Thursday, March 15, 2012

Zoo News Digest 3rd - 15th March 2012 (Zoo News 809)

Zoo News Digest 3rd - 15th March 2012 (Zoo News 809)

Dear Colleague,

It is a few years since I visited Surabaya Zoo but it never struck me as bad as the press continues to make out. Take a look at the first two links 'Death-Ridden' and 'Nightmare' as descriptions and yet are they really? These sort of stories always reel off the list of deaths over the past few years. This is a government Zoo so they cannot keep anything hidden. It is public record. It should go on public record that the giraffe that died recently was one of the longest living captive giraffe, so well done Surabaya!! Okay, yes a tragedy, all very sad. If it had not consumed a vast quantity of rubbish it would still be alive. It would be of great interest to us all however to compare the death rate of Surabaya Zoo to that of, let's say, Taman Safari park at Bogor ... but of course that is a private concern and the records will not be available. I, for one would be very very surprised if the death rate was not on a par. Not because Taman Safari has a problem but because animals do die in the same way that people die and for a huge variety of different reasons.

What is of interest here is that the man they have brought in to run Surabaya Zoo, to put the ship in order is Tony Sumampouw and he works for the Taman Safari Group, a commercial enterprise. The nearest Taman Safari is an hours drive away and, in recent years, I am told has not been doing as well as expected. The best thing that could possibly happen for them would be for Surabaya to close. Every time I read about Surabaya I see this hinted at. The latest link says:

Nothing short of a "total renovation" is needed, he said.

"We need to either think about privatizing or transferring out some of the animals."


Sumampouw acknowledged he has had little success in controlling the undisciplined staff.

Come on!!! Some eyes really need to be opened here. Surabaya Zoo is being deliberately set up to fail. Why? So that a bunch of greedy and corrupt officials, who probably hand in hand with Taman Safari will make a fortune out of property speculation and vastly increased gate take.

Okay maybe I am completely wrong, but I don't think so. Do the research, look back over the links, follow the developments. I mean in all honesty if you were a zoo in trouble would you bring in someone from your nearest competitor to put things right? Someone who constantly runs the place down in the press? someone who has had "little success in controlling the undisciplined staff."

This Surabaya story is very much in the news right now. DON'T take it at face value. It is just one story being garbled through paper after paper. Believe it and you are letting the bady guys win.

"Should the trade in rhino horn be legalised?" Makes an interesting read. In my opinion No No No it should not. Once again this is greed and corruption and downright cruelty hiding behind a mask. Read what Margot Stewart says towards the end of the article....she's got it in two sentences! So will the trade be legalised? Probably because corruption seems to count for a lot these days.
What of the illegally held Baby Orangutan and Baby Silvery Gibbon at Abu Dhabi Kids Park? Well there is just a huge wall of silence now. Nothing. ALL of the authorities are aware, everyone who could be contacted has been contacted by either myself or others and nothing has been done. Nothing I am aware of. Surely we would be made aware if it had been? No, nobody likes to tread on toes, to upset anybody with authority so it is baby primates like lambs to the slaughter. They will all deny they ever existed.

Will their membership of prestigious organisations be revoked? Or will they turn a blind eye too?

The black photo represents the future of those two little creatures,


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On With The Links:

Death-Ridden Surabaya Zoo Pleads for Cash
The acting caretaker of the much-maligned Surabaya Zoo said on Tuesday that investment was urgently needed or the zoo might not have any animal left in as little as three years.
The zoo has been plagued by a string of recent deaths among its animals as well as charges of theft and sales of its animals by unscrupulous officials. In the latest incident, a giraffe died last week.
“Of course the animals will die if they are exposed to the heat and rain all day and night,” said Tony Sumampauw, the acting caretaker. “They can also be infected with diseases from wild animals like cats and rats. It’s no surprise some animals have suffered from tuberculosis.”
Tony said death and infection could be prevented if better spaces were provided for the animals.
The zoo had planned to build a larger open cage for giraffes, camels, zebras and several other animals, he said. Unfortunately, the zoo’s last giraffe died before the plan could materialize.
He said the new open cage, including a holding facility and corridors to check on the animal’s health, would cost billions of rupiah the zoo doesn’t have.
Now the ball is in the court of the Surabaya municipal administration, which Tony said needed to immediately set up a regional company specifically to manage the zoo. Under the current management, it would be difficult for the zoo to grow, he added.
“Keeping animals cannot be accurately budgeted. If an animal gets sick, money should be available to treat the animal,” he said.
If the zoo were managed under an office of the municipal administration, he said, a much lengthier and complicated process involving a series of meetings would be needed for the disbursement of any funds.
Baktiono, a city councilor, said the local legislative council had already given the green light for Surabaya municipal authorities to create a state enterprise to manage the zoo.
A state company, he said, could be more professional than the current system, he said. “We will be able to see the professionalism of the director through a fit and proper test before he is given the zoo to manage,” he added.
The Surabaya administration had earlier pushed for the zoo to be taken over by a unit of one of the city’s many offices, but the idea was vetoed by the Forestry Ministry, which is in favor of creating a state enterprise to manage it.
The ministry revoked the zoo management’s license in August last year and placed the facility under a new team, headed by Tony, from the Taman Safari park in Bogor, following a series of animal deaths.
The zoo had lost a Sumatran tiger, an African lion, a wallaby, a Komodo dragon, a babirusa

Nightmare zoo in Indonesia shaken by giraffe death
The tigers are emaciated and the 180 pelicans packed so tightly they cannot unfurl their wings without hitting a neighbor. Last week, a giraffe died with a beachball-sized wad of plastic food wrappers in its belly.
That death has focused new attention on the scandalous conditions at Indonesia's largest zoo. Set up nearly a century ago in one the most biologically diverse corners of the planet, it once boasted the most impressive collection in Southeast Asia.
But today the Surabaya Zoo is a nightmare, plagued by uncontrolled breeding, a lack of funding for general animal welfare and even persistent suspicions that members of its own staff are involved in illegal wildlife trafficking.
The rarest species, including Komodo dragons and critically endangered orangutans, sit in dank, unsanitary cages, filling up on peanuts tossed over the fence by giggling visitors.
"This is extremely tragic, but of course by no means surprising in Indonesia's zoos, given the appalling way they are managed on the whole," said Ian Singleton, a former zookeeper who now runs an orangutan conservation program on Sumatra island.
The zoo came under heavy fire two years ago following reports that 25 of its 4,000 animals were dying every month, almost all of them prematurely. They included an African lion, a Sumatran tiger and several crocodiles.
The government appointed an experienced zookeeper, Tony Sumampouw, to clean up the operation and he struggled, with some success, to bring the mortality rate down to about 15 per month.
But following last week's death of the 30-year-old giraffe "Kliwon" -- who had for years been eating litter and trash thrown into its pen and was found with a 40-pound ball of plastic in its stomach -- Sumampouw said he's all but given up.
Nothing short of a "total renovation" is needed, he said.
"We need to either think about privatizing or transferring out

Calgary Zoo's elephant Rani pregnant, again
Rani, a Calgary Zoo elephant that has already lost two calves, is pregnant again.
Rani had her first calf, Keemaya, in 2004 and another, Malti, in 2007. The first died shortly after being rejected by its mother at birth.
The second was also rejected, but the two bonded a few months later. Malti died about a year later of elephant herpes virus.
Zookeeper Colleen Baird says staff are better prepared for this birth, which is expected in February

Bristol Zoo offers the trip of a lifetime to Madagascar
Bristol Zoo Gardens is offering the trip of a lifetime to members of the public wanting to discover rare lemurs and other unique wildlife of Madagascar
The Zoo has teamed up with Reef & Rainforest Tours to offer a trip to experience the 'Lemurs of the Lost World'.
Departing on October 7, 2012, travelers will be immersed in lush green rainforests, semi-arid sandstone landscapes, transitional forest and unique spiny forest and can marvel at scores of lemurs, chameleons, birds and invertebrate oddities such as the giraffe-necked weevil and flatid bug.
The trip includes visiting Mantadia National Park to search for lemur species such as diademed sifaka and black and white ruffed lemurs, and Ranomafana National Park where guests may catch a glimpse of the very rare golden bamboo lemur.
The tour will be in a group of around 10 people, led by an experienced local Malagasy Naturalist Guide ably assisted by Bristol Zoo's Education Manager, Dave Naish. It lasts for 17 days, including three days of leisure time by the Indian Ocean for coral reef snorkeling and relaxation.
Dave Naish comments: “This is a fantastic opportunity for wildlife enthusiasts or for those looking for a memorable trip with a difference. Madagascar is a truly unique destination brimming with nature and boasting exceptional views of the natural word.”
If you're looking to take part in a trip of a lifetime, surrounded by magnificent landscapes and some of the most endangered species on the planet, then this is for you.
For more information and to book call 01803 866 965 or email

Tokyo aquarium hunts for escaped penguin
Keepers at a Japanese aquarium have appealed to the public to help them track down an escaped penguin, last seen headed for Tokyo Bay.
Tokyo Sea Life Park declared the 1-year-old Humboldt penguin missing yesterday, the Japan Times reported. The alarm was raised by a sharp-eyed official at a nearby wildlife park, who spotted the – ahem – jailbird making a break for it down the Old Edogawa river.
"Since then, we don't have any specific information about the penguin's whereabouts," said aquarium spokesman Takashi Sugino.
Keepers are at a loss to explain how the flightless bird escaped its enclosure, which is surrounded by a 2-meter fence. According to Sugino, it may have found a gap through which to clamber, or even scaled the barrier after being startled.
The park is asking members of the public to report any further sightings.
"We apologize for causing

Iowa bars animal rights videos of farm industry
Iowa has become the first state to make it a crime to surreptitiously get into a farming operation to record video of animal abuse.
Republican Gov. Terry Branstad signed the law Friday despite protests, letters and campaigns launched on Twitter and Facebook by animal welfare groups that have used secretly taped videos to sway public opinion against what they consider cruel practices.
But Branstad's action wasn't a surprise. Iowa is the nation's leading pork and egg producer, and the governor has strong ties to the state's agricultural industry. He signed the measure in a private ceremony and issued no statement about his decision.
Legislatures in seven other states - Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York and Utah - have considered laws that would enhance penalties against those who secretly record video of livestock, though the efforts have stalled in some states.
In Minnesota, similar legislation was introduced last year but never received a hearing. But with Iowa's new law and hearings this week in the Illinois Legislature, the issue is gaining some momentum.
Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake and a pork producer, has proposed penalties for tampering with an animal facility, or secretly recording farm animals without the owner's consent. Even possessing or distributing an undercover videotape would also be a gross misdemeanor for the first violation, or a felony for

Laguna defends keeping of elephants in Phuket
Laguna Phuket today issued a statement clarifying its position after Joey, a young elephant at the Laguna Elephant Camp, was seized by authorities on February 27.
Joey was one of three young elephants in Phuket taken away by authorities on suspicion that they were born to an unregistered mother who was being held illegally in a camp in Sai Yoke, Kanchanaburi Province.
In the statement, Mark Breit, Regional director of Laguna Tours and Quest, stressed, “The Laguna elephants were rented from their owners in accordance with official procedures and in each rental procedure we have undertaken thorough and exhaustive due diligence.
“However, one of these elephants, Joey, a two year-old juvenile, was recently taken into the care of authorities while his mother’s legal status was investigated.
“[Neither] Laguna Phuket, [nor] any of its hotels, has been accused of wrongdoing in this issue.”
Defending Laguna’s keeping of elephants, he said that the hotel complex “houses and employs domesticated Asian elephants which, due to habitat loss and poaching, have no available area to be returned to the wild.
“By housing them and involving them in our tourism activities we offer a good alternative to city-based scenarios, where elephants can be seen performing tricks for money.
Laguna’s five elephants, he said, were well cared for and “much-loved by both staff and hotel guests”. They are used to “provide interaction with guests” and as part of Laguna’s Elephant Education programme, which “promotes understanding of elephants’ well-being”.
Mr Breit added that the Laguna Elephant Camp has been inspected and approved by Dr Richard Lair, chief adviser to the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre in Lampang – the place where Joey is now being housed until DNA tests can determine his maternity.
Dr Lair, the statement adds, is “an internationally-recognised authority” and author of the manual “Gone astray: The care and management of the Asian elephant in domesticity”, published in 1997

Dist unit of PFA under scanner after arrests
Questions have been raised about the anomalies in management of the Dehradun District Unit of People for Animals, after two of its employees were arrested while trying to sell an owl rescued from the Raj Bhawan.
To prevent anomalies in the rescue, treatment and release of birds and animals, the Forest Department is about to release guidelines to be followed by wildlife NGOs. In addition to this the department also plans to investigate as to why the district unit of PFA was called to rescue an owl while the forest department was not even informed about the case.
Sources said that Raj Bhawan officer is also involved with PFA, Dehradun and had called the organisation to rescue the bird without informing the department.
It will be recalled that on Friday, the Rajaji national park SOG team had arrested four persons including two employees of PFA Dehradun while they were in the process of transacting a brown wood owl. The PFA animal ambulance driver Manoj Kumar and animal shelter attendant Sanjay Kumar were trying to sell the owl for Rs 51,000. After their

Old friends together again
Of the world's foremost experts on orangutans, perhaps only Robert Shumaker can claim a 30-year collaboration with the same ape.
Shumaker, 48, met the orangutan named Azy when he started work as a volunteer at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington while still in high school.
"He just turned 34 in December," said Shumaker, now the Indianapolis Zoo's vice president of life sciences. "We kind of grew up together, I guess."
Today, Shumaker and Azy reside in Indianapolis. Azy is one

How World's Smallest DNA Virus Evolved in Rare Parakeets
A University of Kent-led team of scientists has gained new insight into a rare virus that is threatening to wipe out the Mauritius parakeet -- one of the world's most endangered species of parrot.
The Mauritius parakeet was saved from the brink of extinction 30 years ago, thanks to the work of an international team of conservationists, including scientists from Kent. Now an outbreak of deadly Beak and Feather Disease is once again raising the spectre of extinction.
But a team led by Dr Jim Groombridge, of the University's Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), has been able to make use of its archive of DNA samples from Mauritius parakeets, built up over many years, to identify how the world's smallest DNA circoviruses have

DNA shows we're closer to gorillas than we realized
Researchers complete genome sequencing of the great apes using western lowland gorilla
Adding to the already-sequenced genomes of humans, chimpanzees and orangutans, researchers have completed the set of the great apes by sequencing the genes of a western lowland gorilla.
The complete genome comes from a female western lowland gorilla named Kamilah, who was born in captivity and now lives at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The researchers also sequenced parts of the genomes for two other western lowland gorillas and one eastern lowland gorilla. The results reveal more than ever about how the evolutionary tree connecting humans, chimps and gorillas was shaped.
"The gorilla genome is particularly important for our understanding of human evolution, because it tells us about this crucial time when we were diverging from our closest living relatives, the chimpanzees," study researcher Aylwyn Scally of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute said in a news conference about the findings.
Family ties
The results show that humans are closer to gorillas than we'd realized. The human-chimp part of the great ape lineage split off from the gorilla line about 10 million years ago, study leader Richard Durbin, also of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, told reporters. Humans and chimps then diverged from each other about 6 million years ago. Evolutionarily speaking, that's fast.
"The interesting consequence of that is actually that the pattern of ancestry across the three genomes changes from position to position (in the genome)," Scally said. "So although most of the human genome is indeed closest to the chimpanzee genome on average, a sizeable minority, 15 percent, is in fact closer to the gorilla, and another 15 percent is where gorilla and chimpanzee are closer."
Genetic differences
In fact, the new data confirm that humans and gorillas are about 98 percent identical on a genetic level, said Wellcome Trust researcher and study co-author Chris Tyler-Smith.
But the differences are illuminating. For example, the researchers found that certain genes involved in sperm formation have become inactive or have been reduced in the gorilla genome compared with the human genome. That may be because gorillas live in harems with one male to many females, Tyler-Smith said, so there is little competition between different m

Japan zoo tries to drum up alligators' interest in sex
A Japanese zoo has turned to rhythmical banging on traditional drums in a bid to encourage some enthusiasm for sex among lust-lacking alligators.
Zookeepers said Wednesday they hoped the low booming sound produced by large Japanese "taiko" drums would spur lethargic Chinese alligators to begin mating because of its similarity to the animals' natural pre-coital cry.
"After listening to the drum performance, the female alligator Susu cried a few times but the male, Yoyo, appeared not to be interested," said Hideaki Yamamoto from Sapporo's Maruyama Zoo.
"We believe the drumming was effective. We hope to try again in the future, during the alligator's mating season from February through March," he said.
The zoo has succeeded in breeding the species in the past by knocking on the glass of their enclosure, but renovations mean this is no longer possible.
"The new enclosure built last year has a thick

Animal advocates aren't laughing about the lion who peed on Chad Ochocinco
When a lion urinates on a star football player, humorous headlines are bound to follow:
“ Chad Ochocinco Got OWNED by a Lion!” –
“Caged lion felt the call of nature and New England Patriots receiver was caught in the stream” –
“Ochocinco was urinated on by a lion and lived to tweet the tale” – Yahoo Sports
But animal protection organizations are not amused.
'Big cats as party props'
Regarding the incident at a Miami party where a caged lion sprayed urine at New England Patriots wide receiver Chad Ochocinco (who then Tweeted about the experience), Big Cat Rescue founder and CEO Carole Baskin told Animal Policy Examiner (APE), “There is still an ignorant element in our society that does not understand the ramifications of having big cats as party props. All they are thinking about is their ability to get near an animal that would kill them if given the opportunity, and thus they feel powerful over the caged animal. Perhaps it is at a subconscious level, but that doesn't change the fact that it is selfishness and the need to hide that selfishness by claiming ignorance, or worse, claiming that no harm is being done.”

Man wounded by lion at Loi Bher Wildlife Park
A man was seriously wounded by a male lion when he entered into its territory in the Loi Bher Wildlife Park here on Friday to cut grass.
The safari park or wildlife park is a commercial tourist attraction where visitors can drive in their vehicles or ride in vehicles provided by its administration to observe roaming animals. The main attractions are large animals from Sub-Saharan Africa such as giraffes, lions, rhinoceros, elephants, zebras and antelopes.
A key official of the Loi Bher Wildlife Park, on condition of anonymity, told ‘The News’ that at about 12:40 p.m., a lion attacked a poor man, Muhammad Arshad, when he walked into the lions’ territory to cut grass for which he had paid some amount to the watchmen.
“Unfortunately, the male lion was roaming outside his cage and it attacked Muhammad Arshad wounding him seriously. After listening to his cries, we rushed to the area to recover the wounded man, who had fallen unconscious by the time he was rescued from the lion’s clutches,” he said.
Muhammad Arshad, he said, was rushed to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) where he was reported to be in a serious condition.
Muhammad Ameen, brother of Muhammad Arshad, told this scribe that their family
was at the PIMS. “Arshad’s condition is serious as the lion has badly injured his face, neck and body,” he said. The doctors at PIMS have stated that his condition was very serious.
Lions are part of a group of exotic animals that are the core of zoo exhibits since the late eighteenth century. Members

Bird charity fights Monkey World for bequest
A bird lover's legacy to a Hampshire owl sanctuary is at the centre of a vexed High Court dispute after the object of her generosity ceased to exist.
Vera Spear died in a nursing home in Fareham, Hants, in January 2007, leaving everything she had to be split between four animal charities - "save for a personal bequest of her parrot".
Mrs Spear, who died aged 84, had no children.
And her £260,000 estate was to be divided equally between the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Peoples Dispensary for Sick Animals, of Priorslee, Telford; Monkey World Ltd, of Bindon Abbey, Dorset, and the New Forest Owl Sanctuary Ltd, of Crow, near Ringwood, Hants.
But her will has now sparked a complex legal wrangle - drawing in lawyers for the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve QC - due to the "demise" of the New Forest Owl Sanctuary (NFOS), leaving a question mark hanging over where its £65,000 share should now go.
Mr Grieve's barrister, Christopher

Wishbone, S.F. Zoo’s last Andean bear, dies
Wishbone, the San Francisco Zoo’s last Andean bear, was put down Monday after he lost use of his hind legs from a suspected neurological illness, zookeepers said.
Wishbone was born at the Los Angeles Zoo and spent 24 of his 25 years at the San Francisco Zoo, said Corinne MacDonald, curator of primates and carnivores.
“He wasn’t able to walk properly,” MacDonald said. Wishbone was taken out of his exhibit last month and keepers monitored him to see if his legs would improve, but they didn’t. Zoo keepers won’t know the official reason his legs failed for a few weeks, MacDonald said.
Andean bears, also known as spectacled bears because of the markings around their eyes, rarely live beyond 20 or 25 years in captivity, MacDonald said. Without Wishbone, the zoo now only has polar and grizzly bears.
Wishbone is the third

Columbus Zoo opposes mascot exemption in Ohio bill
Officials at the Columbus Zoo are taking issue with an exemption in an Ohio bill that would allow a school to display a dangerous wild animal as a sports mascot.
The exemption is part of a proposal introduced on Thursday to regulate exotic animals in the state.
The zoo's chief operating officer says the facility supports the legislation overall, but not the exemption.
Tom Stalf also praised the bill's perimeter fencing requirements. He says the rule could have helped keep dozens of animals in Zanesville contained after their suicidal owner freed them from their cages in October.
The bill would ban new ownership of exotic|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|s

L.A. Zoo: Reptiles And Amphibians Rule At New $14.1 Million Facility
The Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens made a major expansion into the world of reptiles and amphibians today with the opening of its $14.1 million LAIR—Living Amphibians, Intvertebrates, and Reptiles—a new permanent showcase of 49 exhibits, featuring some of the rarest species in North American zoos. Electric-hued poison dart frogs, neon-green Fiji Island banded iguanas, speckled Mangshan vipers, lengthy crocodiles and a Chinese giant salamander, the world’s largest amphibian, hang out in elaborate habitats representing rainforest canopies, mountain ranges, cool forests, red rock formations and arid deserts.
To advertise its new dazzling creature collection, the L.A. Zoo is launching a major campaign including clever television spots starring the quirky team of Betty White and rocker

Police seize more than 200 animals at private zoo in Thailand’s largest wildlife bust
More than 200 animals, including kangaroos, flamingos, red pandas and white lions, were seized from a private zoo Thursday in Thailand’s largest recent wildlife bust.
Most of the animals were non-native species intended to be sold domestically or smuggled elsewhere. Thailand is a hub of the international black market for protected animals.
More than 50 species of animals had been kept without a license in the compound, police Maj. Gen. Norasak Hemnithi said. The owners had imported animals from Africa and elsewhere for almost 10 years, he said.
Five tigers, 13 white lions, three pumas, three kangaroos, four flamingos, two crowned cranes, 66 marmosets, two orangutans and two red pandas were among those seized, according to a conservation organization, the

Europe’s first safari park to open in Crimea
Europe’s first safari park, Taigan, is due to open in the Crimea.
The park will host 50 lions, brought from all the zoos of the former Soviet Union, as well as from European and South American countries.
The lions will be able to freely walk amid trees, flowers and in tall grass.
The safari park of 32 hectares boasts sprawling infrastructure and is already home to some 2,000 birds and animals.
The opening ceremony

Up, up and away: Smuggling victims set free
A quartet of rare falcons got to live the expression “free as a bird” on Saturday. The birds, believed to be smuggled in from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), were set free by the wildlife department in Broha village near Murree.
According to wildlife department officials, the birds were taken into custody at Benazir Bhutto International Airport (BBIA) around 2am on Saturday, after custom officials found the birds in a wooden box, being offloaded from flight number EK-314 coming from the UAE.
They immediately informed wildlife department officials at the airport, who in turn took the falcons into custody. However, none of the alleged smugglers, who are believed to be Arab nationals, were arrested as they managed to exit through the VIP lounge.
A source in the wildlife department told The Express Tribune that the Federal Investigation Agency had allegedly abetted their escape due to their influential background.
Following the incident, the wildlife department moved an application in the Rawalpindi District Court on Saturday morning, upon which judicial magistrate Ahmed Ahsan Raja ordered that the birds be released.
However, the source noted that up until the birds were set free, the department was facing immense pressure from certain influential politicians and bureaucrats, who wanted

Furore intensifies over elephant trade in Thailand
Repeated government raids on respected wildlife sanctuaries have damaged Thailand's image at home and abroad.
They may also have undermined the position of the National Parks chief, whose judgment has been called into serious question since revelations that killings of mature elephants in Kaeng Krachan recently were orchestrated to supply babies to elephant tourist parks - with the involvement of top officials in that park, several hours south of Bangkok.
Numerous elephant camps and wildlife centres have been raided since reports emerged in January that a criminal syndicate was selling baby elephants from Burma and national parks to tourist facilities for large sums - up to 900,000 baht each.
There have been claims that up to half of the young tuskers in Thailand have been smuggled in alongside 'fake' surrogate mothers that already have identity papers. A loophole in the law, which does not require babies to be registered till they are eight years old, has aided this trade.
There are also concerns that the use of identity chips and papers is being manipulated and subject to abuse. Many think DNA tests, which are still fairly costly, and the possible introduction of 'passports' for all elephants, are the only way to eliminate this trade and guarantee the real identity of the 3,000 or so pachyderm in Thailand.
The government's response to these allegations was to hit back at the two key accusers by raiding centres that they operate. Why? Some elephant parks are run by businesspeople with money and influence. They have a lot to lose. And tourism chiefs may also fear a backlash if tourists decide they don't want to visit elephant parks with 'captive' babies made docile and compliant by a violent 'breaking of their spirit' by mahouts.
The man who raised the alarm initially was Dutchman Edwin Wiek, who was subsequently punished by a series of raids on the wildlife rescue centre he runs in Phetchaburi. Dozens of National Parks officials and armed border police descended on his facility for more than a week, claiming Wiek had no papers for more than 100 of the 450 animals at his centre, located on temple land and backed by a local abbot.
Videos of animals being taken from Wat Khao Luk Chang - with some harmed in the process - incensed his supporters. Wiek lodged court appeals to fight claims he kept undocumented animals at the site, and has temporarily stepped down as head of the Wildlife Friends Foundation in Thailand (WFFT).
Wiek is no stranger to Thailand. He has lived here for 20 years and speaks fluent Thai. He runs one of the best wildlife facilities in Southeast Asia but has created enemies because he has been prepared to speak out. By repeating his allegations at the Foreign Correspondents Club last month ?- at an event which I hosted - he became a farang marked for revenge.
Other foreigners working in the wildlife sector believe Wiek was rash to speak publicly, saying a backlash against a 'noisy outsider' was inevitable. He has paid a heavy price - receiving death threats and seeing his Thai wife charged at the local police station after the initial raid last month. Channel 3 was also co-opted to air a report detailing the charges against him on the night he spoke at the FCCT.
Wiek has fought intimidation before, in a long-running battle with a large tourist facility in Bangkok, found with dozens of smuggled orang-utans, over 50 of which were eventually flown back to Borneo.
He was publicly backed by another shining light in the local wildlife community - Sangduan "Lek" Chailert, who runs the Elephant Nature Park (ENP) in Mae Taeng, 50km north of Chiang Mai. Lek is a short but similarly feisty individual, the winner of a host of international awards for her care for elephants.
Her sanctuary, which has 35 elephants, most of them old and infirm, was also raided. But on March 1, local reporters and TV crews were on hand to challenge parks officials. Why were they harassing one of the country's most admired wildlife activists, who operates an acclaimed facility which is just a sanctuary - a retirement home where elephants roam free?
All facilities with elephants are being checked and ENP had no papers for eight of her beasts, officials said. Privately they were told: "She stepped on someone's toes." Unlike Wiek, Lek opposes the use of elephants at tourist facilities. The Mae Taeng Valley has several hundred elephants and most of her neighbours operate tourist parks. None, I would guess, care for these glorious animals to the level that she does.
DNP officials were filmed in discussions with her lawyer, who requested 30 days to get the documents. They got 15 days. Lek said she feared that any old elephants confiscated might die at government facilities. She vowed to strongly oppose any confiscation.
Meanwhile, the owners of camps along the Burma border and others in Surin - some of them thought to be deeply involved in elephant smuggling - have talked about blocking highways and a petition to the Administrative Court to try to get Damrong Phidet, the National Parks chief, removed.
This comes on top of a protest outside the Thai embassy in London last week and petition signed by tens of thousands supporting Wiek and Lek Chailert. The government is now under attack from both the 'goodies' and the 'baddies'. It has a PR nightmare on its hands - more than 100,000 people have viewed videos of recent raids.
And little appears to have been done to rid the problem that started this whole mess: a park chief accused of murder and possible involvement in the slaying of elephants under his oversight. Surely, he must be the first to go.
And maybe it's time for the government and elephant camp operators to put their houses in order: Pay for a DNA identity system and eliminate the doubts surrounding their operations.

Chinese websites ban sale of bear gall, shark fins
In light of recent public outcries against the mistreatment of animals, and, two of the leading e-commerce sites in China, have banned the sale of bear gall, shark fin and other animal products that are obtained through questionable or cruel methods.
Jin Yuanying, a senior director with the department of social responsibility at Hangzhou-based Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, said that the two sites will stop selling these products to help protect the environment and in support of animal rights. "Change starts from us ourselves and consumers," he added.
Alibaba and have banned the sales of shark fin on its sites since 2009. In May 2010 Alibaba announced it would stop selling bear gall and any bear-related products. The group has gone on to place more stringent restrictions on the sales of animal products, particularly nationally protected animals.
When the number of Chinese Internet users passed 500 million in December, there was additional pressure for the e-commerce leader in China to place more emphasis on animal protection.
"Now on the two online trading sites there are some products that are labeled with 'shark fin' tags to attract attention. They're not the shark fin we're banning, but rather squid," said Ni Lian, a quality control representative with
He added that the prevention and eradication of sales

New role tipped for zoo chief in wake of debt crisis
A CONFIDENTIAL Zoos South Australia public relations strategy shows the Adelaide Zoo wants to reposition the role of chief executive Chris West in the wake of its financial crisis, focusing on his animal management expertise.
The plan, obtained by The Australian, also acknowledges the poor relationship between staff and management and creates tactics to "increase their positive attitudes towards management".

Stories make the zoo a more interesting place
The average zoo visitor spends less than 30 seconds at each exhibit.
It's true. If the animal is not immediately visible, most people simply move along without trying to find the critter and without reading the education sign.
Even if they do hang around, see the animal and read the sign, they're not absorbing as much information as they could if there was a zoo docent there to share some interesting and memorable facts. Signs are limited and most times use technical language. Zoo docents know things about the animals that no one could ever read online or in a book, which makes my new undertaking a bit more challenging.
This is called "interpreting the zoo," or relaying information to visitors in a way they can understand and remember. During this week's training session, we toured a portion of the zoo and learned lots of interesting little quips that we can share with visitors.
The green wing macaws, for example, can talk. They know "hello," "goodbye," "cracker" and "pretty bird." They're also escape artists. Although their wings are clipped, they are good climbers and are often found in other exhibits scattered about the zoo.
"If you see a macaw where it's not supposed to be, please let a keeper know so we can return it to its exhibit," said Amy, a zookeeper.
The two Florida sandhill cranes -- which made an ungodly, territorial screeching sound when we approached their exhibit -- are brother and sister, yet they keep mating. Unfortunately, zoo staffers have to "pin" the eggs to avoid inbreeding. "Pinning" is just how it sounds -- they poke a hole in the shell to kill the embryo, then they replace the real eggs with fake ones.
The Andean bear can usually be seen pacing back and forth, which is a bad habit he picked up from a previous zoo. It's similar to fingernail biting. According to zoo staffers, the bear was kept in an enclosed area for long periods of time and when he came to Salisbury, he had five or six "obsessive compulsive disorder-like" habits. The zookeepers have managed to break him of all those habits but one -- pacing.
Finally, the female whitetail deer whose tongue is always sticking out is not panting because she's hot. About 15 years ago, a pack of dogs broke into the zoo and the deer, scared to death, ran head-first into a fence. The veterinarian "put her back together" as best he could, but she's still got nerve damage in her face, which causes the tongue to stay outside|head

Animals Asia Online - March 2012

Zookeepers wanted for Cairns Wildlife Safari Reserve
Zookeepers wanted - must love animals of all shapes and sizes.
In fact, there are a few more qualities than just loving animals being sought for what many people consider their ideal job.
Since advertising in The Cairns Post recently for a senior and junior zookeeper, Cairns Wildlife Safari Reserve at Koah, near Kuranda, has received about 150 applications.
"They are saying this is my dream job, I have had cats and dogs and I love animals, but we want to see something more," Elaine Harrison, who took over ownership of the zoo a week ago, said.
She said she was looking for qualifications and experience from candidates.
"I would be looking for someone who loves animals, is passionate about animals and wants to work with animals," Ms Harrison said.
"But they also need to demonstrate a greater connection with them.
"It could be voluntary work, perhaps in a veterinary practice, with the RSPCA or in an animal shelter.
"They have to have a passion and empathy and the experience; you can't just love animals."
Her ideal candidate was someone who had shown through TAFE and other courses as well as voluntary work that they were dedicated to zookeeping as a career.
People who were scared of animals need not apply, though phobias with certain creatures could be worked through.
"Animals can sense fear in humans; they have a sixth sense and they pick up the nervous tension," Ms Harris said.
But if an applicant with a proven

Environmental investment for Vietnam bear sanctuary, thanks to Green Dragon Fund

An innovative wastewater treatment system that will see a local river protected from pollutants was unveiled today at Animals Asia’s Vietnam Moon Bear Rescue Centre near Hanoi. The cost was met by a US$100,000 charitable donation from the Green Dragon Fund, an investment fund managed by Environmental Investment Services Asia Limited (EISAL).

The water supply to the rescue centre comes from a small river that flows from Tam Dao Town into a lake 4km downstream. The new system has been created to ensure that the rescue centre’s water use doesn’t deplete or pollute the water from the stream.

The state-of-the-art system is designed for a daily capacity of 50 cubic metres to treat wastewater from cleaning bear dens and domestic water from the sanctuary. The system purifies the water in a low-maintenance natural biological treatment process involving sedimentation, floatation, and the breakdown of materials using bacteria and sunlight.

Environmental Investment Services Asia Limited focus on investment in the environmental sector, and a significant portion of the fund’s management and performance fees are donated to environmental NGO’s. Donations to date to environmental charities have totalled about US$1.4 million. The donation to Animals Asia for the wastewater treatment system follows previous donations totalling US$235,000 that funded the building of a number of bear house and enclosures.

Jeremy Higgs, Managing Director, Green Dragon Fund commented:

"The Directors of both the Green Dragon Fund and Environmental Investment Services Asia are delighted to have been a major sponsor for the successful setting up by Animals Asia of the Vietnam Moon Bear Rescue Centre, and we are especially pleased to be associated with the construction and operation of the state of the art wastewater treatment plant unveiled today at Tam Dao.”

“This innovative clean water project comes at a time when the world is meeting to discuss global water stress, and could not have happened without the great support of all of the Fund's shareholders and stakeholders, and I would particularly like to thank the Parly Family Office in Geneva, the Markus Jebsen Group in Hong Kong ,Goldman Sachs (Asia) and HSBC Fund Services. It has been an inspiration and a privilege to work with and give support to the Animals Asia team on this groundbreaking and extremely important conservation project in Vietnam."

Tuan Bendixsen, Animals Asia’s Vietnam Director commented:
“I speak on behalf of a hundred bears that have been rescued from the bile industry and are living at Animals Asia’s sanctuary in Tam Dao, when I thank Green Dragon Fund for its donation. Their generosity will enable us to continue to the run the sanctuary in a way that ensures the environment is protected, and the bears needs are provided for”

Across Asia, over 14,000 moon bears are being held in captivity on farms and milked for their bile because its believed to be effective in the practice of traditional Asian medicine despite the availability of inexpensive and effective herbal and synthetic alternatives.

In Vietnam, bears are kept in small cages, drugged, restrained and have their abdomens jabbed with unsterilised four inch needles until their gall bladders are punctured to release their bile. Bear farming is illegal in Vietnam though people are allowed to keep bears as pets. While they claim bears are not milked, bear farming is a thriving industry.

Lawrence Anthony, Baghdad Zoo Savior, Dies at 61
Lawrence Anthony, who abandoned a career in insurance and real estate to play Noah to the world’s endangered species, most spectacularly in rushing to the smoldering Baghdad Zoo after the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, died on March 2 in Johannesburg. He was 61.
The Earth Organization, a conservation group that Mr. Anthony founded in 2003, announced the death. News reports said the cause was a heart attack.
Mr. Anthony persuaded African rebels who were wanted as war criminals to protect the few remaining northern white rhinoceroses prowling their battlegrounds. He adopted a herd of rogue elephants that would otherwise have been shot. He fought to save crocodiles and other species.
To preserve wildlife and their habitats, he showed
antagonistic African tribes how they could benefit by cooperating in setting up game reserves to attract tourists. He worked with diplomats and lawyers to introduce a proposal to the United Nations to prohibit using conservation areas or zoos as targets of war.
Craggy, bearded and exuberant, Mr. Anthony was known to play music from the rock bands Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple at full volume in his Land Rover as it bounced across the African countryside. He worked with eminent environmental scientists while readily volunteering that he had barely made it through high school.
Mr. Anthony’s most widely publicized work was after the

Zoo fighting back from brink
A leopard appears healthy and strong as it paces the walls of its cage with a confident swagger and muffled growl that hints at its ferocity.
It’s a welcome sight at Kampot province’s much-maligned Teuk Chhou zoo, which less than one year ago was struggling to feed its emaciated animals as they languished in tiny, rusted cages that offered little or no shade from the sun’s searing heat.
“She’s in better condition; every animal here has put on weight,” says Wildlife Alliance’s wildlife rescue and care director Nick Marx, one of the men entrusted with bringing this zoo – and its animals – back from the brink.
“There have been a few new animals, a few have died, but it’s around the same. Maybe previously they weren’t receiving enough food,” the experienced wildlife worker says.
Marx is leading us on a tour of the zoo to show us the early stages of what financial backers Rory and Melita Hunter hope will be a huge transformation of the site, which lies in a tourist-rich area at the foot of Bokor Mountain, a short drive from Kampot town.
When the Post visited the zoo last March, conditions were so appalling that skeletal elephants living in faeces-filled cages were stretching their trunks through thick bars in a desperate attempt to eat blades of grass. Other cages, which had housed bears and an otter, were eerily empty.
“Every animal is better fed now,” Marx explains as he leads us closer to the elephants.
Their enclosure, which we soon discover has been improved by a $20,000 sheltered containment area, proves change is happening.
Most striking is the physical improvement of the two elephants, which are looking healthy.
“They were just skin and bones. Look at their stomachs now. I feel they are smaller than they should be. But they’re doing fine now,” Marx says.
Early signs are also hopeful for the other animals, which include tigers, a lion, a bear, gibbons, orangutans and an array of birds, including a rare vulture.
Shade covers have been installed in many cages, additional shelter inside has been built for animals that need to retreat, and rubbish that contaminated the zoo’s now lush, green grounds is gone.
What stands out as well, however, is how small many of the cages are.
“You can see an awful lot of work is needed on the enclosures, but the animals are better fed and well cared for. We have a good relationship with His Excellency Nhim Vanda [the zoo’s owner],” Marx says.
The Hunters, whose names are plastered on a sign near the zoo’s entrance, have pledged an undisclosed amount of money and negotiated a 15-year deal with Nhim Vanda, to transform Teuk Chhou into more than just a zoo, project coordinator Wayne McCallum explains as we pass ostriches and crocodiles.
“They said they wanted to do something as private individuals,” he says.
“Basically, their bank account has brought this money in. It does cost a lot. So that’s not sustainable in the long term.”
So what will happen when the money runs out?
“[The Hunters] are setting up a foundation . . . people who would like to support can contribute funds and know that those funds are going to be used for particular tasks here at Teuk Chhou,” McCallum, who has worked in conservation in Cambodia on and off since 2003, says.
“We’re not an NGO, so we can’t go through the traditional funding routes . . . but we’re looking at the business community and hoping to appeal to their philanthropic side.
“We want to turn this into a wildlife and environment education centre. We’d like to turn this into something special so there is nothing like it in the Lower Mekong region.”
McCallum says his group hopes to raise $500,000 in the next 12 months to fund some of the bigger structural projects.
“We’re looking at setting that up with fundraising events in Phnom Penh and beyond. That’s going to be our focus.
“We need funds in the short term – you’ve still got to feed the animals – but then we need the next step. We’ll be tapping on a lot of doors.”
Despite the fine weather, the zoo is relatively quiet; it’s a weekday.
Foreign tourists occasionally walk or cycle past us and Khmers enjoying the eclectic mix of native and imported animals comprise a decent percentage of the patrons.
Sek Sovannara, a 40-year-old beer company worker from Phnom Penh, says he and his family are pleased to see endangered animals in a zoo.
What concerns him, however, is the size of the cages they are in.
“Some cages are not big enough,” he says. “Please expand the sizes of cages with proper roofs.”
Buddhist novice monk Mao Sameth, 17, a local, says animals caged at a zoo need to be fed well.
“By Buddhist law, the animals will curse the owner of the zoo if he does not give them enough food. But when the owner treats them well, the animals will bless him,” he says.
But has Teuk Chhou, which charges entry of $4 for foreigners and $1 for Khmers, been blessed with more visitors since the improvements?
Marx is coy on the numbers.
“I never count. Certainly the visitors who come now wonder what the fuss was about. The cages need renewing; we need money to do what we want to do. But the animals are healthy and happy now,” he says.
In the past year, the zoo has employed more staff.
At the request of McCallum, Marx, who has worked with wildlife in the UK, Southern Africa, India and for many years in Cambodia, became more involved after the Hunters came forward with their offer.
“On a monthly basis, ideally we need $8,000 a month. That’s salaries, animal food and it would mean we would have on-site veterinary care,” Marx says.
“But it’s not just money. There was a lack of structure about the work that needed to be done,” he says, adding he has brought his own staff along to help train the zookeepers.
“They’ve been instrumental.”
When we sit down with him outside his house, Nhim Vanda, the first vice-president of Cambodia’s National Committee for Disaster Management, tells us he has always loved his animals, but fell into a situation where he could not afford to feed them properly.
“When I was encountering difficulty, Prime Minister Hun Sen advised me not to transfer the animals to Tamao Zoo because there were many animals already there,” he says.
The National Assembly member claims to have sold as many as 25,000 cows to buy food for his animals.
Securing the zoo’s future is important, which is why he signed a 15-year contract with the Hunters, he says.
“After we cooperated, the animals were reborn . . . they’re healthier and happier,” he says.
Our tour nears an end as we pass an eerie, overgrown children’s playground and Marx shows us the changes he has made to the bird cages.
These include more shade and

Should the trade in rhino horn be legalised?
MORE than 30 years after governments agreed to ban the international trade in rhino horns, the slaughter rate has got much worse, not better.
More than 95 percent of Africa’s remaining rhinos were wiped out within 20 years of the 1977 ban.
And in SA, the largest-remaining bastion of wild rhino protection, massive holes have been punched through the law enforcement barriers which once protected the country’s rhinos from ruthless underworld crime syndicates.
More than 1 000 rhinos have been slaughtered here in just four years. Every year the death rate climbs steadily, despite government pledges to tackle horn poachers head-on.
Inevitably, this mounting death rate has triggered renewed calls for a revision of rhino-protection strategies – including a highly controversial proposal to lift or relax the global trading ban.
The broad theory is that legalising the sale of SA’s massive rhino horn stockpiles could help to drive down soaring black market prices and reduce the need to poach or kill living rhinos.
So far the government has not given any firm signal on whether it will support the proposal, but the Department of Environmental Affairs opened the door to this option last September when it commissioned two new studies to probe the likely impacts of opening up a legal national and world trade in rhino horn.
The ban has been in place since 1977, when 175 member states of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) voted to halt the global sale of rhino products.
The proposal to lift this ban is not new. Nor is it motivated solely by private sector interests which stand to profit financially.
More than a decade ago – long before the current poaching crisis hit SA – former Natal Parks Board chief executive Dr George Hughes said the ban was well intentioned, but ultimately the strategy had failed to protect rhinos.
“Traditional Chinese medicine is an unbelievably powerful force and cannot simply be legislated into extinction,” Hughes said.
Late last year, rhino conservation stalwart Dr Ian Player called for an urgent debate on reopening the legal trade.
“There is much opposition from the animal rights movement, with which I have sympathy… but we have to devise other means of ensuring the survival of rhinos. Conservation agencies are desperately short of money. Surely it is in the interest of the rhino and conservation economics that we legalise the sale of rhino horn accumulated through natural mortality,” suggested Player.
Over the past year, the proposal has been debated informally at several gatherings. Here is a brief summary of some of the positions “for”, “against” or “in between”:
Johannesburg-based private investment manager Michael Eustace has likened the CITES rhino horn trading ban to the failed alcohol prohibition era in the US.
And, just as many Americans continued to demand alcohol when it was against the law, so too would many Chinese continue to demand rhino horn, heedless of Western opposition based on animal rights, morality or conservation.
“Banning trade has been ineffectual and has pushed the trade of rhino horn underground, and money is being made by criminals rather than parks. To hope that things will change for the better while following the same failed strategy is senseless.”
Instead, Eustace argues that SA should set up a central selling organisation (CSO) similar to what the De Beers group has used to control world diamond sales.
The organisation would be owned pro rata by the government and private rhino owners, and would hold monthly sales at OR Tambo International Airport. Payments would be made directly to rhino owners rather than criminal syndicates.
All horns would be properly marked and have a DNA signature so that their origin could be traced and proved.
According to Eustace, selling horns under these conditions would eliminate the possibility of corruption and horn laundering.
Most buyers would be Chinese state-owned pharmaceutical companies, which would retail traditional rhino horn medicine at a 100 percent profit. Such profit levels would ensure that the Chinese government clamped down on illegal rhino horn markets.
Eustace estimates SA could supply at least 600 horns every year from natural rhino deaths and historical stockpiles, while private rhino owners could provide another 1 000 horns a year by regular horn “harvesting”.
“This means that, if necessary, we could supply twice the current demand without any killing.”
Michael ’t Sas-Rolfes, a Cape Town conservation economist, also argues that a legally structured rhino trading system could offer a more effective and lasting solution to the escalating poaching crisis.
First, trade would be out in the open, and the black market price would almost certainly drop.
Second, the sustainable supply of rhino horns would reduce and possibly eliminate incentives for criminals and speculators to stockpile horns.
Third, legal suppliers of rhino horns would be guaranteed an income, some of which could be invested in improved rhino protection and breeding rates.
Sceptical or against:
For many wildlife lovers, combining commercial profit and nature conservation can spell a dangerous mix. They fear that farming the rhino for its horns could transform one of Africa’s iconic Big Five species into little more than a domestic pig or chicken.
Opponents doubt that commercial horn trading will shut down the black market, and fear that adding extra supplies will feed the fires of demand.
Trade sceptics and prohibitionists are also worried that legal trading could harm rhino conservation efforts in much of Africa and Asia by allowing criminals to continue laundering illegal horns.
According to wildlife conservationist Chris Mercer, rhino farming will “take the wild out of wildlife”.
“Farming rhinos will certainly increase numbers, but breeding animals in relatively small camps for their horns has nothing to do with conservation and everything to do with factory farming.”
While the arguments in favour of a CSO sound plausible, Mercer says any attempt to legalise the trade rests on the assumption that governments and the private sector are incorruptible, whereas corruption is endemic in many parts of the world.
He also doubts whether releasing new stocks would cause black market prices to nosedive, or put an end to hoarding and speculation.
“The ‘economic’ approach tries to justify animal exploitation by numbers, both animals and dollars. But numbers alone are hopelessly inadequate to understand environmental degradation, or to fight it.
“This narrow economic approach could be used by drug and human traffickers as well as car hijackers to justify their abominable activities.”
Margot Stewart, a wildlife lover who gave evidence at the recent parliamentary portfolio committee hearing on rhino poaching, questioned who would benefit most from a legalised horn trade.
“This potential gain is destined for the pockets of a few unscrupulous ‘feudal lords’. These are the people who tickle our ears and are behind the drive to legitimise the trade in rhino horn, and they have been stockpiling in anticipation of this.”
David Balfour, manager of scientific services for the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency, is not opposed to selling the horns from rhinos which die of natural causes.
However, he is opposed to any c

Zoo Miami could get massive development neighbors
County-owned ZooMiami might soon encompass other attractions, banquet halls and conference centers, hotels, amusement centers or restaurants if developers buy into solicitations for partners to fund growth that would yield income for the county.
Following the 2½-year drive by Commissioner Dennis Moss to spur an entertainment district at the zoo, Miami-Dade is seeking interest in a two-stage solicitation for the project at the 740-acre zoo, where only 327 acres are now developed.
Last month the county commission asked Mayor Carlos Gimenez to negotiate a deal with developers "whose proposals provide the greatest financial benefit to the county."
The county is now pushing a two-stage solicitation to negotiate for lease and development of the entertainment area. The county has released an informal expression of interest, inviting developers to propose approaches, and plans an informational session on the project at the zoo, 12400 SW 152nd St.
Based on responses, the county is to advertise a formal invitation to negotiate with developers whose proposals give the county the highest financial impact. Permissible developments include attractions, amusements, lodging, restaurants, retail shops, banquet halls and conference centers.
"We envision the development of a world-class entertainment destination with premier attractions, services and venues that will not only stimulate economic vitality and the growing needs of our thriving southwestern Miami-Dade County, but increase tourist visitation to the area, facilitating a more balanced and sustainable financial outlook or the entire county," Mr. Moss said. "We encourage all major developers

Mammals’ Rise Began Before Dinosaurs’ Fall, Study Finds
It was long believed that mammals began to diversify and flourish only after dinosaurs died out in the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous period, about 66 million years ago.
But a new study in the journal Nature suggests that some mammals diversified well before that.
“The story appears more complex,” said an author of the study, Gregory Wilson, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Washington.
Using 3-D imaging and CT scanning, he and his colleagues studied the teeth of multituberculates, a group of rodentlike mammals that lived 165 million years ago to about 35 million years ago, well after dinosaurs went exinct. Some of the teeth were tiny: as small as four-hundredths of an inch across.
The researchers found that over time, the mammals’ teeth evolved to have more patches, or bumps.
“In modern mammals, the greater number of patches you have, the more likely you are to have a diet composed of

Celebrating Plants and the Planet:

Next month I'll celebrate one of those "milestone" birthdays. But I'm not concerned. And I deny that it has any influence on which botanical stories caught my eye this month.

March's links at  (NEWS/Botanical News) celebrate the wonders of the old:

· America’s 4,000-year-old bristlecone pines have lost their preeminence as the world’s oldest tree. Will this be a MAJOR issue in the up-coming election?

· Worse still, the title of world’s oldest living organism has been claimed by a marine seagrass thought to be over 80,000 years old. You go, grass!

· Tragically, big trees – whether very old or simply grand – are disappearing at record-breaking rates as threats from development, invasive species, and climate change take their toll.

· The old ways may have been the best. Researchers are exploring ancient herbal secrets and “discovering” new treatments for aging.

· Old, traditional cultures are teaching us new tricks about valuing and preserving biodiversity.

Another valuable time eater: Remember those flying cars we were promised? Relive those promises by going through the archives of Popular Science Magazine: . Search for your favorite zoo or aquarium and see what pops up.

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.


New frog species found hiding in NYC
Scientists say they have found a new type of frog living in New York City.
While new species are usually discovered in remote regions, this so-far unnamed type of leopard frog was first heard croaking on Staten Island.
Jeremy Feinberg of Rutgers University in New Jersey noticed the frogs there had a call he had never heard before.
They look identical to other species, but genetic analysis showed they are a new species of leopard frog that probably once lived in Manhattan.
While studying leopard frogs Mr Feinberg noticed that instead of the long "snore" he was expecting, he heard

Edinburgh Zoo's penguins moved to Gloucestershire
Six penguins made homeless when their pool sprang a leak are heading south to Gloucestershire.
All Edinburgh Zoo's king penguins, including Sir Nils Olav, are being re-homed at Birdland, near Bourton-on-the-Water.
They are among more than 100 penguins being moved, with the others heading for zoos in Belfast and Denmark.
The penguins are expected to return to Scotland in about

Palm oil: the hidden ingredient causing an ecological disaster
Palm oil is in our food, cleaning products and fuel. But it's destroying rainforest and contributing to climate change. Sustainable certification schemes have been set up, but campaigners increasingly question whether they work
It’s impossible to get away from palm oil. Over the last few days you have eaten it, rubbed it into your skin, put it in your car or fed it to your pets. It is found in a staggering array of household products, including processed food, cosmetics, soap and shampoos, and it’s a key ingredient in lubricants, paints, pesticides and biofuels. Yet palm oil is also responsible for some of the most destructive deforestation of current times, and its production is contributing to climate change.
Demand for palm oil has doubled in the last decade, and is predicted to double again by 2020, driven by consumer demand for the foodstuffs, cosmetics and fuels derived from the versatile lipid. But to supply this demand, huge areas of rainforest in Malaysia and Indonesia are being cleared to make way for palm oil plantations, at a rate of over two million hectares a year, according to Friends of the Earth. These rainforests are the last remaining habitat of endangered animals such as the Sumatran tiger, rhinocerous and orang-utan. What's more, much of this rainforest is located on peat land – a natural carbon sink that contains huge reserves of greenhouse gases. Palm oil growers, by razing the forest canopy and draining the peat soil, inadvertently release this stored carbon into the atmosphere. Greenpeace has warned that the destruction of Indonesian peatlands in Riau province alone could release 14.6 gigatonnes of carbon into the atmosphere - equivalent to one year’s total global emissions. Demand for palm oil is only accelerating this process, and it shows no sign of stopping.
Much of this demand comes from biofuel producers, who champion palm oil as a source of cheap, renewable energy, and a potential replacement for fossil fuels. But according to Kenneth Richter at Friends of the Earth, this doesn’t take into account the GHG emissions from deforestation. ‘All the latest research suggests that overall, biofuels made from palm oil don’t actually reduce emissions compared to fossil fuels.’ Worse still, a recently leaked EU impact assessment found that when emissions from deforestation are accounted for, biodiesel produced from palm oil actually emits more carbon than crude oil.
In recent years, the industry has started trying to clean up its act and reduce deforestation. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was founded in 2004, with the goal of encouraging environmentally conscious production by certifying green plantations as sustainable. ‘Last year, seven per cent of the total global production was certified as sustainable,’ certification expert Bob Norman points out. ‘I think that’s a pretty good starting point. There may be a question over pace, but there isn’t a magic tap that can be switched on for instant sustainable palm oil.’
Retailers and supermarkets too are starting to wake up to the dangers of palm oil, as WWF campaigner and RSPO representative Adam Harrison explains. ‘In the UK, almost all the major retailers have committed to using 100 per cent sustainable palm oil for their own brands by 2015.’ The WWF publishes a sustainability scorecard, where manufacturers and retailers of palm oil based products are rated on their commitment to using CSPO. Many of the large supermarket chains scored top marks in the 2011 report. But work remains to be done. ‘Supermarkets aren’t dealing with the third party brands that they sell,’ Harrison continues. ‘Companies like Northern Foods, which are huge suppliers of processed and branded food for Asda, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Tesco, have performed surprisingly poorly - they just haven’t put


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