Thursday, February 23, 2017

Zoo News Digest 23rd February 2017 (ZooNews 945)

Zoo News Digest 23rd February 2017 
(ZooNews 945)

Peter Dickinson

Dear Colleague,

There was a discussion on one of the Facebook zoo groups this week as to whether membership of ABWAK (the Association of British Wild Animal Keepers) was worth it. There were those who thought it was too expensive. If you are a tax paying British citizen then membership can be free. You are entitled to claim for membership to one professional body on your tax form so cost should not be an issue. Some lucky zoo staff are lucky enough to have their employers pay for membership…for anyone in their employ for more than 12 months. If your zoo doesn't do this then I would encourage you to have a word with the directors. It is in 'their' zoos interest to further their staffs education.

I had been working in zoos for several years before ABWAK was formed and attended the very first formative meeting. I saw that such an organisation was important then and I believe it is even more important today. Way back then zoo staff included some rather unsavoury characters and of course none of these attended the meeting. They weren't interested. ABWAK represented from the beginning the cream of the profession as it does so today. ABWAK members are the staff who really care, are eager to learn and contribute.

Remember it was ABWAK which took a leading role in the development of the first nationwide UK ZooKeeping course. This is so important for those who genuinely want to pursue the career. It continues to get better in each phase.

In the discussion on Facebook there were mentions that some of the articles in 'Ratel' (the excellent journal) were of little interest. Well that is up to members. Every one of them can contribute. Believe me you know things and have observed things that none of your peers are aware of. Did you know that 'Animal Enrichment' had not even been "invented" at the time of the formation of ABWAK? In fact it was several years later before the first articles started to appear. The American Association had been going a few years longer (I was a member of that too) did not go into that subject either till later and yet today we recognise it as one of the most important tenets of our profession.

I look back with some pride on one particular issue of 'Ratel' where every single one of the articles was written by present or former members of The Welsh Mountain Zoo staff…an accomplishment which I don't believe has yet been equalled.

I say 'Profession' and look upon myself as a Professional Zoo Keeper regardless of whatever title I hold or have held over the years…..but the 'Profession' is very sadly not fully recognised as such in most parts of the world….and it needs to be. Membership of ABWAK should not be about getting free entry to various zoos. True, it's great when you can get it but really membership is about being stronger together, sharing your knowledge and learning from others.

In recent years we have seen the arrival of the ICZ, The International Congress of ZooKeepers making ABWAK members part of a huge International family of Zookeeping Professionals. So I encourage everyone to be an ABWAK member. If you are not you simply become 'somebody who works in a zoo'.
If you are in the US, Australasia, the Philippines or elsewhere you owe it to yourself and the animals you care for to be a member of your local professional association.


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, 



Protocol delays opening of $272m Dubai Safari, says municipality chief
The opening date of $272 million (AED1 billion) Dubai Safari Park has been pushed back as the municipality adheres to an “animal protocol”, Dubai Municipality director general told Arabian Business.
The safari, which covers an area of 119 hectares in the Al-Warqa Fifth district, was scheduled to open last year, but a confirmed date of opening has yet to be announced. It will be home to 1,000 animal species, of which over 350 will be rare and endangered.
“We should be ready in the next three months, with the opening taking place this year. We have been bringing the animal but there is an ‘animal protocol’ that we need to follow,” Hussain Nasser Lootah said.
“You bring them blindfolded and so they don’t see the new area. They are released slowly so they get use to the new env

Wildlife conservation breeding in Iran
However, for conservation breeding and the implementation of A.R.T. scientists have to know more about reproduction physiology. Artificial insemination in large Felidae can be an important tool. Most of non-domestic felids are endangered because of isolation, habitat destruction, inbreeding and so on.

Research into semen collection methods and cryopreservation of sperm needs scientific collaboration and that’s why vets, conservationists, and also geneticists work together.

Kija (literary meaning daughter) and Rika (literary meaning son) are the two Persian leopards living in captivity in Tehran zoo. Kija is not young enough and despite years of living together the two have not mated naturally for unknown reasons. So recently a team comprising of Iranian and foreign researchers and vets have succeeded in collecting semen from the male leopard, preserving it and waiting for the female to be prepared for future pregnancy.

Africa's Other Elephant Is Fading Fast
When Richard Ruggiero first saw the gold mine from the air, he was reminded of one of Dante’s circles of hell. It In the midst of Gabon’s Minkebe National Park—a huge protected area the size of Belgium—there was “a gaping hole in the forest more than half a mile wide and long.” On the ground, the mine was a “noisy, crowded, polluted, lawless confusion”—a hub of 6,000 miners, prostitution, drugs, and arms trafficking. And amid the chaos, Ruggiero and colleagues found caches of ivory, high-caliber weapons, and huge, grey carcasses. That’s when they knew that the forest elephants of Minkebe were in trouble.

Contrary to popular belief, Africa isn’t home to just one species of elephant—but two. The savannah or bush elephant is the familiar one that tourists see on safaris, and that turns up in nature documentaries. The forest elephant is smaller, darker, straighter of tusk, and rounder of ear. Its i

Japan zoo culls 57 monkeys carrying ‘invasive’ genes
A Japanese zoo has culled 57 native snow monkeys by lethal injection after finding that they carried genes of an “invasive alien species”, officials said Tuesday.

The Takagoyama Nature Zoo in the city of Futtsu in Chiba prefecture east of Tokyo, housed 164 simians which it believed were all pure Japanese macaques.

But the operator and local officials discovered about one-third were crossbred with the rhesus macaque, which in Japan is designated an “invasive alien species”.

A city official told AFP on Tuesday that Japanese law bans the possession and transport of invasive species, including the crossbreeds, and that culling of them is allowed under the law.

He said the monkeys were put to death by lethal injection over about one month ending early February.

The zoo operator held a memorial service for the monkeys at a nearby Buddhist temple to appease their souls, he added.

Snow monkey-rhesus macaque crossbreeds wer

Panthera Statement on Proposed U.S.-Mexico Border Wall And Impact on Wild Cats and Other Wildlife
In the wake of President Trump’s executive order advancing his administration’s intention to erect a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, issued the following statement:

Panthera opposes the construction of a border wall that would disturb the natural movement and dispersal patterns of wildlife, including cougars, ocelots and jaguars, between Mexico and the United States. Fencing has already broken natural connections between wild cat populations in some areas of the border. Further fortification, as proposed by the Administration, would fragment wildlife populations already under pressure. 

“Apex predators like wild cats are among the first species to disappear when humans disrupt and fragment natural landscapes, leading to impoverished ecosystems with impacts on both wildlife and people,” said Dr. Luke Hunter, President of Panthera. “The unique habitats of the borderlands were once inhabited by five species of wild cats. Only two, the cougar and bobcat, are still relatively secure on both sides of the border.”

Panthera’s CEO Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, who envisions a single connected jaguar population throughout its remaining range, added: “Largest of American cats, the jaguar once

Rhino orphanage attacked. Please help.
In a brutal manifestation of how out of control the rhino situation is in South Africa, Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage was attacked, baby rhino/s killed, care-givers savagely beaten and a young woman sexually assaulted.

Nepal’s biggest zoo to be built in Tanahun
Tanahun will soon host the country’s largest zoo. The process to build an ‘animal sanctuary’, at Bhanu-Ghansi Kuwa municipality of Tanahun district, is already in progress, according to Yagya Nath Dahal, assistant spokesperson for Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation. Spread over an area of 425 hectares, the zoo will be home to all animal and bird species found in Nepal. The decision to establish the zoo in Tanahun is in accordance with the government’s policy to build an animal sanctuary in each province. “Our goal is to establish the zoo as a venue for wildlife research,” Dahal informed. “The zoo will also be a milestone in the de - See more at:

5-meter crocodile ripped off man's leg after he PETS its snout while feeding it
- A monstrous 800 kilo crocodile, the star of a Malaysian zoo, attacked a zoo worker that was feeding it

- The victim’s colleague barely managed to pry the croc’s jaws open and pulled the man out of its mouth

- According to the chief of police the crocodile bit the man’s right leg off in the attack and managed to severely mangle the man’s right arm

Himachal saves brilliantly plumaged western tragopan from extinction
 As the population of the western tragopan, a brilliantly-coloured Asian pheasant species, hovers on the brink of extinction globally, Himachal Pradesh is engaged in breeding its state bird in captivity.

The world's only breeding centre in Sarahan town, located some 160 km from this state capital, has 26 breeding birds. Five chicks were born in 2016.

"Currently, we have 12 female and 14 male western tragopans," breeding centre biologist Lakshmi Narasimha told IANS.

The pheasantry is jointly funded by the Central Zoo Authority and the wildlife

Antimicrobial substances identified in Komodo dragon blood
In a land where survival is precarious, Komodo dragons thrive despite being exposed to scads of bacteria that would kill less hardy creatures. Now in a study published in the Journal of Proteome Research, scientists report that they have detected antimicrobial protein fragments in the lizard's blood that appear to help them resist deadly infections. The discovery could lead to the development of new drugs capable of combating bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics.

The world's largest lizard, Komodo dragons live on five small islands in Indonesia. The saliva of these creatures contains at least 57 species of bacteria, which are believed to contribute to the demise of their prey. Yet, the Komodo dragon appears resistant to these bacteria, and serum from these animals has been shown to have antibacterial activity. Substances known as cationic antimicrobial peptides (CAMPs) are produced by nearly all living creatures and are an

New study reveals what penguins eat
The longest and most comprehensive study to date of what penguins eat is published this month. The study, published in the journal Marine Biology, examines the diets of gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) at Bird Island, South Georgia over a 22 year period and is part of a project investigating the Southern Ocean ecosystem and its response to change.

Egg-free surrogate chickens produced in bid to save rare breeds
Hens that do not produce their own chicks have been developed for use as surrogates to lay eggs from rare breeds.

The advance -- using gene-editing techniques -- could help to boost breeding of endangered birds, as well as improving production of commercial hens, researchers say.

A team led by the University of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute used a genetic tool called TALEN to delete a section of chicken DNA.

They targeted part of a gene called DDX4, which is crucial for bird fertility.

Hens with the genetic modification were unable to produce eggs but were otherwise healthy, the team found.

DDX4 plays an essential role in the generation of specialised cells -- called primordial germ cells -- which give rise to eggs.

Researchers say that donor primordial germ cells from other breeds could be implanted into the gene-edited chickens as they are developing inside an egg. The surrogate hens would then grow up to produce eggs containing all

Facial Recognition Software: The Next Big Thing in Species Conservation?
How do you care for the creatures you love? You shoot them with tranquilizer darts, capture them in cages, embed microchips, pierce their ears or make them wear funny collars.

For scientists who monitor endangered species, these are tried-and-true methods to count and track individuals in a given population—along with photography and experts’ sharp eyes. But capturing or sedating an animal can be stressing (and could cause physical harm), and boots-on-the-ground counts can be inconsistent and costly. Sometimes, getting up close and personal with animals isn’t feasible.

So researchers asked a question that’s come to define a generation: Can a computer do this?

If the LemurFaceID system is any indication of preliminary success, it sure can. Biologists and computer scientists at Michigan State University built a facial recognition system that, with a little training, correctly identified individuals in a set of red-bellied lemur photos with

There is a moral argument for keeping great apes in zoos
I get apprehensive whenever someone asks me about my job. I’m a philosopher who works on the question of how language evolved, I reply. If they probe any further, I tell them that I work with the great apes at Leipzig zoo. But some people, I’ve discovered, have big problems with zoos.

Plenty of philosophers and primatologists agree with them. Even the best zoos force animals to live in confined spaces, they say, which means the animals must be bored and stressed from being watched all the time. Other critics claim that zoos are wrong even if the creatures aren’t suffering, because being held captive for human entertainment impugns their dignity. Such places ‘are for us rather than for animals’, the philosopher Dale Jamieson has written, and ‘they do little to help the animals we are driving to extinction’.

But I want to defend the value of zoos. Yes, some of them should certainly be closed. We’ve seen those terrible videos of solitary apes or tigers stalking barren cages in shopping malls in Thailand or China. However, animals have a good quality of life in many zoos, and there’s a strong moral case for why these institutions ought to exist. I’ve come to this view after working with great apes, and it might not extend to all species equally. However, since great apes are both cognitively sophisticated and h

Speciation is not all about good looks: For stick insects, the right partner should smell good too
An attractive scent is just as important as good looks when it comes to choosing a mate -- at least among stick insect populations.

According to a new study, fragrance is an important factor in stick insects' choice of mate. It could explain why, when looks are deceiving, the insects are still able to show a preference for mates from the same species -- a key to evolutionary success.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, are part of an 18-year research programme, in which scientists at the University of Sheffield and Royal Holloway, University of London, examined stick insect populations in California, in the US, to try to understand better what drives new species formation.

In evolutionary terms, the ability to avoid mixing genes with other species is important to preserve differences between species and evolve characteristics that are advan

What Mirrors Tell Us About Animal Minds
A couple of weeks ago, an editor at The Guardian tweeted an image of a bald eagle staring at its reflection in a body of water. “This photo of an eagle taking a hard look at itself is not a metaphor for anything that's been in the news recently,” he wrote.
At the time of this writing, the image has been retweeted 62,000 times.

And it prompted one of my colleagues at The Atlantic to ask: “Are eagles intelligent enough to recognize their own reflections?”


In March 1838, a young and little-known biologist named Charles Darwin asked the same question. On a visit to London Zoo, he stepped into a cage with an orangutan named Jenny, and marveled as she played with a mirror. He noted that she was “astonished beyond measure” at the glass. She examined it, kissed it, made faces at it, and contorted her body as she approached it. What did she see in the mirror? Did she recognize herself? And perhaps most importantly, how could you even tell?

Psychologist Gordon Gallup Jr. came up with a way, over a century later. In 1970, he got four captive chimps accustomed to a mirror

Republicans begin effort to gut the Endangered Species Act
On Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held hearings on legislation to "modernize" the Endangered Species Act, part of a push by Republicans to roll back environmental regulations and protections. The Republicans on the committee, led by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), and three of the five witnesses at the hearing argued that the 1973 law to keep animal species from extinction impedes oil drilling, mining, and farming, and infringes on the rights of states and private landowners. The proposed legislation would make it harder to list animals on the endangered species list and li

Penguin found decapitated in car park after being stolen from German zoo
A penguin has been found decapitated near a car park after being stolen from a German zoo.

The young bird went missing from the Luisenpark in Mannheim on Saturday, sparking a police investigation.

A passer-by found the penguin’s body on Thursday morning, mounted on a fence on the edge of a nearby car park.

Climate Change Has Already Harmed Almost Half of All Mammals
The effect of climate change on endangered species has been wildly underestimated, a new study has found.
A survey of studies has determined that climate change has had a particularly dire effect on mammals and birds on the endangered species list. That includes about half of the mammals and almost a quarter of the birds on the “red list” kept by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), according to a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change. The study found that about 700 species on the list were affected by the warming planet.
The findings show that climate change is already a major threat to many species on Earth, not at some vague point in the future, said James Watson, a researcher at the University of Queensland in Australia. Watson said most climate studies on biodiversity focus on the effects climate change could have 50 to 100 years from n

The Future of Zoos: Challenges Force Zoos to Change in Big Ways
For a mother escorting her kids through the Philadelphia Zoo, it was a close encounter of the ferocious kind. Directly in front of her as she strolled down the zoo's main walkway was a Siberian tiger, a 400-plus-lb. carnivore capable of tearing apart a wild antelope. But rather than panic, the family laughed. The tiger was out of its lair, but its pathway was at a safe, meshed-in distance from onlookers, and after a few moments of looking around, the tiger moved on.
The tiger's trail, dubbed Big Cat Crossing, is part of a bigger initiative called Zoo360 that has changed the way humans and animals experience the nation's oldest zoo. There's no question the experience is compelling for the humans. On a recent visit, I watched children drop their lunches in awe of white-faced saki monkeys hanging out in the trees. I witnessed one couple stop mid conversation when a gorilla lumbered overhead, and saw more than a few families startled by the appearance of a large cat that seemed eerily close to them. But the bigger impact of Zoo360, says its chief operating officer, Andrew Baker, may be its effort to transform the experience of animals in captivity.
At a time when scientists know more than they ever have before about the inner lives of animals--and when concerns about animal rights loom large--many experts think that zoos need a major overha

This is What Zoos of the Future Could Look Like
A slew of challenges from animal rights activism to financial pressures have forced the leaders of American zoos to rethink their footprint and purpose.
The cutting-edge zoos that could emerge in years to come look different depending on their location, size and structure. Here are three types—and sizes—of zoo adapted from the thoughts of visionary landscape architect Jon Coe. They represent just the tip of the iceberg for how zoos might change in the coming decades.

Safari Park Educates Indonesians on Animal Welfare
 Recent incidents of animal cruelty in Indonesian zoos, which often keep underfed animals in tiny cages, have led to international outrage, further damaging Indonesia’s already poor reputation in animal welfare.

But there's some good news. Bali Safari and Marine Park, owned by Taman Safari, will now provide animal conservation and education on animal welfare, making them one of a few institutions in Indonesia dedicated to raising awareness and protection of wildlife.

The World Animal Protection currently gives Indonesia an overall Animal Protection Index of D, with A being the highest and G the lowest.

In regards to animals in captivity, the index indicates there is legislation in place already to protect captive animals in Indonesia, but it is only partially applied throughout the country.

A 2015 report published by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry said there are only four wildlife parks in the country, three of them owned by Taman Safari, including the Bali Safari and Marine Park.

Bali Safari and Marine Park's veterinarian, Kadek Kesuma

Galapagos giant tortoises make a comeback, thanks to innovative conservation strategies
The Galapagos Islands are world-famous as a laboratory of biological evolution. Some 30 percent of the plants, 80 percent of the land birds and 97 percent of the reptiles on this remote archipelago are found nowhere else on Earth. Perhaps the most striking example is the islands’ iconic giant tortoises, which often live to ages over 100 years in the wild. Multiple species of these mega-herbivores have evolved in response to conditions on the island or volcano where each lives, generating wide variation in shell shape and size.

Over the past 200 years, hunting and invasive species reduced giant tortoise populations by an estimated 90 percent, destroying several species and pushing others to the brink of extinction, although a few populations on remote volcanoes remained abundant.

An 'Arctic' safari in the Scottish Highlands
The temperature is below zero and a bitter wind is tugging at our clothes. In the distance, the Grampian hills are catching the early sunlight but it’s dark in the shadows of the wood. Curious eyes are trained on us from beneath the trees – a pack of grey wolves are just metres away. It’s rare to see these beautiful creatures at such close quarters: wolves are naturally wary. The privilege of the moment is lost on six-year-old Nelly. Her toes are aching with cold.

We’ve come to Scotland to seek out some of her favourite polar animals, creatures she’s so far enjoyed only in books and wildlife shows on TV – but wolves are not on her list.

With a polar explorer as a father, I feel drawn to all things Arctic. This area of the Highlands has a particular resonance, as it was where my dad spent his final years. It reminded him of north-west Greenland, where we had spent happy years living with a remote Inuit community. Our visit is an opportunity for me to show Nelly this special place and introduce her to the kind of animals I grew up with.
I’m not normally one for zoos, but the Highland Wildlife Park is unique. It’s run by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), which also operates the zoo in Edinburgh, and its focus is on threatened species usually found in northerly locations.

In winter, this can feel like an Arctic landscape. The Cairngorms national park has some of Britain’s harshest weather and the heaviest snowfall in Scotland, creating snowfields that stretch to the horizon. Lochs, lochans and waterfalls can be frozen solid. Blizzards are common and temperatures frequently dip below -10C. Hurricane-force winds can blast through the glens, making them feel as wintry as the summits. In the higher altitudes, blizzards,

Zoos to be standardized to combat animal abuse
The government plans to standardize all zoos and conservation institutions in the country following a series of reports of animal abuse at several zoos.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said standardization would be stipulated in a ministerial regulation that was being prepared.

“Because [if there’s no standardization], it could create problems, such as those at Surabaya Zoo and Bandung Zoo. These zoos have been criticized by the community,” she said in Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan, on Saturday.

Siti was referring to mismanagement plaguing the Surabaya and Bandung zoos.


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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, 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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