Friday, July 8, 2011

Zoo News Digest 6th - 8th July 2011 (Zoo News 767)

Zoo News Digest 6th - 8th July 2011 (Zoo News 767)

Peter Dickinson

Dear Colleague,

I was interested to learn this week that all of the employees working in a certain dysfunctional US zoo are required to be vegetarian. I have no problems with vegetarians but it would matter if I was a meat eater and wanted to work there. How far can zoos go in their employee requirements? Non-smokers seems fair enough....or is it? Teetotal? Many adverts will ask for prospective employees with a "sense of humour". What about religion? Do some collections insist in a belief in God? Political affiliation? It does pose some interesting questions.

I am going 'off the map" for a few days and it will be unlikely to answer any email whilst I am away. Bear with me.

My further comments below some of the links below.

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Happy on our diet of salmon
Celebrity penguin Happy Feet has ditched his demanding sand and twig diet in favour of Marlborough cuisine.
That's because New Zealand King Salmon has donated 100kg of salmon smolt (juvenile fish) to Wellington Zoo to help restore the young Antarctic visitor to health.
Happy Feet is eating up to 2kg of the fish a day.
New Zealand King Salmon marketing manager Stephen Gibson said the company supplied Wellington Zoo with the salmon smolt when it was available and had doubled the contribution for the Antarctic visitor.
The emperor penguin sparked international interest when he arrived at Peka Peka Beach, 4000km from Antarctica, three weeks ago. He ate sand, mistaking it for ice, to cool down. He has since had surgery at Wellington Zoo to remove the sand. The penguin was back on the table on Saturday for his fourth procedure to flush sand from his stomach.
Veterinary science manager Lisa Argilla said undergoing general anaesthetics was unlikely to be tiring or stressful for Happy Feet but he did need a rest bet

Controversial Alberta zoo reopens
The gates to an embattled Alberta zoo are open and its owner is back in business.
Lynn Gustafson's GuZoo near Three Hills, Alta., about 140 km northeast of Calgary, unlocked its gates Tuesday and allowed visitors in for the first time in a month.
The zoo was shut down in June after the province revoked its permanent licence following an independent review citing several problems.
The zoo had been the target of an online campaign to shut it down, with concerned people posting pictures to Facebook depicting the allegedly squalor conditions its more than 400 animals, many of them exotic, live in.
It was given a temporary licence for the decommissioning process, but Gustafson requested a judicial review of the province's order.
On Tuesday, Gustafson and the province confirmed they agreed the decommissioning process could

Stroke or heart attack claims life of Ellen the elephant at Little Rock Zoo
Tuesday morning Ellen the elephant died with staff by her side. Preliminary indications are that 60-year-old Ellen died from a stroke or heart attack according to Zoo Veterinarian Dr. Marilynn Baeyens.
"She seemed fine yesterday, eating, enjoying the day and the holiday weekend and to come in and see her so debilitated, it's hard."
Zoo Director Mike Blakely says Tuesday morning brought a unexpected and difficult discovery for zookeepers.
"They found her down on her side. She was unable to get up. She was obviously in distress." Ellen the elephant, a staff and zoo visitor favorite.
Arriving at 3 years old in 1954, Ellen has

Zoo Chimps' Mental Health Affected by Captivity
Research reveals signs of mental illness, including repetive rocking, self-mutilation and eating feces.
Many chimpanzees housed in zoos show abnormal behavior that suggest mental illness, according to a new PLoS One study.
The documented behaviors, which included self-mutilation, repetitive rocking, and consumption of feces, are symptoms of compromised mental health in humans, and are not seen in wild chimpanzees, the authors say. The study found that even chimps at very well regarded zoos displayed the disturbing behaviors.
"Absolutely abnormal behavior and possible mental health issues are most commonly associated with lab chimps," co-author Nicholas Newton-Fisher told Discovery News. "This is one of the reasons we were surprised to see the levels of abnormal behavior that we did -- in chimpanzees living in good zoos."

"Research reveals signs of mental illness, including repetive rocking, self-mutilation and eating feces."
Interesting statement. I won't dispute that these things have been observed and will find it of interest later to learn which collections were monitored. I like chimpanzees and have worked with a few. Those in the Welsh Mountain Zoo were like family to me and I was very close to them. I have watched them for many thousands of hours. I never ever saw self-mutilation or eating of feces. I saw rocking in three hand reared animals (one of which learned rocking off the others by way of imitation). Repetitive? Well yes it could be at times but it was not all of the time and I certainly would not have attributed it to mental illness. I often feel that when you go looking for things it can be easy to find them. I believe the chimpanzees in the Welsh Mountain zoo were a lot better of than their cousins in the wild and were and are wonderful ambassadors.

Was Dalu Mncube the victim of a family feud?
Last week Campbell Live broke the story that 'Lionman' Craig Busch had repeatedly warned authorities that the Zion Wildlife Park had become dangerously unsafe after he had been fired.
His warnings appeared validated when Dalu Mncube was killed by a tiger there six months after Craig left. But why did this tragedy really happen?
Was it that the park had become more unsafe under Patricia Busch's leadership?
Former keeper and Dalu's best friend Richard Mthembu says no.
He says Dalu was as much the victim of the family feud between mother and son as he was of Abu the tiger.
While Craig Busch was the star of the Lionman series, Dalu was the man behind the lions.
Craig had first met Dalu Mncube at the wildlife park he worked at with Richard in South Africa.
“Craig actually promised Dalu a better future... Dalu grabbed it with both hands,” Richard said.
It appears Dalu didn't have the right papers to work in New Zealand - but Craig brought him out anyway.
Initially it was a close relationship.
“He was quite trusting. Craig was the brother he never had,” Richard said.
Craig made Dalu senior keeper

I do believe there is far more being read into this tragic accident than should be. It happened because the entering of enclosures with big cats had become an established practice within the collection. The 'blame' if that is the word rests with allowing such a pointless, risky and unnecessary activity to continue. It would have happened regardless of who had been in charge of Zion. The entering of the enclosures with big cats stopped after the event in the same way that it will stop the day the next person is killed in those other collections who carry out these irresponsible hands on activities with large feline predators. It is an accident waiting to happen.

What’s it like to work a day at the zoo
Tim Synder, curator of birds and reptiles at Brookfield Zoo, said one of the biggest misconceptions is zoologists who work as keepers at the zoo play with the animals.
“People who work with animals in the zoo have a high respect for them and keep in mind that they can be dangerous. We want them to be wild and we keep a distance,” Snyder said.
A typical day for a keeper in Snyder’s department begins around 7 or 8 a.m.
“We make sure that all is well — that no animals were injured or scared during the night,” he said.
Start time will depend on anticipated life cycle events within each exhibit, such as impending births or other issues. A baby on the way could mean that keepers need to arrive even earlier to monitor the situation.
After the initial check, food is prepared and water provided. Feeding time offers another opportunity to eyeball animals for signs of good health.
Cleanup follows. This is a relatively simple process with easy going animals like birds. Keeping in mind that larger animals are wild and can be dangerous, Snyder said.
“We shift animals into nearby spaces if we are dealing with dangerous animals,” he said.
Behind-the-scenes activities include training for both the animals and the keepers. Animal training smooths the way to reduce stress during medical check ups.
“We can train larger animals to move toward a scale so we can weigh them, and train larger primates to present an arm so we can take blood samples. We train giraffes so we can to trim hoofs. This is so they won’t need anesthesia for

Irrawaddy dolphins triple in protected area: survey
A RECENT survey has found the number of Irrawaddy dolphins living in a protected area on the Ayeyarwady River has almost tripled in the past eight years.
The Irrawaddy Dolphin Protected Area was established in December 2005, spanning a 74-kilometre stretch of the river near Mandalay, from Kyaukmyaung and Singu townships in the north to Mingun in the south.
“The Irrawaddy dolphin population has increased gradually, year by year, between Kyaukmyaung and Mingun. We found 32 in 2002 but this had increased to about 90 in 2010,” said U Mya Than Tun, deputy director general of the Department of Fisheries.
“We conduct twice-monthly patrols in the protected area. On the patrols the project team conducts educational outreach activities, research on dolphin behaviour and fisheries, enforces the prohibition on illegal fishing techniques, and monitors the status of the dolphins and threats to their conservation,” he said.
In another positive sign for the critically endangered species, U Mya Than Tun said several hundred more Irrawaddy dolphins had been found in coastal areas. A survey of the entire Ayeyarwady River, conducted by the department, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Forestry Department and University of Yangon in Myanmar in 2002, found Irrawaddy dolphins living in a 400-kilometre stretch between Bhamo and Mingun. In 2010, the department and WCS conducted survey activities into Gulf of Martaban area of the Ayeyarwady delta; Rakhine coastal areas, including the Mayu River, Kaladan River and Laymyoe River; and the Myeik Archipelago, especially Thameehla Island.
“In Sittwe, especially in areas with a mix of fresh and salt water, we found quite a few Irrawaddy dolphins; we estimate there are about 100 in Rakhine coastal areas,” said WCS coordinator

Hathi has only 1 sathi as these babies wait for release from isolated quarantine
Two baby elephants at Safari Park have been languishing in quarantine for over a year even though they have long cleared infection control since they arrived.
An animal in quarantine is isolated from other animals and has very limited human contact. Their prospects for moving in to improved living conditions seem bleak as the city does not even plan to discuss funds for zoos until next year’s budget.
Four elephants were shipped to Karachi last year – three females and a male. Two were sent to the Zoological Gardens where they have been given proper enclosures, while the remaining two, that are about five years old, are still in quarantine at Safari Park. They have been temporarily called Malka and Sonu by the staff.
For elephants, international standards dictate a 40-day quarantine period for new arrivals at zoos to avoid the spread of infections. A doctor is supposed to visit them intermittently to monitor their health while they remain in isolation. However, the elephants have been in their temporary cages since June 30, 2009. Experts from the Community Development Department (CDD) explained that elephants are large and rather sensitive animals, therefore it is especially difficult for them to live in the

Shiva the rhino may die a celibate
One of the most visited animals in Byculla zoo, Shiva, the one-horned rhino, is likely to die single after 26 years of forced celibacy . All attempts by the zoo officials to find him a match have failed and they are clueless about what can be done for the animal.
To worsen matters, the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) has sent another reminder to the zoo asking it to expedite the process of transferring the animal that has been living alone in its enclosure ever since it was brought from Assam in 1985. Zoo authorities, though, say this is much easier said than done.
"We have already informed several zoos in the country about our willingness to part with the rhino. But due to old age, none of the zoos want to accept him," said Anil Anjankar , director, Byculla Zoo.
Shiva is already 35 years old and life expectancy amongst rhinos in captivity is around 40 years. Zoo officials state that due to old age, even transporting the animal to another zoo would create problems for him. "To implement the CZA directives, other zoos in the

What a bureaucratic mess!

Introducing the Newest Rare Animal Hybrid: The Donkra
What's going on at the zoos over in China?
Recently, we told you about a litter of ligers (those are lion/tigress hybrids, for those who are catching up) that were born at China's Xixiakou Wildlife Zoo and found themselves an unsuspecting surrogate mother: A black dog. Now, we bring you another fascinating and bizarre cross-animal creation: The donkra.
This hybrid is the offspring of a male donkey and female zebra, and was born at the Xiamen Haicang Zoo in southeast China on Sunday. With striped zebra-like legs, a brown donkey-esque body and big black

Totally irresponsible. It has all been done before. Not clever at all. Described as "rare" in many of the news reports it is also "stupid", "wrong" and as I said earlier totally irresponsible. Lets get the freak shows out of zoos.

'Zookeeper': Talking-animal tale is hard to swallow
Special effects have improved greatly since the 1950s/1960s, but talking-animal comedies haven't progressed much since the heyday of "Mr. Ed" and "Francis the Talking Mule."
Case in point: "Zookeeper," starring terminally genial Kevin James as Griffin Keyes, a lonely caretaker at Boston's Franklin Park Zoo, where the animals listen to him blubbering about his love life (or lack of same) and decide to break their code of never speaking to humans.
The mouths of real animals are manipulated and animated to create the illusion that they're speaking to Griffin and advising him on how to win back his witchy ex-girlfriend Stephanie (Leslie Bibb). They're also trying to boost his confidence and steer him in the direction of Kate, a more compassionate fellow worker (Rosario Dawson).
Yet the illusion is shockingly unconvincing, just as it was half a century ago. While "Zookeeper" appears to have cost a fortune, the animals' mouths almost always look like they're being digitally

Chiang Mai misses out on polar bears
The Zoological Park Organisation has scrapped a controversial plan to allow polar bears to be displayed at Chiang Mai Zoo after protests over the welfare of the animals.
Pimook Simaroj, the new director of the ZPO, said public concerns over the polar bears' welfare were reasonable and had persuaded the board to drop the project.
"We are concerned not only about the animals' welfare, but also about the global warming aspects," he said.
"I know some people might be upset about our decision to scrap the project. But our prime mission is to focus on animal welfare, not economic issues."
Although there will be no polar bears at the zoo, a demonstration project to display polar life, including penguins, was still on the books, Mr Pimook said.
He said the zoo would turn the polar bear zone, which was already under construction, into a multimedia learning centre for children to discover animal life that exists at both poles.
Mr Pimook said the polar bear project was not crucial to boosting tourism revenue in Chiang Mai. All related sectors should work together on ways to promote

Set Toronto’s elephants free
Doing something over and over again and expecting different results was Einstein’s definition of insanity. (Tell that to your piano teacher.) Of course, we all know what Einstein meant: five and five, no matter how many times you batter away at them, will never add up to 11. And you’re a nut to think otherwise.
But what if the thing you’re doing over and over again is “speaking the truth”? Are you insane to expect a different outcome? Maybe you’re just really frustrated.
Over and over again during the past five years I, and others like me, have been blowing the whistle on the conditions for elephants at the Toronto Zoo. We’ve been telling people that the elephants are dying way too young: at 40 years of age, at 41, 38, 20, when, in the wild, they have a lifespan of 60 to 70 years.
Why are they dying? Because they are nomadic, social creatures being held for up to 16 hours a day in cold, cramped stalls in a northern climate. Because as babies they were wrenched from their slaughtered mothers and shipped to America. They’re traumatized, depressed, bored and maddened. Their feet are literally

Wildlife dept stops simians wedding
The Wildlife department today stopped a marriage between two simians on legal ground here, officials said here. The department also booked the female monkey's owner Niranjan Pancholi, a resident of Talwas village. Monkeys are endangered species and it is illegal to keep the animal at home, Bundi ADM Devanand Mathur said. "Both the moneys have been rescued. One of them has been sent to Kota zoo and the other has been kept under custody in Bundi," Bundi DFO Rajendra Singh Nathawat said. About 500 invitation cards for the marriage had been distributed and a feast for over 1,000 people were being prepared, villagers said. Monkeys

Two Arabian leopard cubs born in Taif
An Arabian leopard has given birth to two cubs under the captive breeding program of the National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) in Taif, a senior official of the center told Arab News on Wednesday.
“This is one of the NWRC captive breeding programs undertaken in cooperation with a similar center in Sharjah,” general director of NWRC Ahmed Alboug said.
He said the center's entire staff is very happy about the birth of these two cubs since the Arabian leopard is a critically endangered species that is on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Only 200 are believed to be remaining in countries in the region such as Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Palestine.
Alboug estimated that the Kingdom has around 80 to 100 leopards in the wild. They are mostly found in the southwestern and northwestern parts of the Kingdom, he added. Alboug said the sex of the cubs is still not known as the mother is still protecting them.
The parents of the cubs are named Fareeda and Al-Jazeerah. “We have to think of two good names for the newborns after discovering their gender, “ Alboug said.
The general director said under the leadership of

Snow tiger cubs fed by Siberian tiger
Snow tiger cubs born on July 1 in the Siberian Tiger Park in Harbin, northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, are being fed by two tiger mothers as their biological mother does not have enough milk to nurse them.
The 10-year-old snow tiger mother gave birth to quintuplets - four female and one male cub.
They are a rare sight as snow tigers usually give birth to only two or three cubs. There are fewer than 50 snow tigers in China.
"The tiger mother does not produce enough milk for her five cubs, so the cubs have lost some weight," said Wang Jingru, snow tiger breeder. "A tiger cub should usually gain about 50 grams of weight a day."
The snow tiger's first two litters died due to the lack of milk produced by the mother. Thus the breeders found "new mothers" to ensure the quintuplet's

Just what do they mean by a Snow Tiger here? Do they mean a freak white tiger or a freak stripeless white tiger? Whatever. The litter size may be of interest but the birth is hardly important.

Italy's bear politics
A banquet due to serve up bear meat in protest at the animals' reintroduction to the Alps had more to do with politics than ethics
Bear hotpot, bear chop and bear steak. Even stewed bear, for the most sophisticated palates. These were the main dishes that were to be on offer during the banquet organised by the Northern League in the region of Trentino last Sunday. The banquet was a protest against the Life Ursus project, which – after it started back in 1996, thanks to EU funding – made the reintroduction of the brown bear to the Italian Alps possible.
At the heart of the debate is Maurizio Fugatti, secretary of the Northern League party in Trentino, who is opposed by some ministers of the Popolo della Libertà (part of the same coalition). "The citizens should feel free to walk around wherever they want, without being scared of the presence of bears in the area", Fugatti said. "We want to defend and protect the citizens who live in these mountain areas from the continuous visits of bears, we prefer to see them around in this way [as a meal]," he said. The opposing ministers commented on the event in strong terms: "disconcerting" and "barbarian" were the adjectives used to describe the banquet by the minister for foreigner

A Bear Meat Banquet? And people complain about China???????????

Syracuse zoo opens Asian Elephant Preserve
The crowd had pretty much thinned out at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo's new Asian Elephant Preserve when Kirina got playful.
Picking up a tuft of hay with her trunk, the 16-year-old pachyderm swept the load into the air and dropped it onto her back, plopping a little on her mother, Romani.
That drew a laugh of delight from Samantha Lindhuber. The 7-year-old North Syracuse resident had come with her grandmother, Donna Lindhuber, to catch the grand opening of the preserve this morning. They hung out in the preserve's Elephant Overlook to watch Kirina, Romani and Siri, the herd's matriarch, explore their new home.
"I think this is good," the child said. "The elephants can play and stuff."
Which is one of the reasons Onondaga County officials and the Friends of the Rosamond Gifford Zoo decided to build the Asian Elephant Preserve. The $6.4 million project, part of

Sergeant Saves Iraqi Frog as Part of "Project Global Amphibian Blitz"
Jonathan Trouern-Trend, an intelligence sergeant with the Connecticut National Guard, was at the latrine of the U.S. military base near Al Bakr, Iraq, when he made a discovery: a Lemon-Yellow Tree Frog, one of Iraq’s eight species of amphibians, was sharing the bathroom with him. According to Trouern-Trend, the frog had likely been sucked up from a nearby pond by a cleaning truck, which then deposited the frog inside the bathroom when workers hosed down the facilities.
Trouern-Trend, concerned that the midday heat would render the oven-like latrine uninhabitable for amphibians (not to mention human beings), sprang into action. He captured the frog, carried it to a nearby pond, and released it after snapping a picture.
Back at his computer, he uploaded the photo to iNaturalist, a new social network for identifying,b=facebook

Polar bears have maternal Irish brown bear ancestors
The maternal ancestors of modern polar bears were from Ireland, according to a DNA study of ancient brown bear bones.
Scientists in the UK, Ireland and the US analysed the teeth and skeletons of 17 brown bears that were found at eight cave sites across Ireland.
The new research has been reported in the latest edition of Current Biology.
Previously, it was believed that today's polar bears were most closely related to brown bears living on islands off the coast of Alaska.
However, analysis of mitochondrial DNA - which is passed from mother to child - has shown the extinct Irish brown bears are the ancestors of all today's polar bears, the scientists said.
Their work provides evidence of the two species mating opportunistically during the past 100,000 years or more.

Marineland refuses to free Ike the Orca
A whale of an international custody case has surfaced, with a Niagara Falls theme park refusing to surrender an orca to its U.S. owners.
In a court decision that would terrify any repo man, Ontario Superior Court Justice Richard A. Lococo has this week ordered Marineland Canada Inc. to return Ikaika, an eight-year-old male orca, to Seaworld Parks & Entertainment LLC as soon as the 1,815-kilogram youngster is ready to go south.
But Marineland isn’t budging. It announced Thursday it will appeal to the Ontario Court of Appeal.
“The present dispute with SeaWorld over Ikaika is unfortunate,” the company said in a statement. “Marineland believes that Ikaika should be allowed to stay at Marineland. That was the original understanding between SeaWorld and Marineland.”
SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida loaned “Ike” to Marineland for breeding in 2006, according to the decision. In December, it gave notice it was terminating the “breeding loan agreement

Happy Feet's cute but he won't save our kids
It amazes me that so much money and so many resources can go into saving one solitary wild bird.
So what if Happy Feet is only the second emperor penguin to make it to our shores? What about this for a more incredible - and shocking - statistic: every five weeks in New Zealand a child is killed by a family member.
So instead of the penguin getting the cash, what about more funding for preventing cases like the death of five-year-old Napier girl Sahara? Just this week Kerry Ratana - the partner of Sahara's mum -pleaded guilty to her manslaughter.
Then there's the death of baby Serenity in Ngaruawahia, which is as yet unsolved. Oh, and not forgetting the sordid Kahui case that just goes on and on. Those poor wee twins.
With a shame list like that, surely more money is needed to stop the cycle of family violence and killing. But no, we

Animal activists, trainers spar over cruelty questions
When Tweet the giraffe died at the Franklin Park Zoo while filming “Zookeeper’’ almost two years ago, animal rights activists demanded an investigation. The necropsy report ultimately pointed to natural causes, but animal lovers did not take that as a sign to stand down.
Now, activists are nosing around for signs that Rosie, who plays Barry the elephant in “Zookeeper,’’ which opens today, endured cruelty during training. Animal Defenders International (ADI), an organization based in Los Angeles, London, and Bogota, filed a lawsuit in the US District Court, District of California, on June 27, claiming that Rosie and other film elephants undergo abusive training methods at the hands of their owners.
According to the complaint, the firm Have Trunk Will Travel, based in Perris, Calif., “secretly abused elephants . . . while simultaneously extolling their humane training methods and convincing the public to financially support their elephants by riding the elephants, renting the elephants, and watching the elephants in TV and movies.’’
Kari Johnson, who with her husband, Gary, owns Have Trunk Will Travel, said via telephone on Tuesday that she had not been served with the legal papers but had heard through others of ADI’s plans to sue. She declined verbal comment but issued a written statement calling the lawsuit “frivolous’’


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