Two tragic elephant accidents this week. I do hope that Lucy Melo makes a full recovery and I send my sincere condolences to the friends, family and colleagues of Inthavong Khamphone. No doubt the anti's are going to make a meal of this. These were accidents. I wonder just how many people have been killed and injured by horses in the same few days.
I am on the side of Beijing Zoo with regards to the 'Cat Expulsion' story. Zoo's and cats just do not go together. I like cats....a lot, and believe a zoo can tolerate a couple of spayed and vaccinated animals.... but ferals? No sorry. I don't like the cat island idea, it smacks a bit like the dog island experiment in the Bosphorous a few years back. No really the kindest solution is euthanasia. If people REALLY cared about cats then they would see that this would be the best move.
Asiatic Cheetahs at Al Areen? I don't think so.
So the Gay Penguin season has started already. It is one story that is going to run on and on and on. The biggest surprise to me in this story was that Odense Zoo has Emperor Penguins. If that is true then I suppose the rest of the story may be true too.
It is inevitable that now the Malaysian Wildlife Protection Act is being enforced that some current practice will have to cease or change.
I am delighted that the Crocodile farm in Malacca will be affected because that is in my top five of the worst collections ever visited.
"The Martini Shot: Zoo chimps torment wayward raccoon" .....hardly something to laugh about. Felt like punching the guy!....and I am not a violent person.
That anyone could see racism in a zoo's ghost display for Halloween I find very sad. Just what goes on in the heads of some people?
I find the rumours of real reindeer for a shopping mall in the UAE to be quite disturbing.
Equally disturbing is the idea of a certain 'Lion Man' (sic) going back to playing with big cats.
I remain committed to the work of GOOD zoos, not DYSFUNCTIONAL zoos.
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Sydney zoo keeper crushed by Mr Shuffles the Asian elephant http://youtu.be/0aTLX2J0OkU
Safari park elephant keeper dies in attack
An elephant keeper at a Japanese safari park died Tuesday after an elephant that had recently given birth attacked him, police said.
The caged Asian elephant attacked Inthavong Khamphone, 30 -- a Laotian national employed by Fuji Safari Park, near the foot of Mt. Fuji -- as Inthavong was performing a customary check on the baby elephant around 3:10 A.M. Tuesday, police and park officials said.
Inthavong was found collapsed and bleeding when he was removed from the enclosure, The Mainichi reported. The Tokyo-based newspaper said Inthavong had been with the park since July after 15 years of involvement in elephant-keeping.
Staff typically observe mother and baby elephants
“Treated worse than animals” – abuse in Nigeria at Benue Zoo
The Lion – once a proud king of the jungle – can now barely rise to walk to collect the meat thrust through his cage as severe malnourishment means he is close to death.
Animal abuse in Nigeria is rife at the Benue state Zoo - a terrible story that is a microcosm for the present state of our country.
“A society that treats animals as though they don’t matter will treat her citizens in the same way,” says Nat Apir, a concerned citizen who is trying to bring attention to the terrible plight of the animals.
Staff estimate that 80% of the animals once held in Benue state Zoo have died – mostly from starvation – which Nat Apir says has been most acute in the last three months.
“This zoo is in a total state of neglect,” says Nat. “What I see here can only be likened to cruelty.”
There are only two lions now left alive – one lion is covered in sores and is so thin that his skin hangs about his protruding ribs and bones, while the second lion remains locked up. In captivity lions should eat about 10kg of meat a day but these two lions have gone for weeks without food. Only with Nat Apir’s recent appearance have they been fed twice for the last week.
“Most of the animals are dead and those that are alive are barely struggling to survive,” says Nat, who has bought some food to feed the animals.
Only two monkeys and one chimpanzee remain alive – surviving on a handful of peanuts each day. They can be seen scraping around in the dust desperate for food. The remaining ostriches are fed weeds and last two crocodiles go for weeks without food.
The few staff remaining at the zoo are given 8000 Naira a month ($50) but it can take two to three months to get paid.
It is not the staffs fault, but rather, Nat blames the Benue state government for the terrible abuse and raises serious questions about any quarter of the Nigerian government system to establish privatisation or private-public partnerships.
“Privatisation and Public-Private partnerships should involve a transparent process where the best people are brought in to manage state enterprises and businesses,” says Nat.
Recently, the management of Makurdi Zoo was partly privatised and handed over to a company named Afric-Consulting as a co-investor together with Benue state government. They could not be reached for comment but Nat doubts the “competency” of the company to manage the zoo.
“The challenge is when there is no transparency in the things we do,” says Nat, who works as a consultant to the Benue State government on projects . “We don’t sit down in one office and begin to appoint people to come and take over our state patrimony.”
And the lack of transparency and disregard for both the animals and human concerns by the government continues:
“I tried to put a call
DNA confirms Ethiopian lions are genetically distinct group
A pride of captive lions descended from the private menagerie of Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia is genetically distinct from all other lions of Africa, a study has found.
The Ethiopian lion has a distinctive dark mane and is slightly smaller and more compact than other African lions. Now an analysis of its DNA has revealed the Ethiopian lion is also a distinct breed.
It is thought that there may be less than a few hundred Ethiopian lions living in the wild and scientists are urging that their unique genetic makeup should be preserved by a captive-breeding programme.
DNA tests on 15 of the 20 Ethiopian lions kept in Addis Ababa Zoo have revealed that they form a separate genetic group from the lions of east Africa and southern Africa, said Michael Hofreiter of the University of York.
The male lions are the last lions in the world to possess the distinctive dark brown mane. They are the direct descendants of a group of seven males and two females taken from the wild in 1948 for Haile Sellassie's own zoo, Dr Hofreiter said.
A comparison with other populations of wild lions living in the Serengeti of Tanzania in east
Cheetahs at Al Areen...
BAHRAIN'S biggest wildlife sanctuary has welcomed three new residents - two Asian cheetahs and a bear. They have been housed at the Wild Animals Complex, located at Al Areen Wildlife Park and Reserve in Sakhir, which officials hope would lead to a further increase in the number of visitors.
They share the BD200,000 complex with leopards, foxes, wolves, caracal and hyenas, which have been shipped to Bahrain from Africa and Asia.
Officials said the cheetahs had yet to be given a name, but the keepers called the four-year-old male bear "Bony", adding the animals arrived just in time for peak season, as schools schedule daily visits to the wildlife sanctuary.
They also said plans were in the pipeline for the one-year-old male cheetah and three-month-old female to mate when they mature.
"Now it is peak season, so we daily have two to three school visits with around 100 students in each, and there are a lot of visitors during the weekends, mainly expatriate families," said tour guide Hanan Ahmed.
"We are expecting more in the coming months for the Eid Al Adha holiday and the winter break.
"But we didn't have many visitors during the summer due to the hot climate and Ramadan.
"We also had to bring in ventilation systems for some animals
am 22., 23. und 24. Februar, 2013
Topeka Zoo Will Unveil World Renown Expert To City Council
The future for the Topeka Zoo's pair of geriatric elephants could be decided by the month's end.
Zoo Director Brendan Wiley says Tuesday October 16th he will introduce world renown elephant expert Alan Roocroft to the city council.
Roocroft was hired by the zoo to evaluate the elephant program, and will update the council with his initial observations.
The Topeka City Council has also added discussion and possible action regarding continuation or termination of the Topeka Zoo elephant program to it's October 23rd agenda.
Zoo officials say multiple factors will contribute to the final decision
Wiley said "First we will look at what is best for the elephants, second, what is best for the community and then third, what does the future of the zoo look like? Our governing body gets alot of feedback not just from Topeka but from the entire world so this was just a great time for a unique opportunity.
Since the elephants are considered
ORCA is excited to announce that our keynote speaker for our 2013 conference will be Dr. Susan Schneider. Susan will discuss the science of consequences and common behavioral principles that exist across species. Her talk will explore the full range of what we share with animals, as well as how this knowledge can benefit both trainers and scientists.
Susan has over twenty-five years of research and teaching experience in the science of consequences and nature-nurture relationships. We are thrilled that she will be joining us for the conference and sharing her wealth of knowledge.
We know that you’ll also love hearing what's new in animal training from our ever-popular ‘Wicked Minds,' Bob Bailey, Alexandra Kurland, Kay Laurence, Phung Luu, Ken Ramirez, and Steve and Jen White. You will not be disappointed by what the Wicked Minds have in store for you this year!
This will be another fascinating conference that will explore new concepts in both animal training and the analysis of animal behavior. Don’t miss out on the fun! Register soon. Last year’s conference was sold out and this year’s conference is shaping up to be even better than last year.
For more information about our 2013 conference, please visit:
Labour board rules in Zoo employee case
The Alberta Labour Relations Board has made a ruling in a case filed by the union that represents zoo employees.
CUPE Local 37 filed a case with the board arguing that the Zoo Society and City of Calgary constitute a common employer and the board agreed.
"This issue was about cutting wages and working conditions to employees who have worked at the Zoo for years," said CUPE 37 President Don Monroe in a release. "The Society admitted as much at the hearing, and we're grateful the board wouldn't allow it."
The Zoo Society says it does not have a place at the bargaining table and was proposing to replace vacant positions, created through attrition, with other employees.
Monroe says that now that the Labour Board decision is behind them, he hopes the union, the Zoo, and the City can concentrate on building their relationships and continuing to provide a world class Zoo to the people of Calgary.
The City of Calgary did not take a position
Beijing Zoo accused of ‘cat expulsion’
A media officer with the Beijing Zoo confirmed Thursday that shelters for stray cats at the zoo were demolished last Thursday, but said the zoo plans to build a "cat island" in their place.
A Web user who claimed to have witnessed the demolition said in an online forum Tuesday that the vice president of the zoo, Qian Jinchao, arranged the demolition as "the zoo faces the nation and the world, and it should not allow these shelters to destroy the zoo's environment."
According to the online post, all the stray cats' shelters, most set up deep in the zoo's shrubbery, were torn down last Thursday.
It also said that four volunteers who usually feed the cats at the zoo attempted to dissuade Qian on Tuesday.
However, Qian insisted on going ahead with the demolition, only agreeing to keep the cats' water bowls.
The post triggered a massive reaction among Web users, with some expressing concern for the cats as the colder weather sets in.
Ye Mingxia, media officer of the zoo, told the Global Times on Thursday that the zoo will build a "cat island" as a replacement habitat.
"It is out of the consideration of the potential health threat to other animals in the zoo, because stray cats can spread infectious diseases," she said, refusing to elaborate.
A representative who met Qian on Tuesday, who declined to be named, confirmed what the online post mentioned.
She also told the Global Times that construction of the "cat island," which the zoo claimed would be completed by June, has not yet started.
"Besides the water bowls, Qian only agreed to keep 10 shelters sent by the Beijing Small Animal Protection Association last year, but it is obviously
Story of the littlest bears
Do you know that the Bornean sun bear is the world’s smallest bear and it is now facing the threat of extinction due to poaching, attacks from other wildlife, loss of habitat and more? Little is known about the Bornean sun bear, which is a sub species of the MalaysiaN Sun Bear.
Baby Gorilla 2 http://youtu.be/TbYf_sFtsuw
Zoo investigated for fitting mechanical tail to peacock
Zoo officials are under investigation in China after keepers told how they were forced to fix a mechanical tail onto a peacock to cash in on tourists.
Keepers at the Beijing Wild Animal Park were ordered to attach the fake tail which is fixed to a motor that spreads the feathers into a magnificent display
"Visitors are happy to pay to pose in front of a peacock spreading his tail but they only do it in spring when they're breeding," explained one. "So to keep the money coming in we have to tie the tail to the
Court blocks dolphin exports
A Philippine court has blocked the export of 25 captive dolphins trained in the Philippines to become show animals at a Singapore casino.
A civil suit filed by animal rights groups alleged the traffic in live Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins for sport or entertainment was illegal, cruel and would cause the extinction of the species.
The large marine mammals were shipped to a marine park in the northern Philippines between 2008 and 2011, said Anna Cabrera, head of the Philippine Animal Welfare Society.
"The dolphins, caught in the wild from the Solomon Islands, were forcibly snatched from their families and will live short, miserable lives in captivity as show animals for Resorts World in Singapore," Cabrera said in a statement.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources would formally respond to the court order on Monday, said bureau director Asis Perez.
He disputed the suit's allegation that dolphin trading would be detrimental to the survival of the species and thus not authorised by the Philippines' wildlife conservation law.
"These are regulated species that you can trade, and we are supposed to regulate the trade," he told AFP.
"They were sent here only for the purpose of training them."
The importers had complied with all regulatory requirements, and have asked for government permission to ship them to Singapore after their training, Perez added.
The dolphins were to have been sent to Resorts World Sentosa, the giant casino resort in Singapore, according to a copy of the written order issued by regional trial court judge Bernelito Fernandez.
Fernandez said he was studying the animal rights groups' plea
Animal welfare takes precedence
THE president of the newly- formed Zoo Operators, Breeders, Wildlife Entrepreneurs and Animal Hobbyists Association cautioned in an earlier statement that if zoo guidelines were not rescinded, more zoos would face closure.
According to the president, these closures would have an adverse effect on tourism.
Contrary to this belief, Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) points out that zoos are not a tourist draw, considering that more than 80% of visitors are from within their surrounding community.
Of these patrons, approximately half are people who will make return visits. These return visits only occur at new zoos.
Eventually, these return visitors stop coming, which results in the loss of profitability without a sustainable source of new patrons. Consequently, the zoos will proceed down a path of deterioration.
Zoos are all too often viewed as places to amuse and entertain, rather than places that meet animal welfare standards.
These standards are not often met, resulting in public criticism.
The lack of enforcement has caused animals to suffer over the years at the hands of incompetent zoo operators.
In addition, when a zoo faces financial constraints, the animals will face added suffering.
The photographs of animal misery speak volumes as to the inadequacy of such animal establishments.
The zoos are unable to equip themselves with the requisite knowledge or commitment to properly understand and maintain the animals in conditions that meet their species-specific needs.
Many animals and birds are still needlessly suffering, and without urgent action by Perhilitan, the inadequacies are likely to continue.
For years, zoos have responded to accusations of cruelty by adopting a defensive attitude.
They have often used a “we know best approach” in an effort to persuade visitors and NGOs to accept their definitions of what is cruel and what is not.
Zoos must be prepared to accept the fact that they cannot realistically recreate the fundamentals of life and habitat.
Given the appalling conditions of some zoos, it is beyond one’s capacity to suggest that visitors will learn anything meaningful about an animal’s wild behaviour or leave the zoo with a new-found impetus to protect wild species.
Zoo expertise and professional ethics that have since remained unchallenged must be subjected to controls from a higher authority, and legislation must regulate the basics of quality animal husbandry. Those institutions that are found
Myanmar zoo acquires 4 sea lions from China
Two female and two male sea lions from Shanghai, China have been added to the Zoological Garden in Myanmar's Nay Pyi Taw, signifying the first animals of its kind shown in Myanmar zoo, according to an official report Sunday.
Under the animal exchange program of the Shanghai Wild Animal Park of China and the Forest Department of Myanmar, the sea lions were conveyed to the Myanmar capital from the port city of Shanghai over the last two days.
One sea lion is over three years old and the remaining three are about three years old. They are species from South America, the
Chinese scientist suspects that humans used to eat pandas
Cute—and tasty? A Chinese scientist claims he's found evidence that prehistoric humans used to eat pandas
Pandas: they're cute, cuddly, and have a remarkable ability to generate gobs of cash for the lucky zoo that manages to breed them. But do they taste good?
According to Chinese scientist Wei Guangbiao, ancient humans would answer "absolutely."
The Associated Press reports that Wei claims to have found a number of panda fossils "slashed" by prehistoric humans.
He theorizes that humans wouldn't have killed the animals if they didn't plan on eating them—which makes sense, as a panda is probably unlikely to attempt to eat your kids (unless they are made of bamboo). And they're cute, everyone is fully aware of that, which would likely include cavepeople.
Thus, the barbeque theory expounded by Wei, who is head of the Institute of Three Gorges Paleoanthropology in Chongqing.
This panda-devouring was presumably taking place before the advent of both the wok and sweet-and-sour preparations, which would have given an exciting new context to the fare served at Panda Express.
One caveat: these ancient pandas, which lived from 10,000 to a million years ago in mountains near Chongqing, were not as big as the relatively robust specimens we know and love today. Perhaps they were more tender, too.
Want to eat panda in 2012? Too damn bad, they're endangered. You will go to jail. And children everywhere will hate you forever.
Although there is this website, which is almost certainly a relatively well-done joke, so you can just delete that flame e-mail you were working on, dude.
Not that pandas are always the placid vegetarians the panda-pandering media would like us to believe they are: in 2011, a camera captured footage of a wild panda eating the flesh of a gnu—although it wasn't clear if the panda had killed the herbivore or not, reports MSNBC.
In case you think that I'm maligning
Why are We Eating Bonobos? Can We Save Africa’s Vast Wildernesses from Destruction?
Bonobo orphans are pouring into primate sanctuaries across central Africa and thousands of adults are being killed, smoked and bundled with monkeys, pangolins, small antelope and bush pigs for sale in distant bushmeat markets. We are about to reach a tipping point in Africa beyond which it is going to be very hard to save the last populations of Africa’s most enigmatic species like mountain gorilla, bonobo, lion, wild dog, giraffe, rhino, elephant, and cheetah. Years of civil war, unrest and corruption have broken this link for many people that now live in the cities and have evolved a new belief system, together with their new consumptive needs. Bonobo populations have declined significantly due to the bushmeat trade in recent years. People are now eating them and we need to look at what this represents in regard to our future in Africa. Ongoing anti-poaching efforts in source countries have yielded many successes and many, many people are trying to keep bonobos and all wildlife safe within protected areas. Forests and river basins are too vast, while resources and staff are too few for enforcement of new laws to be effective in slowing the erosion of Africa’s natural heritage. We are just years away from that terrible morning when we all open our eyes and realize that we did not do enough when we could have and that now there was nothing left to save or do. As of today, we still have something to save and we had better get out there and do that…
Research published this year by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig has demonstrated that chimpanzees and bonobos are close enough to humans to share 99.6% of their DNA. Due to this close kinship there are deep taboos against hunting and eating bonobos are in fact relatively common throughout their distributional range. It would take but a few minutes in the presence of a wild bonobo to see that they are more like us than we would like to accept. Spend a long period of time with them and you will start to see that they are, in fact, better than us. Happier, honest, caring and trustworthy. Often researchers have encountered areas devoid of monkeys and other wildlife, but still with bonobos. Many local cultures feel a kinship for bonobos linking them to their forefathers. This ancestral and spiritual link has protected bonobos even through the most trying times over the later part of the last century when mad armies shot their way through the jungle and left many of their weapons behind to continue the destruction they had started.
Africa’s “Great Work” is the persistence of vast wilderness areas all the way through until colonial times The people’s of Africa clearly lived in balance with the ancient continent we all originated from. Africa is the cradle of mankind and we must look long and hard at the lives and livelihoods of the planet’s oldest resident populations. Today, after 150 years of ruthless exploitation of natural resources, ignorance for basic human rights, endless civil war and faction fighting, and ongoing lies and deceit from the rest of the world we are now a continent of people ripping apart, catching, killing, cutting, burning, raping and excavating our own natural heritage to feed aspirations that are perpetuated by the countries that use and abuse Africa’s resources. The people that Africa want to be like are the very people that are misleading and disempowering the continent. As we stand at the dawn of massive development on the African continent we need to be cognizant of where we have come from and what we want to take with us. NGOs from the United States and around the world have an idea about what to do. Reports have been written about the multitude of problems and threats facing Africa’s last-remaining wild places. If we do not protect and celebrate our remaining wild places now, we will lose the origin of our species, the very wilderness that protected us through ice ages and brought forth modern man 100,000 years ago. We need to do this by establishing new protected areas, expanding old ones, uplifting rural communities, and working with local government to improve
The bird man of Lincoln Park Zoo
Lincoln Park Zoo opens at 7 a.m..
By then, most of its animals have snorted, stretched, wiggled, flapped and, without benefit of any coffee, otherwise roused themselves for another day of exhibiting their easy wonder.
Kevin Bell, my guest later in the show, does have coffee in the morning: One cup; he needs it. He gets to the zoo at 6 a.m.., something he has done almost every day for nearly four decades, ever since he was 23 and came here from New York to become curator of birds—the youngest curator in the zoo's history.
Birds were the zoo’s first animals. They arrived in 1868, a pair of mute swans that were a gift from New York City's Central Park. They came by train; it took two days.
Many things have changed at the zoo during the last 144 years, but one wonderful thing has not: It's free, one of only three major U.S. zoos (the others are in Washington, D.C., and St. Louis) that charge no admission.
Those two swans soon multiplied to 13, and by 1874 the animal population swelled to 48 birds and 27 mammals. That year a bear was bought for $10 and the Lincoln Park Zoological Gardens was officially formed, making our zoo-though arguments come from Philadelphia—the first in the U.S.
It has grown—more animals, more land-over
Last Wild Siamese Crocodile in Vietnam Found Strangled to Death [Updated]
The body of the last wild Siamese crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis) in Vietnam was found floating in Ea Lam Lake on September 29. The 3.2-meter-long, 100-kilogram female had been strangled by two steel wires, possibly by hunters. She was estimated to be nearly 100 years old.
Once present throughout Southeast Asia, critically endangered Siamese crocodiles have disappeared from many of their former habitats in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and other countries because of overhunting and habitat loss. Only an estimated 100 of the freshwater animals remain in the wild, mostly in Cambodia, although many thousands exist in captivity on crocodile farms, where they are raised for their skin.
Tran Van Bang, a researcher with the Center for Biodiversity and Development headquartered in Ho Chi Minh City, examined the body, which had been dead for at least three days before it was found. He told Tuoi Tre that she was not carrying any eggs. “If eggs were found inside its abdomen, this would mean that she had been inseminated and that at least one male Siamese crocodile individual
P-P-P-Poor penguins... 15 endangered birds killed by deadly zoo bugs
Keepers were distraught when 15 birds became seriously ill with malaria and a respiratory bug before dying
A colony of endangered zoo penguins has almost been wiped out after it was hit by two deadly diseases.
Keepers were distraught when 15 birds became seriously ill with malaria and a respiratory bug before dying at Paradise Wildlife Park.
The tragedy comes just days after its famous tiger Indy and snow leopard Aron passed away.
It also follows an announcement by London zoo last week that six of its penguins had died from malaria.
Lynn Whitnall, director of Paradise Wildlife Park, said: “It’s very sad but these things do happen quite frequently with penguins unfortunately.
"They are quite nervous animals and don’t like to live in small groups so when one was struck, it seemed the rest all started to worry and panic.
“Although we do medicate against disease, there was nothing that could be done. We are now keeping our remaining
Solenodon: ‘Extinct’ Venomous Mammal Rediscovered in Cuba after 10-Year Search
A primitive, venomous mammal endemic to Cuba and once listed as extinct has been rediscovered after a decadelong quest.
The shrewlike Cuban solenodon (Solenodon cubanus)—a “living fossil” that has not changed much in millions of years—was all but wiped out in the 19th century by deforestation and introduced species. The 30-centimeter-long, nocturnal solenodons possess a unique, venomous saliva that they inject through their teeth into their prey. They lack the ability, however, to protect themselves from predators such as cats, dogs and black rats. The animals have a slow, ungainly gait, and when chased tend to stop and hide their heads, making them easy pickings even for animals not much bigger than them. By the 1970s many believed the species had gone extinct, but that changed when a few of the animals
Rehabilitation Center Rescues Three Pet Orangutans in Kalimantan
Three orangutans formerly kept as pets have been handed over by the East Kalimantan Natural Conservancy Office to the Samboja Lestari orangutan rehabilitation center on Thursday.
“We have handed over three orangutans who have been rescued by residents at three different locations to the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation which are concerned over orangutan protection in Samboja, Kutai Kartanegara,” said the head of the conservancy office, Tandya Tjahjana.
The orangutans, transferred to the new facility over the weekend, consisted of one male aged between 1 and 2 years, and two females — one aged 3 to 4 years and the other 4 to 5 years.
The primates, he said, had been kept as pets for at least one year, but the captivity may have lasted up to three years.
Suwardi, an official from the Samboja Lestari center, said that the three orangutans will first be put into quarantine for some time and will undergo several stages of training before they
Watch the launch of the penguins
You thought "The March of the Penguins" was cool? Check out the launch of the penguins — an aerodynamic phenomenon that helps these flightless birds take flight.
Emperor penguins can't fly just by flapping their wings, but they can propel themselves fast enough through Antarctic waters to turn themselves into winged rockets. They do it by releasing tiny bubbles of air from their feathers: The air acts as a lubricant, reducing drag as they swim up from the depths like tuxedoed torpedoes. In fact, engineers have used air bubbles in similar ways to speed the movement of torpedoes through the water.
Who knew that penguins have been doing the same sort of thing for eons? University College Cork's John Davenport knew: He and his colleagues studied video footage from the BBC's "Blue Planet" TV series to develop a biochemical model for the penguins' torpedo trick. They were amazed to find that the birds' speed was due to the "coat of air bubbles" streaming from their feathers.
The penguin images are from the November edition of National Geographic magazine. The electronic versions of the report include an exclusive video and interactive graphic that show penguins rocketing onto the ice.
Before the penguins dive into the water, they ruffle their plumage to trap air within the feathers' structure. A deep dive compresses the air into a smaller volume. When the penguins go into their launch, the decompressing air is released through pores in the feathers — creating a layer of tiny, lubricating bubbles.
The trick is described for scientists in the Marine Ecology Progress Series, and for the rest of us in November's issue of National Geographic magazine. The heart of the magazine story is Paul Nicklen's pictures, which have just won him top honors in the Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.
"We wanted to change people's perception
Sean Whyte/Nature Alert: Pay for the on-going care of Gundul the orangutan
After Sean Whyte and Nature Alert launched a campaign attacking a renowned orangutan charity for not doing enough to help orangutans, and potentially causing them enormous losses in donations, and insisting the cost of rescuing and caring for "just one more orangutan" is insignificant, we ask that Sean Whyte and his organisation Nature Alert cover these "insignificant" costs for a lifetime of care for Gundul the orangutan. These costs are estimated to be a mere $90,000 USD.
Pick the 2012 Rubber Dodo Award Winner – Vote by Midnight, October 25
It's time to pick the most outrageous eco-villain of 2012 -- fill out the form at the bottom of the page to cast your vote! The Center for Biological Diversity established the Rubber Dodo award in 2007 as a way to spotlight those who do their very best -- that is, their very worst -- to destroy wild places and drive species to extinction. The award, named after the most famous extinct species on Earth, is given out every year.
Previous recipients of this prestigious
Gay penguin pair becomes parents
Two male penguins at Odense Zoo have successfully managed to hatch an egg discarded by a female
Apparently, it’s not only human beings that have scoffed at the traditional conception of parenting roles in Denmark. The prevailing liberal views of the country have made a transition to the animal kingdom now as well.
A pair of homosexual emperor penguins at Odense Zoo are now the proud new adoptive parents of a little penguin fledgling following a successful hatching experiment.
The two male penguins, who were broody to the point that they sat on dead herrings due to a lack of an egg, assumed the egg-caring duties after the biological mother discarded her egg.
The female penguin in question had laid two eggs with two different fathers during the breeding period, a rare occurrence in emperor penguins.
She left the father of the first egg to sit on the egg alone, before abandoning the father of the second egg as well, leaving Odense Zoo with a unique problem.
“It’s very rare that female emperor penguins lay two eggs over one breeding season,” Nina Christensen, a zoologist at Odense Zoo, told Ekstra Bladet tabloid. “Normally, they lay two eggs over three seasons, so she is extremely productive. But she just doesn’t want to hatch the eggs or raise the chicks.”
The zookeepers let the gay penguin couple adopt the egg after first giving them a fake egg to practise with during a trial period.
The two males were up to the task because the egg hatched and they are now taking good care of the little fledgling, which appears to be growing normally.
Emperor penguins rely heavily on their partners during the egg-sitting period, during which they place the egg on top of their feet before lowering
Zoo chimpanzee starved to death by neglectful staff after losing more than 50lbs
The Kansas City Zoo has been fined thousands of dollars after inattentive staff caused one of its chimpanzees to starve to death.
13-year-old Nusu died in May, having lost 37 per cent of his body weight in 20 months - the last time he was put on the scales.
He should have weighed about 150 pounds but was just 97 pounds at the time of his death.
The federal government gave the zoo a fine of more than $4,500 over the actions of zookeepers who failed to prevent dominant chimps from stealing his food.
Their lack of attention caused Nusu's death, U.S. Department of Agriculture said.
'Your employees were not certain as to how much food this chimpanzee was consuming as they were not monitoring this animal specifically,' according to a letter sent to the zoo.
'They knew that other chimpanzees hoarded biscuits from the other chimpanzees,'
Meat Eating Panda
Fresh horror at zoo where animals were 'clubbed to death' as it is revealed they were then 'fed to Polish park workers'
A zoo where keepers killed animals using baseball bats and crowbars - in a bid to save on veterinary fees - has now been accused of feeding parts of the dead creatures to Polish guest workers.
Former employees at the park revealed the horrific living conditions of the animals at Ölands Animal and Amusement Park in Sweden earlier this week, but now it seems the atrocious treatment extend to the staff as well.
Employees at the popular tourist attraction were forced to work under ‘slave like’ conditions and were fed goats, hens and even a pig that had been put down at the park.
One worker, identified as Anna, said: ‘Sometimes we would give the animals a small injection afterwards. If there was an inspection no one would notice that they had been put down the wrong way. They often kill goats with a simple knife to the throat.'
Guest workers from Poland and Bulgaria work in the zoo over the summer and live in cramped conditions close to the park, located
Sweden Journal: Tragedies at the Zoos
Over here in socialist paradise (a.k.a. Sweden), the public reads the news and watches their television in horror. An investigative journalism team at TV4 has just aired a special on Kalla Fakta (Cold Facts) catching the director of the Parken Zoo in Eskilstuna in several lies over treatment of the animals and the fate of several rare and valuable endangered species in the zoo’s custody. It’s a sad, tragic, but important documentary. Although seemingly one-sided there is no disputing the video evidence (trigger warning for those sensitive to images of dead animals) and the contradicting stories from the Director herself (who has now been suspended over her “incompetent statements”). You can watch the program subtitled in English below. It’s 22 minutes but I feel it’s worth your time.
This tragedy brings back to light, though, the role of zoos in environmental education and as centers for conservation. While the situation at Parken seems to be extreme it is by no means an isolated event. Just days before the release of the Parken details, Öland’s Djurpark – also in Sweden – was in the spotlight with reports from former employees that animals that were beaten to death by staff, starved to death or not given the necessary treatments cause they couldn’t afford veterinary care of no longer had room for the animals. Additionally, the park’s guest workers were put in cramped quarters and fed with food donated to the park by local grocers intended for feeding the animals – all the while the zoo was claiming half of their monthly post-tax paychecks of 12,000 kronor ($1800) for food and lodging. When workers expressed they want to live somewhere else they in effect treated as resigning.
Parken’s and Öland’s actions are the result of bottom-line thinking, cutting corners to save as much money as possible at the expense of the animals in their care and, in the case of Öland’s Djurpark, at the expense of their foreign guest workers. They knowingly conducted operations that were illegal in the eyes of the law and immoral in the eyes of their supporters. Not only that, but they slaughtered species who populations are so low in the wild that the IUCN classified them as endangered. The best estimates for endangered tiger populations in 2010 were 4000 individuals, while Bongo populations in Africa are estimated to be declining more than 20% over 3 generations (about 21 years); moving their IUCN listing from near threatened to the edge of vulnerable.
Nearly every country has private and public zoos or wildlife parks/sanctuaries; many have dozens, such as the United States. How many situations where the portrayal of conservation at these places is maligned with the actual practice of conservation there? Keeping wild animals for any reason is a resource-intensive business and building a conservation and educational mission on top of the animal care adds more complexity. Both for-profit and non-profit zoos and animal parks face the difficult balance of generating interest and visitors to the zoo – i.e. with new species, exhibits and attractions – with maintaining their conservation mission and the welfare of the creatures in their care. This is undeniable, especially
The Martini Shot: Zoo chimps torment wayward raccoon
The Martini Shot is a Hollywood term that describes the final shot of the day before it's a wrap. Watch this (hope you had a better day than this critter) and call it a day.
The chimpanzees at the St. Louis Zoo were caught on tape throwing, and then chasing down, a raccoon that wandered into their enclosure.
Star elephant courts controversy in Philippine zoo
An elderly elephant named Mali is the star at Manila's zoo but also the focus of a campaign alleging animal cruelty that has united the country's powerful bishops, global pop stars and a Nobel laureate.
Mali, who is 38, spends her days picking peanuts from children's hands and being squirted with water in a concrete-floored enclosure that animal rights groups say is far too small for any elephant to enjoy living in.
They also say that, after being shipped from Sri Lanka when she was three years old, Mali is suffering profound loneliness after living her entire adult life without another elephant.
"She is definitely unwell. As much as her physical suffering... there is also psychological suffering," Rochelle Rigodon, campaign manager for Manila-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, told AFP.
PETA began campaigning for Mali to be removed from the zoo seven years ago, and its efforts to have the elephant spend the rest of her life at a sanctuary in Thailand have brought together a strikingly diverse group of people.
British pop star Morrissey, 2003 Nobel laureate in literature J.M. Coetzee and famous animal welfare campaigner Jane Goodall have all written letters to the Philippine government asking for Mali to be transferred.
"Mali is cruelly denied stimulation, room to explore... (and) is in danger of going insane," Morrissey wrote in a letter to President Benigno Aquino when he performed in Manila in May.
Archbishop Jose Palma, president of the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, has also written a letter calling for Mali to be shifted to Thailand.
He has formed an unlikely union with local fashion models and actresses, such as Isabel Roces and Chin-Chin Gutierrez, who have posted messages expressing concern about Mali's plight to their masses of Twitter followers.
Their campaign has had some success, with Aquino ordering the Bureau of Animal Industry in May to evaluate if Mali should be transferred to Thailand. So far, no decision has been announced.
Animal rights activists say the problems at the zoo are not limited to Mali.
>"Old cages made of wire"
The zoo, owned by the City of Manila and built in 1959, is a far cry from its glory days in the early 1960s, when it boasted a huge menagerie of lions, tigers, bears, leopards, giraffes, chimpanzees and bison.
Many of these animals have succumbed to old age, and there are not enough funds to replace them.
Many of the animals that do remain reside in half-century-old cages made of wire and bars, with the zoo operating on a budget of $1.4 million
Sanctuaries Vs Zoos - Mali's Case
Please do your best to help me. I am Mali from Sri Lanka currently living in a South East Asian country. When they killed my mother even as I was sucking at her breast, I thought this is surely the worst thing that could ever happen to me. Little did I know my future would hold even darker moments.
They called me an orphan back then, back in the year I was born, 1974. I didn't mind. I missed my mother at first, but soon my foster aunts and cousins took me into their midst - loved me as one of their own. I was happy in my motherland.. the daily baths in the river with my adopted brothers and sisters, the lush green surroundings, the feel of grass under my feet... is that really me that I see in these pictures in my mind's eye? Thirty five years in this room, on my own, going nowhere, doing nothing is far too long a time to recall the exact details of those happy days. Will I ever know a world like that again?"
Does this look like a spam mail that lands in your inbox when someone hacks into someone else's email account? Relax. This is not one of them. In fact, this is not even a real email. This is the message Mali would have sent if she had access to email.
If only she could voice her thoughts. If only she could share with the world the loneliness of her life, the pain of walking on cracked feet, the companionship of the kinsmen she yearns for, the wish to ramble across vast stretches of land, nibbling at leaves, scratching her back on a tree , trumpeting loudly and listening to the answering call from a neighbour, close by.
Though Mali bears her sorrows silently, there are those who have begun to give a voice to her silent cries and demanding that she be given another chance at life.
Environmentalist and Wildlife Enthusiast Srilal Miththapala, speaking on behalf of Mali says elephants are highly social animals and thrive on constant interaction with others, "if you watch them in the wild they are always rumbling - talking to each other, touching, smelling and interacting." Even if ill health or ill treatment are not issues for Mali at the foreign zoo, he thinks she must be sympathized with because she is ALONE.
Irangani de Silva, President of Animal Welfare Trust, joining the petition asking for Mali's release says "We human beings should see ourselves as caretakers of Mother Nature, not be her destroyers. "As in the case of Mali, the world would be a better place for all the children of nature, if mankind learns to empathize with their animal counterparts."
The good news is, some of us have already begun to do so. PETA Asia-Pacific, an affiliate of PETA US, the world's largest animal rights organization, is doing their best to make us all 'empathize" with Mali. "Try to imagine living your whole life in a room the size of a bedroom, seeing the same four walls every day. You'd have no friends or companionship and nothing whatsoever to pass the time or provide you with comfort. You'd never get to leave. That's exactly what life is like for Mali," writes PETA on their petition campaigning for Mali's right to a sanctuary which has already gathered over 37,844 signatures.
Reminding the world "Mali is a mere shell of the magnificent being she is meant to be" PETA says if the foreign authorities will release Mali she would be transferred safely to an elephant sanctuary and that PETA is willing to bear all the expenses.
Not everyone though, is convinced Mali is in bad health, is ill treated at the zoo and will thrive if she is returned to the wilderness (or pseudo wilderness) of a sanctuary. Among them is veteran advertising photographer John Chua, who has been Mali's volunteer caretaker since 2001. "Don't tell me she's sick or that she'll die if she's not moved. I've taken care of her for 10 years. That's no joke," says Chua in an interview with Jaymee T. Gamil in the "Philippine Daily Inquirer".
The article records how he treats her almost every day to her favorite food like mangoes, bananas, even orange-flavored popsicles, gives her a shower and a soothing spray on her massive feet, and puts her through what he calls an "enrichment program" that includes "coconut football" or a lazy dip in a puddle. Chua himself has donated a water pump for Mali's enclosure, found private sponsors for other improvements at the site, and even trained how to handle such an animal in Singapore and at the Pinnawala elephant orphanage where Mali comes from-all to "make her life better" writes Gamil. Chua is suspicious of PETA's objectives in trying to help Mali, though, and insists "if they (PETA) really care for her, (they should) care for her now."
Authorities who are in direct contact with Mali continue to guarantee Mali is in good health and is not ill treated at the zoo. Especially so, as the zoo has improved Mali's living quarters after the suggestions made by certain authorities, expanding her "room" and installing a water fountain in it. Manila Zoo's chief veterinarian Donald Manalastas, in a statement issued to the Agence France-Presse says "We have expanded the enclosure of Mali and increased her food with more nutrients. We have proof and papers of what we feed her. We do not torture her." According to Deogracias Manimbo, head of Manila's Public Recreation and Parks Bureau, which oversees the Manila Zoo, Mali "is used to this kind of environment," and explains in a statement issued to the Philippine Daily Inquirer "she might not withstand a different environment from what she has gotten used to."
Yet, PETA remains unconvinced.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily News, Ashley Fruno Senior Campaigner, PETA Asia, reiterates the point of every animal lover who abhors to see animals in zoos. "Study after study tells us that housing these complex and intelligent animals alone is severely detrimental to their mental health." says Fruno and adds "female elephants should never be housed alone."
Countermanding the fear that Mali will not survive in a new environment, or know how to interact with other elephants, having lived for so long alone, Fruno explains "Renowned veterinarian and elephant expert Dr. Mel Richardson has examined Mali and believes that she is fit
Ghost Display At Zoo Was Racist? St. Louis Zoo Takes Down Halloween Decorations After Complaints
The St. Louis Zoo has decided to take down its ghost display after several people complained that the hanging ghouls looked more like lynched slaves.
According to KYUE, the ghost display at the zoo consisted of about 10 characters, all with black faces, hanging from trees around the zoo. Chris Burchett, a zoo patron, said that he was “outraged” when he saw the display on Facebook and immediately contacted officials to have the figures removed.
“It was like a complete outrage to me, it was very hurtful … The picture appeared to be black people hanging from a rope. It’s impossible that you could not see that that’s racist you know, there’s no way.”
The zoo said that an outside vendor created the display. The figures light up at night
Mysore to get India’s 1st wild buffalo conservation centre
The Zoo Authority of Karnataka, announced on Thursday that preparations were in full swing to open the country’s first conservation and breeding centre for wild buffaloes near Mysore.
Speaking at the valedictory of a function as part of the 58th Wildlife Week, M Nanjundaswamy, chairperson of the zoo authority said that tenders have been cleared to build a compound around 113 acres of green space at Koorgalli village — where the new buffalo centre is due to come up.
Nanjundaswamy said that an alarming decline in the numbers of the animal had prompted the government to conceive a conservation centre.
“Like many other animals in the country, wild buffaloes are also endangered. As Karnataka is one of the main habitats for these animals in the country, The park will go a long way to help conserve them,” he said and added that 40 buffaloes from Mysore Zoo and many others in captive forests across the State, will be housed at the upcoming centre.
A K Varma, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) said that increasing urbanisation was leading to increased conflicts between man and animal. He added that there was an urgent need to spread awareness to tackle the problem.
“During the previous years, our focus was o
Elephant conservation centre suffering after new wildlife Act enforced
The Kuala Gandah Elephants Conservation Centre, which used to allow rides and bathing with the pachyderms in the river, is no longer an attractive tourist draw, said a state executive councillor.
Datuk Mohd Sharkar Shamsuddin said he had received complaints from people in the tourism sector that such activities had to stop after the Wildlife Protection Act 2010 was enforced.
The Lanchang assemblyman said tour bus operators, souvenir shops, taxi drivers, tourist guides and other related tourism sectors were affected by the new ruling of the Wildlife and National Parks Department to stop the activities with elephants.
“The Act has driven operators to cancel bookings made by tourists to visit the centre and to other tourist stops in their tour package, such as the nearby Deerland and Biodiversity Centre in Bukit Rengit.
“Some clauses in the Act have also affected other tour-related operators throughout the country, including the crocodile farm in Malacca and the butterfly centres in Perak,” added Mohd Sharkar, who chairs the Pahang state information, science, technology and innovation committee.
He was speaking to reporters after meeting a delegation from the Zoo Operators, Breeders, Wildlife Entrepreneurs
LARGE MALE ORANGUTAN RESCUED FROM THREATENED TRIPA PEAT SWAMP FORESTS, ACEH, INDONESIA
Issued by: Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme and BKSDA Aceh.
Medan, October 15, 2012
A large, fully adult male Sumatran Orangutan weighing around 90 kg was rescued yesterday (14/10/12) from an isolated forest fragment in the Tripa Peat Swamp Forests in the Nagan Raya District of Aceh Province, Sumatra, Indonesia, as illegal destruction of this unique ecosystem by rogue palm oil companies continues.
Thanks to the cooperation of a team of experts from the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP) and the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry’s Department of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation (PHKA), the orangutan, later named Seuneam after the nearest village to where he was found, was evacuated safely and later released early on Monday morning (15/10/12) at the SOCP’s specialist Orangutan Reintroduction Centre in the Jantho Pine Nature Reserve in northern Aceh. Seuneam had been monitored in the field by SOCP staff for several days and had to be rescued as he was trapped in a small fragment of forest surrounded by palm oil plantations, isolated from the rest of the Tripa swamp forests and the rest of Tripa’s surviving orangutan population, estimated today to be only around 200 individuals, and declining fast. Local informants even stated that there was a plan to poison him very soon if he continued to destroy young palm oil seedlings.
The team in the field comprised SOCP veterinarians, staff of BKSDA Aceh (the Government’s provincial Conservation Agency), staff of the Indonesian Sustainable Ecosystem Foundation (Yayasan Ekosistem lestari, or YEL) and local community members.
Head of BKSDA Aceh, Mr Amon Zamora MSc, stated on Sunday evening “BKSDA Aceh strongly supports this orangutan rescue and I hope that other orangutans facing similar threats in Tripa can also be rescued before they are killed, or die of malnutrition. Evacuation efforts like this are essential to our efforts to save the Sumatran orangutan and reduce conflicts with local communities. It's a sad fact that orangutans are often regarded as pests by people and plantation companies, as when they have no other food to eat they can and do eat and damage agricultural crops.
Meanwhile, head of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, Dr Ian Singleton stated "We are always happy to see a successful rescue take place, but these activities are expensive, logistically challenging and also dangerous, for both staff and the orangutans themselves. There is always a serious risk of injury to the animals during capture, especially when they fall from the trees after being anaesthetized. We would much prefer not to have to intervene in this way and in reality we should not be having to rescue orangutans from Tripa, as it is part of the Leuser Ecosystem, now a protected area under National Spatial Planning laws. In fact, several of the palm oil companies operating in Tripa are already under investigation for breaking Indonesian Law and one plantation has even be cancelled. But regrettably, forest clearance, drainage of the peatlands and burning of the land continue unabated, so we have no choice but to rescue orangutans when they will clearly die if we don’t".
"Both locally, and Globally, people were inspired recently by the strong leadership of new Aceh Governor, Dr Zaini Abdullah, when the Aceh Government revoked an illegal oil palm plantation permit granted to PT Kalista Alam. But despite this, it is still clear to see that rogue palm oil companies are continuing to destroy Tripa’s remaining forests, creating more conflicts between human and orangutan, and other wildlife. It's not the orangutans that should be leaving this area, it is the palm oil companies who are breaking the law." Dr Singleton added.
Drh Yenny Saraswati reiterated during a quiet moment after Seuneam’s eventual return to the wild. “Rescues like this are not something we enjoy. There are serious risks of injury and even death to an orangutan like this during capture, however good modern equipment and drugs are these days. No matter what you do, orangutans climb higher when afraid, and then fall all the way to the ground. We have had several break bones in the past as a result of falls, even though we always try to get a capture net underneath them beforehand. As a veterinarian, its not pleasant to have to take such risks with an animal’s welfare”.
The Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP; www.sumatranorangutan.org) is a collaborative programme involving the Swiss based PanEco Foundation (www.paneco.ch), Indonesia’s Yayasan Ecosystem Lestari (www.yelweb.org) and the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry’s Directorate General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation (DitJen PHKA; www.dephut.go.id)
Main activities of the SOCP include:-
1. Confiscation, quarantine, and reintroduction to the wild of illegal pet Sumatran orangutans
2. Research and monitoring of remaining wild Sumatran orangutan populations
3. Habitat protection and conservation
4. Conservation education and awareness raising
To date the SOCP as returned to the wild more than 180 illegal captive orangutans and rescued a number of orangutans in similar situations to Seuneam.
For further information contact:-
1. Mr Amon Zamora, MSc, Kepala BKSDA Aceh,
Tel: +6282169313999, Email: email@example.com
2. Dr Ian Singleton, Director of Conservation PanEco Foundation / Head of SOCP,
Tel: +62811650491, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Croc monsieur: Meet the man who loves crocodiles so much he's built a zoo for them
Charlotte Philby meets Shaun Follett, who made the snap decision to open his own crocodile zoo and might just be a species-saver.
At the edge of a field outside Witney in Oxfordshire, there is an old mill. Since its closure in the 1970s, the buildings here have served as a small, rather pretty, industrial park: there's an old car workshop next to a ceramics shop and the offices of a polythene company.
Nothing remarkable there. Carry on along the track, however, to the very end of the lane – and this is the bit where unsuspecting visitors who use this bit of road as a turning bay quickly apply their brakes – you will find yourself at the door of 'Britain's First and Only Crocodile Zoo'. Crocodiles of the World is home to just that – some 60 scaled creatures who live in a series of enclosures
kept at just the right temperature (26-27C) with the help of a lot of fancy equipment, and the constant attentions of 33-year-old carpenter-turned-croc-connoisseur Shaun Follett.
In 2010, following a near-death experience, this local lad sold his house, moved his wife, Lisa, and their three children into his brother's place up the road, and ploughed every penny into building his very own giant reptile zoo. It was an unusual career change, and one that caught the imagination of the Discovery Channel, which made a documentary series about the venture, promising viewers Britain's answer to Steve Irwin – replete with a diamanté earring and an Oxford United tattoo on his right calf.
Since then, Follett has continued to make headlines, most recently for successfully hatching Britain's first home-bred African Dwarf crocs. Today, visitors to the zoo are met by 14 of the little fellows, now nine weeks old, who are about the size of a gecko and strangely cute. There are "oohs" and "aahs" from visitors who are occasionally allowed to hold them because their teeth are so tiny right now they wouldn't break skin. Aged 18, their mum, Jolie, is the oldest croc in residence here, though at six foot she rarely elicits quite the same response as her babies. The same applies to the 11 other species of crocodiles, alligators and caiman that Follett has collected in this unassuming corner of rural England – not least 34 Nile crocodiles, which he acquired from a zoo in the South of France, and brought across the Channel in boxes in the back of his Ford S-Max.
These, Follett says, are the great unloved, the creatures whose public image as ruthless killers means they don't get the same care as cuddlier-looking wild animals: "Because they have this terrible reputation, it's really hard to get people to think about them in the same way as other threatened species". But it is deeply important, Follett insists, that we do.
While in recent years a number of crocs and alligators have made it off the endangered animals list – like the American crocodile, which lives largely in Florida and was re-categorised as 'vulnerable' in 2007; and, earlier this year, the Morelet's crocodile, which is found in Belize, Guatemala and Mexico and was first f classified as endangered more than 40 years ago but now is considered a less alarming 'conservation dependent' – these are still critical times.
The first creatures who meet visitors at Crocodile World are Hugo and Rebecca, two of just 500 Siamese crocodiles left in the world. The biggest threat to Siamese was the skin-trade: "Skin-farming wasn't regulated and people started cross-breeding the Siamese, which has the good skin, with the salt water crocodile, which is much bigger," Follett says. They created a hybrid which should never have been released into the wild, but which has since escaped from a number of zoos, not least during a big flood in Thailand last year. As a result, the genetic purity of the now extremely rare Siamese has been destroyed. But today, the greatest threat to crocodiles in general is the destruction of their natural habitat.
Which is where conservation comes in. Before opening this zoo, less than two years ago, Follett kept a fair number of these animals (in cages) in the garden of his Oxfordshire semi. They are, Follett says, extremely intelligent creatures; certain breeds have specific character traits and each animal has its unique personality. Rebecca the Siamese, for instance, is "a complete psychopath". Rebecca originally came here from Normandy, and is named after the surgeon who stitched together Shaun's hand and leg after "a little training mishap. You have to be so careful, you have to be 100 per cent focused on what you're doing; my mind was on other things." While he admits that "you can never completely trust a crocodile," Follett has managed to train many of them according to the Pavlovian method.
At one point, we stand in front of a seemingly empty murky pool, behind reinforced glass, and Follett calls "Hugo… Hugo," much like one might beckon a Labrador. A moment later, a pair of eyes emerge on the surface in the far corner and then here is Hugo, all 12ft of him, lurking centimetres away from us apparently waiting for a snack, perhaps a chicken or a rabbit. Generally he only eats once every 10 days and when he does he consumes 10 per cent of his own body weight. "It's just like training a dog," Follett explains. "Except, well, it's a bit harder."
Until 10 years ago, training crocodiles wasn't really a concept people thought much about. "The purpose of training is to give the animals enrichment for their brain and to help keep their body active and engaged, and it's also for our own safety," Follett explains. Trained crocs are generally much less aggressive, which means Follett and his full-time keeper, Jamie, can go inside their cages to clean and maintain equipment, as well as allowing vets to take voluntary blood tests when they're ill – though that is not often. Only 1 per cent of baby crocodiles survive in the wild, but those who do can live up to between 60 and 80 years and sometimes to 100. Because they have such brilliant immune systems, they don't suffer from infections the way we do: "In the wild they have limbs pulled off and the wound just heals".
Earlier this year, at a conference held by the Crocodile Specialist Group in the Philippines, the reason for their seemingly miraculous powers of recovery was finally revealed: a certain protein in their blood that destroys bacteria. There are now talks about applying this knowledge to the field of human medicine, which, if successful, could have very exciting results.
Everything Shaun Follett knows about crocodiles and alligators (which is a lot: "you can tell the difference [between them] because a croc's bottom teeth sit on top of their jaw, and an alligator's sit inside") is self-taught. Today Shaun is a leading light himself, and gives talks around the world.
Follett spent 16 years working as a carpenter but says he always had a fascination for reptiles. "I was quite an allergic child, I couldn't have pets and I wanted to keep reptiles. When I was 16 I was finally allowed my first one" – a bearded dragon. A few years later, by which point he had also acquired Dave, a royal python, he was at his local garden centre when he saw an advert for a crocodile for sale. "I saw this sign and then I saw at the bottom 'Dangerous Wild Animal (DWA) licence holders only'." That was all it took.
That afternoon, young Follett went away and began his research. Finally he got his DWA licence, which involved various animal welfare and public safety checks; then, by pure chance, he came across another man in the area who kept crocs. One was being bullied, so Follett decided to adopt her. "She was a Cuvier's dwarf caiman and measured 30cm; she is now 1.1m and last year hatched her first eggs," he says; the breed lays an average of 10 eggs a year, which must be incubated for between 60 and 120 days. For a long time she lived in his living room. "I spent a lot of time observing her as I wanted to learn more and more," Follett says. "I went off and researched different species from around the world and kept thinking I wish someone would open a zoo here so I could visit it."
Then, when he was 24 years old, Follett developed a life-threatening blood disease. "It took me 12 months to recover, and it changed my view on life." That was the point at which he decided to take the plunge.
It has been just 22 months since Follett first got the keys to the place, but the gamble has already begun to pay off. By the end of this year Follett expects to have seen 16,000 visitors in 2012, double the amount of the year before. At the moment, planning restrictions mean they can only take guests on Sundays, though Follett intends to go seven days a week when they move to larger premises next year. While school parties are a big factor, it is mainly adults who pour through the doors. The reptile industry is booming in this country, Follett says, with the smallest croc breeds changing hands for around £500.
For enthusiasts, working at a place like this is the mothership. Follett certainly has no shortage of volunteers. "It is predominantly about maintaining equipment and hands-off work. I had one woman who said: 'If I don't get to wrestle with crocodiles every day then I'm not interested' and then got up and walked out." London Zoo has 400 people on its waiting list for work experience, and some of these zoology students divert here, where
Delhi Zoo's first woman keeper: Lonely but fulfilling job
Suneeta was happier with the monkeys. Finally placed on the "bird-beat", the first and only woman to hold a position that requires direct handling of animals at the Delhi zoo permanently, was fond of the simians. She was especially fond of the little monkey that arrived on April 19, 2011, a few days before her transfer. "The doctor gave me Rs. 20 to celebrate," says Suneeta who doesn't use her last name.
Suneeta was a regular at the zoo when her father, Pishori Lal, was still alive and employed in the sanitation department. "I'd come with him. I wanted to work here," she says. Women are employed at the zoo but not for positions that require direct handling of animals. Zoo authorities are quite candid about the issue. "We don't hire women as keepers or assistant keepers," says Riaz Khan, curator, education, "We've had one as ranger but that's a supervisory position." There were also Chhoti, Anaro
The Rehabilitation/Re-introduction Puzzle: Synthesis of New Techniques
Venue: Monkey World - Ape Rescue Centre, Wareham, Dorset, UK, BH20 6HH
Registration Fee: £30 per person, including refreshments and lunch
This will be the first symposium of EAST (Endangered Asian Species Trust, charity number 1115350) supporting in-situ conservation in Asia. The meeting is a symposium on rehabilitation and release of endangered wildlife in Asia with invited keynote speakers, held at Monkey World - Ape Rescue Centre, Dorset where EAST was founded in 2007. The meeting starts at 10.30am allowing early visitors time to see the rescue centre, or travel up that morning.
Open to all, from university students to avid followers of primate conservation, regardless of career stage or specialisation, this meeting will gather specialists together from many different disciplines to discuss current problems in primate rehabilitation, reintroduction, and conservation. Enjoy the opportunity to listen to some of the world’s most active and distinguished biologists and conservationists, including David Chivers, Alison Cronin, John Lewis, John Williams, Sarah Levett, Marina Kenyon, Anna Nekaris, Susan Cheyne, John Fellowes and Stewart Muir!
Registration fee is £30 including refreshments and lunch, with the opportunity to see the rescue centre during breaks. In the evening, tables are reserved in a local public house to further any discussions (evening meal is at your own expense).
Registration forms, information leaflets and posters are attached and may also be downloaded from the website at http://www.go-east.org/Pages/east_events.html. Please share this event with any other interested contacts. If you would like us to post you any printed leaflets or posters for display, please email: email@example.com