Monday, April 16, 2012

Zoo News Digest 12th - 16th April 2012 (Zoo News 813)

Zoo News Digest 12th - 16th April 2012 (Zoo News 813)

Dear Colleague,

With something resembling despair I wonder why the BBC and a reputable paper like The Telegraph gives up column inches and video space to the story "Female Bengal tiger and a Siberian tiger give birth to three cubs". This only goes to show the zoo to be undoubtedly irresponsible, ignorant and dysfunctional. If they had half a bit of decency and common sense they would euthanase the cubs now instead of compounding the mixed race problem that exists in the tin pot places the world over. The statement "Although the zoo lacks a specific breeding programme for the critically endangered Siberian tigers, also known as Amur tigers" just shows that they don't know what a breeding programme is about. Bringing in another Siberian or Bengal to breed with would not improve things at all and if they believe it would then it just proves my case.

Would you call John Hume a Conservationist? Just because someone keeps a lot of Tigers (take a look at China) does not make one a conservationist so why should keeping a lot of Rhinoceros make one any different? Particularly when one is stockpiling horns and asking for the trade in Rhinoceros horn to be legalised. I wonder if John has ever sold any horn on the hoof to China?

The loss of White Oak is a tragedy. The hints that this was coming have been around for a while. I do hope that some benefactor will appear and keep it going.

I am delighted to read that there are twice as many Emperor Penguins as previously believed. See 'Scientists use satellites to map penguins from space'. This story really has taken off and is being covered as recent news by just about every newspaper worldwide. Why is it then that I seemed to know about this around four months ago?

Very little correspondence in relation of my mention of the 'Baby Zoo' in the last Zoo News Digest. Did you think I was kidding? Watch this space?

Please take time out to read the CAPS report "Inspecting Zoos - A study of the official zoo inspection system in England from 2005 to 2011". I have skimmed through it once and when I get time I will go through it another couple of times. I am sure you will find it an interesting read and find much to criticise. For myself though as an ex-zoo inspector (recently removed from the list because I have been away from the UK for so long), and as someone who has worked in zoos for 40+ years and as Zoo News Digest publisher the holder of more zoo confession secrets than a Catholic Priest I probably do see this report differently to many others. I have inspected and been inspected and know from personal experience and that of others just what goes on. I still believe the system in the the UK is the best in the world but I KNOW it needs refining and improving. There are zoos in the UK I would close tomorrow given the chance.....but there are hundreds elsewhere I have visited I would close today. Enjoy your read.

Meanwhile I am enjoying my holiday at home in Thailand. The Songkran Festival is in full swing. Here below is just part of my day yesterday. Three days to go and loving every minute of it.

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Only haredim allowed entry to Beersheba zoo
Public zoo visitors discover it is open only for haredi public. Following complaints, visitors were allowed inside only if 'appropriately dressed'
The fourth day of the holiday drew large numbers of travelers out of their homes, but those who chose to visit the Beersheba zoo found closed gates. The zoo was open for the haredi public only, visitors argued, without any prior notice. A small sign on the zoo's gate confirmed the allegations, while the zoo's management insists that entrance to the zoo was not limited.
"We arrived at the zoo at 9:50, 10 minutes before it opens," said Avigail Kanterovich, who arrived at the zoo with her family, friends and their children. "We tried to buy tickets, and the cashier told us they will not allow us to enter, since it is only for haredim today."
According to her, there was no prior notice, and nowhere did it say that the zoo would be closed for visitors today according to religious affiliation. "They performed selection at the entrance, and didn't allow even national-religious people to enter. Only the haredim."
Kanterovich said that only after a long argument they were allowed entrance. "We were furious. They let us wait in the sun for 20 minutes, and no one came to talk with us." According to her, only later the management put up a sign stating the entrance was restricted to haredim only. Eventually they were allowed in the zoo.
The municipality: Living in harmony
Another visitor, Yael, also saw the sign. "Outside, the public was mixed," she recounts. "Eventually they let us in, but everything inside was separated for boys and girls." Yael too said the visitors had to wait outside for a while before they could enter.
The zoo's manager explained that the site was closed due to a special event for the Orthodox public, but everyone who wished to enter could do so if appropriately dressed.
The Beersheba municipality said that as part of the holiday's event, the city held an event for the ultra-Orthodox public at the zoo. However, contrary to the allegations, entrance was allowed to everyone who wanted to participate in the event.
"In Beersheba we're living in harmony, religious,7340,L-4215246,00.html

The World Is Watching
Although I left my heart in Africa last year a part of it now resides in Thailand, a country I’ve never been to, as I follow the day-to-day progression of events at two internationally respected wildlife sanctuaries. The Elephant Nature Park (ENP), and Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT), have been repeatedly raided by armed government officials from the Department of National Parks (DNP) in what appears to be retaliatory actions for statements made by ENP and WFFT decrying the illegal wildlife trade in Thailand, and the Thai government’s suspected complicity.
It began on February 8, when ENP founder Sangduen Chailert, known as Lek, was asked to produce proof of ownership for the elephants at her sanctuary after an anonymous phone call claimed she was sheltering over 70 illegal, wild elephants. Lek was able to produce the documentation for the actual 30-plus elephants at her sanctuary, most of them elderly and disabled from spending their lives in the logging and tourism industries. Approximately 100 officials vacated the premises after reviewing her documentation, having disrupted the park for a full day

Hard Times Force Famed Refuge's Sale
White Oak Served as Retreat for World Leaders, Artists—and Rare Animals
For decades, Howard Gilman, a New York arts habitué and heir to a lumber and paper company fortune, indulged his two great loves—ballet and animal conservation—at White Oak, an elegant plantation in this tiny town on the Florida-Georgia border.
On a 7,400-acre swath of pine stands that hugs the meandering St. Mary's River, Mr. Gilman built expensive habitats for his rare-animal collection as well as dozens of cottages and recreation facilities for his friends and guests, who included world leaders, movie stars, dancers and other artists. Anyone invited to stay at White Oak had the run of the house, with all food, lodging and sporting activities completely free of charge.
Ballet master Mikhail Baryshnikov and actress Isabella Rossellini were frequent visitors; The Sundance Institute, the organization behind the famous film festival, brought playwrights to write and rehearse. Bill and Hillary Clinton hunkered down for six days at White Oak in the spring of 1999, strategizing for Mrs. Clinton's first Senate run as storm of the Monica Lewinsky scandal passed.
But the plantation's role offering respite and refuge is ending: Last week, the Howard Gilman Foundation, which owns White Oak, put the property up for sale. The foundation, which estimates the value of the property at $30 million

Celebrating Plants and the Planet:
Why is there no major holiday to really celebrate plants?
Some combination of the feasting of Thanksgiving (in recognition of our dependence on plants for food of course), the outdoor flower gawking of hanami (Cherry Blossom Festival), the car races of Memorial Day (and just where do all fuels originate?), and the gift giving of Christmas (because plants are so giving!!) seems about right to me.

April’s links at  (NEWS/Botanical News) are to encourage you to start your own holiday:
· In the USA, over 338,000 acres of farmland are planted in tobacco. What if all that tobacco went into vehicles’ engines instead of peoples’ lungs? All hail the latest biofuel.

· The perfume industry depends on the fixative properties of ambergris which comes from whales (enough said about that). Scientists have discovered that fir trees could provide an equivalent material.

· We produce tons of sewage creating a disposal and sanitation problem for us. Here come bacteria willing to take it off of our hands and give us electricity in exchange.

· Plants don’t need to be processed or harvested or “work“ to offer wide ranging benefits. The Japanese practice of “Forest Bathing” has been researched demonstrating the widespread physiological as well as psychological benefits of spending time in forests, around plants.

· And so it is especially tragic that we harm plant communities without even knowing it. Human noise has been shown to disrupt pollination and seed dispersal. We change our planet with every step we take.

So while you’re planning your Plant Appreciation Holiday, head on out for inspiration in the Amazon right now from the comfort of your computer with Google StreetView:!/Amazon

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.


Zoo and Aquarium Visitors More Concerned About Climate Change than General Public
National Survey Shows That Sense of Connection with Animals Affects Beliefs
People who visit zoos and aquariums are more concerned about climate change than other Americans and are willing to take action to help because they feel a connection with animals. The findings are in the final report, "Global Climate Change as Seen by Zoo and Aquarium Visitors," analyzed by the Climate Literacy Zoo Education Network (CLiZEN). The Network is led by the Chicago Zoological Society (CZS), which manages Brookfield Zoo.
Researchers surveyed more than 7,000 zoo and aquarium visitors at 15 accredited zoos and aquariums around the country and found that visitors are more concerned about climate change than the general public. For example, 64 percent of zoo and aquarium visitors say they are concerned or alarmed about global warming, compared to only 39 percent of the general public. Also, 35 percent of the general public report being disengaged, doubtful, or dismissive with regard to global warming versus only 17 percent of zoo and aquarium visitors. Non-visitor attitudes were collected via a survey by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.
"We have long suspected that people who visit zoos and aquariums care more about environmental issues and that their sense of care is tied to the connection they feel to the animals they see in our institutions. These findings give us the opportunity to help visitors understand climate change and to provide educational information about what they can do to make a difference," said Alejandro Grajal, Ph.D., senior vice president of conservation and education for CZS.
Nearly two-thirds of surveyed zoo and aquarium visitors believe that human actions are related to global warming, and the majority of visitors think that global warming will harm them personally, as well as future generations. These findings suggest that zoo and aquarium visitors are a prime audience for clim

Female Bengal tiger and a Siberian tiger give birth to three cubs
Jaguar Zoo in southern Mexico has three new members, a litter of half-Bengal, half-Siberian tiger cubs born on 3 April.
The zoo, 26 miles south east of the city of Oaxaca, mated their 12-year-old Siberian male tiger named Yagul with an eight-year-old female Bengal tiger, Yaki, to produce the litter of three.
"Despite being from two different subspecies, the cross-mating was done successfully and the cubs are in good condition," said the zoo's veterinarian, Felipe Ramirez Sanchez.
Although the zoo lacks a specific breeding programme for the critically endangered Siberian tigers, also known as Amur tigers, Ramirez said that they hope to find a Siberian female to mate with Yagul to produce fully Siberian cubs.
"The Siberian tiger species is in danger of extinction. Currently there are fewer than 2,000 of them in the wild," he noted, saying also that they will start searching for a Siberian mate in other Mexican zoos. Bengal tigers are more numerous and are only considered threatened," he said.
The zoo receives around a

Open Letter to Indonesia President Yudhoyono to Save Orangutans
Your Excellency,
We, the undersigned, have devoted much of the past half-century to the study of great apes and the advocacy for their protection. That is why we are gravely concerned about the ecological damage caused by man-made fires in Sumatra, and why we write to you today as Patrons of the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) to ask you to halt this destruction.
The fires set to clear forest land in the Province of Aceh for oil palm plantations currently threaten the Leuser Ecosystem, which includes some of the most important great ape habitat in the world. Experts believe that as many as 300 critically endangered Sumatran orangutans may perish in the fires, pushing the species even closer to extinction.
In 2005, the Government of Indonesia signed the Kinshasa Declaration on Great Apes, which articulated the need to “ensure the effective enforcement of legislation protecting great apes.”
The Leuser Ecosystem is classified

Wanted: Rhinos for breeding
Sabah wildlife officials are on the lookout for more rhinos to take part in an ongoing breeding programme of the highly endangered animals.
State Wildlife Department director Laurentius Ambu said they were hoping to capture more of the elusive animals, particularly those that were capable of breeding.
Researchers have estimated that there are fewer than 30 rhinos in the wild in Sabah and most of them are within the Tabin wildlife sanctuary and Danum Valley conservation area in Sabah's east coast.
The breeding programme is being carried out at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary in Tabin where wildlife researchers are hoping to get a male named Tam to breed with two females named Puntung and Gelogob.
The sanctuary was given a boost recently when the Sime Darby Foundation provided an additional RM6.4mil grant for the various rhino conservation programmes there.
Since 2009, the foundation has provided RM5mil that went towards patrolling for poachers, maintenance of the paddock and facilities, rhino quarantine facilities and other operational costs.
"It was clear to us that the programme was worth continuing," said Borneo Rhino Alliance executive director Datuk Dr Junaidi Payne.
He said the alliance applied for the grant extension from the Sime Darby Foundation and was granted RM6.4 million (S$2.6 million) for the next three years.
He described the past three years' effort at the sanctuary as eventful.
The sanctuary is a programme run by the Sabah

Anglerfish on show at Blackpool aquarium
A rare fish which lives up to 1,000 metres below the surface has taken residence at an aquarium in Blackpool.
Sealife Blackpool claim it is the first aquarium in the UK to exhibit the deep sea anglerfish.
Senior aquarist at the centre Martin Sutcliffe said the fish are very difficult to keep in captivity as they have to be kept dark and at 11C.
He said: "We weren't sure what visitors would make of them as they are ugly looking but they have proved a hit."
The aquarium has taken receipt of four anglerfish which can grow up to two metres (6.56 ft) in length.
They have to be stored in separate tanks because their skin is very sensitive and even shrimps can scratch it.
Mr Sutcliffe said: "Very little is known about the fish as they are a deep sea animal which is why I think people are so intrigued by them.
"They are weird and wonderful things. They can eat mackerel whole - which are the same

Interview with a Big Game Farmer (and Rhino Conservationist)
Chalk this one up to interesting and potential careers. Businessman and entrepreneur John Hume, who was featured in the most recent edition of National Geographic, talks about his herd of rhino’s and how safely and humanely farming their horns as a business can save the rhino from extinction.
What do you do for a living?
Game ranching on 2 different farms in South Africa, primarily for the purpose of breeding both Black and White rhino, which are both severely threatened by poaching because of the Eastern demand for their horn. One is an intensive game ranch, where rhinos are kept in large camps and the other ranch is an extensive wildlife system, with various other species of game on it too. It is a more natural system, like a small reserve and rhinos roam freely on this ranch.
How would you describe what you do?
Most of my time is spent on trying to save the African rhino from extinction and managing my other businesses which afford me the income required to look after the rhino.
I want people to know that you can safely and humanely farm a rhino’s horn. All of my rhino’s are dehorned(thus making it less likely a poacher will kill them).
The rhino has to be anesthetized to do the dehorning. So we dart it and the drug takes about 5 minutes to be effective and we take 15 minutes to do the rest of the procedure.The rest of the procedure comprises cutting off both horn about 80 mm above the flesh. If you go below this say at 40mm you would hit the quick and just like your toenail, if you cut above your quick there is no pain at all.
The animal is awakened after about 20 minutes. The horns will grow out again at about 100mm per year.
My rhino are all dehorned and live a very normal life doing everything that a normal rhino does including fighting but we have less damaging injuries with the rhinos because they have short blunt horns.
What does your work entail?
Managing the managers on two

Animal rights groups seek performance ban
Animal rights groups are calling for a ban on all animal performances in China, including live shows, petting zoos and photo sessions.
However, their campaign - which also calls for a ban on dolphin shows - is said by some to have gone too far.
Animal performances and circus shows, especially in Beijing, have "seriously impaired the country's and city's image with brutality and savage behavior", Liu Huili, an animal rights supporter and researcher with Green Beagle, a Beijing-based non-governmental organization, said at a symposium on Saturday.
Attendees at the symposium, including researchers and volunteers from Green Beagle, China Zoo Watch and the Beijing Loving Animals Foundation, proposed the performance ban, especially in the capital city.
China Zoo Watch conducted a study from January 2011 to the end of March, in which it sampled more than 40 zoos nationwide. It found that animal performances, which it claims often involve acts of cruelty, are common nationwide.
About 50 percent of urban zoos, 91 percent of animal parks and 89 percent of aquariums offer such performances, according to the survey.
Performances include animal wire walking, jumping through fire loops, standing upside down and boxing, which "might seriously impair the animals' physical and psychological health", Liu said.
In Beijing, the wildlife park in Daxing district offers shows of dogs jumping through fire loops, and another wildlife park near the Badaling section of the Great Wall features wolves and tigers jumping across fiery circles and bears playing with flaming sticks, the survey found.
Both parks declined to comment on the issue when reached by China Daily on Sunday.
Liu Nonglin, a senior engineer of the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens, said a zoo should be a demonstration site for animal protection.
Liu said people could also be hurt by many zoo animals or catch diseases. However, he said, a total ban on animal performances would take time and require public cooperation and a change in attitudes.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development issued a circular in 2010 banning animal performances nationwide, but the rule does not apply to aquariums.
However, as the circular didn't specify penalties, animal performances and petting zoos featuring wild animals remain a common practice, said Sun Xiaochun, a ministry official.
"It (the circular) is more of a warning than a regulation," she said, adding that the ministry might revise the rules to impose tougher punishments.
But not everyone agrees with the campaign against animal performances.
Zhou Haipeng, 22, a student at Beijing Foreign Studies University, said he found animal performances, especially by dolphins, very loving and informative, rather than cruel and merciless as depicted by the activists.
He said he first went to the Beijing Aquarium in 2008, when he arrived in the capital for study, and was very impressed.
"The dolphin show was cute," said the student from South China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. "That was the first time I saw a dolphin in the flesh."
Zhou said it would be sad if animal performances are banned, especially the dolphin shows.
"People, especially those from inland cities, could see and touch animals and become further aware of how to protect them, which is a good

Scientists use satellites to map penguins from space
Scientists counting emperor penguins from space have found twice as many of the birds in Antarctica as expected.
The discovery is reassuring for a species seen as under threat from global warming and will provide researchers with a benchmark for monitoring the giants of the penguin world in years to come.
Using high-resolution satellite images to study each of 44 colonies around the coastline of Antarctica, experts said on Friday they put the total emperor penguin population at 595,000, or roughly double previous estimates of 270,000 to 350,000.
"It's good news," team leader Peter Fretwell of the British Antarctic Survey said in an interview.
"It gives us a bit more confidence not only that there are lots of emperor penguins out there but that we can actually keep track of them as well."
Seven of the colonies studied had never been seen before.
A key advantage of satellites is that they can capture multiple images in one go, whereas visiting dozens of remote colonies in temperatures as low as -50 degrees Celsius would be hugely expensive and time-consuming.
Still, conducting a penguin roll-call from space is not simple. It took a special technique known as pan-sharpening to increase the resolution of the satellite images to differe

Gaza zoo features mummified animals
A trip to the zoo usually means the chance to see live exotic animals on display, but the Dream Park El Janoob Zoo in Khan Younis on the Gaza Strip showcases its animals in a different way.
Visitors are treated to an entire exhibition of mummified animals. Workers embalm dead animals such as lions and tigers that are then placed in cages.
This gives people the chance to stroke the furry creatures without being attacked, as would happen with a living wild animal.
The reasons for a seemingly morbid method of displaying animals is due to financial shortages in shipping of live creatures from countries like Egypt and Senegal and ongoing challenges in importing goods into Gaza.
Israel has imposed land, air, and sea blockades on the territory since 2007, in a bid to prevent illegal smuggling of weapons and military material from reaching its Islamist rulers Hamas.
Among the visitors are school children, and like Rwan Ghames, they are very well aware of the reasons for displaying mummified animals at the local zoo.
Zoo owner Ziad Owadah maintains the mummified animals, and says that it would be a waste to get rid of them considering how expensive they we

Stolen penguin back safe in Australia Sea World
A trio of men faces charges after allegedly stealing a penguin from Sea World on the Gold Coast of Australia's Queensland and then bragging about it online.
Dirk, one of the park's 29 fairy penguins, was found under Southport pier Sunday night, frightened but apparently not hurt.
The theft on Saturday night was the first of an animal in the park's 40-year history, the park's spokeswoman Renee Soutar said on Monday.
Police alerted Sea World after someone saw pictures of the penguin on Facebook allegedly posted by the three men, who were releasing it nearby.
Sea World then reached out to local media to get the public's help in finding the penguin. Someone then spotted

Farming aquarium species to save them

Shawn Garner watches over 18 tanks of hundreds of tiny sea horses, bobbing among the artificial sea grasses and plastic zip ties provided to give their tails a hitching post.
“It’s the coolest animal in the world,” he said, showing them off with a touch of both pride and awe. “It has a head like a horse, a tail like a monkey and a pouch like a kangaroo.”
Garner, supervisor of the Mote Marine Laboratory’s sea-horse conservation lab, is one of several experts across the country trying to raise ornamental fish and other wild marine species in captivity. These researchers, many working at aquariums and zoos, are engaging in the kinds of farming operations once reserved for fish sold in food markets and restaurants.
For sea horses, the stakes are high. Nearly one-fourth of the 36 sea-horse species assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature are threatened with extinction.
Three factors account for the deaths of tens of millions


London Zoo, Old Bailey and Victoria & Albert Museum on new stamps from Royal Mail


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