Sunday, February 5, 2017

Zoo News Digest 13th February 2017 (ZooNews 943)

Zoo News Digest 12th February 2017 
(ZooNews 943)

Peter Dickinson

Dear Colleague,

It is so nice to see so many FaceBook Postings lately on the successes zoos have had. This is thanks largely to Kristen Otterson and the group 'Zoos Saving Species'.

This turns the oft repeated ill researched statements by the Animal Rights Anarchists on their head…for example:

"Returning captive-bred animals to the wild is, in most cases, impossible because animals who are reared in zoos are denied the opportunity to learn survival skills, can transmit diseases to their wild counterparts"

"Very few of the zoos who claim to keep and breed animals for the purpose of “conservation” actually do so and if they did, there would not be “surplus” animals, because they would be returned to the wild."

Zoos, Good Zoos could do a lot more than they do but are realistic. It is absolutely pointless putting any animal back into the wild unless there is a wild for it to return to. And if there is a wild is there space to return without causing territorial fights? And yes "disease" is also a consideration along with a lot more. Good Zoos care.

Being realistic the Good Zoos are more about the long term maintenance of genetically viable populations for a magical release date in the distant future.

Our problem is that there are far more Bad Zoos than there are Good ones. I have said it so many times before but until the Good Zoos actively condemn and expose the Bad Zoos we will continue to have problems with Animal Rights

Did You Know?
ZooNews Digest has over 52,000 'Like's' on Facebook and has a weekly reach often exceeding over 350,000 people? That ZooNews Digest has subscribers in over 800 Zoos in 153+ countries? That the subscriber list for the mail out 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, 





Bird bachelorette research may yield crucial answers to zoo animals' survival
Up four flights of stairs and in a remote corner of Brookfield Zoo's Tropic World, a version of "The Bachelorette" TV show is unfolding.

This one features a tropical bird, the female blue-gray tanager, perched in a large enclosure. Lining one side of her cage are three separate enclosures. Each contains a male tanager who can see the female but is blocked by wire mesh from having conjugal relations with her. Cameras are trained on the scene for hours a day.

When zoos really matter – how we protected the last porpoises
I’m all for action and less for loose talk. I think I share this with a majority of the public, and that is a good reason for zoos to really step up the game when it comes to conservation efforts.

Saving a healthy gene pool of animal population in zoos and aquaria is vital for the existence of the zoo community, and in a longer perspective also important for species on the brink of extinction.

But zoos can’t just stand and wait until the tigers have vanished from the forests of Asia before taking action. We have to take action now to prevent it from happening. In my zoo we have put a lot of focus on inspiring young people to live sustainable and to have a respect for nature, that is a long term work. But we have also seen that we have to take direct action in cases where our knowledge, research and experience is needed to save an endangered species or population.

This is the story of SAMBAH. Kolmårdens largest success in conservation, ever.

SAMBAH (Static Acoustic Monitoring of the Baltic Sea Harbour porpoise) was first initiated in 2008. It is sprung from two main causes:

Nobody knew how many Harbour Porpoises their were left in the Baltic Sea. What we knew was that the number of sightings of porpoises had decreased drastically during the last years.
We didn’t know were they were, how they moved and w

Julie Scardina – Racing Against Time, The Role Trainers Have Today.
I met Julie Scardina personally this year at the IMATA conference and I asked her what her vision is on our current situations. After a while I discovered that she is making a huge difference in the life of animals around the world. She started at Seaworld 0ver 35 years ago and became an ambassador and educator for all of our animals on this planet. I asked her if she could share her thoughts about conservation and animal training in a guest blog. She is an Inspiring, Motivational individual with a lot of great stories. She just published a new book together with J. Flocken, WildLife Heroes.

Newly Discovered Gecko Escapes Danger Naked and Alive
The fish-scale gecko has a freaky way of eluding danger. When snatched by an attacker, it rips off its scales and skin so it can slip away unscathed. Basically, it streaks to survive.

“It looks like a fish until you grab it, and then it looks like a naked chicken breast,” said Mark D. Scherz, a doctoral candidate at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. The torn-away scales reveal the gecko’s pink flesh, and through its translucent tissue you can see its spine and blood vessels. “It’s bizarre, it’s really surprising, and it’s quite uncomfortable when you see them,” he said.

It may seem like a gruesome getaway, but it doesn’t hurt the lizard. It loses its skin and scales with extreme ease and regenerates them in full a few weeks later. The new scales grow in with a different pattern than the previous ones, but other than that are nearly indistinguishable from the orig

Beastly incidents ignite debate over zoos
TWO weeks ago, a tiger in Ningbo Youngor Zoo in Zhejiang Province was shot dead after mauling a father of two who jumped into the beast’s enclosure to dodge an entry fee.

The incident has sparked heated discussions online, with netizens expressing regret over both deaths. Some urged the closure of zoos and the release of the animals back into the wild.

The Asian branch of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals published a series of posts on Weibo after the Ningbo incident. One described zoos as prisons and said “tigers don’t belong in zoos and wildlife shouldn’t be caged f

San Diego Zoo Polar Bear Contributes to Energetics Research
Tatqiq, a 580-pound polar bear at the San Diego Zoo, is making new strides in her “fitness” training. Animal care staff and scientists at the Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research have been preparing the 17-year-old female to voluntarily take part in a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) project that is studying the energy demands polar bears face in the Arctic—an example of the role that zoos play in conservation science.

This week, biologists from the USGS and University of California, Santa Cruz successfully collected data on Tatqiq’s resting oxygen consumption, in preparation for the next phase of the study: walking on a motorized treadmill. “Collecting oxygen consumption (data) gives us a measure of energy expenditure,” said Anthony Pagano, a wildlife biologist with the USGS. “We can use this information to understand what it costs a polar bear to rest—and what that means in terms of the number of seals they need to catch.” Oxygen levels will be linked to data gathered from a collar-mounted accelerometer, which wo

Rebuttal to article “A better life for animals can be found outside of zoos”
In reference to the article “A Better Life for Animals Can be Found Outside of Zoos,” we would argue where outside?  The writer mentions sanctuaries and conservation centers as better options. The truth is, accredited zoos and aquariums are both sanctuaries and conservation centers.
Webster defines a sanctuary as a place where someone or something is protected and given shelter.  All accredited zoos and aquariums have rigorous welfare and regulatory standards and can point to an excellent record of having healthy, long-lived animals in their care.  We are in the midst of what has been identified as the 6th extinction. The rate of extinction has increased a hundred-fold in the last century with over 18,000+ species

Rhino Bombshell: SA Minister plans to permit trade in horn
In a somewhat bewildering announcement today, South African Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa has declared that she plans to permit the trade in rhino horn domestically and, in what looks like a loophole big enough to drive a tractor through, the export internationally of horn for ‘personal purposes’. This after years of repeated attempts by her in court to resist applications by local rhino farmers to trade horn on the domestic market.

Tuatara: Chester Zoo celebrate breeding 'living fossil'
A reptile believed to have pre-dated most species of dinosaur has hatched at Chester Zoo for the first time.
A conservationist has been trying to breed tuatara - which are native to New Zealand - for the last 38 years.
Isolde McGeorge said tuatara, which first appeared 225 million years ago, "really are a living fossil and an evolutionary wonder."
She said she "broke down in tears" when the reptile hatched and that it was an "incredible achievement".
It followed "lots of hard work, lots of stressful moments and lots of tweaking of the conditions", Ms McGeorge added.
See more updates on this and other stories from Merseyside and Cheshire
"Tuatara lived before the dinosaurs and they

James Borrell: Eight reasons why zoos are good for conservation
This summer, a child fell into an enclosure at Cincinnati Zoo with a western lowland gorilla named Harambe, and to protect the child the gorilla was shot. This tragic and much-discussed event rekindled the debate over the role of zoos and aquaria – and much of the coverage was negative.

One would hope that zoos themselves would be proudly showcasing their work, but as I discovered while contributing to an Al Jazeera report on the incident, many are reluctant to speak up due to the barrage of attacks that Cincinnati experienced.

Zoos are not perfect. Should they continue to keep large predators or intelligent primates? Over the next few decades, probably not. Should large new animals be collected from the wild? No, unless there is a compelling case to develop a captive breeding programme.

But are zoos changing and developing? Yes. More than ever, good zoos are aware of their evolving role in conservation and responding to it.

Would I rather have a species in captivity, than not at all? One hundred times, yes.

Here are my eight reasons why zoos are critical to conservation:

1. There are 39 animal species currently listed by the IUCN as Extinct in the Wild. These are species that would have vanish

Trading in extinction: how the pet trade is killing off many animal species
Global biodiversity loss doesn’t just result from the destruction of habitats, or even hunting species for meat. A huge number of species are threatened by trade – both alive as pets or exhibits, or dead for use in medicines.

Though people have become increasingly aware of the threat posed by the trade of high-value species, such as the elephant for ivory, and various animals such as tigers, rhinos and the pangolin for medicine, few realise the risk that the pet trade poses to the future survival of many less well-known species.

On visiting a zoo or pet shop, you may expect that the reptiles and amphibians on show are bred in captivity, but many of these animals may have been imported live. In fact, 92% of the 500,000 live animal shipments between 2000-2006 to the United States (that’s 1,480,000,000 animals) were for the pet trade, and 69% of these originated in Southeast Asia.

These exports are increasing annually from the majority of tropical countries. And without careful regulation, this trade may be disastrous f

CUNY researchers seek to improve welfare in captive birds of prey through olfactory enrichment
For the first time, researchers are exploring ways to improve welfare in captive birds of prey through olfactory enrichment- or using scent cues to alleviate boredom and encourage species-appropriate behavior. A new study appearing in Zoo Biology found that birds of prey, which had learned to associate the presence of food with the scent of peppermint oil, interacted more with peppermint-scented "sham" packages (i.e. without food) than unscented "sham" packages.

The study is a collaboration between Melissa Nelson Slater, psychology doctoral student at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY) and Assistant Curator of Animal Husbandry at the Bronx Zoo, and Dr. Mark Hauber, Professor of Psychology in the Animal Behavior and Conservation Program at Hunter College. In the first phase of their experiment, the researchers introduced wrapped food packages scented with peppermint oil into bird of prey exhibits at the Bronx Zoo, so that the birds could l

Zoo Keeper sues Rocky Council for $1.1m after mozzie bite
A FORMER Rockhampton zookeeper says council failed to protect her from the risk of mosquitoes resulting in her contracting two debilitating diseases.

Anita Nicole Green is suing Rockhampton Regional Council for roughly $1.1 million, claiming it should have taken reasonable steps to eradicate mosquitoes from the zoo.

As the 44-year-old woman's employer, the defendant owed a duty of care to "provide adequate and effective personal protective equipment and substances at the zoo to

Probing the Link between Biodiversity-Related Knowledge and Self-Reported Proconservation Behavior in a Global Survey of Zoo Visitors
Many environmental communication interventions are built on the assumption that increased knowledge will lead to changes in proenvironment behaviors. Our study probes the link between biodiversity-related knowledge and self-reported proconservation behavior, based on the largest and most international study of zoo visitors ever conducted. In total, 6,357 visitors to 30 zoos from 19 countries around the globe participated in the study. Biodiversity understanding and knowledge of actions to help protect biodiversity were significantly related, but only 0.6% of the variation in knowledge of actions to help protect biodiversity could be explained by those same respondents’ biodiversity understanding. Biodiversity understanding was only the sixth most important variable in significantly predicting knowledge of actions to help protect biodiversity. Moreover, biodiversity understanding was the least important variable of those that were significantly related to self-reported proconservation behavior. Our study indicates that knowledge is a real, but relatively minor, factor in predicting whether members of the public – zoo visitors in this case – will know about specific proenvironment behaviors they can take, let alone whether they will actually undertake such behaviors.

Henry Doorly Zoo team plays key role in restoring lemur habitat in Madagascar
Halfway around the world, on the developing island of Madagascar, scientists from the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium are establishing one of the largest and most successful reforestation programs of any zoo in the world.

The Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership aims to restore lost habitat — primarily in the form of native trees — for endangered lemurs. After five years, the program planted its 1 millionth tree in December.

“It’s amazing that this has happe

Kulan reintroduction to the Steppe of Central Kazakhstan
A new project, KULANSTEP, aims to repopulate the central steppe of Kazakhstan with kulan. The project will transport kulan from the large population in Altyn Emel National Park in southeastern Kazakhstan to a release site on the ~60,000 km² Torgai steppe, strategically located in a network of protected areas, ecological corridors, and hunting areas.

The long term aim of the project is to greatly increase population size and range of kulan in Central Asia and provide a catalyst for kulan conservation actions across the region.

A new approach to understanding subspecies can boost conservation
Earth is home to an estimated 1 trillion species. To date, only about 1.2 million have been identified and described scientifically. There’s good reason to increase this number. Each species could offer an adaptive, evolutionary solution to the many challenges presented by changing landscapes.

Biological species are often comprised of geographically distinct entities. These are known as subspecies, races or management units.

Taxonomists and phylogeographers armed with this information ought to be able to identify those species with multiple evolutionary “solutions” in progress. These “solutions” should then be catered for to ensure the relevant species can be effectively conserved.

But this approach hasn’t been particularly successful, a

Granddad the Australian lungfish dies at Chicago Shedd Aquarium aged in its mid-90s
An Australian lungfish believed to be the longest-living fish in captivity has died at a Chicago aquarium.

Granddad, who was housed at the Shedd Aquarium, weighed 11 kilograms and was euthanased after showing signs of organ failure.

It is believed he was aged in his late 90s, but Queensland researchers are hoping genetic testing will confirm his actual age.


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If you have anything to add then please email me at
I will include it when I get a minute. You know it makes sense.

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About me
After more than 48 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, an introvert, 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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