Friday, December 20, 2013

Zoo News Digest 14th - 20th December 2013 (ZooNews 884)

Zoo News Digest 14th - 20th December 2013 (ZooNews 884)

Wishing everyone a very happy festive season

Dear Colleagues,

Yet again we have a keeper killed by a Tiger*. This year must be something of a record for people being killed by Big Cats. In this instance it was veteran zookeeper Zhou Jianhua, 57, of Shanghai Zoo. Yet again it appears to have been a case of keeper error. It is a sad loss and I extend my sincere condolences to family, friends and colleagues. 

It only goes to show that those working within a zoo environment need to be on their toes at all times because if your own mistake doesn't kill or maim you then someone else's could. It is precisely for this reason I have never liked people working in pairs with big cats. There is too much reliance on the memories of others (I thought you latched the door!). 

With regards to the other incidents this year. As I have stated on numerous occasions that I believe, regardless of the arguments presented, that actually going into enclosures with big cats is stupid. It is stupid because it is never necessary. The title of Tiger Trainer/Handler does not belong in a good zoo. This is a Dysfunctional Zoo activity. It is an accident, a death waiting to happen. 

I note that Dreamworld states with regards to the incident in Australia zoo " it was bad incident, it was not an attack". I suppose it is a matter of interpretation but to me it was, without question 'an attack'. I did not doubt that such a statement would come from Dreamworld as they carry out the same nefarious activity. 

When are the licensing authorities in Australia going to pull their fingers out and stand up to these large powerful and popular places and say enough is enough? They should follow the lead of their neighbors in New Zealand. 

Please see there was another 'incident' in Australia Zoo today....time is ticking away here....get pulling....maybe they are stuck.

*It saddens me that this tiger has been placed in isolation for the rest of its days. Why precisely?

My surface mail mail box is just not working out. Mail is going astray. Even lost my last but one passport for a while. So for now please send all paper mail, books for review etc to :

Peter Dickinson
10 Cheshire View
Appleyards Lane

Bear in mind it is NOT where I live. My mail will be forwarded to me to wherever I am from there. My contact phone number remains the same:

00971 (0)50 4787 122


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Second tiger drama for Australia Zoo after handler 'falls'
A TIGER handler was reportedly knocked to the ground at Australia Zoo in a show on Friday afternoon in what has been described as the second scare for the Sunshine Coast tourist attraction in a month.

Seven News reported on the drama but the Zoo was yet to issue any formal statement.

A witness told Seven that "every adult stood and child gasped" after the male tiger apparently "pounced" on the handler.

Zoo keepers reportedly had to help the handler out of the enclosure.

Australia Zoo told Seven the tiger keeper 'fell and is fine'.

One witness Adam Dew tweeted about the drama with a hashtag of tiger island and a picture.

Tiger Island is Dreamworld's tiger enclosure on the Gold Coast.

The picture looked as though it was from Australia Zoo, however.

Last month, senior handler David Styl

Jersey Durrell staff aim to save tortoises with tattoos
An expert from Jersey's Durrell Wildlife Park has been helping protect critically endangered tortoises from smugglers by marking their shells.

It is estimated there are only 400 ploughshare tortoises left in the wild in Madagascar.

They are sought after as exotic pets and because of their high domed shells.

The Jersey vet flew to Singapore Zoo and engraved identifying codes on to tortoise shells to reduce their value on the black market.

At the Tattoo the Tortoise event, Durrell's Malagasy veterinary officer Tsanta Fiderana was responsible for engraving the shells of the rare reptiles.

Mark Brayshaw, head of animal collection at Durrell, said: "We are facing a huge challenge to prevent the ploughshare tortoise from being lost forever in the wild due to smuggling for the pet trade.

"With continued commitment from the local communities, the Malagasy Government and the international conservation community we can protect the tortoise's habitat and halt the illegal trafficking."

Ploughshare tortoises are being bred at Singapore Zoo to establish an "assurance colony".

This would ensure their survival in the ev

Last remaining Madagascan fish discovered following worldwide appeal
Aquarists at ZSL London Zoo are celebrating the phenomenal success of a worldwide appeal to find a female mate for a critically-endangered cichlid species – after a small population was found in remote Madagascar.
The Mangarahara cichlid (Ptychochromis insolitus) was believed to be lost in the wild due to intense deforestation and river diversions created for rice farming and agriculture drying up its native habitat of the Mangarahara River in Madagascar (pictured above) and two of the last known individuals — both male — were residing in ZSL London Zoo’s Aquarium.

After launching a desperate appeal in May 2013, hundreds of private aquarium owners, fish collectors, and scientists got in touch with the Zoo’s Aquarium Curator, Brian Zimmerman, to offer up advice, support and suggestions.

One of those to respond to the appeal was a farm and business owner in Madagascar, who recognised the fish as one he’d seen in a secluded north-Madagascan town.

An exploratory expedition was arranged with vital support from HM Ambassador in the British Embassy of Madagascar, so that, along with aquarists from Toronto Zoo

15 zoos in the country to be closed
More than 15 zoos in the country will be closed down, as these zoos lack proper facilities and are not fit to be continued, said B S Bonal, Member Secretary, Central Zoo Authority, here on Monday.

He was delivering the key-note address at a five day all India zoo directors workshop organised by Ministry of Environment of Forests, Central Zoo Authority (CZA), Zoo Authority of Karnataka and Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens.

There were around 500 zoos in the country, before CZA was established. After CZA took shape, the numbers came down to 195, out of which 95 per cent are with the forest department. The priority of zoos have changed from entertainment to conservation, he said.

“In the West, linking between ex-situ and in-situ conservation sites (such as zoos) are difficult, as zoos are not managed by the Forest department. Even though, such linkage is successful in India, we still have a long way to go in emulating the success of conservation seen in zoos of the West,” he said.

Even though CZA has closed more than 300 zoos in the country in the past, there are several applications to open new zoos in the country. “Despite the growing number of applications, no zoo can be established without consent from CZA and an order by the Supreme Court of India,” he s

Poachers Are Using Scientific Papers to Guide Them to Their Next Victims
When scientists publish a paper on a particular species, they’re generally not imagining that they’re helping out poachers. But that’s exactly what’s happening for some scientists. According to Laurel Neme at Mongabay, scientists discovering a new species have been inadvertently contributing to wildlife trading. Take the story of Bryan Stuart, who has discovered 27 different species of newts:

Shortly after Stuart described the previously unknown species Laotriton (Paramesotriton) laoensis in a scientific paper published in 2002, commercial dealers began collecting this Lao newt for sale into the pet trade. In essence, the dealers used Stuart’s geographic description in the paper as a “roadmap” to find the rare newt.

Collectors came from all over to the two tiny streams where Stuart found the newt and began illegally collecting the critters and selling them for over $250 a pop. And Neme says that Stuart’s story isn’t even that uncommon:

This situation is not unique. It’s also happened with a turtle (Chelodina mccordi) from the small Indonesian island of Roti, which was so heavily hunted that today it is nearly extinct in the wild. Similarly, a rare gecko (Goniuros

Mongolia’s mini zoo makes an appearance in Darkhan
Darkhan residents had a busy weekend at Zaluuchuud Theatre. Starting on Friday, Mongolia’s mini zoo made a three day appearance at the city’s theatre with 40 animals, and on Sunday evening, the weekend came to a more glamorous close with a concert by Mongolian diva, Sarantuya and special guest musicians.
Mongolia’s mini zoo was once located in Buddha Park in Ulaanbaatar. Prior to its location in Zaisan, it was located in Central Stadium. Last Spring, the UB Post featured an interview with the zoo’s founder, L.Sainbat, as he was hoping to open his zoo for the summer. At the time of the interview, the zoo was facing eviction and asking for government support to maintain their facilities and continue operations.
The zoo was unable to make a permanent home in Zaisan, but L.Sainbat continues to take his animals around the country to share with provinces that rarely see many of these species of birds, mammals and reptiles up close.
The mini zoo is a combination of domesticated and wild animals. Most of the wild animals are indigenous species that L.Sainbat was able to rescue, or were brought to him with injuries for rehabilitation. They have been rehabilitated, but are no longer able to survive in the wild, and now travel with the zoo to educate visitors and give them an up close look at the unique wildlife that Mongolia is home to. The domesticated animals are mostly pets that were abandoned.
When the zoo isn’t on the road, the animals live with keepers in Darkhan-Uul and Umnugovi provinces, and in Yarmag in Ulaanbaatar. Finding a permanent home for the zoo’s animals remains a challenge, due to the financial burden of building a facility that can provide year-round accommodations for the wide variety of animals and grounds suitably located for attracting a steady stream of visitors.
The cost of admission has remained 2,500 MNT for adults and 2,000 MNT for children, and the opportunity to purchase photo souvenirs taken with the zoo’s Golden Eagle and reindeer was also available. The proceeds from the zoo go back into the costs for feeding and keeping the animals.
The zoo was set up in a second floor hallway of the theatre, and saw a constant stream of visitors once local schools had closed for the day.  The first two animals on display were the Golden Eagle and a very friendly reindeer – both indigenous to Mongolia. As promised, over 40 animals were on view. Uncommonly bred domesticated ducks, turkeys and guinea hens were on view, as were wild pheasants. The domesticated rabbits sharing the display area with the ducks were friendly, and eager to meet visitors, as were the guinea pigs, and white kittens. Even these animals, more familiar as pets, were crowd-pleasers for both younger and older visitors. Each animal’s enclosure had a placard that gave the name of the animal in Mongolian and English, and some information about its species.
Behind a small fence that kept visitors from being able to reach in and touch them, in the corner of the theatre’s long hallway, were two adult wolves lazily watching the crowd. L.Sainbat sa

Mammoth proposal: An elephant reserve in Tehama County
Group pitches elephant reserve in Tehama County
A group of philanthropists and animal researchers believe Tehama County would be the ideal location for - of all things - an elephant reserve.

Representatives from the Oakland Zoo and Ndovo Foundation shared their vision Thursday at a Tehama County Planning Commission meeting of a 4,900-acre facility that at peak capacity would house around 50 African elephants.

The proposed site would be at Diamond Ranch, located northwest of Bowman Road, about 1,400 feet north of State Route 36W within the unincorporated area of northern Tehama County.

The proposal includes several accessory uses such as a large barn, housing quarters for research and security personnel, out buildings, specialized fencing, feed storage areas, veterinary services and internal and external education and research facilities.

Don't expect Earth's largest terrestrial animal to begin roaming Tehama's rolling hills anytime soon.

The project's leaders said the entire plan would be developed in three phases that would take between 50-100 years to compete.

Roger McNamee, a founding member of the Ndovo Foundation, said it would take at least three years of planning and construction before the reserve was ready to house its first elephant.

The reserve would then begin with a handful of elephants that would take up just a small portion of the Diamond Ranch property, abou

Sanctuary "Solutions"
I had a coworker once who used to intern at a big cat rescue in Texas.  She used to talk all the time about “the sanctuary”, getting misty eyed with nostalgia.  Sure, the staff were psychos who treated the interns like dirt.  Sure, there was never enough money for even the basics.  Oh, and sure, the owner/operator insisted on going in with many of the cats, resulting in at least one mauling (after which the cat involved was killed).  But you got to work with big cats!  And it was better than a zoo… it was a SANCTUARY!

Click on any news article about zoos and scroll to the comments section.  Seek out the animal rights folks clamoring for an end to zoos.  They will generally offer one of two solutions – release the animals back into the wild (and we all know how well that will work out), or send them to “sanctuaries.”  To respond properly to the second suggestion, I feel that I must quote from The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means…”

Despite the noble-sounding title, defining a sanctuary can be incredibly difficult.  Some of them are just what the name would suggest – havens for animals that have been rescued from homes where they were mistreated, abused, neglected, or were otherwise not receiving proper care.  These are the good ones.  Others are simply animal hoarders who like to collect cats, primates, or other exotic pets.  Some are shady zoos with skilled marketers. Others are worse still.  They breed animals (something a true sanctuary would not do), sell them to high bidders (thus worsening, not alleviating the problem

FMT does its part to protect Sun Bears
FreeMalaysiaToday (FMT) today joined forces with a Sabah-based conservation group – Borneo Sun Bears Conservation Centre (BSBCC) – to launch a four-month campaign to save Sun Bears in Sepilok.
The campaign, aimed at raising funds for the Sun Bear conservation programme in Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve near Sandakan will run until April10, next year.
“We are proud to be part of this campaign to protect the Sun Bears,” FMT editor-in-chief K Kabilan said.
FMT also announced its expansion to cover Borneo with more in-depth reporting with the launch of its sister site FMT Borneo Plus.
Kabilan said FMT Borneo Plus will be a dedicated news portal catering for Sabah, Sarawak and other parts of Borneo and its periphery.
“FMT Borneo Plus will officially go online Jan 15, next year,” he added.
He said FMT Borneo Plus will start a series of articles on conservation efforts in Sabah and Sarawak as well as invite readers to support the cause by donating directly to the Borneo Sun Bears Conservation Centre.
“We are having a two day soft launch exercise in Kabili-Sepilok and

Perhilitan still ignoring Johor Zoo
In February this year Malaysian Friends of the Animals exposed cruelty to sunbears in one of Malaysia’s worst zoos, the Johor Zoo. Prior to that, Shirley the orangutan made headlines around the world when she was photographed smoking cigarettes, many times over. While Abu, another orangutan at this horrific zoo, spent most of his days caged.
While Shirley was taken out of her hell Johor Zoo’s chimpanzees are still spending their daily lives in boredom and at the mercy of visitors. We have previously highlighted the problem of the chimps begging for food from the public, but Perhilitan never took action.
We recently received pictures from a concerned supporter and they proved the problem of public junk food feeding of the chimps is still ongoing. Infact one visitor was seen trying to get the chimps to smoke a cigarette. Isn’t this a violation of the new law which Perhilitan was boastful about?
Let’s not forget Johor Zoo were also exposed for abusing a baby elephant called Paloh in 2011, and it took a campaign to force Perhilitan to confiscate her and another elephant form the zoo. The elephant enclosure at Johor Zoo is still not suitabl

Recommendations for zoos and animal parks after Dalu Mcube inquest
A coroner has recommended that the Government look at new regulations surrounding the operations of zoos and animal parks after a big cat handler was mauled to death at Whangarei's Zion Wildlife Gardens.

Dalubuhle Ncube, also known as Clifford Dalu MnCube, died after being mauled by a male tiger named Abu after he and fellow handler Martin Ferreira had entered its enclosure to clean it on May 27, 2009.

After holding an inquest into the death in June this year, Northland Coroner Brandt Shortland today released his formal findings.
Mr Shortland said the inquest had illustrated the complexity of the legislative framework and regulatory bodies required to work with parks like Zion and others, with three different legislations and various bodies involved.

"It is complex and difficult,"; Mr Shortland said.

"Evidence provided by Dr Barry Ward and Howard Hamilton (a specialist advisors from the Ministry of Primary Industries) suggested in my view a realignment or reconsideration of the regulatory framework in making the workings of the law a lot easier to administer and comply with. What is required is a better inter-agency alignment.

"As Dr Ward submitted the Biosecurity Act and the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act are proactively enforced while the Animal Welfare Act and Health and Safety in Employment Act are reactively enforced."

He also endorsed the review of the zoo industry guidelines in that zoos or parks like Zion should be required to comply with guidelines covering relevant aspects of containment, animal welfare, and health and safety prior to receiving approval to hold and display animals and that this be proactively audited on a regular basis.

"Regulatory reform should be considered on a number of levels from changes to existing legislation to potentially forming new legislation," MR Shortland said.

"At the inquest it was submitted (zoo industry stakeholders) believed the previous legislation, prior to the HANSO Act, the Zoological Gardens REgulations 1997 (repealed in July 2003) was more

Fatal tiger attack 'points to flaws in zoo management'
A South China tiger's fatal attack on a keeper at the Shanghai Zoo on Tuesday morning exposes shortcomings in the zoo's management, experts said.

Human error always lies behind such tragedies, an expert said, as authorities investigate how the veteran keeper Zhou Jianhua came to be mauled to death by the 9-year-old cat at the zoo's breeding site, a section closed to the public.

"Every zoo in China has its own operational standards on how to keep wild animals," said Tian Xiuhua, a council member of the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens. "No casualties would happen if a zoo's managers and workers strictly followed the rules."

However, the tragedy does not necessarily mean the overall management levels at Chinese zoos are lower than in other parts of the world, she added. Zoos in more developed regions, including Los Angeles and Taiwan, have also reported animal attacks on people.

According to the Shanghai Zoo, Zhou was attacked at about 10:30 am on Tuesday. The 57-year-old Shanghai native, a keeper for almost 30 years, was killed by the South China tiger, which was bred and born at the zoo and has given birth to several cubs.

Zhou's colleagues found him dead on the floor of the tiger's cage during lunchtime after realizing he had been missing all morning.

"Zhou might have forgotten to close the door after cleaning the tiger's cage," said a director at the zoo's breeding department named Tu.

Medical workers pronounced Zhou dead at the scene.

Zhou and another zookeeper had been taking care of the tiger for several years since it reached adulthood, Tu said. The tiger has lived its whole life in the zoo, Tu said.

The animal will not be killed or punished, zoo officials said, but will remain in its usual place.

This is the second time an animal has killed a keeper at the Shanghai Zoo. In 2010, a Bengal tiger killed its keeper a

Killer tiger moved to isolated area in zoo
A SOUTH China tiger that mauled an animal keeper to death on Tuesday will be kept isolated from the others for the rest of its life, the Shanghai Zoo said yesterday.

The tiger has been kept in isolation since the incident.

The South China tigers fall under critically endangered category and cannot be killed, the zoo said. Besides, according to the Chinese law, human beings who raise animals should bear responsibility when they hurt people. The nine-year-old male tiger has sired cubs.

The breeding area where the incident happened did not have video surveillance cameras or alarm facilities because it was supposed to be dismantled and rebuilt under a relocation plan.

Tu Rongxiu, director of the zoo’s feeding division, said the area would have been reconstructed and installed with security facilities but delayed them because of relocation plans. The park has strengthened safety patrols, fixed cages, and checked fa

Only 195, of India’s 500 zoos, made the cut: CZA
B.S. Bonal, Member-Secretary, Central Zoo Authority (CZA), New Delhi, on Monday said 15 zoos in the country were being shifted from their present locations to places that offered natural habitats for housing animals and birds, in accordance to the CZA guidelines. 
Out of 500 zoos in the country, only 195 zoos that got CZA recognition were functioning; the rest had been shut down, he added. 
Speaking at the inauguration of the All-India Zoo Directors’ Workshop, held on the theme ‘Zoos — window to biodiversity, organised by the CZA and hosted by the Mysore zoo here, Mr. Bonal said 90 per cent of the CZA-recognised zoos were controlled by the Department of Forests. There is a need for linkage between in-situ and ex-situ conservation, he added. 
Mr. Bonal said animals from zoos which were “unfit” to function could be transferred to some other zoos that have natural surrounding for displaying them. 
Indian zoos attract nearly five crore visitors annually. They play a key role in biodiversity conservation, spreading the much-needed awareness among visitors. 
All zoos must function in accordance with the National Zoo Policy of CZA, Mr. Bonal said. The focus of zoos has shifted from entertainment to wildlife conservation; zoos must emphasise on providing enriching enclosures and premises and a forest-like ambience for visitors. 
Inaugurating the workshop, Minister for Forests and Environment B. Ramanath Rai stressed the need for stepping up conservation efforts. 
So far, conservation activities have helped improve the number of elephants and tigers in our forests. “Wildlife protection must be our prime agenda, and some serious thoughts are necessary to achieve our goals.” Commending the Mysore zoo’s conservation work, Mr. Rai said it [Mysore zoo] was one of the country’s prestigious zoos successfully playing the key role in biodiversity conservation. 
Minister in-charge of Mysore district V. Srinivas Prasad suggested that steps be taken to facilitate more animal exchanges with foreign zoos for enriching animal collections. 
Efforts should be made to bring a companion for Polo, the lone male gorilla at Mysore zoo, he added. 
Presiding over the function was M.K. Somashekar, MLA, urged Mr. Prasad to ensure the handover of a plot of land belonging to the Mysore City Corpora

Is this Europe's most interesting zoo?
You've seen elephants, hippos and bears, but never in a setting like the Budapest Zoo
A zoo doesn’t sound like the obvious place to start an architecture tour. 
Yet by a happy quirk of fate, when Budapest Zoo was given a makeover in 1910, some of the best architects in town were hired for the job. 
That’s why it has some of the most striking buildings in a city already renowned for its architecture. 
So one of the finest collections of animals in the region is held in a setting with few rivals anywhere in Europe -- two good reasons to visit. 
Another reason is that the zoo, just off Heroes Square behind the Museum of Fine Arts, is a haven of calm in the city. 
Stepping through its monumental gateway, with great stone elephants supporting an archway topped with a ring of polar bears, you’re immediately surrounded by a curtain of tall trees offering enticing glimpses of what lies beyond.

Rare white lions born in Tbilisi zoo
None exist in nature anymore, says zoo chief Zurab Gurielidze.
A litter of rare white lion cubs was born Monday in a zoo in the Georgian capital Tbilisi. 
According to the zoo, four cubs were initially born on December 10 but one died shortly afterwards. This is not rare in multiple-birth litters. 
The surviving cubs, two males and one female, were separated from their mother shortly after birth. They are now being looked after 24 hours a day and are being bottle-fed by handlers. 
The zoo's director said it was a very special moment. "White lions were born in Tbilisi Zoo a few days ago. It's a very important event - as any animal birth in a zoo is an important event. And especially when it's about a rare breed of an animal like the white lion," Zura

Gorilla Polo still solo, waits for a mate
It appears it’s not only people  who have a hard time finding soul mates, but  gorillas too.  India’s only gorilla, Polo, who lost his mate Sumati in 2000, has had a  checkered love life since.
Now 50, Polo is lonely and his stress levels are rising, according to  his keepers at the Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens in Mysore.
A Western lowland gorilla, Polo was gifted as a mate for Sumati to the zoo on May 12, 1995. Sumati and her first mate,  Sugriva  were brought to Mysore in 1977 and soon became a star attraction.But Sugriva died within a year of his arrival and in the 80s Israel gifted a male gorilla, Bobo to replace  him.
But it too did not live long. Polo, who  arrived in 1995 is clearly unlucky in  love as Sumati reportedly did not find him "perfect " and later died of cardiac arrest on October 4, 2000. The zoo authorities have hunted for a mate for Polo for years now, but have met with failure every time.
In 2009, the Mysore zoo had almost convinced the Gorilla Foundation, a US non-profit corporation dedicated to the protection and well-being of gorillas to find him a mate, but the deal did not go through.
At the inauguration of the five-day All India Zoo Directors' Workshop  organised by the Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens in collaboration with the Central Zoo Authority (CZA), New Delhi,  Mysore district-in-charge minister V. Srinivas Prasad  made a rather emotional appeal to the gathering to find a mate for Polo. A special request has also now been made to the Leipzig Zoo in Germany to find the lonely gorilla a companion.
According to official records, there are around 850 gorillas housed in 100 zoos around the world with a male-female ratio of 1:2. The Howletts Zoo Park in England has  the highest number , 43 (nine mal

Rebuttal: A Stronger Case for SeaWorld
I would like to thank those who took the time to comment on my previous blog post, as it allows for scholarly debate. In regards to the comment that my earlier post sounded like a public relations statement for SeaWorld, I would like to point to the title of the article, in particular “A Case for SeaWorld“, and to the fact that I am in no way affiliated with SeaWorld. This article was intended to provide a different side of the story than that portrayed in the documentary film Blackfish, which was an extremely one-sided piece of propaganda. 
The death of Dawn Brancheau was a true tragedy. The world lost a very passionate, and accomplished woman who was a pioneer in the field of marine research and an integral part of SeaWorld’s mission to bring the wonder and awe of marine life to those who visit SeaWorld parks. After Dawn’s death, The Dawn Brancheau Foundation was founded in memory of Dawn by her family. The Foundation’s website provides a detailed outline of Dawn’s lifelong dream to become a whale trainer at SeaWorld and that Dawn “left this world doing what she loved.” Unfortunately, Blackfish exploits the death of this wonderful woman by portraying Dawn’s work with orca whales as appalling and horrific, but this is not the case 
Anthony Kaufman, a freelance journalist who has written for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Chicago Tribune, mocked Blackfish for its obvious sensationalism. The one-sidedness of the documentary is exemplified when the film “opens with a sensationalistic emergency call, which recounts how a trainer was eaten by a killer whale…In one manipulative moment, trainers recount an incident in which a mother orca was separated from her offspring, and then emitted a kind of wailing sound. Her shrieking cries are then simulated on the soundtrack for extra effect.” Kaufman further states that “there’s also something unseemly in the tactics employed by Blackfish, whether it’s teary-eyed testimonials from suffering loved ones or sensationalistic tales of death…[the film is] full of ominous undertones and heavy dramatic beats—also displays a lack of subtlety, as do freeze frame images of SeaWorld representatives leaving a courtroom, which makes them look like mob bosses caught in surveillance photos. And the film’s sentimental, strangely cheery coda, in which the trainers rejoice in the wonders of witnessing free Willies while on a whale-watching expedition, is less affecting than affected.” 
It is true that orca whale behavior is not 100% predictable, but given a large enough sampling size (the millions of whale shows SeaWorld performs), SeaWorld can predict with reasonable certainty how many interaction may result in some type of injury.  As mentioned in the original article, that risk of injury is roughly .0012%. A preceding comment mentioned that my calculations were incorrect because “There have been more than 100 potentially injurious interactions at SeaWorld parks alone.” I would like to point out that in the Secretary of Labor in his brief to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit stated that there have been 100 incidents of whale aggression from in a 20 year time span. 
SeaWorld has implemented significant safety precautions within the past 20 years, and the vast majority of the documented whale aggression occurred towards the beginning of that 20-year period. Additionally, the recorded incidents of whale aggression do not necessarily correlate with aggression during trainer-whale interaction. Furthermore, the Secretary of Labor corroborates my .0012% chance of injury calculation by admitting that between the years of 1989-2009 only 11 injuries resulted from a trainer-whale interaction (the death of Dawn Brancheau adds to make a total of 12 injuries). It is unfair to try and impute any other trainer-whale related injuries to SeaWorld occurring at other marine parks, such as Loro Parque, which do not have facilities nor training requirements nearly to the caliber of SeaWorld. The poor condition of the whale facilities and training is not disputed in Blackfish. 
A previous comment also mentioned “When you actually look at the number of individual whales who have been involved in these dozens of negative interactions, it comes out to at least two dozen different whales. That is, more than 10% of all the orcas ever held in captivity anywhere have been involved in at least one negative interaction (minor to serious injury/death of trainer). Just looking at SeaWorld whales, it’s more like 25%”. This method of calculation is flawed. For example, if one were to calculate the risk involved with flying on an Airbus 320 aircraft and compared the percentage of engine failures of Airbus 320 planes to the total amount of Airbus 320’s, that percentage would not t reflect the true risk one is exposed to for flying on an Airbus 320 aircraft. Instead, one should compare the percentage of engine failures on Airbus 320 aircrafts to the total amount of flights flown on an Airbus 320 aircraft. Airbus currently has approximately 5,000 Airbu
buttal: A Stronger Case for SeaWorld

Blackfish / White Lies? (Pt. 1): Sorry, I Forgot To Mention, They're All Activists
Former Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court William Rhenquist wrote these words nearly 30 years ago.  They are as true in the Court of Public Opinion as they are in a court of law.  Blackfish has a lot of “testimony” that is presented without any hint of potential bias – quite the opposite actually.  Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite strongly suggests the outright credibility of most of the people who appear in the film.  After all, who better to speak about what is going on with SeaWorld’s whales than a bunch of ex-trainers who spent years working with them?  Who better to explain the science behind orca behavior and biology than experts in the field and a neuroscientist who has studied the brain of a killer whale up close?  Since Blackfish provides no background on any of these individuals, other than what is necessary to establish their credibility, the “jury” in the Court of Public Opinion is left with nothing to assess the true credibility of their “testimony.”  In a court of law, questions of bias are raised through cross examination.  Similarly, in true journalistic pieces, the journalist “cross examines” his or her source by, for example, playing the “devil’s advocate” and challenging them to explain, debunk, or address potential sources of bias.  Cross examination and journalistic honesty are vital tools that allow the audience to decide for themselves whether what is being said is “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”  But in Blackfish, there is no “cross examination” of the "witnesses" the "jury" is expected to believe.  Consequently, it is easy to view Blackfish as telling its story though an objective lens.  But that’s

Giza Zoo in Cairo is beset by poverty, tear gas and suspicious animal deaths
The giraffe committed suicide, an Egyptian newspaper reported. And the government pulled a former zoo director out of retirement to deal with the resulting media storm. 
“The problem is with the press,” Nabil Sedki said on a recent afternoon, taking a deep drag on his cigarette as he settled into a giraffe-patterned armchair in his office. He was five days into the job. “The media fabricated the suicide.”
The deceased animal in question was a 3-year-old giraffe named Roqa, who, Sedki said, inadvertently hung herself in early December after getting tangled in a wire inside her enclosure. 
The state has launched three separate investigations — one purely forensic, another by the government’s official veterinary body and a third by a legal committee — “to see who will hang instead of the giraffe,” Sedki said with a wry laugh. 
Zoos are prone to bad publicity, especially when something goes wrong. The government-run Giza Zoo, in the heart of Egypt’s chaotic capital, may be particularly susceptible, given the country’s floundering economy, the tumult of nearby political demonstrations and an overall poor track record in animal care. 
In May, three black bears died in a single night under mysterious circumstances. Zoo authorities called it a bear “riot.” In 2007 and again in 2008, local media reported that zookeepers were slaughtering the camels for meat — to eat themselves, an

Bangkok's Zoo Animals at Center of Protests
Keepers Warn Animals are Frightened by Nearby Demonstrations
Protesters in Bangkok's streets, blowing whistles and drawing clouds of tear gas from police in recent weeks, have upset sensitive deer and tigers at the city's zoo, what had been an island of peace in Thailand's chaotic capital city. 
"We tried to explain that the whistles could make the tigers panic and maybe jump over the hedge and escape into the open," said Wisid Wichasilp, the zoo's deputy director. In a subsequent promenade past the compound, protesters shushed each other to keep their whistles down.
Deer are especially sensitive to the stress, says Kachon Subsatien, a 45-year-old keeper. The herd of delicate Axis deer, whose brown coats are decorated with white spots, descend from animals donated at the zoo's opening by King Ananda Mahidol, late elder brother of current monarch King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who turned 86 on Dec. 5.
"Deer panic when they see strangers,'' Mr. Kachon said. "Their ears will keep moving when large crowds are around. They can tell the difference between the zoo keeper's voice and a stranger's voice. When they think something is wrong, they will be aware of it and are ready to move.'' 
In one instance last month, riot police rushed to block demonstrators clamoring outside the zoo entrance, hoping to use it as a shortcut to the parliament building. But the police unknowingly began stomping through a pen of deer, shields, boots and all. The terrified creatures darted in all directions. 
Mr. Kachon said the police cooperated on their way out by tiptoeing past the enclosure, but the zoo keeper had to keep the water sprinkler on for almost two hours afterward to calm the deer down. The deer find the spray cooling and refreshing, he said. 
Staff grew worried when they realized one of the females was about to give birth as protests spiked again two weeks ago. They closely watched the pregnant deer as she walked more tentatively around the pen. The moment the f

Endangered crayfish project is a success in Cornwall
A CONSERVATION project aimed at protecting endangered white-clawed crayfish has been celebrating success after moving 4,000 of the creatures to safe havens.
The South West Crayfish Project was launched in 2008 and aims to protect the UK’s only native crayfish which was under threat of extinction in the south west due to the spread of the non-native American signal crayfish.
Under the project the creatures have been moved to safe haven Ark sites – including one in Cornwall.
The project is led by charity Buglife and also involves Avon Wildlife Trust, Bristol Zoo Gardens and the Environment Agency.
As well as moving the crayfish to protected sites the project has also
- surveyed our remaining wild crayfish populations and assessed the threats to them
- bred over 1,300 White-clawed crayfish at an innovative captive breeding programme at Bristol Zoo
- taught over 1,600 school children about the White-clawed crayfish and the wildlife in their local rivers.
- monitored the spread of North American Signal crayfish on many of our rivers.
However, despite the success of the project the crayfish continues to be under threat and, as a result, a new five-year strategy has been drawn up so that the work can continue.
Andrew Whitehouse, south west manager for Buglife, said: “The South West Crayfish Project has ensured that the region’s White-clawed crayfish have a brighter future, and is a great example of how a large number of organisations can work together to save some of our most threatened species. We look forward to the next phase of the project and to checking on our crayfish next year to see how they are getting on in their new Ark site homes.”
Lydia Robbins, species officer at Avon Wildlife Trust said: “We hope that by moving animals to Ark sites we have prevented highly threatened p

The Silent Crisis: Vietnam’s Elephants on the Verge of Extinction
As the slaughter of the remaining elephants in Africa continues without interruption, elephants in Vietnam—without media attention and a pack of NGOs calling for their protection—are quietly disappearing. 
Victim of an intensely and increasingly fragmented habitat, weak environmental laws, human-elephant conflicts, logging, and poaching, elephants in Vietnam are teetering on extinction. 
According to some reports, there were approximately 1,500 to 2,000 elephants in 1980. Today they may number as few as 70. 
“The situation is extremely grim,” says Barney Long, Director of the Species Program at World Wildlife Fund (WWF). “They’re right on the edge. And it will take a lot for them to recover. Not only a huge conservation shift but a huge cultural shift as well.” 
Long spent a number of years working for WWF in Vietnam and says that in general the country “hasn’t demonstrated a real commitment to conservation. It has made some very bold statements, and it has done a good job of setting up some protected areas. But those protected areas in terms of elephants are way too small and the management of them is very ineffective.” 
According to Cao Thi Ly, head of the Department of Forest Resource and Environment Management (FREM) at Tay Nguyen University in Vietnam, elephants live in eight or nine patches of forest around the country, including on the borders of Laos and Cambodia. 
According to a 2012 report by Ly, Vietnam’s remaining elephants are extremely isolated. 
In some provinces, such as Nghe An, six to ten elephants roam on one piece of land. 
In other provinces, Son La or Lam Dong, for instance, there are even fewer: only one or two individuals. Their habitat is highly fragmented, and few, if any, corridors connect these patches. 
Biologically, the elephant herds are made up almost entirely of related females, Long explains. “So even if Vietnam could get the landscape scale and population plan sorted out, they would still have a problem of genetics. Apart from the populations that mix with the Laos and Cambodia herds, the remnant and isolated herds are exactly that. In the long term, their genetic viability is to be questioned.” 
Long says that currently no international NGOs are working specifically to save wild elephants in Vietnam. 
Meenakshi Nagendran is a wildlife biologist and Program Officer with the Asian Elephant Conservation Fund at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). When asked if 70 elephants is a viable population, she said it could be: “If Vietnam has 70 elephants, and the country were to actually to protect habitat and create corridors, the number could bounce back.” 
How Many Elephants Are There? 
Nagendran is quick to point out that she’s not sure if the number 70 is accurate. “We do not know if they really even have 70 wild elephants. There are lots of unknowns.” 
When it comes to getting exact data, she said, Vietnam is something of a “gray hole. Not a black hole but a gray hole. This information is not confirmed by many—a lot of NGOs say there are only 10 to 15 wild elephants left in Vietnam.” 
Ly said that collecting information is challenging and that “insufficient data are given.” 
The elephant is now listed as  “critically endangered” in the Red Data Book of Vietnam. The country is a signatory of CITES, which means that “all exporting and importing of elephants and products for commercial purposes are prohibited.” 
However, CITES in March 2013 also identified Vietnam as one of the eight primary source, transit, or consumer countries in the current illegal ivory trade.
 In October, two massive ivory seizures occurred in Vietnam. In one, 2.4 tons of tusks were hidden inside bags of seashells, and in both cases, the ivory was imported from Malaysia. 
A Positive Step? 
Officials in Dong Nai province recently announced a 3.5-million-dollar emergency fund to help protect elephants and strengthen law enforcement in the area. 
“This is a fantastic statement,” Lon

Elephants in danger
How the illegal ivory trade now threatens them with extinction in the wild
At the beginning of the 20th century, there were 10 million wild elephants in Africa. Today, their numbers hover around 400,000. And the Wildlife Conservation Society estimates elephants are being slaughtered by poachers for their ivory at the rate of 96 a day.
"They are taking the big bulls, the breeding bulls. They are taking the matriarchs and the older females. The ones in the herd that have all the knowledge and all the information on how to get to water holes, and where the feeding areas are," said the Pittsburgh Zoo's elephant manager, Willie Theison.

Theison oversees Pittsburgh's flourishing African elephant herd, which has several young elephants, a matriarch and two breeding females.

The Pittsburgh Zoo's breeding bull, Jackson, is one of the most prolific bulls in captivity in North America. He is now at the zoo's second breeding facility, the International Conservation Center. Jackson is slated to breed with one of three female elephants rescued from Botswana. The government had ordered them to be killed, and the zoo here stepped in and flew them all the way to the ICC from South Africa.

And there is a pressing reason for this.

"Heaven forbid, if there are no elephants left in the wild. If we lost the captive populations of elephants, then we have no chance of reintroducing animals to depopulated areas in Africa," said Pittsburgh Zoo CEO Dr. Barbara Baker.

The threat is real. The international ivory trade has come to resemble the international drug trade. Last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service destroyed six tons of ivory seized, to highlight the escalating global poaching crisis which is driven by organized crime syndicates.

The demand for ivory has never been higher. That demand is fueled in large part by a growing middle class in China.  Ivory objects have been an important part

Seven Distinct African Crocodile Species, Not Just Three, Biologists Show
African crocodiles, long thought of as just three known species, are among the most iconic creatures on that continent. But recent University of Florida research now finds that there are at least seven distinct African crocodile species.
The UF team's latest discovery, led by then-doctoral candidate Matthew H. Shirley, is that what had been believed to be a single species of slender-snouted crocodile, is actually two.
The findings, which have major implications for policy-makers and conservationists, are outlined in a paper published online last week by Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
The results emphasize how little is known about crocodile biogeography, or how species are distributed geographically over time, in Western and Central Africa, said Jim Austin, a co-author on the paper and Shirley's doctoral adviser at UF.
In the paper, Shirley and his team describe that West African populations of the slender-snouted crocodile do not share the same genetic or specific physical features as those populations in Central Africa -- and they estimate the two populations have been separated from each other geographically for at least 7 million years.
Biologists and conservation agencies need to know the precise taxonomy of animals and plants to avoid allocating precious conservation funding and effort working to protect species that may be more plentiful than believed, or -- as in this case -- ensuring that those resources can be directed toward species whose numbers are lower than believed.
Now that researchers know the West African slender-snouted crocodile is not the same species as its Central African cousin, Shirley said, that changes its standing.
"The West African slender-snouted crocodile is actually among the three or four most endangered crocodiles in the world," Shirley wrote in an email last week. "By finally recognizing that it is a unique species, we are in a much better position to advance its conservation and ensure its future."
Shirley likened the plight of the West African slender-snouted croc to the American alligator, which was on the cusp of extinction in the 1960s, but because it was protected, can now be easily observed in nature, be legally harvested at times, and helps drive Florida's tourism economy.
In Africa, crocodiles are traded and consumed as bush meat, making them a significant protein source for residents. They also play a major role at the top of the food pyramid, with significant influence on fish and crustraceans, much as lions control antelope populations.
"If we remove them from the ecosystem, then there may be profound effects on fisheries resources in the future," he wrote.
Crocodile species are often difficult to identify by physical characteristics alone. Most non-scientists can barely tell the difference between an alligator and a crocodile, in fact. So to bolster their genetic

Zoos through the Lens of the IUCN Red List: A Global Metapopulation Approach to Support Conservation Breeding Programs
Given current extinction trends, the number of species requiring conservation breeding programs (CBPs) is likely to increase dramatically. To inform CBP policies for threatened terrestrial vertebrates, we evaluated the number and representation of threatened vertebrate species on the IUCN Red List held in the ISIS zoo network and estimated the complexity of their management as metapopulations. Our results show that 695 of the 3,955 (23%) terrestrial vertebrate species in ISIS zoos are threatened. Only two of the 59 taxonomic orders show a higher proportion of threatened species in ISIS zoos than would be expected if species were selected at random. In addition, for most taxa, the management of a zoo metapopulation of more than 250 individuals will require the coordination of a cluster of 11 to 24 ISIS zoos within a radius of 2,000 km. Thus, in the zoo network, the representation of species that may require CBPs is currently low and the spatial distribution of these zoo populations makes management difficult. Although the zoo community may have the will and the logistical potential to contribute to conservation actions, including CBPs, to do so will require greater collaboration between zoos and other institutions, alongside the development of international agreements that facilitate cross-border movement of zoo animals. To maximize the effectiveness of integrated conservation actions that include CBPs, it is fundamental that the non-zoo conservation community acknowledges and integrates the expertise and facilities of zoos where it can be helpful.

Celebrating Plants and the Planet:                                        
Winter holidays can’t help but celebrate plants.  December’s news links at (NEWS/Botanical News) offer seasonal plant news and a few holiday treats:
·        One day will Christmas Oaks grace the living room? New report lists more than a third of the world’s conifer species as threatened.

·        As frankincense trees are torn out cleared for farmland, researchers want farmers to know a more reliable living  can be made from the trees than from farming. We Three Kings as financial advisors.

·        Mistletoe seed dispersal is a marvel. That birds are dispersers is well known. But for some mistletoe species, marsupials are the preferred transport.

·        Another blow to neat and tidy explanations. Coevolution is not as basic as we were told. But you have to look to the Cretaceous period to see that.

·        Deforestation is tied to a variety of causes all having to do with commodity supplies. This free e-book outlines the problem and offers regulatory and market based solutions.

End of year newsletters must have some sort of cavalcade of oddities for us to marvel at. I shall offer this wonderful Pinterest collection “Nature So Crazy”: Images you won’t forget

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


Revealed: How much zoo animals eat in a year
Just how much do animals in the Kamla Nehru Zoological Park eat during a year came to be known when the authorities produced a bill before the standing committee on Wednesday. The requirements of the zoo included 50 quintals of juwar, 125 quintals of chickpea, 11 quintals of rice, besides red meat, chicken and mutton worth Rs 59.06 lakh. The requests included live chicken as well.

In terms of daily consumption, the zoo requires 100 kgs of red meat, 5 kg mutton, one live chicken and 12 eggs. While among regular vegetarian diet were sunflower seeds, cattle feed, corn, 0.6 quintals of vanaspati ghee, peas, peanuts, 100 dry c

Dreamworld's tigers to roar into action on Boxing Day
Bites and scratches are inevitable when working with big cats.
But a recent incident involving a tiger handler at Australia Zoo was not an attack, according to Dreamworld tiger trainer Patrick Martin-Vegue.
Tiger handler Dave Styles was last month mauled by a Sumatran tiger during a performance at the Sunshine Coast zoo before a crowd of shocked spectators.
Mr Martin-Vegue said while it was bad incident, it was not an attack.
“Unfortunately he got bitten in a bad place but we are dealing with tigers,” he said.
“We review our procedures and have policies in place but that doesn't mean you won't get bitten or scratched.”
Mr Martin-Vegue, manager of Tiger Island at Dreamworld on the Gold Coast, made the distinction as the theme park revealed a new show would start on Boxing Day.
He has been training Baru and Ravi, two 21-month-old tiger cubs that will star in Cub College on Tiger Island.
In the past few months, the cubs had been learning the routines while getting used to the shows.
“It doesn't always work out exactly how it would be planned, but they are getting better over the course of time,” he said.
“They're learning jumping and climbing, sitting on their hind legs and running as well.
“Sometimes Baru is a bit less energetic than we'd like but they are going well.
“We've had them since they were four weeks of age and they know they have to follow certain rules in training like not biting and scratching.”
Mr Martin-Vegue said the shows were designed to promote

Couple used tiger charity to fund luxury lifestyle, court hears
A woman claims money for a charity set up by her and her estranged husband to save Chinese tigers was used to fund their extravagant lifestyle, as she takes her claim for her share of their wealth to the High Court
A couple used a charity set up to save Chinese tigers as their personal piggy bank, funding a lifestyle of extravagant dinners and wine, a court heard.
Li Quan claimed money for the Save China’s Tigers charity was used to fund the lavish personal lives of her and her estranged husband Stuart Bray as she told the High Court she was entitled to more of the couple’s assets than Mr Bray is prepared to give.
Ms Li claimed money put into the charity, which counts Jackie Chan as an ambassador, was directly used by the pair. She says more than £50 million worth of assets is at stake.
"We were using the money to fund our personal things,” she told the High Court.
”We had expensive dinners. We had exp

Need a Peacock for your garden?
A new business, this time not on Instagram, is opening up in Kuwait. The Kuwait Zoo will begin selling animals from its collections including peacocks, European and red deer, pygmy goats, parrots, ponies, wildebeest and others. Need a peacock for your garden or a pony for your children’s birthday parties? Head to the zoo starting from December 30 to pick out the perfect less-than exotic pet.

Hippie Chimps: New Clue May Explain Bonobo Peacefulness
Bonobos have a reputation among the great apes as "hippie chimps," and new research hints that high levels of a key thyroid hormone may play a role in keeping the animals' aggression in check.

Found in the lowland forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, bonobos (Pan troglodytes) are closely related to chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) but the two diverge in behavior.

Bonobos seem to diffuse social tension with an impressive repertoire of sex acts rather than physical fights. Males in particular show low levels of aggression — they even maintain platonic friendships with females and stick by their mothers into adulthood. The life of male chimpanzees, meanwhile, revolves aroun

 What a load of Crap! Research????????????????????????????????????


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