Sunday, June 19, 2016

Zoo News Digest 19th June 2016 (ZooNews 926)

Zoo News Digest 19th June 2016 
(ZooNews 926)

Peter Dickinson

Dear Colleague,

I have always liked Victoria Coren (see first article today) and liked her father Alan and brother Giles also. All extremely good writers. Victoria writes of her limited zoo experience in a very positive but thoughtful way. Her first visit was a good one. This got me thinking about how important it is for all of us to ensure that all zoo visits are positive because they can affect the way a visitor thinks for the rest of their lives. A bad visit doesn't stop with one person. It will go as far as their tongue or Facebook page will carry it. The Good Zoos of the world are painted the same colour as the bad. Any genuine or perceived cruelty affects all of us. These people will not return and if it has got anything to do with them neither will their friends, their children or grandchildren. The Good Zoos MUST/NEED to criticise the bad. We need to ensure that people know there is a difference. In our turn we need to ensure that all of our visitors are educated in a subtle and pleasant fashion. This rests with the Keepers and the Docents and Volunteers. When visitors have actual face to face personal spoken contact with caring and informed staff it makes all the difference in the world…just two or three minutes of explanation can change a life.

I was greatly saddened to learn today of the passing of Leigh Wigg. The zoo world has lost one of the good guys. My sincere condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. I had only met him once before but through Facebook kept up with many of his thoughts. I shared his sense of humour and regret not having had the opportunity to spend time with him.

Did You Know?
ZooNews Digest has over 24,700 'Like's' on Facebook and has a weekly reach often exceeding over 250,000 people? That ZooNews Digest has subscribers in over 800 Zoos in 153+ countries? That the subscriber list reads like a 'Zoos Who's Who?'
If you are a subscriber to the email version then you probably knew this already. You would also know that ZooNews Digest pre-dates any of the others. It was there before FaceBook. It was there shortly after the internet became popular and was a 'Blog' before the word had been invented. ZooNews Digest reaches zoo people.

I remain committed to the work of GOOD zoos, 


Why I’m so conflicted by zoos
The elephant stared balefully down, its eye as big as my head.

“Well, this is terrifying!” I said.

“It’s fine,” said the zookeeper. “Why are you frightened?”

“I thought it would be smaller,” I said.

“It’s an elephant,” he replied.

“Are you sure?” I said. “It’s the size of a stegosaurus.”

 “These are the most docile elephants in the world,” said the keeper. “This is London Zoo. They see crowds of people every day. They’ve had their photo taken with the Queen. There is nothing to be worried about.”

“Fine,” I said, picking up the shovel. That dung wasn’t going to clear itself. We swept the enclosure as the elephant looked on.

Area cleared, I edged over to the giant creature. With a trembling hand, I patted its vast, wrinkled neck. Returning the favour, the elephant prodded me all over with its trunk. I felt oddly flattered.

The keeper smiled and nodded encouragement as I nestled close enough to give the elephant a proper cuddle. “Tota

Stingray, 1st in India, makes a splash at zoo
The killer of crocodile hunter Steve Irwin has arrived in city zoo. For the first time in the country, the stingray fish, known to be among the deadliest that kills any living object it encounters became part of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah Zoological Garden on Saturday. It is one of its kind leopard stingray from Thailand which can grow up to 20 feet in length.

Vultures for vultures sake
Asian Gyps vultures have declined by more than 99% and are on the verge of extinction. Indeed, many vulture populations around the world are declining at an alarming rate and are now the most threatened family of birds on the planet. In Asia conservation actions have been underway since the end of the 90s, initially spearheaded by the RSPB and BirdLife International, and more recently by the SAVE partnership. You’ll often hear about how the decline in vultures is having a major impact on health and the environment. In India with millions of vultures wiped out by diclofenac poisoning, there has been an increase in carcasses lying around and an increase in scavenging dogs leading to greater instances of rabies. Making a living as a hide and bone collector is more difficult due to the masses of vultures no longer stripping the bones clean. And traditional Parsi ‘sky burials’ in the specially designed burial towers where bodies were consumed by vultures are no longer possible. Of course, these are all true and sad consequences of the crash in vulture populations. In modern conservation parlance, vultures play a vital ecosystem service.

Last month I was fortunate enough to spend a few weeks visiting a range of projects in Bangla

Togo Slippery Frogs Feared Extinct; Found Living in Hidden Waterfall in Africa
In February, I began working on a pangolin conservation project in the Misahohé region of Western Togo, in West Africa, with Justin Miller of Pangolin Conservation. As a part of this project, we also set out to locate and document a population of critically endangered Togo slippery frogs that had been happened upon during a previous search of the area. These frogs previously ranged across the highlands of Eastern Ghana and Western Togo and are now listed as Critically Endangered. After several years with no records of surviving populations, several agencies labeled them as “possibly extinct” in th

 A Proud National Aquariumer
Okay! Well, it's certainly been an um, eventful week since we last saw each other.
I found myself getting really gloomy, especially in light of the three Orlando tragedies, the double murder in Paris, and the murder in London.  Holy. Cow.

The horrific loss of life reported to us in such a short period of time made me feel like, is there good in the world anymore?  Where has it gone?
Of course, there are plenty of great people in the world, doing great things.  I feel like I needed to take a moment to breathe a little, and look at the good things happening around me (on top of the incredible acts of kindness people portrayed in response to the aforementioned events).

Amidst all of this, National Aquarium released information about a new project we are in the beginning planning stages of for our 8 bottlenose dolphins.  Some of you reached out to me and asked me how I felt about it, or my opinion.

Look, there is a LOT of research left to do, many decisions to be made.  So all I can say right now is that I am proud to work at National Aqua

Should I Be Here or Somewhere Else
Some Zoo stories amongst the rest…Snakes, Killer Whale, Elephant, Camel and more.

When it comes to evolution, testes may play a key role, studies find
The gonads play a larger role than previously thought in evolution, a pair of studies on dark-eyed juncos has found. The first paper compares the subspecies in their expression of enzymes that make testosterone within the gonad. The second paper investigates how the subspecies' gonads differ in the expression of stress hormone receptor genes, which are known to lower testosterone.

A new study has led researchers to conclude that Octopuses (NOT Octopi) have Alien DNA. Their genome shows a never-before-seen level of complexity with a staggering 33,000 protein-coding genes identified, more than in a human being.
The oceans of our planet hide countless mysteries that could perhaps help answer numerous mysteries of life itself. During the last couple of decades, marine biologists have made small but steady progress towards a deeper understanding of nature and life.

A group of researchers decided to do some science and chose the cephalopods in order to try and break down their DNA code, hoping to understand them better.

The octopus, squid, and cuttlefish are integrated into the coleoid sub-class of the molluscs. They have an evolutionary history that goes back over 500 milli

Endangered sandpipers lay eggs in captivity for the first time
One of the world’s rarest birds has laid eggs in captivity for the first time, in what wildlife experts say provides new hope for the species’ tiny wild population.

Only around 200 breeding pairs of critically endangered spoon-billed sandpipers remain in the wild, where they make an annual 10,000 mile round-trip between their Russian Arctic breeding grounds and wintering grounds in south-east Asia.

Efforts began to establish a flock at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, in 2011 as a back-up to the wild population in case conservationists could not reverse declines of up to 25% a year in time to save the species.

Now seven eggs have been laid by two female spoon-billed sandpipers at Slimbridge, with a further seven potential breeding pairs.

Each bird usually lays four tiny eggs, taking the mother almost a week to lay a clutch weighing a total of 32g (1 ounce) - more than her entire bodyweight, experts said.

The eggs have been taken into an incubator an

Scientists: Trophy Hunts Should Target Older Lions
When Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer killed Zimbabwe’s Cecil the lion last July, proponents of trophy hunting argued to an infuriated public that the pricey practice helps lions. A portion of the fees supports poor villages and conservation programs, their argument goes.

But some reports have shown that trophy hunts take a toll on Africa’s declining lions, which already face a host of severe threats, such as habitat loss, lack of prey, and greater conflict with humans. A 2012 study, for instance, found that excessive hunts have hurt lions in Tanzania.

Now new research shows why: inadequate hunting regulations. Only strict quotas and restrictions on hunting younger lions can ensure healthy populations, researchers reported on June 9 in the journal Ecological Applications.

“We’re seeing the negative effects of trophy hunting, even though there’s guidance about how it should be managed,” says Scott Creel, an ecology professor at Montana State University and lead author of the study. “The difference with this paper is we’re trying to evaluate strategies people thought would prevent this from happening that haven’t.”

Take one of those strategies: age limits. Tanzania, Zambia, and Mozambique prohibit hunters from s

Monkey escapes enclosure at Howletts Wild Animal Park near Canterbury
A female monkey escaped from her enclosure at Howletts Wild Animal Park late this morning.

Keepers and specialist vets were called in to catch the primate, which was spotted sitting on top of its usual home.

The Javan langur, called Malang, managed to get out of her enclosure close to the park's administrative office and pavilion restaurant.

Orangutan briefly escapes his Busch Gardens enclosure
A juvenile orangutan escaped from his Busch Gardens enclosure on Thursday night, just before the park was set to close.

The male primate wasn't outside his enclosure long and left his exhibit in the Jungala section of the park through an area visitors couldn't see, according to a statement from Busch Gardens.

Park officials did not immediately say how the orangutan got out and if the park has to change anything about the animal's habitat to prevent future escapes, like it did in 2008.

"The safety of our guests, employees and animals is our number one priority," said a zoo spokesperson about Thursday's escape. "Zoo staff managed the situation and the animal was safely led back to secure housing without incident."

This isn't the first time a young orangutan has left Jungala for a brief, roughly hour-long adventure. But this second escape comes at a time many are questioning the security of zoo enclosures, after gorilla Harambe was killed at a zoo in Cincinnati because a child got inside his habitat last month.

In 2008, then 10-year-old Luna Bella scaled a 12-foot wall, grabbed the edge of a 5-foot overhang and flipped her 85-pound body onto the exhibit's roof in full view of zoo-goers.

In both escapes, the areas around the exhibits were cleared of park visitors and the orangutans were led safely back to their home. The details about which orangutan escaped and how it was lured back to its exhibit Thursday after its 6:30 p.m. escape were still u

Whatever happened to ... Shasta the Utah liger?
Back in 1948, Salt Lake City's Hogle Zoo was small and struggling. But a special birth on May 6 that year would change everything.

For the first time in America, a liger — half lion, half tiger — was born there, and became national news.

She was called Shasta and would draw extra thousands of visitors from afar annually during her still-record 24 years of life. The crowds, their money and the attention she attracted helped build the zoo from mediocrity to top-tier status.

San Diego Zoo's Eldest Panda Has Heart Disease
Gao Gao, San Diego Zoo’s eldest panda, has a heart disease that is rapidly worsening, zoo officials said Friday in a statement.
The panda underwent a medical checkup on Tuesday, where animal care staffers found that he had pulmonic stenosis, a narrowing of the pulmonary valve opening.

More at Stake Than Money for Honolulu Zoo
The Honolulu Zoo has blamed the recent loss of its accreditation on funding issues, but some advocates question the use of throwing more money at the problem.
     "Zoos are anachronisms," said Catherine Goeggel, a former chief of the Zoological Society. "They're prisons for animals. The reasons zoos were created — for people to see animals they wouldn't otherwise see — no longer exist."
     Goeggel, who founded the nonprofit Animal Rights Hawaii, said a Hawaiian biome would be more suitable for a setting with so many endangered sea birds, insects and plants.
     Indeed Hawaii is sometimes referred to as the extinction capital of the world, as the home to thousands of endangered species.
     Heather Rally, with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, complained that zoos fail utterly in their mission as conservators, and as educators.
     "In the wild, elephants cover 50 miles in a day," Rally said in an interview. "Animal captivity changes animals behaviorally and genetically. They cannot just be released into the wild, which is setting them up for failure. And after decades of k

Viral video misleads viewers about zoo lions
A recent video taken at Potter Park Zoo has caused outrage around the world. Angry comments have been streaming in to the zoo from the UK, Germany, and other countries around the world, demanding the lions be either released or given better care. But the lead keeper of these lions told us that they are happy and healthy.

"We spend daily efforts making sure that they're physically fit," says Annabell Marcum, the carnivore and primate lead keeper. "We also weigh everybody monthly, and do a body condition score."

The lion's body, which was criticized as being too thin and malnourished, is actually that of an extremely healthy lion.

"For the lions specifically, we want to make sure that we can see their waist, and we want to make sure that we can see where their ribs are," says Marcum, "but we don't necessarily want to be able to see every rib easily."

In terms of the sounds the lion was 

Maynard: Zoo getting past typhoon of criticism
On behalf of everybody involved with the Cincinnati Zoo I want to thank our local community for the caring concern you have shown since the tragic death of Harambe.

In this ever-connected, social media age, it seems that everybody, everywhere learned of our tragedy on the day it happened. This opened up a typhoon of international criticism and finger pointing the likes of which I had never experienced before.

But here in our community the response has been more level-headed. We have heard from many thousands of people from all around Southwest Ohio, Northern Kentucky, and Southeast Indiana, expressing their sadness for our loss and heartfelt concern for the well being of both the zookeepers who knew Harambe best, and the other gorillas in his troop. In my job I talk to people for a living, but I have never talked with so many people, most of whom I didn’t know before, as I have in the last three weeks. The common themes of our discussions are sadness, concern and their love of both animals and the Cincinnati Zoo. I have met people who are old enough to remember seeing Susie the gorilla 60 years ago, peo

Three lions found guilty of murder face life behind zoo bars
Three man-eating lions in northwest India have been sentenced to life in captivity after they were identified as the cats responsible for a string of recent killings.

A pride of 17 Asiatic lions has spent several days on trial at the Gir reserve in the state of Gujarat. Forestry officials rounded them up after three people were killed near the 545 square mile sanctuary.

State officials confirmed yesterday that human remains had been found in the droppings of one male and two females. It is t

SF Zoo helps bring Mexican gray wolves back from the brink
One of the San Francisco Zoo’s newest exhibits is specially designed to keep people away.

Forty years ago, the Mexican gray wolf population all but disappeared from the wild.

One by one they vanished in the Southwest: killed by ranchers, hunted by trappers, shot by government officials. By 1976, there were only seven left in the world — two of them in captivity. After decades of careful conservation and and captive release, their numbers have surged to 100 in the wild, with another 250 in captivity. But not without issues.

The San Francisco Zoo recently welcomed three of these rock stars of the animal world, brothers aptly named Prince, David Bowie and Jerry Garcia, from a center near Albuquerque as part of the wolf’s species survival pla


How To Tell If a Lion Is Happy
The Philadelphia Zoo is pretty small. Over the past couple of years, to help some of its residents stretch out a bit, the zoo has started installing what they call an "animal exploration trail system"—a network of corridors and tubes that critters can use to crawl, swing, and stroll between enclosures. Visitors, naturally, love it—they can watch monkeys strut and skitter above their heads. Zookeepers like it, too: it hits all the sweet spots of textbook animal enrichment, offering their charges room to roam, environmental variety, and personal choice.

But after all these rave human reviews, one question remains: What do the animals think?

Marieke Gartner is the Philadelphia Zoo's in-house animal well-being researcher. A trained psychologist, she has spent the last 11 years becoming, essentially, a quantitative animal whisperer. "What the zoo wanted me to do is figure out how the animals view the trail," she explains. "Do they

Lincoln Park Zoo's Lion House to get makeover, shed tigers
Lincoln Park Zoo's historic Lion House will be getting a complete makeover, as will the zoo's main, east entrance on Cannon Drive, the zoo is set to announce Thursday.

Modernizing the Kovler Lion House, which will no longer include a tiger habitat, will be the North Side free zoo's biggest capital project yet, at an estimated $30 million, and the new $9 million Welcome Center will change the way people come onto the premises, President and CEO Kevin Bell said in an interview in advance of Thursday's news.

The projects will join last year's Regenstein Macaque Forest and new penguin and polar bear habitats, expected to open this fall or winter, as key results of a $125 million fundraising campaign that is also being announced at a media event Thursday morning and to the Lincoln Park Zoo Society's annual meeting during an evening event

Vets work to save Melbourne Zoo elephant calf born with debilitating medical condition
A baby elephant born yesterday at Melbourne Zoo is now fighting for its life, with a rare medical condition preventing it from standing up and feeding.

Zoo staff realised something was wrong soon after their much-loved Asian elephant Num-Oi gave birth to a female calf, head veterinarian Michael Lynch said.

"It became apparent to us that the calf couldn't stand, so we had to intervene in that situation," he said.

Dr Lynch said the team was working hard to address the congenital condition.

"The condition is called Congenital Carpal Flexure, which is preventing the calf from straightening the ankles on

Keeping big cats happy
Jim Coburn started out doing small jobs when he began volunteering at Washington Park Zoo, but the zoo workers eventually discovered his skills. He now has built a three-tiered resting platform for the mountain lion exhibit and is building a resting platform for the tiger exhibit as well.
He is among several volunteers who come to the zoo weekly, using their skills and talents to help the animals there.
During work on the tiger exhibit Monday, Zoo Director Jamie LeBlanc-Huss said Coburn made the mountain lion platform his pet project, and worked on it with other volunteers for three Mondays. It was finished more than two weeks ago, and, since the zoo loved it, now a similar platform is planned for the Bengal tigers with wood provided by the Parks and

Baby elephant born with a rare condition that prevents her from standing up may need surgery to correct her 'bent' legs
The fate of a newborn elephant who cannot stand because of a rare condition is in the hands of vets at Melbourne Zoo.
The 103kg calf born at Melbourne Zoo on Wednesday has a carpel condition on her front legs that prevents her from straightening her wrists and bearing her own weight.
The baby has been separated from her mother, Num-Oi, and is being bottle fed while she has casts on both of her front legs. She has improved after almost 24 hours of intensive treatment, but still has a long way to go.

You’ve seen this clickbait title on The Dodo, I’m sure - “Spotting Of A 103-year-old Wild Orca Was Indeed Bad, Bad News For Seaworld.” Let me tell you. There is no article on that entirely frustrating website that causes me to facepalm harder than that one, except may it’s misleading follow-up: “”Whale Fingerprints”: How We Know Granny The Orca is 103 Years Old.” Sigh.

One of the things I am a huge stickler for  is accuracy in science reporting and animal media. These two pieces by The Dodo are examples of the worst kind of perversion of good research; they’re misleading, incorrect, and sadly also have a huge amount of visibility in the middle of a pretty heated debate regarding captive orca lifespans. So let’s talk about what the data about resident killer whale populations actually shows, instead of letting crap like this proliferate in the public consciousness.

For a long time, researchers did a

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Brookfield Zoo and Shedd Aquarium are Nation’s First Facilities to Achieve Humane Certification from American Humane Association
American Humane Association is pleased to announce that two local institutions –Brookfield Zoo and Shedd Aquarium – are among the first zoos and aquariums internationally, and the first two in the United States, to achieve humane certification for the treatment of their animals through the world’s first program dedicated solely to helping ensure the welfare and humane treatment of the remarkable, endangered and disappearing animals living in the world’s zoos and aquariums.

With only 2.3 percent of the world’s zoos and aquariums holding an accreditation status, and none certified solely on the evaluation of animal welfare standards, there is a need for the public to know which ones are excelling and which are not. These two world-renowned institutions are among the first four to pass American Humane Association’s rigorous, third-party Humane Conservation™ animal welfare audit and earn the “Humane Certified™” seal.

“We applaud these organizations for their excellent work and stewardship of the magnificent animals in their care,” said Dr. Kwane Stewart, chief veterinary officer for the American Humane Association Humane Conservation program. “These world-class facilities both stepped forward voluntarily to undergo our comprehensive, science-based auditing and have served as leaders in the field, demonstrati

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About me
After more than 47 years working in private, commercial and National zoos in the capacity of keeper, head keeper and curator Peter Dickinson started to travel. He sold house and all his possessions and hit the road. He has traveled extensively in Turkey, Southern India and much of South East Asia before settling in Thailand. In his travels he has visited well over 200 zoos and writes about these in his blog

Peter earns his living as an international independent zoo consultant, critic and writer. Currently working as Curator of Penguins in Ski Dubai. United Arab Emirates. He describes himself as an itinerant zoo keeper, one time zoo inspector, a dreamer, a traveler, a people watcher, a lover, a thinker, a cosmopolitan, a writer, a hedonist, an explorer, a pantheist, a gastronome, sometime fool, a good friend to some and a pain in the butt to others.

"These are the best days of my life"

Peter Dickinson
Independent International Zoo Consultant

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