Saturday, September 17, 2011

Zoo News Digest 13th - 17th September 2011 (Zoo News 786)

Zoo News Digest 13th - 17th September 2011 (Zoo News 786)

Peter Dickinson

Dear Colleague,

It has been a difficult few days with my laptop. It has taken on a mind of its own and only allowed me to get any work done when it wanted. If it was not in the mood to co-operate it simply froze up. Somehow I have struggled through, but still a pile of mail to answer.

I visited Dubai Aquarium yesterday. Behind the scenes tour from a young lady called Helen. Extremely good and all quite interesting. I will....if the laptop lets me, will be writing this up for my Zoo Hubs in the next week or so.

Happy Feet is dropped right out of the news. I still maintain that he should have remained in captivity and sent of to Sea World in San Diego. I imagine that this was never even contemplated lest it upset the anti-zoo accolytes. So how do they feel now I wonder? Happy? This little bird could have made a positive contribution to conservation. Now, sadly the opportunity is lost.

Consider this from Wikipedia:

"A Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution study in January 2009 found Emperor Penguins could be pushed to the brink of extinction by the year 2100 due to global climate change. By applying mathematical models to predict how the loss of sea ice from climate warming would affect a big colony of Emperor Penguins at Terre Adélie, Antarctica, they forecast a decline of 87% in the colony's population by the end of the century, from the current 3,000 breeding pairs in the colony to 400 breeding pairs"

Okay it did not happen in 2010 but who knows what will happen next week?
I mentioned the heavy rains in Pattaya in the last Zoo News Digest. Seemingly so bad that the crocodiles were escaping by swimming out of their enclosures at the crocodile farm....or perhaps it was all a publicity stunt.

Crocodiles figure quite highly in the news right now. We have a new species would you believe? Fantastic. Then there is the argument as to which is the biggest Crocodile in the world. Seemingly Guinness are supporting the one held at Marineland Melanesia on Green Island. Cassius, a saltie, is apparantly 5.48m long!

Then there is 'Lolong' in Agusan del Sur in the Philippines who is going to get his own zoo. Not forgetting the monster 'Yai' in the Samutprakarn Crocodile Farm and Zoo in Thailand. He was over 6 metres when I visited the collection a few years back. He must be surely bigger by now!

Point of confusion "almost all chinkaras (also known as blackbuck) died". This may be the case in Mysore Zoo but elsewhere Chinkara Gazella bennettii and Blackbuck Antilope cervicapra are two different species.

I was saddened to learn of the untimely death of Karen Greybrook. I think it a pity that the report had to dwell on the other aspects of her life and other people rather than herself.

"Dog Nurses White Tiger Cubs in China". The same so often repeated questions arise. Why did the mother reject them? Did they have an infrared camera set up to let them know? Why are they breeding White Tigers in the first place? I could go on.

"Gorilla's glass hand imprint to help conservation". A very attractive piece of art. Something I would like to own if I had a permament home.

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New Croc Discovered by Fordham Biologist
Fordham University professor has published evidence that shatters the long-thought belief that the Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) found throughout Africa is a single species of crocodile.
A team of researchers led by Evon Hekkala, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology at Fordham, and Matt Shirley of University of Florida, Gainsville, discovered a second cryptic, or hidden, lineage of crocodiles through DNA analyses of modern crocodiles and ancient mummy crocodile hatchlings.
Hekkala and her team collected contemporary crocodile samples from throughout Africa as well as from museum specimens, including some from Thebes, Egypt that are currently housed in the Museé National d’Histoire Naturelle (MNHN) in Paris. Although the modern Nile crocodile (C. niloticus) is found throughout Africa, there have long been reports that it is larger and more aggressive in the Eastern and Southern African regions and smaller and more docile in the Congo and West Africa.
The reason, Hekkala’s research suggests, is because the Eastern and Western crocodiles are in reality different crocodile lineages, which shared the Nile river as recently as 100 years ago.
Hekkala’s analysis showed that several of the MNHN mummy samples, collected during Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt in the early 1800s and estimated to be up to 2,000 years old, belong

Dingo origin predates Neolithic expansion
Genetic evidence has revealed that dingoes may have arrived in Australia earlier than previously believed, and likely took a very different route that began in South China.
Australian dingoes (Canis lupus dingo) and domesticated dogs from Polynesia originated in China and travelled via Thailand and Indonesia to reach their final destination, rather than coming from Taiwan - a journey that would have entailed more sea crossings.
The findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, could have implications for human history in the region as well, revealing clues about the geographic origin of the Polynesian population and its Neolithic culture.
It also reveals information about the extent of contact, or isolation rather, between pre-Neolithic cultures of Australia and their surrounding world.
Dingo arrival before Neolithic?
In Australia there is little evidence of any interaction with Neolithic cultures: apart from the feral dingo, which is viewed as a Neolithic introduction, and has led many researchers to conclude that Australia was not completely isolated.
Dingoes appear in the Australian archaeological record roughly 3,500 years before present, but the study, which analysed the genetic code of around 900 dogs, indicates an earlier introduction to Australia sometime between 4,600 and 10,000 years ago.
The arrival of dogs in Australia predates any Taiwanese Neolithic expansion, according to the study, and therefore underscores the notion that Australia was indeed quite isolated prior to this period.
An ancient mystery
The key problem in the history of Polynesia is explaining the existence of Neolithic domesticated animals — including the dog, chicken and pig — which indicate an expansion from Taiwan, possibly during the Neolithic farming expansion.
However, the data presented here indicates that the Polynesian domestic dogs trace their ancestry from mainland Southeast Asia, and that dogs could have appeared before the arrival of the Neolithic.
"Dogs, chicken and pigs were the only household animals that accompanied the people who colonised Polynesia," said co-author Peter Savolainen, a geneticist at KTH Institute of Technology in Sweden.
"However, because the dog came through Thailand and man through Taiwan, we now believe that human populations and cultures must have mixed on the way to Polynesia," he added.
While it does not definitively clarify the origin of Polynesian culture, it seems to overrule the simpler theory that a single rush of Taiwanese farmers where responsible for Polynesian culture, and suggests there was likely a greater mix of influences along the way.
Origin mystery solved?
The researchers compared a total of 674 samples of dog mitochondrial DNA, together with 232 samples from dingoes.
The team identified the three 'haplotypes' specific to Polynesia and Australia (two in the former, one in the latter) and traced a path backwards by comparing the proportion of correct mtDNA present amongst samples taken from throughout Oceania and South Asia.
None of the matching 'haplotypes' appeared in Taiwan at all. Instead the dingoes' mtDNA, named 'A29', was found in South China, South

Agusan del Sur Wildlife Park in the Works
Agusan del Sur is now gearing up for a wildlife park that will feature the soon-to-be world’s largest crocodiles. After the capture of the world-famous giant crocodile last week, Bunawan Mayor Cox Elorde has greenlighted the construction of a wildlife park that will feature the province’s unique species. Elorde

South Lakes Wild Animal Park boss appeals to decide fate of expansion proposal
THE fate of a proposed extension to a zoo is to be decided by the government.
South Lakes Wild Animal Park boss David Gill decided to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate due to the delay in a decision being made over a proposed extension.
In July, Barrow Borough Council’s planning committee chose to issue a minded to refuse decision against plans to expand the South Lakes Wild Animal Park, in Dalton, by nine hectares.
The committee had been due to issue a final decision on whether or not to reject the plans.
But now the decision will be made by national body the Planning Inspectorate after the appeal was launched.
The appeal is on the basis of non-determination – with Mr Gill unhappy that the council failed to issue a decision within an eight-week timescale.
The process will now be handled by the inspectorate, with the final decision resting with the office of Eric Pickles MP, the secretary of state for

Welsh Mountain Zoo's £5m tropical dome project
A £5m project to transform a Conwy zoo with a tropical house under a glass dome has been unveiled.
The Welsh Mountain Zoo in Colwyn Bay said exotic plants and animals, including alligators, would live under the dome.
Conwy council said it would be the region's response to Cornwall's Eden Project.
A report to councillors said the zoo needed to develop to remain the area's most-attended visitor attraction.
The Eden Project visitor attraction is famous for its artificial biomes - or domes - which house plants from around the world.
The mountain zoo said its smaller dome could result in visitor numbers increasing from 135,000 to 185

Crocodiles Loose After Flash Floods Hit Pattaya Zoo
The PDN reporter acknowledged that many crocodiles had escaped from the Million Year Stone Park and the Crocodile Farm’s reptile pools. More than ten zoo keepers were trying to catch the crocs.
The reporter arrived at the park which is located at Moo 1, Tambon Nong Preu, Chonburi province where he found the zoo staff about ten people with equipment engaged in catching the big reptiles that had escaped to the lotus well. Later in the evening the team was able to catch four big crocodiles.
A worker of the Crocodile Farm who could not speak Thai clearly said that two escaped crocodiles had been found in the neighbouriging area.
Mr Prajak Noipan age 35, a local man said that in the evening the staff caught four crocodiles each measuring about 4-5 meter. Later Mr Prapak found two more crocodiles

Gorilla army takes to the Thames
TV presenter and jungle expert Piers Gibbon officially opened a major art installation on the banks of the Thames today (Friday 16th September).
Piers, author of Tribe and presenter of Channel 4’s Jungle Trip, unveiled the multicoloured army of 20 life-sized gorilla models on the walk way between More London and City Hall.
The exhibition is part of a 61 strong group of gorilla statues, each individually decorated by UK artists, designed to raise awareness ahead of a major charity auction being organised by Bristol Zoo at the end of the month.
Piers, whose other jungle projects include National Geographic’s Headshrinkers of the Amazon, Cannibals of Papua New Guinea and The Witch Doctor Will See You Now, said: “The gorillas make a pretty arresting sight. They look fantastic along the river and are sure to draw big crowds during their week-long stay.
“Hopefully their presence in the city will boost the number of bids when all 61 gorillas go up for auction at the end of the month.”
During the summer the gorillas, which were placed at strategic locations around the Greater Bristol region, attracted a Facebook following of over 13,000. Over 115,000 copies of a gorilla trail map were picked up by members of the public wanting to visit all 61 gorillas.
The More London exhibition will run from 16th-22nd September. To see photos of all 61 gorillas, visit the Wow! Gorillas Facebook page, or view the auction catalogue at
The charity auction, which will raise valuable funds for Bristol Zoo’s gorilla conservation projects and Wallace and Gromit's Grand Appeal, The Bristol Children’s Hospital Charity, will take place at 7.30pm in the Victoria Rooms, Clifton, Bristol on 29th September.
Tickets have now sold out, however it is possible to bid for a gorilla by telephone or proxy bidding by contacting Judy Tucker in advance, on  or phone 0117 974 7329

How to artificially inseminate a rhino
An assortment of specialist scanners, probes and other paraphernalia are carefully laid out, ready for action.
But unlike the kit used for most medical procedures, everything here is on a supersized scale.
The reason? Scientists are about to examine two southern white rhinos at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire.
Their job today is to help them conceive through artificial insemination, a procedure that entails collecting the semen from the male rhino and then inserting it into the female.
Tim Bouts, the zoo's veterinary officer, explains that natural conception is not an option for the female rhino.
She has sustained an injury to her foot

The Crucial Role of Predators:
A New Perspective on Ecology
Scientists have recently begun to understand the vital role played by top predators in ecosystems and the profound impacts that occur when those predators are wiped out. Now, researchers are citing new evidence that shows the importance of lions, wolves, sharks, and other creatures at the top of the food chain.
Found in the North Palace at Ninevah, stone panels depicting the Royal Lion Hunt of the last Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal, are as violent as any video game: A female lion flies upside down, arrows protruding from her back and belly. Beneath her, a male rears back, arrows piercing his nasal passages while another male drags his hindquarters behind him. From the king’s chariot, attendants drive spears through the chest of another.
The panels are two-and-a-half thousand years old, and the story they tell is nearly over. In Africa, the lion’s numbers have declined sharply in the past decade, to as low as 23,000. The tiger is near extinction. Earlier

Activist Say Orangutans Permitted To Smoke In Indonesian Zoo
A wildlife activist says that zoo officials in Indonesia are taking no steps to stop orangutans from smoking cigarettes, unlike in Malaysia.
Visitors to the Taru Jurug Zoo in Solo, a city on Java island, have been giving cigarettes to the endangered red apes for years.
One young male was captured on video shortly before his death in 2009 smoking with his 5-year-old son.
Hardi Baktiantoro, director

Birds die in zoo, Bengal chicken feed restricted
Supply of chicken from West Bengal to the Birsa Munda Biological Park has been restricted after a large number of birds died of some unknown infection in the past few days. Park authorities have started administering preventive medicines and a cleaning drive has been launched on a war footing. But what remains unanswered is the exact cause of death and the fear of more birds succumbing to fresh infections.
Till Friday, five peacocks, three silver pigeons, two adjutant stalks and an owl died in the zoo. Park officials segregated the sick birds at the zoo, but it was of little help. Since there was no post-mortem, the exact reason for the deaths could not be ascertained.
Director of the park, P K Verma, said veterinary doctors are administering preventive medicines to the birds and special care is being taken while feeding them. "We presume that it was because of incessant rains that some sort of infection occurred," he said, adding

How the UK's zoophobic legacy turned on wild boar
Farming Today's framing of the issue illustrates a peculiar desire to keep ecosystems in a state of arrested development
Is the United Kingdom the most zoophobic nation in Europe? Do we, in other words, have an unusually intense fear of wild animals?
We've certainly been less successful than other nations at protecting large mammals. Norway and Finland, for example, have lost none of their large, post-glacial land mammal species. But, until recently, our native species numbered just two: roe deer and red deer. As David Hetherington of the Cairngorms Wildcat Project pointed out at a meeting in London zoo last year, the UK is "the largest country in Europe and almost the whole world" which no longer possesses any of its big carnivores. Other countries as densely populated and industrialised as ours have managed to hang on to theirs.
There are several reasons for this failure. Early and extensive deforestation wiped out much of the habitat large mammals require. England was colonised by a ruling class – the Normans – which was fanatical about hunting. Once an island loses its mammals, it becomes very difficult for them to recolonise naturally. But another factor is the peculiar and fearful determination of the people who own large tracts of land to kill anything they can't control.
The tendency was illustrated again this week by the news that grouse estates in Scotland appear to have been poisoning golden eagles, peregrines, red kites, buzzards and even a white-tailed eagle. The leniency with which these estates are treated, in terms of both investigation and prosecution, suggests

SD Zoo Helps Endangered Hawaii Bird Population
The San Diego Zoo on Friday announced it had a record year for breeding the endangered Hawaiian crow, or 'alala.
The zoo's species recovery program hatched 20 chicks. The zoo successfully raised 19 of them.
That raises the number of living 'alala from 76 to 95, zoo officials said. That is up from just 20 known birds in 1994.
The project is part of the Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program, which includes the Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife, San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“With the ‘alala population now on a stronger foundation, we are excited about the next phase of the species recovery program, with the goal of reestablishing the species within the Hawaiian forest e

Ontario breeder selling lion and tiger cubs as house pets
A breeder is offering three-month-old lion and tiger cubs for sale as house pets on an Ottawa website. And owning them is perfectly legal in most of Ontario, though not in Ottawa.
Four cubs are for sale at $2,800 each, says the breeder, who identifies herself by e-mail as Jenifer Ashu. She doesn’t say in her ad where her business is located.
The cubs are advertised on, a website that advertises items for sale in the Ottawa-Gatineau region.
It says: “We are breeders and we have exotic cats, white lion cubs and tiger cubs available in our cattery. We have been giving them home trained method with kids and other domestic animal. Contact us for more information if interested to own one of them in your home as house pets.”
The ad doesn’t list the business’s name or phone number. Buyers respond only by email through the website.
When the Citizen answered the ad, the breeder sent this response: “We breed exotic cats and also have lion and tiger cubs all ready to go. The cubs are 15 weeks old and are 4 in number. They go for $2,800 each.
“Let me know if you are still interested in the cubs and the number you will like to get. Feel free to ask any questions that

New species of dolphin discovered off Australia
Australian researchers have discovered a new species of dolphin living right under their, uh, bottlenoses.
A population of 100 dolphins in Port Phillip Bay and 50 in the Gippsland Lakes on Australia's southern coast have been proven to be genetically unique from dolphins anywhere else in the world, Monash University doctoral researcher Kate Charlton-Robb said in a university release.
"We're very pleased to announce that yes it is a new dolphin species, and I have called it Tersiops Australis," Charlton-Robb

From One Ricky to Another!

What do Ricky Gervais, Rick Astley and a 50-year-old chimpanzee all have in common?
This Monday Edinburgh Zoo will celebrate the birthday of Ricky the chimpanzee and staff hope Ricky Gervais and Ricky Martin, as well as other famous Rickys will be among well-wishers.
Edinburgh Zoo has send out special tweets inviting some other well-known Rickys, such as
Ricky Gervais, Rick Astley, Ricky Martin, Ricky Tomlinson, Ricky Hatton, Richard Madeley, Richard Branson and Ricky from Eastenders, to send their birthday wished to the Scottish capital’s most famous chimp on Twitter.
While records don’t give Ricky’s exact age, keepers estimate he has reached the big five-zero, making him the Zoo’s oldest residents. When Ricky first arrived at Edinburgh keepers did not know his actual birthday, so they decided he would share his special day with primate keeper Sarah Gregory who will turn 30 this Monday.
Head of animals Darren McGarry said: “Ricky is a really important member of our chimp groups and all the primate staff are delighted to be celebrating his birthday.
We are hoping some other well-known Ricky’s will get involved and tweet their birthday messages to help raise awareness of these fascinating animals and the threats they face in the wild.”
Ricky life began in sad circumstances as keepers believe his family were killed in the illegal pet-trade. Ricky went on to become a mascot on a merchant navy ship before arriving at Edinburgh Zoo in 1966. Despite a difficult start in life Ricky has found his place here at Edinburgh Zoo and is now considered to be one of chimps

Tigers threatened by wild forest fires
One of last remaining populations of Sumatran tigers in Indonesia is under threat from wild forest fires. The fires started in mid-August and now surround much of the border of Berbak National Park in Sumatra, a peat swamp forest that is prime tiger habitat. There are only 300 remaining Sumatran tigers in the wild and Berbak is an important site for the species’ survival.
Peat has a high carbon content and burns as smouldering, stealthy underground fires making Donate to 21st century tiger the fires difficult to track and put out.
Ten local fire fighting teams have been drafted in to tackle the fires and are being aided by more than 100 local community volunteers and National,862,NS.html

S. Lanka warned against giving elephant to Philippines
An international animal rights group warned Sri Lanka Friday against giving the Philippines a baby elephant, saying the creature would face a "lifetime of confinement, boredom and abuse".
The Asian unit of US-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) wrote to Sri Lanka's Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne saying the donation would sentence the elephant to a life of "misery at the Manila Zoo".
The plea comes a day after Sri Lanka announced it was marking 50 years of diplomatic relations with the Philippines by giving the Manila Zoo an animal from its state-run elephant orphanage.
Sri Lanka's acting information minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene told reporters that the cabinet approved the gift after it was proposed by the prime minister.
Referring to the Manila Zoo as a "decrepit facility that has recently come under public scrutiny", PETA's Manila office said Jayaratne's move reflected poorly on Sri Lanka.
"If you care about elephants, you would never send one to the Manila Zoo to suffer for the rest of their life," PETA said, adding that the zoo's sole elephant, Mali, spends her days alone in a barren cement enclosure.
"I beg you to cancel plans to condemn another elephant to a life of confinement

Will We Bought a Zoo be as lame as its trailer?
Early nomination for most lame and cloying trailer for a supposed 2011 Oscar wannabe: the kids, critters and cuddles cringefest that is We Bought a Zoo, due out at Christmas.
We have to hope for Cameron Crowe's sake that he's come up with something better than what's on view in the just-released trailer for his screen adaptation of Benjamin Mee's zoo-as-home memoir.
The movie stars Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church and a menagerie of cute kids and animals.
Just guessing here, but if the story is anything other than Damon playing a beaten-down single dad finding fulfillment and new love while knee-deep in zebra dung, as the tell-all trailer suggests, then we'd be awfully surprised.
We're also b

Conservation fund helps preserve endangered animals and plants
Majestic and solitary, the Arabian leopard once roamed the Arabian Peninsula. Now, less than 250 of these beautiful creatures exist, their numbers threatened by loss of habitat and hunting.
Destroying a top predator in a food chain in such a manner could wreak havoc on the entire ecosystem, a leading environmental fund manager told Gulf News in the capital yesterday.
"This is why it is important to detect remaining members of the species and prevent them from dying out," said Nicolas Heard, head of fund management at the Mohammad Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund.
The conservation fund, established in 2008, provides support and grants for projects that seek to preserve plant and animal species across the world.
Spearheaded by an endowment of about Dh127 million by General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, its initiatives are being highlighted at the Abu Dhabi

Animals are neither safe in the wild nor in the zoo
Mysore’s famed Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Garden is slowly losing its prized possessions. Out of the six chinkaras (Indian Gazelle) that were brought to the zoo three years ago, only one is alive now. Zoo officials blame it on the weather and say that the animals faced adjustment problems.
It was about three years ago when six chinkaras were brought to Mysore Zoo with the hope that they will procreate and increase the number of species the zoo flaunts. Speaking about the issue, Dr Dhanalakshmi, veterinarian, Mysore zoo, said, “We had brought one pair from Lucknow and two pairs from Chandigarh. They were doing well until recently.”
In the past three years, almost all chinkaras (also known as blackbuck) died of viral infection. However, the zoo authorities

Chester Zoo celebrates hatching on rate (of rare?)* radiated tortoises
*Needs a spell check?
CHESTER Zoo is paying special care to some new arrivals.
The zoo’s lead keeper of reptiles, Karen Entwistle, is looking after some baby Radiated tortoises, nine of which recently hatched.
Native to the island of Madagascar, the species is critically endangered due to loss of habitat, over exploitation from the pet trade and illegal poaching.
Miss Entwistle said: “In the wild, these tortoises are now being poached for food which, along with pressure from

SeaWorld fights for future of killer-whale shows
Nineteen months after an animal trainer was killed by one of its killer whales, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment heads to court next week to fight for the future of its iconic Shamu shows.
SeaWorld is challenging the results of a federal investigation triggered by the Feb. 24, 2010, death of veteran trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was pulled underwater and killed by Tilikum, a 6-ton killer whale.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration wants to fine SeaWorld $75,000, but far more than a financial slap on the wrist is at stake for SeaWorld, a $1.2 billion-a-year business with namesake marine parks in Florida, California and Texas. Legal experts say the case, which will be heard in a Seminole County courtroom, could dictate whether SeaWorld is able to put trainers and whales in the water together ever again.
Some within the zoological and amusement-park industries fear the results could also reverberate far beyond SeaWorld and into zoos, aquariums and other facilities where employees work closely with large, potentially dangerous animals. The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions said it is "monitoring" SeaWorld's case.
"A lot of people are following this," added Jack Hanna, the celebrity biologist and director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo in Ohio, who occasionally works with SeaWorld. "I'm concerned about the outcome. And I think anybody in our business should be."
At the heart of the case is a citation issued by OSHA last August after a six-month investigation of SeaWorld's killer-whale program. The agency has accused SeaWorld of committing a "willful" safety violation — its most severe classification — for not adequately protecting trainers from the danger of being struck or drowned by killer whales.
But most troubling for SeaWorld is how OSHA has proposed that the violation be fixed, or "abated." In its citation, OSHA recommends that trainers be prohibited from working with the whales — either in the water or from the edges of pools — unless they are protected by a physical barrier.
OSHA indicated in the citation that — at least for whales other than Tilikum, the largest and most dangerous animal in SeaWorld's collection — it might accept other means of abatement, such as decking systems, emergency oxygen supplies or other engineering changes. But even then, it suggested it would only accept those measures if they provide "the same or a greater level of protection" than a physical barrier.
It is such a high bar that it could effectively prevent SeaWorld trainers from swimming with the whales.
"Nothing's going to protect better than a barrier," said Jim Laboe, a lawyer with Orr & Reno in Concord, N.H., who represents companies facing OSHA inspections. "I just don't know how you're going to find an equivalent level of protection."
Although SeaWorld has forbidden trainers from getting in the water with its killer whales since Brancheau's death, company executives have made it clear that they want to resume such "water work" at some point. SeaWorld says water work is essential to adequately caring for the highly social animals — in addition to being the company's most marketable thrill to vacationers around the world.
SeaWorld has pledged to spend tens of millions of dollars making safety improvements to its killer-whale facilities in Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio. In Orlando, for instance, the company is testing a fast-rising, false-bottom floor that has been installed in the same pool in which Brancheau was killed. If the tests are successful, SeaWorld plans to install the floors in every killer-whale pool it owns.
SeaWorld has also designed vests for trainers to wear that contain emergency air supplies in case they are pulled underwater. Trainers have been conditioning the whales to ignore the vests when they are in the water.
But even if SeaWorld successfully implements all of its changes, they may not be adequate to meet OSHA's "physical barrier" recommendation. And if SeaWorld resumes water work anyway, it risks a far stiffer penalty — one that could reach as much as $7,000 a day.
Art Sapper, a partner in the OSHA practice group of the Washington law firm McDermott Will & Emery, said one of the primary reasons companies contest OSHA citations is because they don't think — or simply aren't sure whether — they can resolve the cited condition to the extent that OSHA has proposed.
"You can't effectively promise the federal government, at the risk of jeopardizing your company, that you're going to abate if you're not sure you can," Sapper said.
SeaWorld has other reasons to contest OSHA's citation. The "willful" finding, for instance, could increase the company's exposure to civil lawsuits. And it is a stain on the reputation of a business that depends on a positive brand image to help it lure millions of visitors through its gates every year.
"Any company that has respect for its reputation does not want the federal government to say it willfully took a man's life," said Buzzy Riis, an Alabama lawyer with the firm Hand Arendall who specializes in defending companies against OSHA.
SeaWorld declined to discuss its challenge in detail, though it called OSHA's findings "unfounded."
"These allegations are completely baseless, unsupported by any evidence or precedent, and reflect a fundamental lack of understanding of the safety requirements associated with marine-mammal care," the company said in a statement. "The safety,0,5873065.story

Probing Poop For Cellulose-Chomping Microbes
In the search for ways to break down tough plant material like cellulose into biofuel, researchers are looking in odd places—like the feces of pandas, zebras and giraffes. Biochemist Ashli Brown and microbiologist David Mullin discuss the microbes that inhabit the guts of herbivores.
Well, I'm going to bring up a topic that I never thought I'd really talk much about. I'll tell you why. You already know how we make biofuels, like ethanol, from raw materials like we eat - corn, starch, cane sugar - and how we compete for those things, right? Do you want food? Do you want fuel? Well, that's the easier thing to do. That's why we do it, because it's easy. But there is a harder thing to do, and the harder to figure out is an economical way to squeeze energy out of tough woody plant matter full of stringy cellulose, like wood chips and switchgrass and even newspapers, things that we don't eat.
My next guests are both looking for the answer in an unusual place: poop. If you think about it, it actually makes a lot of sense. Animals that dine on fibrous things like - animals like pandas and zebras and giraffes - they extract

Turtle survives aquarium inferno
A turtle miraculously survived an inferno in an aquarium which was so hot it boiled water in some tanks and killed hundreds of fish.
The blaze at the Mapua Aquarium near Nelson was one of three fires in the area early yesterday morning believed to have been the work of arsonists.
Fire investigator Lewis Jones said the fire caused "total destruction'' in the building and was so intense it boiled water in some of the tanks and caused

Accident ends tragic life of lion carer
Karen Greybrook - former partner of "Lion Man" Craig Busch - has died following a freak accident.
Greybrook was a key figure in The Lion Man television show, hand-raising cubs, caring for big cats and even taking a lion on a beach walk from their home at Zion Wildlife Gardens near Whangarei.
The gates to the park are closed to casual visitors after receivers took over in July, and the park this month went into liquidation.
In 2007, Busch was convicted of two charges of assaulting Greybrook two years earlier. She suffered a fractured vertebrae, bruising and a cut head during the assault, which occurred after he found her in bed with another

Northern Leopard Frog showing improved numbers
Finding egg masses for the endangered northern leopard frog (Lithobates pipiens) is not an easy task. Once widespread throughout south eastern B.C. there are now only two known wild breeding areas remaining in the province. So when biologists from the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP) located 17 egg masses during the spring breeding season of 2011 - the most since the Northern Leopard Frog Recovery Project got underway in 1996 - they were ecstatic.
This is one of many projects the FWCP has led on behalf of its program partners BC Hydro, the Province of B.C. and Fisheries and Oceans Canada who work together to conserve and enhance fish and wildlife in British Columbia. Approximately one-third of FWCP projects focus on species-at-risk such as the northern leopard frog which is federally endangered, and red-listed provincially.
"Typically we only find between six and nine egg masses each year


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