principles. One creature’s discards are another’s dinner, and so continues the circle of life. But jellyfish, it would seem, bend the rule.
Their waste is generally inedible, food mostly for a few odd species of bacteria that live just long enough to emit a whiff of CO2, then sink. All that nutrition and energy vanishes with barely a trace.
During a jellyfish bloom, food webs may thus be plucked and rearranged, configured to feed jellies that in turn feed almost nothing. Whether this represents the future of Earth’s oceans depends on whom you ask, but it’s an interesting phenomenon in itself.
“Jellyfish are consuming more or less everything that’s present in the food web,” said Robert Condon, a Virginia Institute of Marine Science and co-author of a jellyfish-impact study published June 7 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “They’re eating a lot of the food web, and turning it into gelatinous biomass. They’re essentially stealing

Backstage Pass

Knoxville Zoo facing fines related to elephant keeper's death
The Knoxville Zoo has been fined more than $12,000 dollars after an inspection by TOSHA following the death of an elephant trainer.
Stephanie James was killed in January when Edie, an 8500 pound African elephant, pushed her into a stall.
The Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration (TOSHA) inspected the zoo after the incident, and their findings were released to 10News on Monday.
In the Investigation Summary, we learned more information about what happened the day James was killed. James was trying to serve Edie a treat box, filled with an end of the day snack. She was standing in one of the elephant stalls and called Edie inside to get her treat. Other keepers in the elephant barn said that Edie's eyes widened when she entered the stall, like she was spooked. James told Edie, "No." The elephant continued to walk toward James, stopping within 8 inches of her. Another keeper called

Zoo appeals TOSHA report on trainer's death
Notice of contest filed with agency over citations, results
The Knoxville Zoo is contesting both the citations and conclusions in a Tennessee Division of Occupational Safety and Health investigation into the Jan. 14 death of park elephant keeper Stephanie James.
James, 33, died after 8,500-pound African elephant Edie pushed her into the bars of an elephant stall.
The zoo announced Tuesday it filed a formal notice of contest with TOSHA, part of the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
“We have appealed TOSHA’s citations,” said Zoo Executive Director Jim Vlna. “We respectfully disagree with the citations, as well as the conclusions drawn in the investigation summary. The zoo takes numerous precautions to protect its employees while providing the utmost care for the animals. We look forward to a proper resolution.”
Before James’ death, keepers cared for Edie and the zoo’s other female elephant, Jana, in a free contact approach where humans and animals were together without barriers. The elephants are now handled in protected contact with bars or other barriers between them and keepers.
TOSHA is recommending the zoo be cited “for not placing dangerous animals such as Edie … into a ‘protected contact’ environment to prevent the keepers from being injured.” It proposes the park be fined $5,400 for not providing James a workplace “free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm” and $3,000 for not reporting a work-related death to the agency within eight hours.
The TOSHA report found 12 other zoo workplace violations, many related to the use or condition of maintenance department equipment. Those violations total the proposed fines at $12,600. The zoo also is appealing those citations.
TOSHA mentions two past incidents in which Edie pushed a keeper, including James, and a third in which a rock or mud ball the animal threw

After 24 Years, Suddenly Alone at the Central Park Zoo
Do bears feel grief?
On Friday, workers at the Central Park Zoo euthanized one of its most popular and beloved residents: Ida, a 25-year-old polar bear who had suffered from liver disease. It was a painful moment for her keepers, who were given time with her before she was put down.
But Ida also left behind Gus, her companion for 24 years. Now, Gus, the zoo’s only other polar bear, is alone.
The worry is how Gus, also 25, will respond. In 1994, when he would seemingly swim lap after endless lap without stopping, zookeepers believed he suffered depression. They brought in a therapist, who introduced toys and games and got Gus to cut back on his swimming.
But now will Gus mourn?
Bears do not mate for life, but they are fairly social, according to Dr. David Shepherdson, a scientist at the Oregon Zoo in Portland who has studied bear behavior extensively. “For any animal that forms a close bond with another one, there would be some sense of loss.”
A Central Park Zoo official said Gus’s behavior would be monitored in coming days.
“We haven’t decided what we’re going to do next as far as Gus goes,” said Dr. Robert Cook, a top official at the Wildlife Conservation Society,

Giraffe At Peoria Zoo Begins Taking Birth Control
Vivian, a nubile giraffe in the Peoria Zoo in Illinois, is back on the pill after shunning the contraceptive-laced food that she was served for about a month.
While zookeepers scrambled for a solution to the long-necked, 18-month-old spotted vixen's finicky eating habits, they separated her from Taji, the menagerie's sexed-up male giraffe that had eyes for the spotted specimen since she arrived in November.
Zoo officials put Vivian on birth control to prevent her from mating with Taji, because the pair aren't considered a good genetic match.
"We look at the whole population [of giraffes] in North America," said Peoria Zoo Director Yvonne Strode, "and the ones that don't have a lot of brothers and sisters and cousins are the valuable ones. We want to capture their

When the neighbor keeps tigers, leopards
There's wildlife, then there's exotic wildlife.
Rich Travis was expecting to see a deer or maybe hear a coyote during the night when he moved from Malta to Mayfield in Fulton County. He did not expect to find leopards and tigers in the neighborhood.
"When you hear a tiger roar at 4:30 in the morning, your eyes pop out of your head like billiard balls," Travis said.
Travis, 54, moved in 2006 with his wife, Kimberly, to a new, 3,500-square-foot house off state Route 30.
The following year, his neighbor Steve Salton moved two tigers onto his property. In 2008, when the owners of the Ashville Game Farm in Washington County were forced by the state Department of Environmental Conservation to give up their big cats, Salton took three of them -- a tiger and two leopards.
The tiger, a female named Calcutta, is the same animal that scratched a boy in 2006 at the Saratoga County Fair as the child posed for a photograph with a kangaroo.
Travis has been working every avenue open to him to have the animals removed.
"Safety is my primary concern. I have friends come for dinner; they won't come back. If they have kids, the kids are terrified," Travis said. "The other thing is my property value: The contractor who built my house is sitting on a similar house that he can't sell because of the tigers."
The contractor, Don Russell, said he bought 25 acres and subdivided the land with the intention of building a dozen houses. Travis bought the second one. The third has been for sale for three years and had two perspective buyers. Both, Russell said, backed out when they found out about the big cats in the backyard. It's not the economy holding back the sale, Russell said.
Salton said he minds his own business and would not comment for this story. But public records show he is licensed to keep the cats. State law requires that he have a permit from both the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has the job of monitoring Salton to make sure he complies with

'Bizarre' rabid beaver attacks 3 in Philly park
Rangers say it probably contracted the virus after a brawl with raccoon
A rabies-ridden beaver that wreaked havoc in a Philadelphia park, biting three residents over the last week, likely contracted the virus after a scuffle with a rabid raccoon, park rangers say.
While beavers rarely transmit rabies in the area, residents should try to avoid the park and nearby areas of northeast Philadelphia where rabid raccoons might be hiding.
A single animal loose in the city's Pennypack Park first bit a married couple fishing on Wednesday, then a child on Thursday. The three victims were admitted to the hospital and treated for the infection.
After Thursday's attack, the animal was found and killed by a park ranger. It tested positive for rabies at the Pennsylvania Health Department lab, and also showed signs of blunt force trauma, consistent with the first attack, when the bitten husband claimed to have hit the beaver with a rock to chase it away.
"At this point, we do have reason to believe it was the same animal," Pennsylvania Game Commission spokesperson Jerry Feaser told LiveScience. "It's unusual that it was beavers, it was unusual that there were two incidences so closely together and it was truly bizarre

Chinese flee Mozambique over ivory smuggling
Two employees of a Chinese company have fled Mozambique after police stopped the smuggling of 166 elephant tusks and other animal parts, state media reported on Tuesday.
The manager and a machine operator for Chinese firm Tienhe returned to their home country after authorities discovered 161 containers of unprocessed timber at Pemba port in northernmost province Cabo Delgado, according to Noticias newspaper.
Elephant ivory, excrement and internal organs, as well as pangolin scales were found hidden between the wood in some containers, implicating Chinese company Miti, the largest logging company in the province.
Miti denied all responsibility and launched a court case against partner company Tienhe for the crime, prompting the two workers to flee the country.
"Here we are, and all we know is that we've been betrayed with the deepest betrayal possible," the owner of the Mozambican division of Miti, Faruk;facebook

Look Ma, No Dad!
In what appears to be a biological first, researchers have discovered an invasive crayfish that can produce little nippers without sperm from a male. Czech scientists were surprised to find that female spiny-cheek crayfish, a North American species that has become a pest in European waterways, were capable of “parthenogenesis.” The strategy may explain why the crustaceans are such successful invaders.
Understanding why some introduced species take hold, and others don’t, has become a mainstay of conservation biology. In their study, the Czech team was exploring mating patterns in spiny-cheek crawfish, which were introduced into Europe in the 1890s. They captured 90 females and 45 males from a small brook, and then divided them into three groups. In two of the groups, the two sexes were allowed to mingle. In the third, however, the boys were separated by a mesh cage from the girls, but they shared the same water. That’s important because crayfish are known to communicate using visual, chemical and tactile cues.
Normally, the crayfish mate twice a year, in autumn and spring, but lay eggs only in spring, the team reports in PLoS ONE. Not surprisingly, the two mixed groups did their best to sustain the species. The researchers were surprised, however, when most of the segregated females also produced young after 10 months in the lab. One possible explanation was that the females had stored sperm from earlier matings, and then used it when their trysts with the males were blocked. But genetic tests strongly suggested a different answer: That the females had used “apomixis,” or single-sex reproduction, to produce genetically-identical offspring.
Crayfish aren’t the only organisms that can shift baby-making gears and practice “virgin birth.” Everything from sharks to lizards do it (or don’t do it, depending on your perspective). “Nevertheless, this mode of reproduction has, to our knowledge, never been observe

Tigers at Tiger Zoo, Pattaya, Thailand.

The above taken at the infamous Sri Racha Tiger Zoo in Thailand.

Panda staff signed off sick
TWO leading members of staff working on Edinburgh Zoo's beleaguered panda enclosure project have been signed off on sick leave, the zoo has confirmed.
The Evening News revealed yesterday how work on the enclosure had run into difficulties because the zoo "forgot" to apply for planning permission after it extended plans for the site.
Today a zoo spokeswoman confirmed that two key members of staff on the project were signed off ill, although she could not say why.
The zoo has insisted that the building of the enclosure is on track despite the setbacks.
The spokeswoman said: "Two leading members of staff are on sick leave at present. We cannot confirm the reasons for this as this is a confidential matter but we take our duties as an employer seriously and continue to support our staff."
One source claimed that staff had been working excessively long hours to try to finish the project on time, but the spokeswoman said this was completely untrue.
She said: "Staff have not been made to work unacceptable hours.
"Some staff have had the opportunity to work overtime and have done so, but the numbers of hours has been at their own discretion and in line with the working time directive."
The enclosure is being designed and built using the zoo's in-house trades staff, with occasional assistance from agency staff for highly specialised tasks.
Work on the £250,000

Is it time to ban tiger farms?
Any conservation gains made to protect wild tigers are overshadowed by the large breeding centres that supply the illegal trade in body parts
Isn't it time to ban tiger farms? This question was on my mind as I returned from a reporting trip to Thailand to look at efforts to save the world's favourite endangered species.
Conservationists and law enforcement officers had good news to share in the south-east Asian nation. The Thaplan national park has more tigers than previously believed and police and customs officers have notched up an impressive series of arrests of poachers and smugglers.
But they warned that these small gains were overshadowed by the continued presence of large breeding centres, which supply and maintain the illegal market for tiger bones, penises and other products.
As is the case with their even bigger counterparts in China, these commercial farms often label themselves conservation zoos even as they lobby for a resumption of the tiger trade.
They argue that a legal supply from registered farms could ease the pressure on the wild population. At international conservation meetings, this view is often supported by the same lobby groups that push for a resumption of whaling, the loosening of the ivory trade and the conversion of forests to palm oil production.
Higher-minded scientific advocates of captive tiger breeding are driven by a desire to supplement the dwindling wild population, but there has yet to be even one successful reintroduction.
Some are motivated by commercial and cultural interests related to the lucrative market for traditional Chinese medicine. Others cite free-market ideology to explain their support of tiger farming and the tiger trade: if an animal is valuable, they say, it will create an incentive to save it.
At last year's tiger summit in St Petersburg, this debate was pushed to the fringes because the farming issue casts China - the main market and breeder - in an unflattering light. But it is increasingly irresponsible to ignore, because the raw numbers suggest tiger commerce has expanded while conservation has declined. Despite the ban on the trade in tigers, the captive population is now four times bigger globally than that in the wild.
Partly because of this, a colleague from an Indian newspaper recently suggested to me that the west was too dogmatic in sticking to a conservation approach that seems to have failed. "Why not try breeding and trading?" she said. "Why not leave an Asian animal to Asians?"
I put this to the deputy head of Thailand's wildlife police, Colonel Kittipong Khawsamang. He was adamant that tiger farms were part of the problem rather than the solution, because they encouraged the poaching of wild animals to improve the DNA of their stock.
In market terms, it is cost-effective to poach. A tiger brought up in captivity costs its owner a great deal in terms of food and veterinary bills, yet it is worth less than a wild animal, which has greater rarity value and stronger DNA.
Steven Galster, the founder of the Bangkok-based conservation group Freeland, says farms maintain a market

The Terrible Truth About Tiger Farms

Experts meet to find solutions to global “bushmeat crisis”
This week 20 governments, representatives of indigenous and local communities, and experts of international conservation and development organizations from Africa, Asia, America and Europe are meeting in Nairobi to find solutions to what is widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest current biodiversity crisis—the over-exploitation of wild meat, also known as “bushmeat” for food.
The harvesting of wild terrestrial animals for meat has long been a vital source of food for indigenous and local communities, providing up to 80 per cent of the protein in rural diets in some tropical and subtropical developing countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas.
However, the rapid growth of domestic, regional and international commercial markets for bushmeat has become the most significant driver of unsustainable and often illegal hunting of wild animals in some parts of the world, thereby threatening both biodiversity and the food source that many people depend upon.
In Central Africa alone, it is estimated that over one million  

Plastic spells death in the ocean
PLASTIC bags and declining fish stocks have been highlighted as the two biggest challenges for our oceans on World Oceans Day today.
Hayley McLellan, an animal behaviourist at Cape Town’s Two Oceans Aquarium, said plastic was a serious threat because animals and birds often mistook it for food.
She said most at risk were African penguins, pelicans and turtles.
The aquarium has started a “Penguin Promises” campaign to encourage the public to help save the threatened African penguin.
McLellan explained that the aquarium had joined forces with the Animal Keepers Association of Africa, which chooses an endangered animal each year on which to focus. This year it was the African penguin.
McLellan, who works with the penguin population at the aquarium, said people did not realise the effect plastic bags had on animals at sea.
The campaign also encouraged people to support the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (Sassi), help with coastal clean-ups, and make a pact to support at least one environmental day every year.
Dr Samantha Petersen, manager at the World Wildlife Fund’s responsible fisheries and Sassi programme, said the organisation was working to raise awareness, not only among consumers but among commercial fisheries.
Its SMS campaign encouraged consumers to SMS the name of the fish they were considering eating. They then received a reply informing them of whether or not the fish was endangered.
“Fish listed as green are the best choice. Fish on the orange list means people have reason to worry, while fish on the red list are either unsustainably produced, or endangered.”
Petersen said penguin population numbers had declined by 90 percent since the 1900s when there were about two million African penguins.
She blamed pollution, climate change, threatened habitats, and changes in weather patterns.
“The penguins mainly eat small fish that live in the open ocean. They also breed very slowly and are not able to repopulate very quickly. That is why oil spills also have a big impact on population numbers,” Petersen said.
She explained that this was one of the reasons the organisation was working with commercial fisheries and the government to not only enforce quotas on how much fish could be taken out of the sea, “but on how much fish we need to leave in the sea to sustain the ecosystem”.
McLellan said people needed to rethink their use of plastic bags, as well as other “single-use plastic products”, such as straws.
“Turtles see plastic bags as jelly fish and eat them

Mysore Zoo gets three species of crocodiles
The Mysore Zoo on Tuesday got three pairs of crocodiles of three different species, including the world's second largest (Nile crocodile) and smallest (Dwarf Caiman) crocodile species. With this, Mysore Zoo joins the league of zoos in India housing a total of eight different species of crocodiles for display.
Zoo executive director K B Markandaiah said three species of crocodiles were donated to Mysore Zoo by Madras Crocodile Bank Trust. It includes Nile crocodile, Dwarf Caiman and African slender-spouted crocodiles. It arrived in the zoo on Tuesday. Mysore Zoo is currently housing five species and with the addition of the three new species, the number has gone up to eight species. Very few zoos in the country have put on show eight species of crocodiles, the executive director claimed.
Zoo veterinarian Dr Suresh Kumar told TOI: "At present the zoo has displayed a total 33 crocodiles of five different species -- Mugger, Gharial, Caiman, Saltwater and morelets. With the addition of these six of three different species, the number of crocodiles in zoo will go up to 39," he stated.
With this, the number of species on display at Mysore Zoo g

Interview: Hugh Roberts, chief executive of Edinburgh zoo
IT probably couldn't be more appropriate that Hugh Roberts' favourite animal at Edinburgh Zoo is the Indian rhino
After all, the new chief executive of the embattled institution is going to need a thick skin to get through the next 12 months. Roberts, who specialises in troubleshooting at businesses, organisations and charities which have hit hard times, has been in place for all of three weeks of his 52-week tenure. But despite the ongoing internal staff strife, the installation of a new board chairman, and the latest planning permission problems with the panda enclosure, he is still smiling.
In fact it's a rather bright, white smile given that it's set against his south of England tan. It's also one which has a glint of a gold tooth about it. Which could be why he's been described by some as having a hint of "East End gangster" about him.
He laughs, rather pleased with the idea. "But what's not to like about being here? This job is a fantastic privilege, and it's fantastic to be back in Edinburgh. I was a student here a long time ago. So there's a lot to smile about. Obviously this is a challenging time for the zoo, but I hope that people will now start looking forward and not keep going over what's happened."
What's happened is that since March, one zoo director was sacked while two others were suspended as internal investigations into anonymous allegations about them were carried out. Chief operating officer Gary Wilson, is now back at work, while the other investigation, which involves director of animals, conservation and education, Iain Valentine, is yet to be completed. The honorary treasurer, Max Gaunt, quit the board when his financial advice over a loan was not heeded, and a plan to lease the zoo to a Spanish company was leaked - although later ruled out.
The apparent lack of leadership at the zoo _ there has been no chief executive since last November - resulted in an emergency general meeting of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland membership last month, and a vote of no confidence in the then chairman Donald Emslie. Unsurprisingly, there have since been concerns about the damage done to the zoo's and society's reputations and the impact of that on the arrival of two Chinese pandas later in the year.
In the midst of it all, 61-year-old Roberts was appointed. "Obviously I knew that there was a lack of leadership, that there were strong individuals here but no-one at the helm, but then in terms

Llysfaen sealion trainer leaves zoo to start new business
A FORMER sealion trainer is using her animal magic to launch a new business.
Vicki Small, from Llysfaen, set up her own animal training and consultancy firm after gaining experience at the Welsh Mountain Zoo in Colwyn Bay.
Vicki said Small Steps Animal Training & Consultancy offers customers “help with any animal with any issue”.
After Moving to Wales nine years ago to study at Bangor University, she graduated with a joint honours degree in marine biology and zoology.
Vicki then went on to work full-time for the zoo as head of the sea lion section.
Whilst working there Vicki also began teaching ‘captive animal husbandry and enclosure

Cheetah owners club would increase smuggling, expert says
A wildlife expert has criticised plans to set up a club for cheetah owners , warning it could lead to an increase in the number of cubs smuggled into the country.
Dr Reza Khan, a member of the World Commission on Protected Areas, said: "We cannot have a club for cheetah owners because this is not a pet animal.
"It will encourage more smuggling. It is bound to open a mad race to become the proud owner of as many cheetahs as possible by club members."
Dr Khan also questioned a suggestion that most captive cheetahs in the country were well looked after. He quoted the case of the young animal recently found wandering the streets of Karama in the capital, with a heavy chain around its neck and a broken foreleg.
The idea for a cheetah club was raised last week by the conservationist Dr Mordecai Ogada, of Kenya, who is calling for a campaign in the UAE to raise awareness of the damage caused to wild populations by the illegal trade in cubs.
The club would raise funds for or sponsor conservation and research, and organise trips to see wild cheetahs in Africa.
Dr Ogada, the East African co-ordinator of a cheetah conservation programme, said most captive cheetahs in the UAE were loved and cared for at great expense.
"Where they are not well cared for, this is a result of ignorance, not malice, on the part of the owners," he said.
But Dr Khan, from Dubai, said: "The

Taipei, Singapore zoos exchange rare animals
Taipei and Singapore will cooperate on wildlife preservation and education by exchanging endangered reptiles housed in their city zoos, according to Taipei Zoo June 7.
“We believe this move will bolster joint efforts aimed at protecting endangered animals and crack down on international smuggling,” Taipei Zoo Director Jason Yeh said.
Animals slated to participate in the program include four elongated tortoises, four red-footed tortoises and two yellow-footed tortoises. Taipei Zoo has experienced success in breeding these reptiles over the past few years.
The tortoises, which arrived in their new home May 27, will be featured in a new section at the Singapore Zoo set to open in 2012. In return, Singapore will send Taipei three rhinoceros iguanas and four Burmese mountain tortoises.
“The incoming rhinoceros iguanas include one male and two females. As Taipei already keeps one male iguana, this addition is expected to enlarge the

Center opens to protect rare turtle in Cambodia
An extremely rare soft-shell turtle species has a new, protected home in Cambodia.
The critically endangered Cantor's giant soft-shell turtles is one of the rarest freshwater turtles in the world. Scientists last saw one in the Cambodian wild in 2003, and small numbers have been seen in neighboring Laos.
U.S.-based Conservation International says it opened the Mekong Turtle Conservation Center on Wednesday in Kratie province, 160 kilometers (100 miles) northeast of Phnom Penh.
An 18-kilogram (40-pound) female turtle was released


ZHCD Zoo Botanical NEWS for June
Celebrating Plants and the Planet:

Plants and wildlife interact on grand scales and also in the tiny details. Seeing the big picture yet appreciating the tiny moment is one of the great pleasures of observing Nature. June's links at  (NEWS/Botanical News) will require the use of bifocals:

· Animals migrate over distances large or small, in great herds or individually. Researchers are discovering that the sort landscape they traverse determines the type of migration they'll pursue, and that realization can lead to better conservation strategies.

· Seagrass supports marine animals as pasture for grazing, habitat for spawning, and phytoplankton for nurturing. (That's the big picture/tiny moment bit.) Recent surveys reveal that up to 14% of seagrass species worldwide are in danger of extinction.

· Chronic Wasting Disease is decimating some North American elk and deer populations. CWD is thought to be due to prions - neither bacteria nor virus - and almost impossible to treat. Yet a cure may be found in the lowly lichen.

· Chinese Lady Slipper Orchids produce no nectar to attract pollinators. They are pollinated by flies, but unlike other fly-pollinated plants that mimic the look or smell of rotting meat, these orchids offer flies a meal of their favorite fungus… except it's all a fake.

· Just what is the connection among fungi, plants, bacteria and animals? New species have been discovered that may be the missing-link that connects them all.

Big Picture or Small… missing links… all nicely captured in this video of The World's Least Efficient Machine that presents the history of the World while watering one simple potted plant:

Please share these stories with associates, staff, docents and -- most importantly -- visitors! Follow on Twitter:  -- a new story every day!



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