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,
not DYSFUNCTIONAL zoos.
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
“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
conservation breeding in Iran
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.
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.
Elephant Is Fading Fast
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.
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
He said the monkeys
were put to death by lethal injection over about one month ending early
The zoo operator
held a memorial service for the monkeys at a nearby Buddhist temple to appease
their souls, he added.
macaque crossbreeds wer
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
“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
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
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:
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
- The victim’s
colleague barely managed to pry the croc’s jaws open and pulled the man out of
- 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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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?
Gallup Jr. came up with a way, over a century later. In 1970, he got four
captive chimps accustomed to a mirror
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
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
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
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.
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
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
tortoises make a comeback, thanks to innovative conservation strategies
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
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
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
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
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.
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.