Saturday, December 10, 2011

Zoo News Digest 1st - 10th December 2011 (Zoo News 797)

Zoo News Digest 1st - 10th December 2011 (Zoo News 797)

Peter Dickinson

Dear Colleague,

Read and weep. "Prime Indonesian Jungle to Be Cleared for Palm Oil". Truly a crime against humanity as well as the creatures of the forest. Have we not learned anything yet? I is corruption in high places, in governments, in organisations, in companies and in some zoos that seems to count more than sound reasoning and judgement.

My internet connection has continued to be a pain. I really cannot understand how I can get a strong signal with both WiFi and Dongle and yet only get local access. Sometimes its fine, I can connect but at others not at all. I have had to work a lot of very late nights and equally early mornings to pull this together. Plays havoc with my social life. The problem is not the computer because I have checked. Happily it doesn't affect everybody because this week I learned my HubPages have been read a million times! Okay I write about a lot of different subjects but educating people about zoos is one of my main aims and I do seem to be getting the message across. If people learn a bit about Bar Girls and Lady Boys as well then it can be no bad thing because they are often maligned in the press.

I was interested to note that in the story about Walker the Polar Bear that it stated "the only polar bear in a UK public zoo" there is at least an acceptance that there is another in the UK which scarcely ever gets a mention.

'An elephant moves from a SANCTUARY to a ZOO' for breeding purposes! Wonderful. A Sanctuary which has got its head screwed on the right way. Isn't it about time that we accepted that zoos and so called sanctuaries are one and the same? It is all in the name!

'No FIR yet in lion cubs tragedy'. I feel sorry for the staff here. The whole episode revolves around ignorance of the animals requirements. The same situation repeatedly occurs in Indian Zoos as well. One day they will learn.

New look for zoos
Zoos must also give animals comfortable living space and proper care. Failure to do so will see veterinarians being fined up to RM100,000 as they are responsible for the welfare of animals.” Wow that is a bit harsh and really is it the veterinarians fault? Are they responsible? And at the same time GUIDELINES offer guidance. They are not the law. The legal situation in Malayisian Zoos will remain as murky and unclear as previously unless something more is done than this.

'Zoos should accept animals' - Just what planet has this guy come from? Why on earth should zoos accept?

Chinese Gay Penguins adopt. See! Mention one Gay Penguin and the silly season starts again. At least the Chinese have a slightly different take on the story but even then it was not original as there was a book about a similar situation. That was 'And Tango Makes Three'.

'Check mate: How forced celibacy affects captive tigers' makes an interesting read but it isn't new. Good zoos and people with a realistic and understanding take on the saving of species have known this for a long time. I have been shot down for stating this before but I am going to say it again anyway. First people need to realise that a kindly killing by someone who cares need not hurt. An injection or a bullet in the right place and that's it. It's over. Cull or euthanasia call it what you like.
Tigers and other species should be allowed to breed in captivity. It is enriching for the Dam and sometimes the sire too. The parents get the experience, it's natural and is good for their bodies, minds and general well being. If the young are not required for the OFFICIAL breeding programme then they should be euthanased at such time they would naturally leave their parents in the wild. This is not cruel, unkind, heartless, nasty (or the other host of less pleasant names I have been called...not forgetting the threats) but it is something that some people really need to get their heads around. They really need to think long and hard. I accept that it is difficult because even some zoo people refuse to even give two minutes to considering it.

Read more in:

The Good Zoo and Euthanasia

Zoos and Euthanasia

Dubai Zoo has been getting it in the neck once again in the letters page of one of the local papers. Would you believe that the writers have never visited the zoo in case they get upset? You would? shows just the sort of mentality we are up against. Blinkered and ignorant. I am in no way defending Dubai Zoo, it has its faults, but in terms of some of the zoos I have visited it is not a bad place at all.

The Shark Talk video comes from the heart. Please watch it. On a personal note I believe ANY Aquarium ANYWHERE displaying sharks which is not doing the very maximum to raise awareness of the plight of sharks in the wild needs to be closed down.


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A Global Warming Message

Chief Executives Blog
Well they’re here! Our two giant pandas are safely settling into their new enclosures at Edinburgh Zoo and we’re absolutely delighted with them.
The moment of their arrival was so very poignant, and a moment that I and many others will never forget. I was honoured to represent the Society as one of their greatest achievements came to fruition.
On Sunday 4th December at around 1pm, Tian Tian and Yang Guang arrived on Scottish soil at Edinburgh Airport. The pair had touched down safely courtesy of the FedEx Panda Express – a specially chartered Boeing 777F flight

Check mate: How forced celibacy affects captive tigers
With a gestation period of merely three months and a reproductive cycle of two years, tigers breed easily, which is reflected in the increase in numbers in the wild. But, with shrinking habitats and increasing threats from different sources, tigers that are being rescued from the wild may be staring at a life of celibacy in zoos all over India.
Due to many reasons, mating in zoos among wild animals is not actively encouraged. Strangely, no study has been conducted by any Indian expert on the implications of tigers not being allowed to mate. Will their health get affected, are there any psychological issues and will such cats face any other problems? TOI spoke to some experts on the issue. While some say that captive breeding should be allowed, others feel it has no conservation value.
'Chhe Phool, Ek Mali' can be a movie that could be shot in Nagpur's city zoo. There are four female tigresses, all rescued from the wild after their mothers went missing. While Jai is 3.5 years, Lee, Jaan and Cherry, the three cubs from the same litter, will soon turn three. Another two females and a male, again from the same tigress, are being held in captivity in a small enclosure at Bor sanctuary for over two years. All have been almost domesticated and will not be able to lead a life in the wild ever again.
The Central Zoo Authority norms say that a 'compatible group' of two tigers can be kept together. After attempts to procure Jai a mate from Chhatbir Zoo in Punjab fizzled out, the Panjabrao Deshmukh Krishi Vidyapeeth, which runs the Maharajbagh Zoo in the city, is trying to bring a male tiger from Maitri Bagh Zoo in Bhilai.
Would being kept away from natural proclivities cause any harm to the seven wildcats? It'll never be known as the PDKV and the forest department lost out on a wonderful opportunity to conduct a study.
The state forest department reacted with remarkable alacrity recently while radio-collaring and releasing a rescued tigress. But, it has taken no proactive measures with the Bor big cats.
Research has been conducted by a group of wildlife experts in the US in 1987 - U Seal, D Wildt, R Tilson, A Donoghue, N Reindl, R Taylor and others - on behavioural profile of captive Bengal female tigers during the breeding season. It showed that the tigresses were vocalizing (calling or moaning), prustening (a greeting call that sounds like air expelled softly through the nostrils), rubbing the cheek, forehead or flank against the walls/bars of the enclosure, rolling over and writhing on the back, exhibiting lordosis or semilordosis (postures assumed just prior to copulation) and urine-spraying.
Valmik Thapar, the leading name when it comes to tiger conservation, had this terse comment to offer, "Does it matter for women to live without men or vice-a-versa? Nature for all means males and females together, without which there would be little life on this planet."
Noted wildlife biologist and conservation zoologist K Ullas Karanth feels it's a no-issue as "it does not matter for conservation of tigers".
The fact, however, remains that no such study has been commissioned by any authority in India. VK Mohan, additional principal chief conservator of forests (APCCF) for research, education and training, says such research is usually done by the wildlife wing under the guidance of the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII).
Maharajbagh Zoo incharge Dr SS Bawaskar admits that getting a mate for zoo tigresses is a "psychological and biological requirement" but adds "no study has been done". "Breeding such pairs has no conservation value, hence it is not necessary. Male and female can be displayed in separate cages," he said.
Wildlife veterinarian Dr NVK Ashraf, who is also chief operating officer (COO) with Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), says tigresses would cycle periodically and show signs of being ready to mate. "The stage will pass off in less than a week. Nothing untoward happens if they are kept by themselves," he said.
Contrary to this, wildlife vet Dr Bahar Baviskar, who runs the NGO Wild-Cer, says tigers grow extremely well in captivity. "Ethically, young tigers should be allowed to mate, even in captivity. However, practically speaking, female raised in captivity does not have experience of raising cubs, which may prove controversial," he said.
Dr Baviskar's observation is that a tigress, as in all other cats, is an induced ovulator; she ovulates after copulation. The female rears the cubs on her own without the help of a male tiger. The vet is quite certain that not being allowed to mate will have no adverse affect on a female tiger. "However, the reproductive health of tigers will definitely go down if not allowed to mate after attaining maturity (3-4 years)," Dr Baviskar added.
He is quite vocal that tigers should definitely be "allowed to mate in captivity, at least in India". "Statistically speaking, the number of tigers in captivity all over the world is almost equal to those in the wild. Looking at the status of tigers, it is always beneficial to allow captive breeding," said Dr Baviskar.
A noted wildlife biologist, who did not want to be named, says separation of sexes is a routinely followed management action for zoos the world over, to prevent animals from breeding unnecessarily in captivity.
"Breeding programmes are carried out with a lot of consideration and with a specific goal in mind. Bringing up cubs in captivity looks nice in pictures but it eventually results in a wild animal spending its entire life behind bars. Also, if you have a male housed near female cats, the females experience what is termed as false pregnancy because in the wild the presence of a male makes them ovulate and leads to mating. However, in captivity, if you house a male near the female she repeatedly ovulates and this is said to cause health problem for the females," the

Tiger Escape

It is euthanasia for the virus-affected jackals
The decision has been taken. Euthanasia to the four jackals of the city zoo infected with the canine distemper virus. Chief Wildlife Warden R Raja Raja Varma has confirmed to Express that euthanasia is the only option before him.
The zoo authorities are yet to receive an official approval for their application regarding the euthanasia of the infected jackals.
The canine distemper virus has already claimed the lives of four jackals in the city zoo. With the mercy killing of the remaining four, the virus would have wiped out all the jackals from the city zoo.
Raja Raja Varma said: “This is the only option left in order to save the lives of other animals. The four jackals would be subjected to euthanasia. It is a very disturbing decision, but there is no other option”.
Since jackals are schedule animals, the approval of CWW is necessary to go ahead with the procedure.
According to the zoo officials, the euthanasia will be carried out by injecting high dose of anaesthetics. The body of the animals will be charred in the presence of zoo authorities. Euthanasia was held in the zoo five years ago when a group of animals were infected with foot-and-mouth disease.
Canine distemper virus infection is very rare in jackals. It is common among stray dogs. Though the condition of the remaining jackals are

Prime Indonesian Jungle to Be Cleared for Palm Oil
The man known as Indonesia's "green governor" chases the roar of illegal chainsaws through plush jungles in his own Jeep. He goes door-to-door to tell families it's in their interest to keep trees standing.
That's why 5,000 villagers living the edge of a rich, biodiverse peat swamp in his tsunami-ravaged Aceh province feel so betrayed.
Their former hero recently gave a palm oil company a permit to develop land in one of the few places on earth where orangutans, tigers and bears still can be found living side-by-side — violating Indonesia's new moratorium on concessions in primary forests and peatlands.
"Why would he agree to this?" said Ibduh, a 50-year village chief, days after filing a criminal complaint against Aceh Gov. Irwandi Yusuf.
"It's not just about the animals," he said, men around him nodding. "Us too. Our lives are ruined if this goes through."
Irwandi — a former rebel whose life story is worthy of a Hollywood film — maintains the palm oil concession is by the book and that he would never do anything to harm his province.
But critics say there is little doubt he broke the law.
The charges against him illustrate the challenges facing countries like Indonesia in their efforts to fight climate change by protecting the world's tropical jungles — which would spit more carbon when burned than planes, automobiles and factories c

Govt seeks to overturn Aceh’s granting of forest clearing permit
The government will overturn a policy made by Aceh governor Irwandi Yusuf to grant a permit to an palm oil company to clear peat land forest in the Leuser ecosystem area, a senior official says.
Hadi Daryanto, secretary-general of the Forestry Ministry, said on Friday that the government would seek to impose sanctions on those responsible for the signing of the illegal approval for PT Kallista Alam to convert 1,605 hectares of protected peat swamp forest into palm oil plantations.
The policy breaches Presidential Instruction No.10/2011, issued in May this year, which bans new permits on the clearing of primary forests and peat lands.
The permit, which allows PT Kallista Alam to develop palm oil plantations in the protected peat swamp forest in the Tripa Peat Swamp, which is part of the Leuser ecosystem, was signed by Irwandi on Aug. 25. “It breaches the 2011 moratorium on new forest permits because [Irwandi] issued the permit after the moratorium was signed. Thus, we will impose sanctions by revoking the permit he granted,” Hadi told The Jakarta Post.
He added that the Forestry Ministry had sent a letter to Home

Indonesian police ask Interpol help over orangutan deaths
Indonesians have been horrified at revelations palm oil workers at a Malaysian plantation in Kalimantan were paid around $US90 for each orang-utan they killed as part of a pest control program.
Police in Kalimantan say they've asked for help from Interpol and the Malaysian embassy to track down the plantation's former general manager.
The harming of orang-utans is a problem that has increased as palm oil plantations take over the sprawling jungles of Borneo. This massive island is divided among the Indonesian province of Kalimantan, two Malaysian states, and the sovereign country of Brunei. Arfiana Khairunnisa heads the Kalimantan branch of the Centre for Orangutan Protection.

KHAIRUNNISA: We assist the forest police to rescue the orang-utans that are illegally kept as pets by the community. We investigate and document, to find evidence of crimes against orang-utans. We assist the best zoos for orang-utans and we do campaigns to force the government to enforce the law for orang-utans.

BAHFEN: She says that since the Centre was founded in 2007 the number of orang-utans killed or kidnapped has increased.

KHAIRUNNISA: Yes, yes, many. Maybe I'll describe it - for example about one thousand two hundred orang-utans were rescued from palm oil plantations.

BAHFEN: Conservation scientist Dr Erik Maijaard is an adviser with People and Nature Consulting International in Bali. He's worked in Indonesia since the 1990s, studying orang-utan habitats and populations. He says that while most people understand that orang-utans are a protected species, there are those in some parts of the archipelago who don't.

MEIJAARD: We conducted a range of interviews, interviewing about seven thousand people in Kalimantan and what we found was that out of those people about eighty per cent were aware of the protected status of orang-utans but about twenty percent, primarily people in the interior of Borneo, at least claim to be unaware of the protected status. So there is a lack of awareness still.

BAHFEN: Dr Meijaard says apart from a lack of awareness in some parts of Kalimantan, there's also been a lack of deterrence so far when it comes to harming the orangutans.

MEIJAARD: Well orang-utans are a protected species and have been protected for nearly a hundred years, but in those hundred years I think one or two people have gone to jail for anything illegal to do with orang-utans so it's not a strong deterrent even though orang-utans are protected no one has actually been punished for killing them or destroying their habitat.

BAHFEN: Four suspects have been named so far in the killing of around twenty orang-utans, in the area surrounding the Malaysian plantation firm PT Khaleda Agroprima Malindo, while another two are being sought by the Indonesian authorities. They include the former general manager of the firm, who is now the focus of a request for help from Interpol by the Kalimantan police. The Centre for Orangutan Protection's Arfiana Khairunnisa has welcomed the developments.

KHAIRUNNISA: Well the government must do their law enforcement of course. So far there are six people that have been prosecuted because they have killed orang-utans.

BAHFEN: Conservation scientist Dr Meijaard is also hopeful about the most recent case.

MEIJAARD: These cases are being taken seriously in court by the police and so on and people are actually punished according to the Indonesian law. I think that will set actually a very strong precedent and people wi

Shark Talk

Shark Fin Soup

New Zealand Millionaire to search for missing penguin Happy Feet
A WEALTHY philanthropist wants to find Happy Feet, the lost emperor penguin that gained worldwide stardom after he washed up on a New Zealand beach thousands of miles from his Antarctic home.
After being nursed back to health, Happy Feet caught a ride home on a research ship, where in a very public media event he was released, complete with an electronic tracker that allowed people to follow his progress on the internet.
That signal died only a short time later, prompting many to fear Happy Feet had met with an unfortunate

The Demise of the Komodo Kings
King Kong was a tragic hero. The last of his kind and formerly the ferocious ruler of Skull Island, there was no hope for the gigantic ape trapped in the dirty, noisy confines of New York City. Carl Denham -– the fictional filmmaker who led the expedition to capture Kong –- was wrong when he quipped, “It was beauty that killed the beast” at the finale of the original 1933 RKO Pictures classic. Kong’s affection for Ann Darrow is not what did him in. Civilization killed the ape. There was no way to contain something so wild and primal. Death was the only escape Kong had from a nightmare of skyscrapers and automobiles.
Kong’s unfortunate end underscores the strange nature of zoos. We revere the tiger, crocodile, and elephant for their power and symbolic wildness, yet we constantly seek to contain them within small, unnatural environments where ticket holders can pass by, complain that the animals aren’t doing anything, and then move on to scarf down a bacon cheeseburger at the nearby food court. You only need to wait near a lion or leopard enclosure for a short time to realize just how out of context the predators are. To encounter a leopard in the dark of night with no barriers between you and the cat would be a chilling experience –- a reminder that we, too, can be prey. But at a zoo, with the carnivore safely behind a moat, bars, or some other barrier, people feel comfortable enough to raise their little tykes up to the limits of the cat enclosure and purr to their children, “Aw. Look at the big kitties!”
Don’t get me wrong. Properly run zoos can play important roles in research, conservation, and –- sometimes, but never often enough -– education. But there is still something incongruous about taking an animal that we cherish as being fierce and unfettered by the trappings of urban existence and plunking it down in a small, artificial habitat just a few minutes off the Bronx River Parkway. That is what the dramatic climax of King Kong is all about. Our species had taken something magnificent and attempted to tame it, and such a primordial expression of Nature could not survive in the world we transplanted it into. This underlying point was not an original idea conjured up by the filmmakers behind the movie, but a tribute to the fate of a pair of real creatures that scientists had no idea even existed until the beginning of the 20th century.
“Here be dragons.” That phrase, as scrawled across old maps, indicated a fear of the unknown during a time when Europeans ventured out to other continents and realized that the world was more diverse, wonderful, and frightening than they imagined. Eventually, the strange became familiar and blank spots on maps were filled in, but, in at least one case, there truly were formidable dragons lurking in a little-known spot. These were the Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis) –- the world’s largest living lizards, tucked away along a swath of Indonesian islands.
As with many other recently found, charismatic species, the “discovery” of the Komodo dragon was actually the re-discovery of the animal by Western science. The giant monitor lizards had been living on some of the islands -– such as Flores –- for thousands of years and were undoubtedly known to local people. (They may have even preyed upon the “Hobbit” species of human, Homo floresiensis.) Naturally, the existence of these frightening reptiles spread through stories, and the rumored existence of the Komodo dragon is what eventually led naturalists to it.
Among those that had heard the stories was Lt. J.K.H. van Steyn van Hensbroek, a member of the Dutch colonial forces and the civil administrator of Reo on Flores Island. Sometime in 1910 van Steyn van Hensbroek learned of the existence of huge lizards on Flores and nearby Komodo Island from Major Peter Ouwens, who was the director of a zoo at what is now Bogor, Java. Rumor had it that some of the animals grew to be up to 20 feet long.
Intrigued, van Steyn van Hensbroek made a brief survey of Komodo in an attempt to find the animal. He was successful. Although the lizards did not seem to be as gigantic as had been claimed, the lieutenant was able to capture a seven-foot individual and sent the skin on to Ouwens. The stories were true, and, even though van Steyn van Hensbroek was transferred elsewhere and could not continue his search for more specimens, Ouwens hired a hunter who ended up bringing four additional specimens to Java. With all this fresh data, Ouwens introduced the rest of the world to the Komodo dragon in a scientific description published in 1912.
Komodo suddenly seemed like a lost world. On that island, previously undetected, was a prehistoric-looking reptile that grew to enormous sizes. There were still strange creatures hiding in isolated pockets (a fact highlighted a few years before when explorers announced the discovery of a previously unknown giraffe relative in the Congo basin, the okapi.) As has so often been the case, though, the discovery of something new and spectacular meant that many museums and zoos wanted their own Komodo monitor specimens. In fact, the concern over the scientific exploitation of the reptile was great enough that soon after Ouwens published his paper on the animals the Sultan of Bima on Sumbawa Island and Dutch authorities forbid sport hunting for the lizards and limited the number of specimens naturalists could collect.
Nevertheless, the urge to acquire specimens of the huge monitors was strong enough that in 1926 the American Museum of Natural History launched an expedition to not only acquire specimens of the monitors for their collections, but also to bring back lizards for a special enclosure being prepared at the Bronx Zoo. The explorers on this trip –- including celebrity adventurer W. Douglas Burden -– were given a limit of 15 specimens. They filled their quota. Thirteen dead animals were brought back to New York for study –- some of which remain on display at the AMNH –- and a pair of live Komodo

Komodo Dragon Problems

Conservation society calls for EU ban on dolphinaria
The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society has handed a petition with more than 60,000 signatures to the EU Ambassador to Switzerland Michael Reiterer, calling for a ban on the importation of dolphins and the construction of dolphinaria within the EU.
In a statement sent to The Portugal News, The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) said that a total 60,588 signatures were collected by a consortium of international NGOs, which were handed to Ambassador Reiterer on 17 November in Bern, Switzerland.
"In some parts of the world, dolphins are still captured from the wild for the international dolphinarium industry, including in the brutal drive hunts in Japan - as exposed in the Oscar-winning documentary film 'The Cove'," read the Society's statement.
It adds that these captures threaten the very survival of wild dolphin populations.
"Breeding dolphins in captivity is difficult and so trade in wild caught dolphins has become a lucrative business. The groups are afraid that this situation will lead to further imports of wild caught dolphins into the EU," read the statement.
In its report on dolphinaria in the EU, entitled 'EU Zoo inquiry 2011', written for the European coalition ENDCAP in association with the Born Free Foundation, the WDCS concluded that, despite a directive calling for a range of criteria to be met by zoos and dolphinaria, none that were studied came close to meeting their legal or moral obligations.
The report found that cetaceans (the collective name for whales, dolphins and porpoises) are kept in 34 dolphinaria in 14 EU member states, the majority being bottlenose dolphins.
The dolphinaria studied included both centres in Portugal that house cetaceans; Zoomarine in Guia and Lisbon Zoo. These are home to four and 21 bottlenose dolphins, respectively, a species currently classed as of 'least concern' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
"It is impossible to keep dolphins in conditions which meet their biological needs, as required by EU legislation. As migratory, social animals capable of travelling a hundred miles a day, their behavioural and psychological needs cannot be met in a small, concrete tank," says the WDCS.
It adds that, compared to their natural habitat, a dolphinarium pool is too small, too shallow, too bare and lacking in environmental stimulation. This can create a very stressful situation for dolphins held in captivity, who live shorter lives than their free-living, wild counterparts.
"Only an immediate EU ban on the construction of new dolphinaria and a prohibition on trade in dolphins will end the suffering of these magnificent animals and bring this cruel practice to an end", says Rob Lott from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.
Élio Vicente, marine biologist and Director of Science and Education at Zoomarine in Guia, disagrees with the WDCS's push for a ban on dolphinaria.
Speaking to The Portugal News this week he said that "much of the criticism aimed at zoos is based on preconceptions that have existed for over 40 years," adding that many of the critics have never visited the facility they are against, didn't get to know the staff or even learned about the modern husbandry protocols being implemented.
Mr. Vicente went on to say that the WDCS's proposal is "based on preconceptions (with obvious political aims) and scientifically unfounded perceptions of how the dolphins who live in modern zoo parks are kept and trained."
He considers that those who believe in the abolition of dolphinaria also erroneously believe that the husbandry methods of the 1950s and 60s are still the norm on modern day zoos.
"Naturally, this hasn't been the case for a long time (and is based on a frightening lack of technical and scientific knowledge about the operational and ethical reality on modern zoos and international legislation that regulates them)."
The WDCS report says that cetaceans in captivity

Wildlife park sentenced over handler's death
Zion Wildlife Gardens has been ordered to pay $60,000 to the widow of a fatally mauled big cat handler.
The Whangarei park was sentenced this morning in the District Court for failing to take steps to prevent a hazard and failing to take steps to prevent harm to Dalu Mncube.
Mr Mncube was mauled to death by a tiger while cleaning its cage in 2009.
His widow, Sharon Arnott, was awarded reparation for the emotional harm she and her young daughter have suffered.
The park has been placed in receivership and is in liquidation with debts of more than $3 million.
It has also been the centre of a family feud between owner Patricia Busch and her son Craig.
The Department of Labour says it was simply unacceptable that a handler was permitted to enter an enclosure when the untrained tigers weren't

Zoo code cracked: Mona Lisa hides 3 animals
A US-based artist claims to have cracked the Leonardo Da Vinci "zoo" code - a 500-year-old mystery - after he discovered hidden animals in the famous Mona Lisa portrait.
Ron Piccirillo, the amateur oil painter and graphic designer based in New York, believes that animals, including lion (top right), an ape (top left) and a buffalo (bottom right) are visible if one turns the Mona Lisa onto its side.
According to him, he followed a series of instructions set out by the artist Leonardo da Vinci to decipher the image and claims his discovery cracks open the meaning of the work, painted in 1519, the 'Daily Mail' reported.
Piccirillo claims to have found similar hidden images in works by other Renaissance painters such as Titian and Rafael. It was when he turned the painting on its side that he first noticed the lion's head. He said: "Then I noticed the buffalo and I thought, 'Oh my God' . Then I realized I was really onto something. I just could not believe what I was looking at. I realized , 'this is what I've been looking for' ." Piccirillo also said he had found either a crocodile or snake by following the instructions of da Vinci's journals.
Looking at the painting from a 45 degree angle from the left, the path that runs in the scenery behind the Mona Lisa appears almost serpentine.
This was supposedly where the angle of the light was best and led t

Indianapolis Zoo to open $20M orangutan exhibit in 2014
The Indianapolis Zoo is making a promise: When it opens in 2014, the new International Orangutan Center will be the most spectacular exhibit the zoo has ever offered.
Looking for something at any other zoo with which to compare it?
Don’t even try, said Robert Shumaker, one of the world’s foremost orangutan experts who joined the staff at the Indianapolis Zoo to help oversee the planned exhibit.
“It will quite simply,” Shumaker said, “be the best zoo habitat for orangutans anywhere in the world.”|topnews|text|

Hyderabad zoo clueless over ostrich's 'sex change'
A year after their procurement, the city's Nehru Zoological Park has realized that it's popular ostrich couple is not a couple after all! The authorities recently realized, much to their bewilderment, that the couple was actually a pair of male birds.
The zoo park had acquired an exotic ostrich pair in June 2010 at a cost of Rs 3 lakh from a local bird dealer, who sourced the large flightless birds from Dubai.
But within a month of the purchase, the seven-month-old female of the pair died during the quarantine period.
It was replaced by another "female" a few months later. The zoo staff wasted no time in showcasing the new 'pair' and have been doing so for a year now. It was only recently the authorities realized the dealer had replaced it with a male bird and are demanding a replacement. Officials said they generally identify the sex of the birds but in this case,the sex test could not be carried out. They figured it out only when the ostriches turned

Trial date set for Anne the circus elephant's ex-owners
There was an outcry over shocking images of Britain’s last circus elephant being beaten with a pitchfork.
Yesterday, nine months after the Daily Mail revealed the plight of Anne the elephant, her former owners appeared at court accused of animal cruelty.
Bobby and Moira Roberts are charged with causing unnecessary suffering by chaining Anne to the floor, failing to prevent her groom from beating her, and failing

The Tale of Toby the Troublemaking Elephant

Genetic study confirms: First dogs came from East Asia
Researchers at Sweden's KTH Royal Institute of Technology say they have found further proof that the wolf ancestors of today's domesticated dogs can be traced to southern East Asia -- findings that run counter to theories placing the cradle of the canine line in the Middle East.
Dr Peter Savolainen, KTH researcher in evolutionary genetics, says a new study released Nov. 23 confirms that an Asian region south of the Yangtze River was the principal and probably sole region where wolves were domesticated by humans.
Data on genetics, morphology and behaviour show clearly that dogs are descended from wolves, but there's never been scientific consensus on where in the world the domestication process began. "Our analysis of Y-chromosomal DNA now confirms that wolves were first domesticated in Asia south of Yangtze River -- we call it the ASY region -- in southern China or Southeast Asia", Savolainen says.
The Y data supports previous evidence from mitochondrial DNA. "Taken together, the two studies provide very strong evidence that dogs originated in the ASY region", Savolainen says.
Archaeological data and a genetic study recently published in Nature suggest that dogs originate from the Middle East. But Savolainen rejects that view. "Because none of these studies included samples from the ASY region, evidence from ASY has been overlooked," he says.
Peter Savolainen and PhD student Mattias Oskarsson worked with Chinese colleagues to analyse DNA from male dogs around the world. Their study was published in the scientific journal Heredity.
Approximately half of the gene pool was universally shared everywhere in the world, while only the ASY region had the entire range of genetic diversity. "This shows that gene pools in all other regions of the world most probably originate from the ASY region", Savolainen says.
"Our results confirm that Asia south of the Yangtze River was the most important -- and probably the only -- region for wolf domestication, and that a large number of wolves were domesticated", says Savolainen.
In separate research published recently in Ecology and Evolution, Savolainen, PhD student Arman Ardalan and Iranian and Turkish scientists conducted a comprehensive study of mitochondrial DNA , with a particular focus on the Middle East. Because mitochondrial DNA is inherited only from the mother in most species, it is especially useful in studying evolutionary relationships.
"Since other studies have indicated that wolves were domesticated in the Middle East, we wanted to be sure nothing had been missed. We find no signs whatsoever that dogs originated there", says Savolainen.
In their studies, the researchers also found minor

Advocates say ‘pioneering’ NJ tiger registry bill may protect animals from black market trade
Though only a fraction of the world’s tiger population resides in New Jersey, a lawmaker wants to make the state an international model for protecting against illegal sales of tiger bones and other body parts.
State Sen. Ray Lesniak is sponsoring a bill that would require New Jersey’s captive tigers to be counted, registered and tracked to ensure their body parts don’t end up on the black market. The bill faces its first legislative hearing on Thursday.
Tigers claws, teeth and whiskers are all marketed illegally, but tiger bones are the most valuable on the black market because they are believed to have medicinal value.
Tom Lovejoy, the chief biodiversity adviser to the president of the World Bank and president of the Heinz Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment, described New Jersey’s proposal as “a pioneering effort” to help tigers worldwide.
He said even if the legislation is largely symbolic because of New Jersey’s small captive tiger population

Indonesian Ministry of Forestry Partners with Private Sector to Support Orangutan Foundation International
Major public private partnership backed by PT SMART Tbk and Asia Pulp & Paper
The Indonesian Ministry of Forestry, with the support of PT SMART Tbk (SMART) and Asia Pulp & Paper Group (APP), announced a landmark partnership with Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) to create a two-year conservation programme geared towards the protection of orangutans, one of the more endangered

Isn't this like climbing into bed with the enemy?

First ever recipe book for animals
The first ever recipe book for animals has been put together.
Experts at Chester Zoo spent years studying exactly what their animals should eat - and put all the info into a book.
The book contains 7,000 recipes and each animal has its own specific diet.
It's good news for the animals because new keepers will know exactly what to feed them.
Some of the meals are a bit easier to prepare than others. Giraffes live happily on tree branches but red pandas have to eat four

Should animals be stunned before slaughter?
The slaughter of conscious animals was widely abandoned in the 20th Century and is now practised mainly in the Jewish and Muslim communities. Consumers increasingly expect animals to be stunned before death - but would banning other slaughter methods be an unacceptable violation of religious rights?
The sound of pistons and mechanics fills the air as the last calf of the day steps into a holding box.
A device the size of a hand-held drill is brought to the animal's head, a trigger pulled and a four-inch bolt shot into its brain, causing it instantly to collapse. The unconscious calf is hoisted upside down and slaughtered seconds later with a massive cut to its throat, showering the floor with a torrent of crimson blood.
"Killing animals is never friendly," says Paul Meeuwissen, director of the Vitelco abattoir in the central town of s'-Hertogenbosch, "but what we do is done in the most animal-friendly way possible."
Stunning prohibited in Jewish law, which says animals must be healthy and uninjured at the time of slaughter
Islamic law also says animals must be uninjured, but authorities sometimes allow a form of stunning - in the UK, dhabiha usually involves stunning
Viewpoints: The right way to slaughter?
The plant - the second-biggest veal abattoir in Europe - has used stunning on all its calves - some 300,000 a year - since 2008. Before then it performed some religious slaughter without stunning for the Jewish and Muslim communities, but changing public attitudes towards animal welfare forced a rethink.
The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe took the position in 2002 that "the practice of slaughtering animals without prior stunning is unacceptable under any circumstances", and the issue has gradually become more central for animal welfare campaigners, and for politicians.
"We decided to stop 'ritual' killing because the idea didn't fit us," says Mr Meeuwissen. "My customers are very critical on how we produce our meat, and the large supermarket chains no longer want any meat which is produced ritually."
In the Netherlands and elsewhere, most of the remains of an animal slaughtered by the Jewish method (shechita) end up on supermarket shelves as regular meat products, because parts of the carcass are forbidden


Resort releases eight oryx to breed
The Banyan Tree Al Wadi Resort has eight new Arabian oryx for its nature reserve.
Six females aged between four and six, and two males aged three and five, will join four male oryx that were released there in April last year from Al Ain Wildlife Park.
There is a "100 per cent guarantee" the oryx will breed in the coming winter months, said Ryan Ingram, the recreation manager at the resort.
"Within one year we will have youngsters for sure," Mr Ingram said. "They don't have a problem breeding in this environment.
"We're releasing them into the wild to do their own thing. The whole purpose behind that is to let natural selection take place. We let nature do the planning."
The breeding season begins with the cool weather and increases in intensity in the cooler months.
It is hoped that some of the females

Lohi Bher Wildlife Park in a shambles
Going on a safari is a thrilling experience, but a drive inside Lohi Bher Wildlife Park, spread over 687 acres with its main attraction of Lion’s Safari, could be terrible and boring expedition.
The zigzag road, connecting the Islamabad Highway to the park, is in a sorry state, but thin road running inside the park is in more pathetic condition as at several points it vanishes altogether into rocky driveway. Most of the visitors return without seeing the Lion’s Safari because driving up a steep and dilapidated road with a gorge to its right is impossible.
The park houses about 250 animals of various species with only one veterinary doctor and his assistant to look after them in the captive environment. Dozens of peacocks of various breeds kept in huge cage welcome visitors when they begin their trip after entrancing the park.
Before reaching a large playground having slides, seesaws and swings - most of them broken, visitors pass by deer kept behind fences. Visitors might expect herds of deer, but there are couple of the animals and they remain out of sight most of the time, hiding in the large areas.
Beside the playground, there are fibreglass sculptures of various animals including leopard, elephant and rhinoceros. They too are in a decaying condition, and looking not less than ghostly figures. Teeth of leopard’s statue are missing, there is big hole in the belly of huge sculpture of rhinoceros, and one of tusks

Coming soon: Six new zoos .
Much to the delight of children and animal lovers, at least six new zoological gardens are being proposed in the country. Among the major attractions in them will be the first ever Night Safari in the country at Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh and Panther Safari at Raigad in Maharashtra. The new zoos will be in addition to the already existing 22 in the country.
According to sources in the Central Zoo Authority, out of the six proposed zoological gardens that have been granted approval three are in Uttar Pradesh alone. Out of the other three, two are in Maharashtra and one in Madhya Pradesh.
The most awaited is, however, the Greater Noida Night Safari which will be the fourth of its kind in the world after Singapore, China and Thailand. CZA has granted approval under Section 38H(2) of the Wildlife Protection Act. It has also got the mandatory approval by the Supreme Court.
The Lion Safari proposed in Etawah, though having received clearances from both the CZA and the SC, has remained a non-started due to a power tussle between SP and BSP.
Yet another zoo proposed at Ramgarh Tal Development Area in Gorakhpur is expected to house animals from derecognised zoos of the State.
Two other similar proposals for Agra and Muradabad have, however, been shot down on the ground that the proposed sites were within the flood plains of Yamuna and Ram Ganges rivers and thus not suitable for creation of zoos.
Maharashtra being one of the worst-hit States in man-leopard conflicts, CZA has also granted approval for setting up a leopard rescue centre at Ahmednagar. Further, Madhya Pradesh is also expected to have a zoo and animal rescue centre at Satna.
Among the existing top five zoos, the Alipur Zoological Gardens (West-Bengal) is home to rare captive breeding projects involving the Manipur Brow-antlered Deer.
The Allen Forest Zoo (Uttar Pradesh) is created out of natural forest and its main attractions include white tigers and Asiatic lions. Aringar Anna Zoological Park (Tamil Nadu) is an Avian paradise and roosting ground for migratory birds. It is also home to a wide variety of species of monkeys. While the Mahendra Chaudhary Zoological Park/ Chatbir Zoo (Chandigarh) has Lion Safari and Royal Bengal Tiger as its main draws

Braille Handrails at a Zoo
Akanksha Jain would like to make a zoo in Ahmedabad, India accessible to visually impaired visitors. One cool feature that she’s designed is a handrail with Braille descriptions of animals and their environments, as well as button-activated sound recordings. She’s also devised relief maps and animal models that visitors can use to navigate the zoo and learn about its

Josh Brodesky: Zoo right to split elephants
Maybe the blame is on Disney, which made a fortune humanizing animals.
Forget pink elephants on parade. In the Old Pueblo anthropomorphic outrage marches on over the Reid Park Zoo's decision to split elephants Connie and Shaba after 29 years together.
Connie, a 44-year-old Asian elephant, will move to the San Diego Zoo to receive geriatric care and be with other Asian elephants. In return, an African elephant herd will come live with Shaba, a 31-year-old African elephant, in Reid Park's new seven-acre exhibit.
The plan - from breeding to socializing to disease control - is clearly in the best interests of all precious pachyderms involved.
But among humans, it has stirred a stampede of lament and anger - not to mention a healthy respect for marriage.
"To separate them now is like splitting a human couple that have been married for 60 years," wrote one poster on the zoo's Facebook page, speculating they may die from broken hearts.
Another wrote it was like a couple separating after 30 years.
"Most people can understand and grasp the concept of animal bonds," Tracy Toland, an animal advocate and financial office manager, told the City Council.
But do they really understand elephants? Or do they apply Disney-like layers of human emotions to animals? Certainly, elephants have emotions and bonds, but how deep and complex? No one knows.
"We try to be very careful to not project human emotions on animals for fear of being wrong," said Jeff Andrews, the associate curator of mammals for San Diego Zoo Global.
Take Connie and Shaba. Andrews has been working with them and their trainers for five years. At first, Connie and Shaba struggled when separated during training sessions. A sure sign of their tight bond, right?
"It was mostly due to their lack of training," Andrews said. "It had nothing to do with the dependency of the elephants on one another." After a few weeks of training, they adjusted, he said.
Elephants are smart, have a "remarkable sense of smell" and outstanding memories, Robert Dale, a psychology professor at Butler University, told me.
For nearly 22 years, Dale has researched elephant memory and interactions. He can rattle off astounding facts about elephants: They have an elaborate greeting ceremony that can involve trumpeting, intertwining trunks and spinning around.
Like humans, apes and dolphins, they possess self-awareness. Reunite two elephants after 10 years apart, and they will recognize each other. They can even recognize bones of deceased elephants they once knew.
We know Connie and Shaba will remember each other, and if they were ever reunited, they would recognize each other. It's less clear, though, whether they will miss each other.
"That's not as easy to demonstrate," Dale said. "If they were separated and kept alone, that would likely be traumatic for them."
And that's the key detail: Elephants are social, and as long as Connie and Shaba are with other elephants they should transition just fine.
If each lives with other elephants, "they will interact with other elephants and be a part of the group," Dale said.
At 44, Connie is getting up there. If she stays and dies in Tucson, Shaba would be alone.
The herd coming to Tucson will breed future generations of elephants. Having elephants in herds from the same region of the world helps limit the spread of viruses between species. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums says it's best to have at least three elephants together, and soon Connie and Shaba will have more elephants to socialize with.
"I think what the zoo is doing is very sensible," Dale said.
Sensibility abounds here, except for how the zoo has handled the elephant shuffle.
In recent years, zoo officials fended off efforts to send the elephants to a sanctuary, playing on our desire to project human feelings on the elephants, saying Connie and Shaba had an unbreakable bond. Tucsonans were led to believe this zoo expansion would house not any two elephants, but our two elephants - sort of like lifetime buddies from school.
Now zoo officials are breaking that very bond. They

New look for zoos
Guidelines give priority to animal welfare
POOR conditions in zoos will be things of the past with the introduction of new guidelines on their management and animal welfare.
Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) deputy director-general Dr Zaaba Zainol Abidin said the guidelines, which were being reviewed by the Attorney- General’s Chambers, were part of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, passed last year.
He said the guidelines would pave the way for a makeover of zoos as they included the best practices taken from zoos around the world.
“It is an improvement on the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 as it has mandatory requirements that must be followed by the zoo management, and a stiff penalty for non-compliance,” he told the New Straits Times recently.
He said the guidelines covered not only animals’ food and dietary requirements, but also their welfare, living space and conditions.
“The guidelines require the appointment of a full-time zoo veterinarian, who will prepare a diet for the animals and ensure that the zoo implements the menu.
“Zoos must also give animals comfortable living space and proper care. Failure to do so will see veterinarians being fined up to RM100,000 as they are responsible for the welfare of animals.”
He added that the authorities would close down errant zoos.
The guidelines cover animals’ living space, with a 300-square-metre enclosure for animals that come in pairs, and an extra 30 square metres for additional animals.
He said zoos must build night stalls to allow vets to treat and attend to animals comfortably, and a non-exhibit enclosure or a yard for animals to roam about when they were not being exhibited.
Most importantly, zoos must renew their permits annually, he said.
The authorities would audit zoos by examing the latter’s reports to the zoo committee, he added.
As the guidelines were expected to be gazetted next year, he said, zoos would be given a grace period to comply with them.
Dr Zaaba, however, said it would take some time before the changes were carried out in the 42 zoos nationwide.
The guidelines seek to improve the conditions in zoos, many of which fail to meet basic animal welfare standards laid out by the South East Asia Zoos Association.
Perhilitan’s move in setting up a task force to check on the conditions in zoos and animals led to the authorities

The celebrated chimp that ruled the Bronx Zoo

The science and heartbreak of zoo romance
Zoo biologists use genetic analysis, demographic statistics and keen familiarity to plan the sex lives of their charges. Their goal is to avoid inbreeding and produce healthy offspring, but sometimes, even the best scientists and most attentive zoo-keepers cannot prevent a tragedy.
The couple seemed like a good pair.
Already sporting a distinguished coat of grey fur at the age of 22, he was a stout, hale and hearty father of a young son.
She was a bit younger - 16 - but those who knew her thought she was ready for motherhood.
And crucially, the computer analysis showed they did not share any recent ancestors, making them a good genetic match.
So, in a Chicago love story, zoo-keepers brought together Kwan, a male silverback western lowland gorilla, and Bana, a demure female. They hit it off, and on 16 November, Bana

Pa. zoo loses more than 70 animals in fire
A central Pennsylvania wildlife park says it expects to replace most of the more than 70 animals it lost when an electrical fire damaged two buildings last week.
Officials at the Lake Tobias Wildlife Park say they'll make a final decision on which animals to replace in the coming months.
Halifax fire officials say the blaze started early Tuesday morning. Two squirrel monkeys, two armadillo and dozens of birds perished in the blaze.
Fire Chief Bob Stout estimated the cost of the damage

Pakistan arrests Indian monkey for crossing border (Indian monkey?? the photo is not)
A monkey, which had crossed the Indian border, was arrested by wildlife officials in Bahawalpur, Express News reported on Monday.
As soon as the monkey entered the Cholistan area of Bahawalpur, locals tried to capture it but failed as the monkey dodged past them.
The residents of the area then informed the wildlife officials, who after some investigation and struggle, managed

Perhaps they will hang it as a spy. Lets not have any cracks at Hartlepool here.

Zoos should accept animals
When private animal owners are no longer able to care for their exotic pets, zoos like St. Louis Zoo will not, as a rule, take these animals. My wife and I own two adult chimpanzees who are more than 20 years old. They are in perfect health, in better shape than the chimpanzees at the St. Louis Zoo. My wife and I are now in our 70s and will soon have to look for another place for our beloved chimps to live.
In order to be accepted by an animal sanctuary, like those operated by Friends of Animals, we would be required to make a donation ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of

Receding floods reveal crocs lurking in Bangkok
Murky floodwaters are receding from Bangkok's inundated outskirts to reveal some scary swamp dwellers who moved in while flooded residents were moving out — including crocodiles and some of the world's most poisonous snakes.
Special teams from the Thai Fishery Department have responded to numerous reports of reptilian menaces, like the 3-foot-long (meter-long) croc that Anchalee Wannawet saw sitting next to the outhouse one morning, its toothy jaw wide open.
"I ran away, and it ran into there," the 23-year-old said, pointing toward the reedy swamp behind the construction site where she works in Bangkok's northern Sai Mai district. "I haven't dared to go the bathroom since. I'm peeing in a can."
Thailand has long been a center for the breeding, exporting and trafficking of exotic animals, especially crocodiles. Farmed both legally and illegally, crocs are popular because of the value they fetch for their meat,

Edinburgh zoo's pandas are a big cuddly waste of money
Tian Tian and Yang Guang will doubtless charm zoo visitors but the cost of their stay would be better spent on conservation
I have been a giant panda fan ever since I worked on a TV documentary on the endangered animal, and have therefore been following the latest panda fiasco with great interest.
Tian Tian ("sweetie") and her male companion Yang Guang ("sunshine") have just arrived at Edinburgh zoo, thousands of miles from the Wolong panda breeding centre in central China. They are reportedly "jet-lagged but very well". They'd better be. Soon visitors will flock to the first-class zoo to catch a glimpse of them. The breeding pair, born in 2003, will stay in the Scottish capital for 10 years for research and educational purposes. They will no doubt charm their audience; unlike their cousins in the wild, they are not shy and play in front of people.
Pandas' cuddly looks and rarity have won them universal love, which has been well exploited by the Chinese government. In 1972, two pandas were presented to the United States after President Nixon's historic visit; in 1974, another two were given to Britain in the wake of Edward Heath's friendly visit. In 2005, as part of the talks with Lien Chan, China

The Zanesville Massacre Could Happen in Tampa …or Just About Anywhere else
At 5:30 a.m. on October 19, 2011, the phones at Big Cat Rescue began ringing with the news that Terry Thompson, a private owner and collector of exotic animals in Ohio, had released 56 of his lions, tigers, leopards, cougars, wolves and bears before committing suicide the night before.
As the watching world soon learned that day, Thompson had purposely cut the doors off his animals’ cages so they could not be returned to them. And because the perimeter fence around his property was a mere four- foot high cattle fence, and it was getting dark, the authorities who arrived on the scene were forced to shoot and kill all but six of the dangerous wild animals.
This senseless tragedy unfolded in Zanesville, Ohio, but it could just as easily have been in Tampa or any other city in Florida.
The reason is because there is a patchwork of laws across our country and a dire lack of funds to enforce them. All too often it takes a tragedy like the Zanesville massacre before the public finds out that crazy people and government agencies are playing Russian roulette

Editorial: Elephants no longer belong under the U.S. big top
The company behind the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $270,000 as part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act.
The agreement noted that more than a dozen inspections had resulted in reports of non-compliance with regulations, from improper fencing to temporarily losing control over an animal to allowing a zebra to escape.
The USDA had also launched four investigations into the circus over the last two years, according to a spokesman, that might have led to findings of more serious violations before the settlement ended all inquiry.Although the fee is the highest ever assessed against an animal exhibitor under the welfare statute, it’s peanuts for the circus.
And Feld Entertainment Inc. did not admit wrongdoing but pledged to institute mandatory animal-welfare training for all employees and to designate a compliance officer.
Those are conscientious moves, but Feld should do more. For a decade, animal-welfare groups have filed lawsuits and federal complaints against the circus for its handling of exotic animals, particularly elephants, contending that the circus chains them for hours, subjects them to arduous road travel and uses bull hooks to make them comply with commands. The time is long past for elephants in the circus ring. For their part, Feld officials have vigorously defended their operation’s concern for animal welfare.
The company’s website says the elephants are well housed, transported and cared for, and perform a scant hour or two on show days. In addition, Feld proudly says it is breeding endangered Asian elephants at its conservation centre in Florida.
If Feld officials care as much as they say they do about animals — particularly the planet’s largest land mammals — they should retire them from performance.
Short of that, they should retire from the road any elephants suffering from arthritis — the plague of captive, older elephants.
At a time when zoos are spending millions to find better ways to care for elephants — building them extensive habitats and minimizing or even forbidding unobstructed contact with keepers, thus eliminating the need for bull hooks for protection — this would be a good time for Feld to stop selling the old-school animal circus. Unt

Should Celebrity PETA Supporters Restrain Pet Group from Killing Animals in Its Care?
With a new PETA ad laying a guilt trip on children just in time for Thanksgiving -- "Kids: If you wouldn't eat your dog, why eat a turkey? Go Vegan" -- celebrities like Elisabetta Canalis, who posed nude for the radical group, may want to consider that the controversial organization for which they are exposing their reputations, and bodies may not be as animal friendly as it wants the public to believe.
Critics of the group say Canalis and other celebrities who shill for PETA -- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals -- may want to rethink their rabid support of the organization in light of documented reports the so-called animal rights activists kill most of the animals in their care. A PETA-bashing group that calls itself PETA Kills Animals cites figures self-reported by the animal charity

Palm oil companies’ heinous killing of orangutans appalling
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) is extremely distressed and appalled to learn that Malaysian palm oil companies are responsible for genocide against Indonesia’s endangered orangutans. All over Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) Malaysian owned companies were reported to be destroying what little is left of Indonesia’s rainforests and orangutans.
Not only do they destroy the last vestiges of land that is home to the endangered primates but paid plantation workers to kill at least 20 orangutans and prosboscis monkeys as a means of pest control since 2008. The manner in which these primates were eradicated were horrific as they were chased by dogs, then shot, stabbed or hacked to death with machetes.
This shows that palm oil companies have failed to honour their commitment to gain the sustainable label which must meet several criteria like refraining from clearance of virgin forests and to adhere to fair land acquisition policies.
There is absolutely no regard for law and the gruesome manner in which the orangutans were killed by unlawful means is a serious issue since it is irresponsible of oil palm companies to seize land inhabited by the orangutans resulting in the unceremonious eviction of the defenseless animals.
Even villagers were not spared from the onslaught as land belonging to them were also taken away for the oil palm industry. Apart from orangutan habitats, the expansion of plantations are also destroying habitats of other endangered species like tigers and elephants.
Expansion of plantations narrows species’ habitat, forcing them to leave their territory, and as they approach neighbouring areas comprising villages, people consider them as threat and so they are often killed.
This situation will indirectly facilitate illegal hunting and trading especially of tigers and elephants. The killing of orangutans by plantation workers, or by farmers who see them as pests, is a serious issue.
More often there is fragmentation of forests created by oil palm which prevented movement of wildlife from one isolated forest patch to another leading to inbreeding and eventual population decline.
The oil palm companies should be held accountable for their actions. If they are truly sincere in orangutan conservation today, they would not have hired men to carry out such cruel and immoral acts through eradication of the primate.
Oil palm plantation companies should instead create and run the appropriate protection system of conservation in their concession areas, and also assist in the arrest of their workers convicted for killing the orangutans. They can improve situation by replanting and planning for actual wildlife corridors to support movement between protected or forested areas.
In order to prevent orangutans and other wildlife

Safari park stops pinpointing rhinos for tourists
Kruger National Park in South Africa has decided to stop pinpointing rhino locations for visitors, amid fears poachers are taking advantage of the information
Wildlife enthusiasts hoping to spot a rhino at Kruger National Park in South Africa are on their own, as park authorities have decided to stop pinpointing locations of the elusive species, amid fears that poachers are taking advantage of the information.
Previously, the park would help tourists locate certain species by identifying the locations they were last seen on maps at rest-stops. Now park authorities have decided to remove all information revealing the whereabouts of rhinos over fears that poachers could be consulting the maps before hunting the animals.
The enormous size of this two million hectare park means that this elusive species has plenty of space to hide, yet over the past week six rhino carcases have been found, all with gunshot wounds and their horns removed.
South Africa National Parks have claimed that this year has been the worst year ever for rhino hunting, with data revealing a record number of 405 poaching related deaths in Africa alone. Kruger Park has lost 229 of its rhinos due to poaching this year, compared to 146 last year.
Both black and white African rhinos have been driven onto the global list of endangered and critically endangered species due to poaching. Conservationists believe this is due to demand for rhino horns in Asia.
Kruger Park is one of Africa's most popular

Zookeeper resigns after death of snake at Calgary Zoo
A keeper at the Calgary Zoo resigned Thursday after failing to follow animal handling instructions, which led to the death of a corn snake.
The reptile requires an accessible heat source to help stimulate its metabolism before feeding, said zoo spokeswoman Laurie Skene.
Normally, a hot water bottle would be placed in the snake's enclosure so it can be near the heat but also have the ability to move away.
"Snakes are cold blooded reptiles. They just need to be stimulated a little bit and have their metabolism perked up just before feeding," Skene said.
But on Oct. 9, when the keeper couldn't find a water bottle, the keeper filled a large basin full of hot water and placed the snake in a smaller container in the water.
The keeper was supposed to check on the snake every few minutes but left it unattended for half an hour

Elk shot after escaping from private NY zoo
Authorities say two of 14 elk that escaped from a private zoo in central New York remain on the loose. Two others were mistaken for deer by hunters and shot, while the zoo's owners reportedly have killed several of the animals.
State environmental conservation police confirm Thursday that two of the Roosevelt elk that escaped from Glenn Donnelly's Cayuga (kay-YOO'-guh) County property have been shot.
Officials say a bull elk was shot Saturday and a cow elk was killed Sunday by different hunters.
The Post-Standard of Syracuse reports that Donnelly's

In China, it's panda census time
The last count was a decade ago. Over the next year, teams will fan out in Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi provinces to look for the elusive animal or its droppings.
Reporting from Sanhe, China— If pandas weren't so darn cute, we wouldn't be up in the clouds at the edge of a mountain ravine slick with moss and mud, clinging for life to shoots of bamboo.
And get this: There is almost zero chance that we'll actually see a panda. We keep our eyes on the ground, not just to keep from falling, but because the best we can hope for is to discover panda droppings (and even the chances of that aren't so hot).
"To be honest, I've been working in these mountains for 20 years and I've never seen a panda in the wild," says Dai Bo, 43, a wildlife biologist with China's Forestry Ministry who's wearing a camouflage jacket,0,4762364.story

Jaws drop at Burj Al Arab aquarium's virgin birth
A female zebra shark in Dubai has successfully spawned pups - without the presence of a male.
Zebe, who was introduced to the Burj Al Arab's aquarium as a pup in 2001, has been laying eggs that have successfully hatched every year for the past four years.
It is the first time the species has been documented reproducing without being fertilised by a male, through a process called parthenogenesis.
Also known as virgin birth, parthenogenesis takes place when the female's egg cells double their genome and then split into two.
One of the egg cells takes on the role of the male sperm and effectively fertilises the other egg. They then merge back together to become an embryo with two female chromosomes.
Commonly witnessed in insects and some species of fish and reptiles, parthenogenesis is rarely seen in sharks and has been observed in other shark species only five times in the past decade.
"It was already known that a shark had done this before, but they were of a totally different lineage than zebra sharks; so, this is very exciting," said David Robinson, one of the marine biologists

How penguins 'time' a deep dive
Emperor penguins "time" their dives by the number of flaps they can manage with their wings.
This is according to a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.
It aimed to show how the birds reached the "decision" that it was time to stop feeding and return to the surface to breathe.
Tracking the birds revealed that they flapped their wings, on average, 237 times on each dive.
The study was led by Dr Kozue Shiomi, from the University of Tokyo, Japan.
Dr Shiomi and his team think that the penguins' decision to end their foraging dive and return to the surface is constrained by how much power their muscles can produce after every pre-dive breath. This "flying" motion propels the birds forwards, allowing them to swim quickly through the water, gulping fish.
Using data collected from diving penguins on previous field trips, the team analysed the patterns of more than 15,000 penguin dives.
They studied 10 free-ranging birds and three birds that were foraging through a hole in

Mate delay for Highland birthday boy bear Walker
Pairing up the only polar bear in a UK public zoo with a female mate has been delayed because the bear that was selected could already be pregnant.
Walker is kept at the Highland Wildlife Park near Kincraig.
Staff, who have been marking the bear's third birthday, had hoped to have brought in a female from another collection by now.
Douglas Richardson, the park's animal collection manager, said other bears were being considered.
He told BBC Radio Scotland: "There is the likelihood that the female that was selected to come to the Highland Wildlife Park is pregnant so, obviously, we didn't push that move any further.
"We have already submitted a revised document with recommendations for getting a female.
"At the earliest, this could be sorted

Kuantan to get night zoo
A mini zoo at a popular recreational park here will open during the night making it the first night zoo in the East Coast.
Kuantan Municipal Council president Datuk Zulkifli Ya'acob said the zoo would be opened in two weeks and have animal shows featuring crocodiles and snakes.
“The night zoo is actually the current mini zoo located in Teruntum Park, a popular recreational park among

Ohio zoo gets male elephant 'Hank' from Arkansas sanctuary, plans to breed him with 2 females
A male elephant has moved from an Arkansas sanctuary to an Ohio zoo, with caretakers hoping the animal will help create a genetically diverse zoo population of Asian elephants.
The 23-year-old named Hank arrived Thursday at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Plans are to breed him with the zoo's females, Connie and Phoebe.
Zoo Assistant Curator Harry Peachey says Hank has previously sired a calf.
The elephant came from Riddle's Elephant and Wildlife Sanctuary in Arkansas. He was born at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and has also lived at the Bronx Zoo and at Have Trunk Will Travel in California.
Asian elephants are endangered

Animal exchange between zoos to be monitored
The Central Zoo Authority of India (CZAI) has instructed all the zoos across the country including the one in Indore to strictly adhere to its guidelines for animal exchange programme. In past, several zoos have violated these guidelines of CZAI when exchanging animals with other zoos. Due to this, the quality of animals in some zoos has declined.
"Since the zoos were not adhering to the guidelines regarding animal exchange, the balance of various zoos has been disturbed.
For example, it is mandatory that an ill animal should not be exchanged for any other animal. But several zoos have violated this norm by exchanging an ill animal for a healthy one," claimed officials.
"It has come to our notice that many zoos are not abiding by the guidelines. We will be very strict about them now," said CZAI scientific officer P K Gupta. CZAI has also introduced some new guidelines. One of them is that the zoos will have to provide sufficient area to the exchanged animal. ""There are many zoos which do not have sufficient

Concern Growing in UAE Over Zoo Animals ‘Kept as Pets’
United Arab Emirates—Lions, cheetahs, tigers, baboons, and snakes are being kept as pets in the homes of wealthy families in the Middle East, prompting concerns from animal rights activists.
In recent years, there has been a steady increase in the trade of exotic and endangered animals to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Not only is the trade in violation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), but also the domestic laws in the UAE.
Dr. Reza Khan an adviser on animal welfare to Dubai Municipality and a vocal campaigner against the practice said that despite the laws, it was an all too common occurrence in the oil-rich Gulf monarchy.
“Some people get an endangered animal as a pet to show off that they are in possession of something that others do not or cannot have,” he said.
“Wild animals cannot be kept as pets because they are dangerous. Not only that, but there is also a severe depletion of the population of such animals in the wild.
“They must not be taken away from their environment just to please the unusual greed of some odd people in society.”
The practice came to light earlier this year when residents in Abu Dhabi were alarmed after finding a cheetah wandering the streets of the capital city. The animal was apparently being kept as a pet on the roof of a residential building and broke its chain.
However, some residents keep wild animals in their own homes. A series of YouTube videos posted recently shows Emirati teenagers toying with a huge lioness in a living room.
The routes the animals take into the country are often nefarious. In May this year, a UAE national was arrested in Thailand after his suitcases were allegedly found stuffed with drugged baby leopards, panthers, monkeys, and a bear.
The case is all too common. A man was found last year at U.K.’s Birmingham Airport, en route to Dubai, with 14 rare peregrine falcon eggs strapped to his body.
Similarly, local media headlines screamed of “snakes on a plane” last year, when a Saudi man was arrested in transit from Indonesia to Abu Dhabi, after officials found several pythons, a parrot, and a squirrel in his hand luggage.
“There are a rising number of reports of wildlife trafficking where the UAE is said to be a destination or transit point,” Richard Thomas of global animal trade monitoring group Traffic, told Time Out Dubai in a recent interview.
“This is partly because of its geographical location. The Middle East is a hub for international trade, and that includes wildlife trade, an element of which is illegal.”
The UAE is a signatory to CITES laws and all endangered animals kept by private investors need to be registered. Owners must also provide evidence that the animals will be kept in appropriate conditions.
The country imposes hefty fines on violators. However, it is not enough to deter black market trade of the animals, which continues to thrive in the country’s notorious ‘pet souks.’ According to local reports, a cheetah cub there can often sell from upward of 30,000dirham ($8,100).
To illustrate the freedom under which these traders operate, a reporter from local daily Gulf News purchased a baby crocodile from Sharjah’s Animal and Birds Market.
A survey of local pet shops by the Environment Agency—Abu Dhabi in 2007, found that as many as 41 percent of dealers in the capital were selling CITES species.
However owners often do not stay enamored with their novelty pets. Dubai’s aging zoo is filled with endangered animals that were once kept as pets but were cast out after owners realized they were difficult to look after.
Khan, who was a former manager of the zoo, previously said that in one month alone he fielded up to five requests from UAE residents to house their pet lions.
The UAE became a member of CITES in 1990, but was suspended once briefly in 2001

No FIR yet in lion cubs tragedy
No FIR has yet been lodged in the mysterious disappearance of a lion cub at the Karachi Zoological Gardens almost four months ago.
A police investigation was suggested in the report of an inquiry, ordered by the Karachi administrator.
The report also recommended action against the zoo staff whose negligence, according to it, led to the death of three lion cubs and ‘disappearance’ of the fourth one.
According to sources, although show-cause notices have been issued to the zoo employees, who were suspended following the episode, and the police have been approached to investigate the case, the KMC officials concerned are reluctant to lodge an FIR.
“It has been more than a week since we asked them to lodge an FIR through a complainant and name the suspects. But there has been no progress so far. Even the police have not been provided with a copy of the inquiry report to get an idea about the case,” a police officer told Dawn.In the meantime, he added, the police recorded the statements of all zoo employees.
Sources in the city government said that officials were waiting for legal opinion before an FIR could be lodged.
It is worth mentioning that two pairs of lions were confiscated by the customs authorities at the Karachi airport last year on the

Celebrating Plants and the Planet:

December is the season of delivery trucks plying our neighborhoods with parcels (bet you thought this season was about other things!). So, taking transportation as a theme, December's links at  (NEWS/Botanical News) focus on news about how plants deliver pollen and seeds:

· Black-and-white ruffed lemurs have been revealed as important seed dispersers in Madagascar's forests. And they play a keystone role in the ability of those forests to store carbon as well.

· If a kestrel eats a reptile that ate a fruit, will the seed dispersal circle be broken? Apparently not. (Wonderfully gross.)

· Discover the secret world of macho pollen, drifting on air currents with stale pick-up lines and tight pants, playing the mate selection game (really!) (Well, sort of.)

· A tree's best chance to reproduce sometimes depends on the right seed disperser. Researchers enlist a zoo's birds to learn something important about wild trees.

· If pollinators are scarce, or a plant population is small, must the plant be doomed? Not if it is resourceful enough.

Pollen is best appreciated up close and in slow motion. Look at how pollen grains fold, origami-like, to protect themselves from drying out.

Please share these stories with associates, staff, docents and -- most importantly -- visitors! Follow on Twitter:  -- a new story every day as well as hundreds of stories from the past few years



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