Monday, June 6, 2016

Zoo News Digest 6th June 2016 (ZooNews 923)

Zoo News Digest 6th June 2016 
(ZooNews 923)

Peter Dickinson

Dear Colleague,

Rarely have I seen so much bullshit in the media than over the past ten days. The poster below is a joke but really that is the way it has been looking. All of a sudden everyone is an expert on all manner of zoo related matters. Until now I was completely unaware that Paul Watson was an expert on Gorillas or at least thinks he is. His manic tirade is an insult to the whole Good Zoo community. He needs to stick to ramming whalers instead of commenting on things it is obvious he knows nothing at all about.
Even the existence of zoos is now being questioned....actually I partly agree there. I question the existence of Dysfunctional Zoos but then I have for a long time. It did not take the unfortunate incident in Cincinnati to rattle my cage. And why is it that poor Harambe needs to be mentioned in every news story whether related or not? 

Did You Know?
ZooNews Digest has over 24,500 '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, 


Malfunctioning air conditioning forces penguin evacuation
Malfunctioning air conditioning units forced the evacuation of visitors and an exhibit full of penguins at an aquarium in northern Utah.
Firefighters responded to reports of smoke coming from the aquarium in Draper south of Salt Lake City at about 1 p.m. Saturday.
 United Fire Authority Capt. Dan Brown told The Salt Lake Tribune

Popular zoo animals could be banned under EU rules amid fears about them escaping
Popular zoo animals including raccoons and chipmunks could be banned from collections under EU rules amid concerns about them escaping and setting up home, it has been claimed.

Grey squirrels and ruddy ducks could also be affected as officials claim the risk of them disrupting native animals if they escape captivity is too great.

Edinburgh Zoo bosses slammed for recruiting unpaid staff for key roles
EDINBURGH Zoo chiefs have been accused of exploiting unpaid young workers to fill key posts.

The tourist attraction have advertised for volunteers to work in PR, as well as running events and
working in animal enclosures.

The one-day-a-week posts, advertised on social media, offer discount food and travel expenses but no wages.

The Government have cracked down on unpaid internships and placements but organisations such as the zoo – who have charity status – are exempt.

Unions have criticised the six-month roles at the five-star attraction, which brings in 800,000 visitors a year but slashed jobs by a quarter in 2010.

Sarah Collins, of the STUC’s Better Than Zero campaign against exploitation of young workers, said: “The zoo is a highly profitable and well-renowned organisation and visitor attraction and – leaving asid

Father of California Condor Population Healthy, Flying High in the Wild
Some might say he is the father of California Condors.

AC-4, a California Condor who helped bring the endangered species back from the brink of extinction through a captive breeding program started in the 1980s, was recently given a clean bill of health and is flying high in the wild, officials with the San Diego Zoo announced this week.

Condor AC-4 spent 30 years at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park as part of the California Condor Recovery Program. It was there, in 1988, that he fathered the first captive-born chick and went on to help bring the number of California Condors in the world from 22 to 435 — more than half of which have been released into the wild in California, Arizona and Baja California, Mexico.

Of those, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park hatched 188 chicks and released more than 130 birds into their natural habitat.

The California Condor Recove

What really happened at Thailand's Tiger Temple?
Tucked away among the swelling vistas of west Thailand's Kanchanaburi province, Tanya Erzinclioglu paced around the periphery of Pha Luang Ta Bua Yanasampanno temple with her colleagues. Every now and again, she anxiously glanced at her phone, taking calls or checking for updates.

"I have no idea what's happening," she said repeatedly to herself.

Tanya's mornings typically involved being inside the temple grounds where she helped to feed and observe some 137 tigers who were under her partial care. It had been her routine for six years and, from the passion with which she speaks about it, it seems to be where her heart lies.

SAVING THE SAIGA Protecting biodiversity in Russia’s steppe
A sign pasted to a lamppost in the town just outside the reserve advertises that someone is interested in buying saiga horns.

The text says they’re looking for antique horns, but the intention is clear: if you have horns, we’ll buy them.

One kilogramme of saiga horns (equalling two or three pairs) can fetch US$5000USD in China. The purchase price on the Russian steppe can reach up to 25,000RUB (about $375), a significant temptation for local poachers. In 2013, Russia toughened penalties for illegal saiga hunting, and for storing or selling any parts/derivatives of the saiga. In 2015, anti-poaching operations were stepped up, and coupled with efforts to combat illegal purchases of horns, but these efforts have not been enough. More work is needed to stop poachers and save the saiga population.

Oil & Water: Zookeeping & Math
It is currently 5:45am as I write this, which is either:

a. A very deliberate, artistic intention
b. A direct consequence of procrastination
c. All of the above

The social implications of vicuña trafficking
The vicuña (Vicugna vicugna) is a charismatic high-alpine camelid known for its fine wool. Vicuña poaching is a serious problem in Latin America and the primary threat to this species. Despite relatively successful conservation efforts around this highly sought-after animal, the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) South American Camelid Specialist Group estimates that over 5,000 vicuñas have been killed for their wool over the past eight years.

Addressing the issue is legally and socially complex.

Many Latin American countries fail to adequately recognise illegal hunting as a serious crime that warrants considerable fines and imprisonment. Enforcement is difficult to achieve due to the geographical characteristics of the region, human and technical resource deficiencies and limited coordination of security forces within and between countries. Many residents don’t report poaching activities out of fear of retaliation from hunters. One country representative from the South American Camelid Specialist Group was held at gunpoint by vicuña hunters early last year. There aren’t strong incentives to develop legal vicuña use but illegal vicuña use can be profitable.

For successful action against vicuña poaching at the national level, law enforcement officials need to be adequately trained to identify illegal vicuña products and on related legislation. Awareness campaigns about illegal vicuña products should target touristic sites and airports.

At the international level, there is an urgent need for concerted efforts to control demand for vicuña wool. The South American Camelid Specialist Group aims for CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) resolutions that require countries to ensure that imported vicuña wool is certified to be legally and sustainably harvested, and that non-certified vicuña wool is seized.

It’s important to ensure that actions against illegal vicuña use do not negatively impact native Andean communities, whose cultural traditions include live-capture for sustainable use of Vicuña wool. The cultural traditions of these communities need to be co

Scottish zookeepers armed and ready to shoot animals if public put at risk
YOU may not know it as you wander around Edinburgh Zoo, or drive through Blair Drummond Safari Park, but these sanctuaries for animals and animals lovers have arsenals of guns and staff trained in firearms ready to shoot dead any animal which poses a threat to human life.

The world may have been shocked by the killing of Harambe the silverback gorilla who was shot after he was seen to behave dangerously with a three-year-old boy who had managed to get into his enclosure at Cincinnati Zoo ... but the events would have played out exactly the same here in Scotland. In fact, they have already played out exactly the same - with dangerous or escaped animals shot dead by Scottish zoo staff to

Malawi to relocate 500 elephants to new home
Conservation group announces ambitious plan to move animals over 300km from overcrowded wildlife reserves.
Conservationists in Malawi will next month attempt the largest-ever relocation of elephants in Africa.

They will move 500 elephants from two overcrowded wildlife reserves in the country's south to Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, a distance of more than 300km.

The relocation of the herd by  African Parks, a non-profit conservation organisation, is an effort to halt a steep decline in elephant numbers, the result of ivory poaching and loss of habitat.

Over the past 20 years, Malawi's elephant population has been halved - from 4,000 to 2,000 amid a continent-wide decline.

“Most of the news we hear about elephants out of Africa is about the poaching crisis, and their steep declines," Andrea Heydlauff, the organisation's director of strategic communications, told Al Jazeera.

"This is a story about restoration and providing a future for Malawi's elephants,” she said.

The $1.6m relocation operation, funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery, will require small groups of elephants to be sedated, using darts shot from a helicopter.

The first herd will then be transported by trucks from Liwonde National Park to the Nkhotakota wildlife reserve, wher

Tiger temple scandal exposes the shadowy billion-dollar Asian trade
A week ago it cost 600 baht (£11.50) to visit the tiger temple in Thailand’s Kanchanaburi province, west of the capital, Bangkok. Tourists moved by the spectacle of such splendid creatures living side by side with human beings could also pay the saffron-robed Buddhist monks an extra £15 to help feed the cubs, or to have their picture taken with an adult tiger’s head resting on their lap.

Along with nearly 250,000 people, Jay Z, Beyoncé and their daughter Blue Ivy posed with the animals last year, and marvelled that some of the world’s fiercest creatures could be so tame.

Now the doors of the temple have been closed and the animals removed, possibly for ever. After a decade of allegations by animal groups of cruelty, illegal wildlife trafficking and breeding, 1,000 police, military and government officials descended on the temple to expose a shadowy trade in tiger parts that feeds an insatiable market in China and threatens the few remaining tigers in the wild.

The figures are stark and depressing. Today’s population of wild tigers is estimated to be around 3,200, down from 100,000 in 1900. But research by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Australia’s Conservation and Environmental Education 4 Life (Cee4life) and others, backed by investigations for Traffic, the wildlife trade monitoring network, suggest that more than 5,000 tigers are being farmed in China, 1,450 in Thailand, 180 in Vietnam and possibly 400 in Laos. In addition, there are private collections and zoos in most other Asian countries.

Debbie Banks of the EIA has worked undercover at tiger farms in China. She says that for the past decade, tiger breeding has been a fast-expanding and lucrative industry, often masquerading as conservatio

Police search for ‘possible’ escaped bear in Cantabria continues
A CRACK team of government experts and Guardia Civil nature protection officers from the force’s SEPRONA arm reconvened on the morning of Friday June 3 to continue the search for an evasive bear that may have escaped from the Cabarceno Wildlife Park in Cantabria.

The animal was supposedly spotted by three ‘reliable’ young men a few kilometres from the park on Wednesday June 1, who said they had seen what was “clearly a big brown bear” near the river in the hamlet of Casas del Monte, although no footprints or other evidence have been found.

The news and subsequent emergency operation has created great interest on national television, with the major channels sending camera crews to the northern region in order to follow proceedings.

Wildlife park director, Miguel Oti, says that no damage to the perimeter fence of the massive bear exhibit has been detected, claiming that an escape would be very unlikely.

“The whole complex is electrified and the wires are connected to an alarm, which has not been activated at any time this week.”

There are ‘approximately’ 80 brown bears inhabiting the 35-hectare exhibit, where they live in semi-natural surroundings, but it is not possible to count them to see if any are missing since the space is filled with cavities and caves meaning many remain hidden during the day.

Park staff do occasionally use anaesthetic darts to tranquilise individuals, but only when there are health concerns or the animal is to have a microchipped tag inserted.

Chief veterinarian and bear specialist Santiago Borrigan said that the three boys who claim to have seen the critter are ‘normal guys’ and that nothing has made him doubt their testimony,

I’m coming in late to this conversation because I wanted to take a lot of time to read and listen. I’ve watched the videos, listened to the news reports, read eyewitness accounts, and read responses by or spoken to zookeepers, exhibit designers, primatologists, attorneys, and dangerous animal response team members. Here is what I have for you: the incident at the Cincinnati Zoo was a tragedy. Once the child was in the moat, what had to happen could not have been prevented. Actions need to be taken on all sides to ensure that such a perfect storm of a bad situation can never happen again. I am glad the child is alive and I grieve with the zoo staff for the loss of their beloved and rare companion. I do not believe in continuing to point fingers and lay blame - those who deserve it are well aware at this point, and while it is natural and human to seek vengeance and justice it does no good to protect future children and future gorillas. So, with that said, let’s talk about what happened.

Mandai to be nature hub with five wildlife parks
Singapore will have a new wildlife and nature attraction in Mandai, complete with eco-lodges and a rainforest-themed park where visitors can get up close to wildlife.

When the Mandai nature precinct is completed by 2023, two wildlife parks - the new Rainforest Park and the relocated Bird Park - will join the existing trio: the Singapore Zoo, the River Safari and the Night Safari.

Sleeping under the stars could be an option for those who want to spend a night or two in Mandai, as options such as tents, suites and family rooms are being considered.

Belfast Zoo on a steep slope literally and financially - things must change
In January the Belfast Telegraph headlined its account of a report presented to Belfast City Council's growth and regeneration committee 'Fears over future of Belfast Zoo'. The paper took its cue from Ulster Unionist councillor Chris McGimpsey - a long-standing critic of the zoo - who, apart from condemning losses running at £2m a year, raised more fundamental issues, arguing "zoos are a thing of the past" and no better than "Victorian peep shows".

He added: "We are taking animals that normally have been on flat land and we stick them on a hill... in areas which are just too small. It is virtually impossible to run a zoo without there being massive concerns about animal welfare."

The recurrent loss on the zoo's operations in 2014-2015 was £1,080,259, but capital depreciation of around £570,000 and other support services and property maintenance charges make up McGimpsey's total of a £2m-a-year loss.

The council's business manager agrees this is "unsustainable". Yet, other councillors are hardly onboard for closure. Rather, they have approved a plan to reduce the deficit by 30% over three years. As the detail is opaque, it seems unlikely it will fare better than similar initiatives over the years.

Like drowning men (and women), they can reach for rescue as even Chris McGimpsey does - and that is the hope that fu

In defence of zoos: how captivity helps conservation
The death of Harambe the gorilla at Cincinnati Zoo, shot to protect a child who had fallen into his cage, has caused outrage. Some of the anger has now turned from “trigger-happy” staff towards zoos in general. Why, some are asking, is an endangered gorilla behind bars in the first place?

In an ideal world, Harambe would live peacefully in Central Africa. There would be no deforestation, no poachers, and no diseases transmitted by humans and our livestock.

But in the real world, fewer than 900 mountain gorillas are left in the wild. And zoos are a necessary and vital part of efforts to conserve them and other endangered animals.

Modern zoos aim to promote animal conservation, educate people, and support further wildlife research. The three are entwined to ensure the animals are housed to the highest possible standards of welfare. Staff are dedicated to providing species-specific housing, appropriate diets and husbandry to ensure that the animals’ lives are as natural as possible within captivity.

Anti-zoo and animal rights groups such as CAPS, PETA or the Born Free foundation claim that zoos are inherently cruel. They highlight animals housed in small cages for “our entertainment” and claim all should be released

Stuttgart Zoo Gives Orangutans Option of Video Dating
Modern dating is going to the apes. Literally.

A zoo in southern Germany has decided to give its orangutans more mating options through video dating.

Two of the rare orangutans — Sinta and Conny — were shown videos of available males to see if there was any interest in hopes of one day breeding, according to a statement from the Wilhelma Zoo in Stuttgart.

"The signs are positive," the zoo said after Sinta and Conny appeared to take a liking to a male named Gempa living 350 miles away in Belgium.

The zoo said Sinta and Gempa are now enjoying a real-life date at the Pairi Daiza zoo, approximately 40 miles south-west of Brussels.

"We will now have to wait and see, whether it will be love at se

Calgary Thai tiger temple defender yanks support as new details surface
A vocal defender of the Thailand tiger temple says he is pulling his support after new information make the allegations he once dismissed, far more likely.

The Buddhist temple in Kanchanaburi province west of Bangkok came under fire early this week as local wildlife authorities discovered 40 tiger cub carcasses in a freezer.
Live animals were removed in response to international pressure over suspected trafficking and abuse.

Calgarian Gary Agnew came to the defence of the temple, questioning the motives of the Department of National Parks (DNP) and saying the dead cubs were being stored at the temple for research on the direction of the temple's former vet.

One of Vietnam’s oldest zoos to exchange animals with local counterparts
Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden, which celebrated its 150th anniversary last year, is making plans to exchange animals with three other zoos across Vietnam, in an attempt to diversify its collection.
The Ho Chi Minh City-based Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden, or Saigon Zoo for short, was established in 1865, and has since been a hallmark of the city, leaving unforgettable childhood imprints on generations of city dwellers.
The zoo’s management recently announced its plan to trade parts of its tiger, lutung, and gibbon populations for other animals including ostriches, camels, and zebras from three other zoos across Vietnam.
According to the plan, Saigon Zoo will trade two Bengal tigers, four Indochinese tigers, and three Indochinese lutungs for two white tigers, one zebra, two Alpacas, four Arctic foxes, and five ostriches from Cu Chi Waterpark in Ho Chi Minh City.
In its exchange with the Prenn Waterfall Tourist Site in the Central Highlands city of Da Lat, Saigon Zoo will trade two Bengal tiger cubs, two yellow-cheeked gibbons, a

Edited by Dr Kees Rookmaaker

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The total number of references in the database and collection of the RRC now stands at 20,250. Thank you to all contributors.

Please share your articles on rhinos, pictures of rhinos. 
The RRC thanks the sponsors: SOS Rhino, International Rhino Foundation, WWF AREAS, Save the Rhino International, Rhino Carhire as well as individuals who have found the RRC useful in their research.


Asia's first vulture re-introduction programme launched in Haryana
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said almost 95 per cent of vultures have disappeared from the country due to the widespread use of diclofenac - a pain killer drug used to treat cattle.
The Haryana government on Friday launched Asia's First 'Gyps Vulture Reintroduction Programme' at Jatayu Conservation Breeding Centre, Pinjore.
The Centre has become prominent vulture breeding and conservation centre in the country-after successfully breeding Himalayan Griffon Vultures-an old world vulture in the family of Accipitridae-in captivity.

Cincinnati Zoo to store slain gorilla's sperm for future use
After shooting dead a gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo to save a 3-year-old boy, zoo officials said they had collected a sample of his sperm, raising hopes among distraught fans that Harambe could sire offspring even in death.

But officials at the main U.S. body that oversees breeding of zoo animals said it was highly unlikely that the Western lowland gorilla's contribution to the nation's "frozen zoo" of genetic material of rare and endangered species would be used to breed.

"Currently, it's not anything we would use for reproduction," Kristen Lukas, who heads the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Gorilla Species Survival Plan, said on Wednesday. "It will be banked and just stored for future use or for research studies."

Bengal tigress and 114 other animals die at Yumká Zoo in Tabasco
“Animals are not immortal,” was the “smart” comment made by Cristel Perez Arevalo, director of Yumká Ecological Park in Tabasco, recognizing that in three years, 114 animals have died and that 70% of the population of the zoo are long-living species.

The official appeared before the members of the Local Congress after more than two months of meetings and demands by the different parliamentary factions, who requested her presence to explain the constant death of animals in Yumká.

After the meeting with legislators, Pérez Arévalo acknowledged that a total of 114 animals have died from 2013 to 2015 in the zoo, but she denied that these deaths are due to negligence. She said several factors are involved in this situation, such as predators, age and diseases, claiming that this amount represents 15% of the total population which currently stands at 819 animals.

While she says that animals  “are not immortal”, the albino tigress known as “Shakira” died on May 31, after agonizing for several days. According to veterinarians from the Yumká Zoo, the animal passed away after not being properly fed for an eight-day

How One Man's Obsessive Orca Hunt Left A Legacy Of Controversy And Conservation
These days, the prospect of seeing the Pacific Northwest’s iconic orca whales in the wild attracts thousands of tourists annually to whale-watching boats or shore-side excursions.  But it wasn’t that long ago that these majestic endangered creatures were seen as a menace.

The person who turned the tide on that thinking was, perhaps ironically, someone who pioneered the controversial practice of hunting orcas so they could be put on captive display in aquariums.

In 1965, Orca Hunter Ted Griffin became the first person to ever swim publicly with a killer whale. He also founded and operated Seattle’s first aquarium, the Seattle Marine Aquarium on Pier 56 in Elliot Bay, where he showcased Namu, the famous orca who also starred in a Hollywood movie of the same name made that year.

Griffin went on to capture and sell dozens of orcas to other aquariums during the late 1960s and early 1970s. That practice earned him lasting infamy in many circles, from people who find keeping such large and intelligent mammals captive inhumane.  But at the time, it represented a radical change in the way humans related to killer whales.

With their enormous appetites for salmon and massive size, killer whales were viewed as a nuisance by com

Orca whale filmed beaching herself as zoo defends welfare record
Animal rights activists have called for the release of an orca whale filmed deliberately beaching herself and lying motionless at the side of the pool for several minutes after a show at Tenerife’s Loro Parque zoo.

Some spectators interpreted the video as an attempt by the whale, named Morgan, to commit suicide.

“Looks to me as if trying to take her own life, I don’t blame her,” wrote commenter Efrat Cybulkiewicz after viewing the clip showing Morgan on her belly outside of Loro Parque’s display pool on Vimeo.

Owner of Bowmanville Zoo, charged with animal cruelty, in court Monday
The owner of the Bowmanville Zoo, charged with animal cruelty, will appear in court on Monday.

Michael Hackenberger is charged with four counts of causing an animal distress and one of failing to comply with the prescribed standards of care for an animal.

The OSPCA began its investigation after video footage surfaced that appeared to show Hackenberger hitting a tiger with a whip during a training session. The footage emerged in December.

Three of the distress charges relate to the use of a whip.

Mitch Albom: Gorilla empathy not matched for humans
A silverback gorilla belongs in the Cincinnati Zoo as much as a human being belongs in an African bird’s nest. But when a child got into that gorilla’s enclosure last weekend, and the animal was killed to protect the child’s life, we were suddenly arguing as if both sides had an equal say.

“The gorilla didn’t have to die!” people protested. “It’s inhumane. It’s cruel.”

It certainly is. But if you are worried about cruelty to gorillas, you should begin with them being in a zoo in the first place. Healthy debates can be had over the rights of man to imprison animals for exploration and profit.

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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
Contact email -
Dubai: ++ 971 (0)50 4787 122

Skype: peter.dickinson48

Mailing address: (not where I live...currently in Dubai)
2 Highgate
North Wales
LL22 8NP

United Kingdom

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