Friday, July 15, 2016

Zoo News Digest 15th July 2016 (ZooNews 930)

Zoo News Digest 15th July 2016 
(ZooNews 930)

Peter Dickinson

Dear Colleague,

I wonder to myself with increasing frequency how I can take the World Zoo Associations seriously. Good honest people tell me things in confidence and ask that I say nothing for fear of exposing them and so I am double disturbed. In fact I am hurt that there are so many blind eyes and feigned ignorance of just what is going on. Money and politics should never take priority over caring and conservation. If this may seem a little bit cryptic it will be very very clear to those to whom I refer.

I take it you all saw the story about the snake killer in Karachi Zoo. Just what kind of spectacle is this? All and apart from the fact that it is so wrong on so many levels it was the statement by the zoo director Fahim Khan which I found so alarming  “The show is being held only for a few days and in no way damages the public image of the zoo”. The F*** it doesn't. It puts the zoo and this stupid ignorant man in the worst light possible. He should never have been in this post and the sooner he is kicked out the happier I, and the animals of Karachi Zoo, will be.

"BMC TO BREAK NEW GROUND WITH BYCULLA ZOO’S WORLD-CLASS AQUARIUM" - To me this sounds like a joke. Similar statements have been made for new zoos and safari parks over the past couple of years and no doubt will be made for facilities yet to open in the next couple. NOTHING is world class until it has proven itself to be so through commitment to the Five Freedoms, to genuine conservation, education, research and more….and returning to my opening statement none should ever be granted membership to any of the World Zoo associations until such time as they have proved themselves. There should be none of this 'you pat my back and I'll pat yours' nonsense.

One of the most disturbing things I have heard during the last week was of members of a large zoo visiting the Congo and asking about obtaining baby Gorillas. Can you believe it? Unfortunately I can. I did a bit of thinking about this. How on earth could they 'sort of' legally obtain them. Well, where there is a will there is a way and I reckon I have figured out how it could be done. I will say no more right now but will expose if it happens.

We don't want the whole Taiping 4 saga all over again….how many of those are still alive?

Did You Know?
ZooNews Digest has over 25,000 '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, 


Animal Welfare; Petition to Develop Regulations to Prohibit Public Contact with Potentially Dangerous Animals

Support grows to close 'world's saddest zoo' in China
More than 150,000 people have signed an online petition to close what's been called a "prison for animals" at a Chinese shopping mall.
The Grandview Mall in Guangzhou is a multi-storey shopping centre which is also home to a number of animals, including polar bears, a wolf and whales, kept in enclosures where they're constantly bothered by shoppers wanting selfies.

Zoos lead the fight against animals' extinction
The recent death of the gorilla shot at the Cincinnati Zoo after a child fell into his enclosure first prompted unfair criticism of the child’s parents. Then pundits piled on by second-guessing the zoo’s decision to kill the gorilla to save the child.

That led to yet-another spate of zoo-bashing with no fewer than a dozen mainstream media outlets questioning whether zoos should exist at all.

It was as if the writers of these articles (none of them scientists or conservationists) were in a time warp that took them back decades when the focus of zoos was purely entertainment, rather than education, and when zoo animals were often in cramped cages and fed without much thought to nutrition.

Today, at the St. Louis Zoo, we have a Ph.D. nutritionist working hard to match the diets of animals in our care to those of their kin in the wild. Veterinarians, who spend years studying zoo medicine, are on call to handle every situation, and more importantly, to offer active preventive medicine and disease surveillance programs. Animals at our zoo and at other accredited zoos live in spacious habitats where highly trained animal care professionals work to keep them mentally and physically energized through a range of enrichment.

What we have learned in zoos has also been used to treat and benefit animals in the wild. We are transferring research findings from our reproductive management experts, endocrinologists, veterinarians and other scientists to the fie

With BMC Commissioner Ajoy Mehta already giving a go-ahead, the city is all set to get a world-class aquarium at Byculla zoo, which will be the first of its kind in the country and the sixth in the world. With close to 450 marines species, the aquarium is all set to provide an underwater three-dimensional experience to visitors.

Work on the project worth Rs 25 crore has already started after Mehta cleared plans submitted by SIVAT, a US-based company, in collaboration with M/S Highway Construction, the aquarium plans to open its doors by the end of this year. Though the initial plan was approved in March, the project took a while to begin as Tanmay Rai and SIVAT's IBrett Cavaliero proposed the building of an under-water tunnel to provide a three-dimensional experience to visitors. Mehta asked the duo to incorporate this within the same estimated cost, which took them some time to submit the final plan.

The ongoing project, the designs of which are loosely based on Denmark's national aquarium, is tipped off to become bigger crowdpuller than the Taraporewala aquarium. Project coordinator Dr Tanmay Rai said, "The design will consist of a 20-metre tunnel that will be surro in July 2016

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Predators of the Serengeti is an exhibit complex at Oregon Zoo for some
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Thanks to Eduardo Díaz García we are able to offer the Spanish
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Proving crime committed against cetaceans
On yet another wet day when gardening is shelved I had intended to write a blog, but was wondering what might be relevant to summer time (summer time, try telling that to folks at T in the Park today!) Summer is probably the quietest season of the year for wildlife crime but, apart from the destruction of the nests of some birds such as house martins and swallows, one of the more unusual, and thankfully rarer, wildlife crimes that police investigate, is the intentional or reckless disturbance or harassment of cetaceans.

This is an extremely difficult offence to prove, and may well be under-reported. This short chapter on cetaceans from my book Wildlife and the Law outlines some of the difficulties encountered, and may allo

All zoos must become ‘firewalls against extinction’
What will zoos look like in the future? That’s a question several experts have tackled on Animalia during the past week. We’ve heard from a zoo director, an American zoo designer, an Australian zoo designer, a neuroscientist and a sociologist. The final submission comes from Steve Monfort, a veterinarian who is director of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va.

Zoos must focus on becoming effective conservation organizations while sustaining excellence in providing for the health and well-being of wildlife in human care. Next-generation zoos must invest large amounts of money in what’s known as “conservation infrastructure,” including much more space (on or off zoo property). These steps are essential for effectively managing genetic diversity over the long-term, and for positioning zoos as vital players on a conservation continuum that spans from intensively managed populations in human care to free-living animals in nature.

Today, zoos around the world invest more than $350 million per year in field conservation. But the majority of that money is provided by a minority of zoos. Moving forward, all zoos will increasingly be held accountable for their contributions to conservation. Make no mistake: As the biodiversity crisis worsens, the world will look even more to zoos as firewalls against extinctions and as leaders in

100 snakes killed in Pak. zoo ‘magic show’
Around 100 snakes have been ruthlessly killed as part of a so-called magic show at the Karachi zoo, it was reported on Tuesday.

Titled ‘The snake-eating man’, the stunt has been attracting hundreds of visitors since the first day of Eid and is likely to continue for a few more days, the Dawn reported.

Breaks necks

The snakes are killed by a performer who breaks their necks with his teeth before skinning them, and tasting their blood dripping from their mutilated bodies.

This act is done in front of a large audience, mainly children, Dawn said.

“I have been holding these shows in all major cities of the country for a long time. No government official has ever stopped or fined me on my acts,” said performer Talib, who hails from Nawabshah.

Snake population stable

The 31-year-old, also a snake hunter, said the number of snakes in Pakistan had not declined over the years despite their frequent killing in his shows.

“I eat all kinds of snakes that include cobras and vipers but they are often not easily available,” Dawn quoted him as saying.

According to him, he has developed immunity against snake poison and suffers no effects from a snake-bite. He added that he was also fond of frogs

Cherry Brook Zoo still silent on Collrin departure
The board of trustees at the Cherry Brook Zoo is still keeping quiet about the departure of zoo founders Lynda and Leonard Collrin after a closed-door board meeting Monday night on how to proceed.

A statement was expected on Tuesday morning, but when contacted to ask for the statement, Alice O'Neill, chair of the board of trustees, said, "No comment on that, but you will know."

The Collrins opened the Cherry Brook Zoo in 1978 at its current location. The zoo has expanded to include a number of new animals, a mini-golf game, and a park featuring statues of endangered animals.

Two chimps escape from Jos zoo
Residents of West of Mines in the central parts of the Plateau State capital, Jos are apprehensive over the escape of two chimpanzees from a nearby zoo.

 The two chimps - a male and a female, escaped confinement at the federal government owned National Museum and Monuments, on Tuesday, Daily Trust learnt.

The circumstance of the escape was not immediately known, but it was rumoured that the apes forced their way out of a rusty cage, in search of food.

 Early reports suggested that the female was lured back into the cage after hours of banters with the apes on Tuesday, while the male, named Yellow, outsmarted the zoo keepers, luring them rather into his trail but staying too far for their easy reach.

 “We gave up chasing this ape after it got dark,” a zoo keeper, who pleaded not to be named, told Daily Trust. “Yellow is too smart; he kept tricking us, jumping from place to place, until it ended up on a tall tree far beyond our easy reach.”

 He said Yellow displayed jungle skills, jumping from tree to tree in a jungle-style swing that dragged over eight hours until the keepers deployed to lure him back got tired.

 By today residents who were alerted by the development went out on a search, although it was not clear if they did so to help get the ape back into the zoo, or simply out of curiosity.

 “Residents were able to spot it far off from where we left it the night before,” the zoo keeper said. “We joined them in the banters, and had to invite men of the Fire Service to assist.”

 By 3pm when this report was still in the maki

Three monkeys dead after dogs break into Baton Rouge Zoo
Three monkeys at the Baton Rouge Zoo are dead after dogs broke into the zoo in the early hours of Tuesday morning and attacked the primates as they reached out of their exhibit.

Kaki Heiligenthal, the zoo’s director of marketing and development, said Wednesday that zoo officials are still trying to figure out the sequence of events that led to the monkeys’ deaths. But surveillance videos have helped them put together some of the clues

Sinister move against Dehiwala Zoo
The Movement for the Protection of the National Zoo (MPNZ) yesterday said that there were moves by certain elements with vested interests to have the Dehiwala Zoological Garden closed.

Media Co-ordinator for the movement Shantha Jayaweera said the objective of those elements was to reduce the size of the present Zoological Garden on a 21-acre plot to around 2-3 acres.

Addressing a news conference in Colombo, Jayaweera said, "A newly formed foundation which claimed to be fighting for animal rights in Sri Lanka is spreading falsehoods claiming that animals in the Dehiwala Zoo were subjected to cruelty and some of the photographs they have posted on the Internet have been taken overseas. It has o

Monkeys in Brazil 'have used stone tools for hundreds of years at least'
New archaeological evidence suggests that Brazilian capuchins have been using stone tools to crack open cashew nuts for at least 700 years. Researchers say, to date, they have found the earliest archaeological examples of monkey tool use outside of Africa. In their paper, published in Current Biology, they suggest it raises questions about the origins and spread of tool use in New World monkeys and, controversially perhaps, prompts us to look at whether early human behaviour was influenced by their observations of monkeys using stones as tools. The research was led by Dr Michael Haslam of the University of Oxford, who in previous papers presents archaeological evidence showing that wild macaques in coastal Thailand used stone tools for decades at least to open shellfish and nuts.

Why We Are All Failing Orang-utans
On Friday 8 July the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) declared that the Bornean Orang-utan is one step closer to extinction. Upgrading the species from endangered to Critically Endangered, the Bornean Orang-utan now joins its genetic cousin, the Sumatran Orang-utan in this most desperate of situations.

The announcement, while not unexpected, has landed a very large blow to many of us working to save threatened species across the world.  We are failing the orang-utans. We are letting them slip away right before our eyes. We are not heeding the calls of our children who keep telling us that they want orang-utans safe in the wild, not just in zoos.

We have witnessed the bulldozing, slashing and burning of orang-utan habitat to make way for palm oil. And we have not done enough, despite the fact that it is our food that is driving this devastation.

When you work in the business of saving species, you get used to set backs. But this one feels harder because it is deeply personal. Zoos Victoria has been campaigning for the past seven years in Australia to achieve something very basic – the transparent labell

Thoughts for Behaviour: An upgrade in history…
Operant and classical conditioning is not new as we know. The foot steps have been made a long time ago by for example Sir I.Pavlov and Sir B.F. Skinner. Skinner discovered how you can connect behaviours to causes and how you can actually train an animal with reinforcement as response from the trainer towards the animal, what is nowadays called operant conditioning. Even before B.F.Skinner in the 1800s Sir I. Pavlov discovered how animal can predict that a food source is comming by using a sound before hand, what we call classical conditioning. In the 80s K.Pryor started to introduce operant and classical conditioning in Zoological facilitys with great succes. I mean till today we still do what she introduced back in the 80s. These scientists beside a couple others changed the world of animal training drastically. Sour

For zoo elephants, social lives may be more important than space
There’s a churning national conservation about the welfare of animals in zoos, and one of the biggest debates is about elephants.

Infertility, obesity and shortened lives are common afflictions among the zoo populations of these highly social, intelligent and enormous animals. Scientists have probed, in a limited way, how captivity affects them. Some zoo managers have closed elephant exhibits, saying their facilities couldn’t adequately support the animals’ needs. Critics say elephants have no place in zoos at all.

Among the major concerns are limited exhibit space — elephants roam for miles in the wild — and social groupings that are much smaller and less complex than the matrilinear herds of wild elephants.

[Humans are at war with nature, and zoo animals are the ‘refugees’]

Now a sweeping, first-of-its-kind study of nearly all elephants at accredited zoos in North America has applied epidemiological research methods to extract information that has often been missing from these debates. And some of its findings, published Thursday in PLOS One, are counterintuitive.

More than two dozen researchers, who gathered and analyzed data on 255 elephants at 68 zoos, found no link between the size of an exhibit and three key indicators of poor elephant welfare: obesity, reproduction problems or “stereotypical behavior,” such as re

Dartmoor Zoo to probe 'sheep attack', as lynx hunt enters second week

A carnivorous plant has learnt how to communicate with bats
Scientists have discovered that a species of carnivorous pitcher plant in Borneo has evolved a unique way of enticing bats to roost nearby. But the end goal isn't to eat the flying mammals - instead, Nepenthes hemsleyana stays nourished by digesting their falling droppings.

So in other words, a plant has worked out how to communicate with a mammal, just to encourage it to poop in its mouth.

'Swim Away:' Zoo Keepers From San Francisco and Oakland Release Turtles
In a small seasonal pond just outside the Bay Area in Lake County, an eight-year effort to save California’s native Western Pond Turtles played out last week.
Amid the rural terrain of Lake County, teams of zoo-keepers from the San Francisco and Oakland Zoos, along with researchers from Sonoma State University toted tubs filled with the year-old turtles to return them to their birthplace of the previous year.

North Korean diplomats linked to lucrative rhino horn trade in Africa
North Korean diplomats have been implicated in 16 cases of illegal trading of rhinoceros horns and elephant tusks in the last 30 years, according to a report on international organised crime.

The report, compiled by the Geneva-based Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime, says diplomats stationed in Africa have been involved in 29 seizures of contraband horns and tusks over the last three decades, with North Korean diplomats accounting for the majority of those cases.
The diplomat, identified only by his surname, Park, was arrested in May 2015 with another North Korean national in possession of more than 10 lbs of rhino horn. The two men wer

In one of the most recent incidents, Yonhap News reported, a diplomat at North Korea's embassy in South Africa was detained over a deal with poachers in Mozambique.


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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 independent international 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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