Okay I work with some delightful Penguins and both zoos and exotic animals are my life but it is quite some time since I had a zoo 'fix'. Tuesday morning made up for that when my 'fix' was rather like mainlining heroin (not that I have ever mainlined heroin but I am sure you know what I mean). In the past I was lucky enough to have visited Howletts before it ever opened to the public. I visited Gordon Mills private gorilla collection which never opened to the public. I have visited other remarkable private collections in the UK. That for Dr Martin Bourne probably held more Lemur species than anywhere else in Europe. Another place...I forget the name, had hundreds and hundreds of tortoises plus a sprinkling of other species. In the UAE and in Qatar I have seen species in private hands in around a dozen collections that you will see nowhere else. Tuesday though was amazing, truly amazing. I visited Al Bustan Zoological Garden. This stunning collection exceeded my expectation in terms of layout, husbandry, ethics and species. I won't go into what they have there because I don't know how much is for the public to know. Check them out on the internet.
So now South Africa’s government is backing the legalisation of trade in rhino horns. This is in no way going to help Rhinos it is just going to fill the pockets of all those corrupt Rhino Farmers who call themselves conservationists. I can't guess at how many backhanders there have been and palms greased. There are stockpiles of over eighteen and a half thousand Kilograms of horn just waiting to be sold. If these people had really been sincere about the rhino they would have destroyed this gruesome hoard some time ago. But no, they have just been waiting, salivating for this decision.
Sad to relate the death of Mauro Lagiard a 72 year old Zoo Keeper in Turin Zoo. Killed by Tigers. The third Zoo Keeper (that we know about) to be killed by Tigers around the world in just two months. Though initially this was believed to be yet another case of keeper error it seems it was more down to over confidence.....which is really an error as well. Mauro apparently went in with the Tigers to be feed them. It should never be necessary to enter an enclosure to feed a big cat or for ANY other reason.
I was saddened to learn of the death of Chester Zoos elephant calf, Jamilah. My sympathies to the staff and all who loved her.
The lynx affection......what can I say?.....Just What Is The Point Mr Antle?
I understand Joe Haddock is retiring in a few weeks. Good luck Joe....how time flies.
I was surprised to see Ban Keun Zoo (Vientiane) described as ramshackle in the article on White Elephants. It was none to bad on my visit and had the best Bear enclosure I have seen outside of China.
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A species of freshwater turtle deemed to be extinct may never have existed in the first place.
In the late 19th century, German zoologist August Brauer toured the mountains of Mahé island in the Seychelles archipelago off the east coast of Africa, collecting specimens as he went. In 1901, three of his finds—freshwater turtles that seemed to belong to a unique, endemic species—made their way to the Zoological Museum in Hamburg, Germany. There, Austrian herpetologist Friedrich Siebenrock inspected the specimens, placing them in a new taxon, Sternotherus nigricans seychellensis (later changed to Pelusios seychellensis). The species was never again observed, however, leading researchers to assume that it had gone extinct. But new molecular evidence suggests the species never existed in the first place.
Taxonomic confusion accompanied P. seychellensis from its very introduction to science. Its validity as a separate species was first questioned by Siebenrock himself. As he made his original observations of Brauer’s specimens, he commented on their striking morphological similarity to a known species found on the other side of Africa, called P. castaneus. In the years that followed, researchers confused P. seychellensis with another freshwater turtle that also lives in the Seychelles, P. castanoides. Then, in the 1980s, Roger Bour of the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris reanalyzed Seychelles turtle diversity and declared P. seychellensis to indeed be distinct from the other Seychelles turtles. “In 1983, when I was
hesitating to recognize it, I outlined about sixteen morphological characters in common with P. castaneus, but also found several unshared features,” Bour, now retired, writes in an e-mail to The Scientist.
After Bour published his report, researchers scoured Mahé for more evidence of P. seychellensis, but when they failed to locate any animals, the species was presumed extinct.
To put the matter to bed, Richard Gemel, a curator at the Natural History Museum in Vienna, Austria, where one of Brauer’s P. seychellensis specimens is now kept, invited herpetologist Uwe Fritz to study its genome. A few years earlier, Fritz had cataloged all the extant species of the Pelusios genus, and he remained “curious about the extinct species,” he says, so he jumped at the opportunity. He traveled to Vienna from the Museum of Zoology in Dresden, Germany, and extracted dried muscle tissue from the turtle’s thigh, then purified its DNA and compared three mitochondrial genes with the known sequences of other Pelusios species. The results suggest that P. seychellensis was not a different species from P. castaneus after all.
Fritz suspects that the specimens were simply mislabeled with regard to where they were collected. In addition to the genetic evidence that the species are one and the same, two of the specimens supposedly collected by Brauer had holes drilled in the sides of their shells, a common technique used to tie turtles together when bringing them to market. “This suggests that these terrapins were not collected by Brauer, but rather bought somewhere,” Fritz
Tiger panel's role sparks controversy
Triggering fresh controversy, wildlife activists have ridiculed the state government's dependence on National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to study whether Satkosia is a suitable habitat to shift the wild tiger that strayed into Nandankanan.
They questioned why the state government's forest department couldn't assess the feasibility of the habitat when it is receiving funds for tiger conservation from NTCA every year. Ever since the tiger strayed into the zoo for the first time, the debate over whether to house it in the zoo or release it to the wild has been raging. This forced the chief wildlife warden to write to NTCA, seeking its help. The NTCA technical team, comprising Ravikiran Govekar, Bilal Habib and Parag Nigam, has landed in Bhubaneswar and held discussions with Nandankanan authorities. They left for Satkosia on Tuesday.
Wildlife activists, however, felt the role of NTCA is limited as far as studying feasibility of Satkosia as a tiger habitat is concerned. "It is deplorable that state government till now is not aware whether Satkosia is a suitable tiger habitat despite spending huge funds for its management," said wildlife activist Biswajit Mohanty.
He further said in the last two years, the cameras installed inside the habitat hardly captured movement of tigers. As per 2010 census, the tiger population officially was 12.
Satkosia has received around Rs 10 crore in the last five years from NTCA for tiger conservation. All the money is shown to be spent mainly on establishment of barracks for anti-poaching drive, construction of staff quarters, setting up of wireless network and trap cameras, procuring night vision binoculars, installing GPS device, establishing watchtowers and monitoring of wild animals.
Retired DFO (wildlife) Akshaya Patra said the NTCA team is not competent to study the suitability of habitat overnight. "Local forest staff are more capable than the NTCA technical team to study the feasibility of the reserve. It has always been a habit of the state government to bow down before the NTCA," said Patra. Forest and environment minister Bijayshree Routray said t
Streak for Tigers - Thursday 15 August
Did you know that a group of tigers is called a Streak of Tigers?...
It's time to unleash your wild side and show us your stripes in support of the ZSL Sumatran Tiger campaign
ZSL London Zoo is hosting a very unique and daring event on the evening of Thursday 15 August. We are looking for 300 supporters to strip off and bare all for Tigers and streak around ZSL London Zoo!
With only 300 Sumatran Tigers left in the wild, we hope this event will not only raise much needed funds for ZSL but it will also highlight and raise the profile of the drastic work that needs
SA backs legal rhino horn trade
South Africa’s government is backing the legalisation of trade in rhino horns in an effort to stem poaching of the endangered animals.
“South Africa cannot continue to be held hostage by the syndicates slaughtering our rhinos,” Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa told reporters today in Pretoria, the capital.
“The establishment of a well-regulated international trade” could help curb rhino poaching, she said.
At least 446 rhinos have been killed illegally in South Africa this year, with 280 slaughtered in Kruger National Park, a conservation area the size of Israel that borders Mozambique and where the army has been deployed, the Department of Environmental Affairs said in a June 26 statement.
The rate of deaths this year is on course to exceed last year’s record.
South Africa’s government has about 16,437 kilograms (36,237 pounds) of stockpiled rhino horn, while 2,091 kilograms more is in private hands, Fundisile Mketeni, a deputy director-general in the department, told reporters.
The government favours a once-off sale of horn derived from rhino fatalities and doesn’t plan to dispose of horn from “illegal activities,” he said.
The animals’ horns sell in China and Vietnam for more than gold by weight where they are believed by some to cure cancer and boost virility.
Members of the United Nations’ Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora will vote on final approval of the anti-poaching plan in 2016.
South Africa’s proposals have the backing of some members of the Southern African Development Community, a 15-nation regional trading bloc, Mketeni said.
US President Barack Obama on July 1 set aside resources to help combat illegal wildlife trafficking, calling it an “international crisis that continues to escalate.”
Last year 668 rhinos were poached in South Africa, eight times the number in 2008, according to government statistics. Kruger, which has a 350-kilometre (217-mile) border with Mozambique, is where 72 percent of the killings took place.
“Legalising the trade in rhino horn needs to be researched in detail, so that the doubters and the advocates fully understand the possible consequences,” Cathy Dean, the London- based director of Save the Rhino International, said in an e- mailed statement.
“The one thing we all know is that the current approach isn’t enough. There are fears that 900 to 1,000 rhinos could be killed in South Africa by the end of this year. Tackling the problem needs a whole range of measures.”
South African and Mozambican authorities have agreed to rebuild a fence between the Kruger National Park and Mozambique to deter poachers after the residents of seven affected villages are relocated, Molewa said.
Mozambique has secured funding from international donors to carry out the move, she said.
White and black rhinos were brought back from the brink
Don’t feed the animals (do feed the zoo)
WITH SUMMER underway, families are converging upon the panoply of great destinations in Greater Boston. But what should be a major attraction, the Franklin Park Zoo, has long been an underfunded, second-class amenity. Zoo New England, the organization that runs the zoo, does its best with a challenging location and limited resources. But the Franklin Park Zoo still ranks only 96th out of the 194 Boston attractions rated by TripAdvisor, and time and again Beacon Hill budgeters confront an uncomfortable question: How much taxpayer money should the state devote to an institution that is valuable but never quite manages to thrive financially?
The zoo began 101 years ago as a municipal project funded with private philanthropy. In 1908, George Parkman left more than $100 million (in current dollars) to the city for the maintenance of parks, and a chunk of that money went on the zoo. In August 1912, the Globe reported that six “vicious, untrained” bears arrived from Hamburg. The bear pit was one of the early zoo’s big attractions, despite the Globe’s 1913 reporting that “disgruntled” polar bears “persistently refuse the products of civilization.”
For the next two decades, the zoo was free — and a resounding success. On one day in 1923, 25,000
turned out to see the baby elephant, Molly, consume vast quantities of dirt. In the era, writers earnestly suggested that Boston should have the world’s finest zoo.
That didn’t happen. The zoo’s finances faltered during the Great Depression, and the zoo sank into a long decline, which was not stemmed when control moved from the city to the state in 1958.
Years later, when Governor Weld turned Franklin Park and the Stone Zoo over to Zoo New England — a private but state-supported entity — he essentially reversed the old model of public control and private fundin
Man Killed By Tigers in Turin Zoo
Yesterday a Zoo Keeper was killed by three tigers in the Turin Zoo. It would appear that once again that this was a case of keeper error. Failure to ensure that a door was securely closed before entering the enclosure for feeding.
The alarm was raised by the wife of the 72 year old man but it was too late to save him and he was confirmed dead at the scene.
The Turin Zoo was closed down five years ago but there were difficulties in relocating the animals. Nine Tigers and one Leopard were amon
Retired Italian zookeeper, 72, mauled to death by tigers he kept at closed-down zoo as he tried
to feed them
An elderly zookeeper was ripped to pieces and eaten by his own tigers when he went to feed them.
Mauro Lagiard, 72, was attacked from behind as he entered the enclosure at a closed-down zoo, near Turin, in northern Italy.
In a horrific scene he was dragged 100ft while his wife watched helplessly from outside the cage.
His dismembered body was later found by the tigers' water trough, police said.
Mr Lagiard and his wife had cared for the tigers since the small animal sanctuary was closed downin 2010 at the peak of the eco
Atlanta aquarium lets you swim with whale sharks
The shark is 15 metres long, weighs 12 tons and is swimming directly behind you.
Stay calm and try not to look or smell like phytoplankton.
These sharks don’t like meat – at least that’s what the guides told you after you paid $225 for 30 minutes of swimming with these giant whale sharks in the Georgia Aquarium in downtown Atlanta.
They are the largest fish in the sea, but they eat only krill, macro-algae, plankton and small squid or vertebrates that get sucked in to their huge mouths while they filter feed.
Their mouths – wide enough to swallow a Volkswagen - are lined with 350 teeth, but they’re for sifting rather than chomping. When the shark expels a mouthful of water through its gills, those teeth hold back all the tasty stuff to be swallowed.
You’ll learn all this during 90 minutes of preliminary instructions and education before plunging into the 10-m
IUCN: 1 in 3 species could face extinction
A CAPE Verde lizard, a fish from Arizona and a freshwater shrimp from Indonesia have been declared extinct and 21,000 species are in danger of dying out, according to a scientific survey.
The new Red List of Threatened Species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) prompted fresh calls to step up conservation efforts when it was published yesterday.
As well as the three species now extinct, the report reveals “worrying declines” in populations of a Chinese porpoise, tropical cone snails and conifers around the globe, with a total of 20,934 species now listed as threatened with extinction out of the 70,294 assessed – almost one in three.
Jane Smart, global director of the IUCN’s biodiversity conservation group, said: “We now have more information on the world’s biodiversity than ever before, but the overall picture is alarming. “We must use this knowledge to its fullest – making our conservation efforts well-targeted and efficient – if we are serious about stopping the extinction crisis that continues to threaten life on earth.”
The Santa Cruz pupfish, once found in the Santa Cruz river basin in Arizona, has been wiped outby wat
Wallabies escape fire at Dudley Zoo enclosure
A fire broke out in the wallaby house at Dudley Zoo this lunchtime - but all seven of the Parma wallabies escaped unhurt.
Two workers at the zoo used fire extinguishers when the animals' straw bedding caught fire from an electrical heater at 11.45am.
Two crews were called from Dudley fire station - but the fire was already out when they arrived just bef
Riga Zoo in financial trouble due to reduced subsidies
Due to reduced state subsidies and rising electricity and heating prices, the municipal Riga Zoo has gotten into financial trouble, LETA learned from the Riga City Council.
While the zoo could attract more visitors by new exhibitions and displays, organizing such exhibitions and displays is impossible currently due to limited funds, the Riga Zoo Director Rolands Greizins writes in a letter to Riga City Council's Housing and Environment Committee.
Taking into consideration the zoo's limited abilities to increase incomes necessary to cover the zoo's regular spending, the zoo has turned to the Riga City Council, informing that the zoo requires an additional LVL 256,000, but the minimum amount necessary so the zoo could continue operations is at least LVL 38,000. Without this, the zoo will be unable to continue to function as per normal, notes Greizins, reminding in the letter about Riga's status of the European capital of culture next year.
55.2% of the Riga Zoo budget is made up of income from tickets and commercial operations. Riga City Council's subsidies make up 35.8% of the Riga Zoo budget, state subsidies – 9%. Riga City Council's subsidies for the zoo have remained unchanged since 2009, while state subsidies have been cut by LVL 92,800. The zoo, however, has been able to partly compensate for this by higher incomes, the proportion of which in the Riga Zoo budget has increased to 55.2% from 47.2% in 2009 or by LVL 176,300.
However, this is not enough, given that the Riga Zoo spending on animal fodder, electricity, natural gas and fuel has increased significantly. The minimum monthly wage and relevant social contributions have also increased.
The letter also informs about the cost of modernization meas
One of the future inhabitants of the "Sea House" - whale named Narnia - will soon be delivered to the capital
From next spring in the list of the capital's attractions will be a new unique object: VVC will open Europe's largest aquarium. Its year-round, visitors can observe the life of about 1000 individuals of marine animals (from tiny tropical fish to large whales, "killer whales"), feed the sharks and swim with the stingrays. What will surprise Muscovites' Underwater Zoo "figured correspondent" MK ".
he building of the aquarium will be the VVC Khovanskii near the entrance, on the former site of the pavilion 23 "Teplitsestroenie and vegetable growing." Object area is about 40 thousand square meters. m, and its construction will cost the developer $ 70 million, excluding the cost of the animals. The building, in addition to the aquarium, dolphinarium will house, theater pinnipeds, Center for the Study of marine animals and many other unique options.
- The Oceanarium is designed for year-round operation, - says Elena Slivina, a representative of the developer "Revival Exhibition Center" - a special water treatment system will create a marine animal habitat conditions similar to natural. Visitors will be able to one day travel around the world and discover the marine flora and fauna of Central Russia, Russian North, Far East, Japan, China, Southeast Asia, the Amazon, the Great Barrier Reef, in addition, a separate large aquarium will be highlighted for sharks and stingrays.
The largest tenants of the aquarium will be two killer whales, captive these huge mammals found only in four locations around the world and Exhibition Centre will be the fifth in the series.
One of them has already caught - now seven years old orca named Narnia, a length of about 5 meters, and weight - more than 2 tons, is located in Vladivostok, and soon a huge cargo plane take her to the capital, where she will meet with his "colleague" on the Dolphinarium . In addition to killer whales in the aquarium will contain a pair of white whales - beluga whales, whose length is 6 meters, and weight - 2 tons; company they will make smaller Atlantic dolphins.
All of these animals will be involved in performances for the audience, and they will make the competition "artists" from the theater of pinnipeds. Speakers there Baikal seal, and seal Largo, bearded seals and impellers of the Sea of Okhotsk in captivity can be seen only in Moscow and in the Moscow aquarium inhabit the South American sea lions and fur seals are extremely rare in captivity.
- Of the animals kept in the aquarium itself is particularly interesting for the audience will look at the manatee, or "sea cow" - continues to Elena Slivina - is a rare large mammal we inhabit the aquarium, which demonstrates the nature of the Amazon, and keeps him company in this exotic the region will make crocodiles and freshwater stingrays. Marine also have ramps will be
provided in a separate tank
Zoo relooking collection of animals with eye on future
The Singapore Zoo celebrated its past achievements as it turned 40 on Thursday and it is already looking to the future.
It wants to do more focused research on endangered species and become "one of the best archives of data" on these animals, said Ms Claire Chiang, chairman of Wildlife Reserves Singapore which owns the zoo.
About a quarter of the over 300 species currently in the wildlife park are endangered.
The park is relooking its animal collection and has engaged experts to guide it on the types of animals to keep, breed, acquire and exchange, she said.
The zoo has also been the venue of several international conferences studying animals like terrapins and pangolins, she added.
"In the future, there is a possibility that a lot of species will be seen only in zoological institutions. It's a sad thing, but at least we have them," said Ms Chiang. "And I'd like Singapore Zoo to be that cutting edge laboratory as well as archive of data."
She also appealed to the younger generation to carve out careers in the zoo, adding that the
issue of future leadership at the park is a "ch
Madagascar Giant Tortoises, Now Extinct, Could Be Replaced With New, Imported Species
Two millennia ago, millions of giant tortoises roamed Madagascar, an island nation off the southeastern coast of Africa that is rich in species found nowhere else on Earth. Those tortoises kept Madagascar's unique ecosystem in check by munching on low-lying foliage, trampling vegetation and dispersing large seeds from native trees like the baobab.
When humans began settling on the island about 2,300 years ago, Madagascar's large vertebrate populations were the first casualties. Dozens of species disappeared altogether, including 17 giant lemurs, three pygmy hippopotamuses, two aardvarklike mammals, a giant fossa (a catlike carnivore), eight elephant birds, a giant crocodile and two giant tortoises. With their demise, the composition of Madagascar's ecosystems changed, shrubs and vegetation clogged the forest floor and wildfires became more frequent and intense.
Now, researchers think they've found a way to replace Madagascar's lost giant tortoise species: Bring in some relatives, says Miguel Pedrono, a Madagascar-based conservation biologist with the French agricultural research center CIRAD.
Pedrono's team has identified a very close relative of the extinct giant tortoises, and they plan to transplant a few hundred of them to Madagascar to help fill the ecological gaps left by their extinct kin.
"This project is not an ecological substitution with an analogous species, like what's been done
on other Indian Ocean islands; inst
The 'gorilla whisperer' and her flight from rebel forces
With less than an hour’s notice, Angelique Todd was forced to leave the gorillas she’d befriended and the Africa she loved. We tell her amazing story On March 24, a few hours before rebel troops finally seized Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, Angelique Todd, 44, took her daughter swimming. It was Sunday, Todd’s day off, and she had promised Poppy, who is three, a trip to the river.
Todd first heard rumours of a coup in January, when rebel groups had been spotted advancing through the country in what appeared to be an attempt to overthrow President François Bozizé. But Todd was 300 miles from the capital in the remote village of Bayanga. “The rebels were so far away we didn’t think it would touch us,” she recalls. “I thought Poppy would be disappointed if we didn’t go.”
Todd is used to danger, but from animals, not humans. As head of the World Wide Fund for Nature’s primate habituation programme at the World Heritage Site of the Dzanga-Sangha forest reserve, Todd had done something remarkable and befriended a family of wild gorillas.
She had first spotted Makumba, the silverback, as a research assistant for the WWF in 2000. She got so excited, and then so disappointed, when for two years she would trek for hours into the forest and “see only fleeing backsides”. But she persisted, living in appallingly remote conditions. She was stung by scorpions, had a bot fly infestation (“they burrow into your skin”) and has had malaria more than 25 times: “I don’t count any more.” This, after all, was someone who, aged 25, had her thumb, a finger and a large part of her right forearm bitten off by a chimpanzee when she was a keeper at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in Kent.
Her persistence paid off, and now she is known as the “gorilla whisperer” for the effect she has on Makumba. Scientists study her observations. Photographers line up to go with her on great treks into the forest. And a BBC documentary was being shot on her work
Penguins support gorillas as biscuit makers respond to palm oil threat
Many of the biggest biscuit manufacturers have pledged to reduce the amount of palm oil in their products
Penguins are coming to the aid of gorillas, according to a survey which reveals that the UK's leading biscuit manufacturers are responding to the environmental threats of palm oil production.
Many of the biggest names in biscuits including Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury's and United Biscuits – which makes some of the UK's most popular biscuits including McVitie's Digestive and Penguin – have pledged to reduce the amount of palm oil in their products.
The Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) and Ethical Consumer magazine together surveyed over 50 of the UK's biggest biscuit manufacturers about their use of palm oil or its derivatives.
The top scoring companies were the Co-op, M&S, Sainsbury's, Waitrose and United Biscuits. Those
at the bottom of the ranking were mostly American-based companies including Asda/Walmart, PepsiCo
and Kraft, makers of Ritz and Oreo biscuits.
The project was carried out in response to the increasing threat that palm oil production is posing to the world's rainforest and to the people that rely on these forests for their livelihoods. Palm oil is a core ingredient in many food products but companies are not required by EU law to label products containing it until December 2014.
Having destroyed vast areas of forest in countries including Indonesia, which is home to orangutans, the RFUK says palm oil companies are now planning to expand into the rainforest
The lynx affection
Chimp and big cat bromance at American wildlife park
A BABY chimp and lynx cub have become unlikely buddies at a wildlife park.
Varli, 20 months, loves apeing around with his nine-week-old wildcat pal Sutra. They chase each other, cuddle up and even sleep together.
KMC allows risky giant turtle child ride in Safari
The ignorant parents had allowed their children to ride a giant tortoise while other had surrounded the riders, the infants and children of lower agar. No safety rules were applied to prevent any untoward situation.
According to details, a private animal contractor had arranged a pet show in association with the
administration of the Karachi Safari Park under the aegis of Karachi Metropolitan Corporation.
The pet show had attracted a lot of visitors especially the infants and children up to the age of 7 years had enjoyed the pet show. However, the KMC and the organizers of the pet show did not apply the required preventive measures and
The terrifying tale of disappearing jumbos
Three elephants were reported dead after a speeding train hit them in West Bengal later in May. An adult elephant was found dead in Nagarahole national park early last month and its tusk has gone missing exposing the lack of patrolling in the tiger reserve. Animal lovers have blasted using the endangered elephants in jumbo demolition squads in north-east India as cruelty. PETA India, CEO, Poorva Joshipura said: "Forcing these animals to ram into concrete and iron is a violation of Section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and shows a total disregard for the welfare of our nation's heritage animal." India is home to around 25,000 elephants. Their numbers are constantly dwindling due to poaching and the destruction of their habitats by humans.
In the most recent case, it was Bijlee, an elephant working for it's master on Mumbai streets. The ailing 58-year-old female elephant died early on Sunday. TOI reported that Bijlee's owners forced her to work for almost 50 years by begging on the streets of Mumbai and Thane and standing at weddings, paying little atte
Why Burma believes in white elephants (the real ones)
To the faithful, the existence of so many white elephants is a positive sign from above; others speculate it is a the product of rampant deforestation.
Uppatasanti Pagoda towers above the sprawling buildings, construction sites and empty boulevards of Naypyidaw, “the Abode of Kings,” the military-built city that replaced Rangoon as Burma’s capital in 2005.
Construction of the pagoda was overseen by the country’s last dictator, Gen. Than Shwe. The brutal leader, whose actions often hinted at monarchical aspirations, also built twin pavilions at the foot of the gilded pagoda to shade his living adjuncts of royalty.
“The country has improved and become more peaceful from having the white elephants,” a 57-year-old pilgrim says. “I’m very glad to see them.”
Guarded by a high steel fence and an assault rifle-wielding police officer, four perfectly pink adult pachyderms munch on sugar cane and bamboo, pacing as far as the chains tethered to their right forelegs allow them, while a fifth, still a calf, frolics in a pen under its chained mother’s gaze.
When the first of these elephants was spotted in the wilds of western Burma in the late 2000s, Than Shwe dispatched soldiers, elephant handlers and veterinarians to scour the region alongside forced labourers. In June 2010, the general finally obtained his first hsin hypu daw.
For centuries, Southeast Asian monarchs have coveted white elephants as embodiments of a divinely
“The white elephants represent peace and wealth,” elderly Buddhist monk U Ottama says in Rangoon.
“(They) are a sign of the good future awaiting our country.”
According to Dr. David Steinberg, professor of Asian Studies at Georgetown University, “governments have used them as portents of good things and they are regarded as signs of political legitimacy.”
These animals’ lofty status originates in the ancient texts of Indic religions. Indra, lord of Hinduism’s diverse pantheon, rides a mighty multi-tusked white elephant in the 9th century BCE Mahabharata. In the 1st century CE Buddhacharita, the Buddha’s mother dreams of a white elephant entering her womb on the eve of her son’s conception. In the 4th century BCE Jatakas, the Buddha appears as a supernatural white elephant in two of his past lives.
As sacred animals, white elephants were often treated lavishly. 19th century journalist James George Scott, for example, describes a bejewelled white elephant that “was suckled by women.” This animal, which belonged to the last king of Burma, had “choruses of sweet-voiced singers to lull him to sleep” and was “bathed with scented sandal water.”
In the West, the term “white elephant” denotes a burdensome possession whose cost of maintenance exceeds its value. This originated in part from apocryphal tales that emerged in the 19th century. According to such stories, Siamese kings were in the habit of bestowing lesser white elephants (e.g. a mottled creature) to wayward courtesans. As holy animals, white elephants could not work to offset the enormous cost of being fed. Unable to get rid of such a royal gift, these courtesans would inevitably go bankrupt. With their pinkish skin, white hairs and pale eyes, white elephants are likely albinos or leucistic, meaning they exhibit a uniform reduction of all pigmentation, rather than a complete absence of it. Incredibly rare, Southeast Asian kings seldom possessed more than one or two of the animals at a time. Some monarchs even waged wars to acquire them. Today, the Thai royal family possesses 10 white elephants — more than any in the kingdom’s
history. Rarely seen in public, these animals may soon be joined by a pale calf spotted amidst a wild herd this April. The Bangkok Post reports that a six million baht reward (about $200,000) is being offered for its capture.
With Laos’ last white elephant dying in the ramshackle Ban Keun Zoo in 2010, Burma is now the only place where one can see these sacred animals. To the faithful, the existence of so many white elephants is a positive sign from above; others speculate it is a the product of rampant deforestation in the region.
“The elections will be held peacefully and successfully,” Burmese state media declared after a second white elephant was captured in 2010, two months before the military junta (now in civilian clothes) clinched victory in a “historic” vote that opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi refused to participate in.
In March 2011, former general Thein S
Carelessness at Islamabad zoo: Last two months saw a rise in number of animal deaths
Islamabad Zoo is developing a terrible reputation for animal care due to neglect and carelessness, and more animals have died in the past two months than in the entire year due to various reasons.
The most recent victim was a fragile Uryal fawn, which died on Sunday morning (June 30).
The handlers were trying to catch the fawn two days before its death in order to shift it to another cage.
However, during the attempt, the handlers broke its leg and the fawn fell ill. It could not recover from the illness and died as a result.
According to zoo officials, one of the worst incident of animal deaths occurred less than two months ago when jackals or foxes somehow managed to enter the enclosure of exotic ducks. They killed more than 60 birds and injured nearly a dozen more.
“It was a massacre. The teals and mallards (exotic migratory ducks) were all killed in a single night,” said one caretaker at the zoo, who was unable to explain how the wild foxes or jackals entered the zoo premises and get inside the enclosure.The night watchman was suspended for dereliction of duty.
Besides losing a fox and a jackal due to weakness and neglect less than two weeks ago, the Islamabad Zoo also lost a Nilgai.“The Nilgai died purely because of human error. It was being shifted to an empty animal enclosure but the handlers did not ensure the safety of the animal. Consequently, it slipped into a pond inside its new home, which was supposed to be empty. Before vets could figure out whether or not
the Nilgai had hurt its neck or back, the animal died two days later,” said a
Bringing Up Birdie
Aviculturists at Paignton Zoo Environmental Park in Devon are learning how to care for some difficult chicks. They are developing a new protocol for hand rearing Darwin's rhea. Darwin's rhea (Rhea pennata), also called the lesser rhea, is a large flightless bird from South America.
An adult bird can stand up to 100 centimetres (39 inches) in height and can weigh as much as 28 kilos (63 pounds). It can reach speeds of up to 60 kilometres an hour (37mph). While the bird breeds occasionally in zoos, chicks can be difficult to hand rear. Curator of Birds Jo Gregson explained: “We are trying to develop a protocol for hand rearing. Paignton Zoo has a good record with ratites – cassowaries, emus, ostriches – which is why we took on the job. We also hold the studbook for these birds now. It’s important to learn all we can about how to care for them.”
Keepers took eggs that were scattered around the enclosure and were not going to be cared for by the adult birds. Of these, 3 have hatched so far - one on 8th June and the other two on 9th - with more eggs in the incubator. Everything from the temperature and humidity in the incubator to how often the eggs are turned is recorded. Once the eggs hatch, aviculturalists make a note of every last detail of rearing – what, when and how often the chicks eat, how much exercise they get, and so on. Failure can tell staff as much as success. Information is compiled and shared with other collections. And what is the secret? Jo: “It’s all about the poop! Constipation can be a problem for chicks and it can kill. Exercise helps
INQUIRY CONTINUES INTO TIGER ATTACK ON DALTON ZOO KEEPER
THE investigation into the death of a member of staff who was mauled by a tiger at South Lakes Wild Animal Park is ongoing. Police said the investigation, being carried out on behalf of the coroner, continues more than a month after the death of zookeeper Sarah McClay.
Miss McClay, from Barrow, was dragged more than 100 yards by Padang, a Sumatran tiger, as she worked at the Dalton zoo on May 24. She later died in hospital.
Detective Chief Inspector Bob Qazi, who is leading the investigation, said it is ongoing and its findings will be
Grrreat! Israeli innovation heals Sumatran tiger
Experimental foam called FoamOtic was developed in Rehovot for humans and animals and expands evenly, covering the whole ear canal. Pedang, a 14-year-old rare, male Sumatran tiger at Ramat Gan’s Safari Park, has stopped scratching his ear for the first time in years, thanks to the insertion on Thursday of a special experimental foam to treat his chronic condition.
FoamOtic, a new formulation and drug-delivery platform for a combination of known active ingredients, was developed by Otic Pharma in Rehovot for human patients, as well as for dogs and cats that tend to have such infections in their ears.
Pedang underwent acupuncture therapy and steroid treatment at the park a few weeks ago, but it didn’t help him.
Otic Pharma’s vice president for research and development, Dr. Rodrigo Yelin, heard about the tiger’s predicament and offered the experimental treatment to the Safari’s chief veterinarian, Dr. Igal Horowitz, who welcomed the chance to use it on Pedang.
On Thursday he was put under general anesthesia, while Safari staff – under the guidance of
Horowitz and Dr. Gila Zur of Hebrew University’s Koret
Rhino horns worth 10 million baht seized at Suvarnabhumi
The Customs Department has confiscated 8 rhino horns, worth up to 10 million baht, that were being smuggled through Suvarnabhumi Airport.
A 31-year-old Guinean man was arrested after Suvarnabhumi officials had found 8 rhino horns weighing 10 kilograms in his suitcase. The horns, according to the officials, could be worth up to 10 million baht in the black market. However, the smuggler said the suitcase belonged to a friend who had left the suitcase with him. The 31-year-old was coming from Uganda. The officials said the horns were detected by an x ray machine. Thailand, earlier this year, hosted CITES conference where rhinos were agreed to be listed as protected animals.
In related news, Thailand's Customs Department contacted officials in Cambodia two days ago
asking them to search a passenger suspected of sm