Saturday, March 11, 2017

Zoo News Digest 11th March 2017 (ZooNews 948)

Zoo News Digest 11th March 2017 
(ZooNews 948)

Peter Dickinson

Dear Colleague,

The Saga of the South Lakes has taken the lion's share of the news this week. Where it has not been in an article directly about the collection it has been referenced in stories about zoos in general. It has not done us any good. Unless I have missed it I have not seen any defence.

It is a pity that this mess has, to a degree, overshadowed the murder of the Rhinoceros in France. This really sickened me. The really sad thing is that the whole zoo world knew it was coming. I sympathise strongly with the staff of Thoiry zoo and particularly the keepers who looked after Vince.
British Zoos have been on their guard since 2012 and before.
British zoos put on alert over rising threat of rhino rustlers
Official security warning as animal's horn fetches more than gold on black market

The papers say it was the first incident of its kind but I wonder if it is. Killing captive elephants for their ivory has been reported a few times in the past twenty years that I recall. Not every story makes the press.

Did You Know?
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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, 



Why the world needs zoos
I have written before about the importance of zoos and the role they have to play in the world for conservation and education. They are in particularly important for endangered species – many animals are critically endangered in the wild and may go extinct there soon but are going strong in zoos. Many others are already extinct in the wild and only survive because of populations kept going in captivity. Even those critical of zoos often recognise this role and that it is better to have species preserved somewhere than be lost for all time. However, even species that are common can come under severe threat very quickly or without people realising.

Take the ring-tailed lemur of Madagascar for example. This animal is almost ubiquitous in zoos and few do not keep groups of these pretty primates as they breed well in captivity and the public are fond of them. However, despite their high numbers in collections around the world, they are under severe threat in the wild. A recent survey suggested that a huge 95% of the wild populations have been lost since 2000. This is clearly catastrophic and also means that the remaining individuals are greatly at risk. One bad year or a new disease could wipe out those that are left, and small and fragmented populations will be vulnerable to inbreeding so even a single loss can be keenly felt.

Such trends are not isolated. Giraffe are another species that are very common in zoos and unlike the lemurs are very widespread being found in numerous countries across much of sub-Sahar

Snake bit? Chemists figure out how to easily and cheaply halt venom's spread
In the U.S., human snakebite deaths are rare—about five a year—but the treatment could prove useful for dog owners, mountain bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts brushing up against nature at ankle level. Worldwide, an estimated 4.5 million people are bitten annually, 2.7 million suffer crippling injuries and more than 100,000 die, most of them farmworkers and children in poor, rural parts of India and sub-Saharan Africa with little healthcare.

The existing treatment requires slow intravenous infusion at a hospital and costs up to $100,000. And the antidote only halts the damage inflicted by a small number of species.

"Current anti-venom is very specific to certain snake types. Ours seems to show broad-spectrum ability to stop cell destruction across species on many continents, and that is quite a big deal," said doctoral student Jeffrey O'Brien, lead author of a recent study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Zeroing in on protein families common to many serpents, the UCI researchers demonstrated that they could halt the worst effects of cobras and kraits in Asia and Africa, as well as pit vipers in North America. The team synthesized a polymer nanogel material that binds to several key protein toxins, keeping them from bursting cell membranes and causing widespread destruction. O'Brien knew he was onto something when the human serum in his test tubes stayed clear, rather than turning scarlet from venom's typical deadly rupture of red blood cells.

Chemistry professor Ken Shea, senior author of the paper, explained that the venom—a "complex toxic cocktail" evolved over millennia to stay ahead of prey's own adaptive strategies—is absorbed onto the surface of nanoparticles in the new material and is permanently sequestered there,


Cumbrian zoo boss refused new licence after hundreds of animal deaths
The founder of a zoo in Cumbria, where nearly 500 animals died in less than four years, has been refused a new licence.

The chair of Barrow council’s licensing committee, Tony Callister, said the unanimous decision was made because councillors were not satisfied conservation matters referred to in the Zoo Licensing Act would be implemented.

Last week, a damning report on conditions at South Lakes Safari zoo in Dalton-in-Furness, which is home to more than 1,500 animals, found 486 died of causes including emaciation and hypothermia between December 2013 and September 2016.

Inspectors recommended the local authority refuse to renew the zoo’s licence and that David Gill, who founded the zoo in 1994, be prosecuted under the Animal Welfare Act for allowing animals to suffer.

The inspectors, who are appointed by the government, found “overcrowding, poor hygiene, poor nutrition, lack of suitable animal husbandry and a lack of any sort of developed veterinary care” when they

Cumbria Zoo Deaths Spark Bizarre Row Between Kay Burley And MP John Woodcock
Details of the neglect and cruelty inflicted upon animals at the South Lakes Safari Zoo in Cumbria were today reported widely after councillors rejected an application for a new licence for the zoo where almost 500 animals died within four years.

David Gill, who founded the zoo in 1994, had his claim rejected unanimously by Barrow Borough Council’s licensing regulatory committee. The deaths at the Dalton-in-Furness between 2013 and 2016 were revealed in a report submitted to the panel.

The story was picked up by Sky News as presenter Kay Burley interviewed the local MP, John Woodcock.

Britain's cruellest couple? The appalling story of hundreds of animals dying at a zoo, its millionaire owner (who seduced a 17-year-old kangaroo keeper) and his beauty queen wife
Even by the flamboyant standards of the fashion industry, it was an audacious entrance.
The model — resplendent in a strapless wedding gown and floor-sweeping chiffon train — emerged onto the catwalk not with customary high-heeled swagger, but astride a beautiful white horse.
The stunt drew gasps of awe at the prestigious bridal fashion show, until the horse's hoof tripped on the model's train and any traces of admiration turned to horror.


Celebrating Plants and the Planet:

Thank-you scientists. You persevere in helping us understand our complex
world, uncovering new miracles right under our noses. March's stories at (NEWS/Botanical News)
present several recent scientific revelations about the secrets of plants:

. Plants react to insect attacks, can differentiate between
encroaching neighbors and siblings, and even respond to sound. Now
scientists think they have rudimentary sight as well.

. Flowers attract pollinators with their shape and structures, with
unique fragrances and colors targeted to the pollinator. Still, what if a
flower's color also created an attractive environment within the flower?
Nothing like sitting by a fire on a cold evening.

. Climate scientists have come to recognize that plants can be vital
carbon sinks. A couple of years ago, large ancient trees were recognized as
more successful carbon sinks than any number of younger, smaller trees. Now
a vast carbon sink has been discovered in the peatlands deep in the Congo

. Don't you hate it when a couple is mating and a predator eats
them? A small moth from Florida uses a toxic plant to create a bridal bed
toxic to predators. Go on, eat me.

. "Gardening For Wildlife" has become popular. But like so many
trends, the details are not understood as well as they need to be. A new
study says that bird-friendly gardens may increase bird deaths.

As we consider how we can educate the public (and ourselves) about
conservation issues and choices perhaps we need to be shaken from our
comfort zone. Just how much good do personal behavioral changes really do?
Interesting think piece:

Please share these stories with associates, staff, docents and - most
importantly - visitors! - new stories every
day as well as hundreds of stories from the past few years.



Animal Traffickers Have German Zoos On High Alert
Investigators in Mannheim, in southwestern Germany, have a real whodunnit on their hands, a brutal kidnapping-murder case — but with a twist. The victim is a five-kilogram Humboldt penguin whose lifeless and decapitated body was found last month in a local parking lot.

The gruesome discovery came five days after the animal, of South American origin, was snatched from its enclosure in the Mannheim city zoo. The bird was just 10 months old.

"The case of our missing penguin could not have taken a worse turn," zoo director Joachim Költzsch was quoted as saying by t

8 Secrets Of London Zoo
ZSL London Zoo was the country's first scientific zoo, established in Regent's Park in 1826. Still on the same (albeit expanded) site today, it now functions as a conservation charity, and welcomes millions of visitors every year. Here are some things you probably didn't know about it.

 Zoos Focus on Conservation Efforts in Face of Global "Conservation Crisis"
The zoos of the 1970s would be barely recognizable when compared to the zoos of today, and some believe the zoos of the future will be radically different again - with their focus geared mostly towards conservation efforts.

Mark Vukovich, the president and CEO at Blank Park Zoo, calls the condition of the world’s wild species a “staggering disaster.” He says, "In 20 years for sure,

Why I’m so conflicted by zoos
The elephant stared balefully down, its eye as big as my head.

“Well, this is terrifying!” I said.

“It’s fine,” said the zookeeper. “Why are you frightened?”

“I thought it would be smaller,” I said.

“It’s an elephant,” he replied.

“Are you sure?” I said. “It’s the size of a stegosaurus.”

“These are the most docile elephants in the world,” said the keeper. “This is London Zoo. They see crowds of people every day. They’ve had their photo taken with the Queen. There is nothing to be worried about.”

“Fine,” I said, picking up the shovel. That dung wasn’t going to clear itself. We swept the enclosure as the elephant loo

Poachers break into Paris zoo, shoot rhino dead and steal its horn
A rhinoceros at a zoo near Paris was shot three times in the head last night by poachers who then cut off its horn with a chainsaw.

The four-year-old rhinoceros named Vince was found dead this morning by keepers at Thoiry Zoo, to the west of the French capital.

One or more poachers are believed to have broken in to the zoo and forced their way into an enclosure where three rhinos lived, reported Le Parisien.

Thriving populations of endangered mammals offer conservationists hope in Myanmar
The forests of Karen state are a conservationist's dream.

Ranging from teak trees to bamboo, they contain some of the most iconic species of endangered mammals in the world.

"This includes things like tigers, leopards, elephants, bears — all of these species of huge global significance," said Clare Campbell, executive director of Karen Wildlife Conservation Initiative (KWCI).

"I think it's probably one of the most signi

What happens when the research underpinning conservation is wrong?
Effective conservation management is something that every biologist wants to see. This is especially true for shark biologists like me, because one in four cartilaginous species are currently estimated to be threatened with extinction (Dulvy et al 2014). But while it’s easy to cheer conservation efforts, what happens when the research underpinning the strategy is wrong?

I’ve been thinking about this since listening to a talk by Dr Dean Grubbs at the European Elasmobranch Association Conference last year. Grubbs provided a timely reminder of the disastrous consequences that can happen when the research which informs and underpins the conservation strategies executed is not objective and, crucially, isn’t subjected to rigorous peer review.

Since the late 1990s declines in shark populations have led to a surge in research seeking to understand cascading effects of predator removals on lower trophic levels. For example, a highly cited paper (Myers et al 2007) published in the journal Science, claimed dramatic increases in Atlantic Cownose Ray (Rhinoptera bonasus) populations in the north-w

National review planned after Audubon Zoo gorilla throws object, injures pregnant woman
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums will review how a gorilla at the Audubon Zoo managed to chuck a piece of wood out of its habitat that hit a pregnant woman in the head over the weekend. The woman was treated at hospitals for her injury after the gorilla, named Praline, hurled the piece of wood into a crowd gathered for the zoo's Soul Festival on Sunday afternoon, WWL-TV reported.

Katie Smith, a spokeswoman for the zoo, said Tuesday (March 7) that the zoo has reported the incident to the associations's Accreditation Commission.

"We are examining how this happened and will address necessary concerns," Smith wrote in an emailed statement.

Rob Vernon, a spokesman for the accreditation association, confirmed the zoo had been in touch about the incident.

Per the association's accreditation standards, Vernon said the zoo will have 30 days to provide a written report on the incident once a request is made by the association's Accreditation Commission.

Police to visit UK zoos and wildlife parks after rhino killing in France
Police are visiting every zoo and wildlife park in the UK that houses rhinos to offer security advice after poachers shot dead a white rhinoceros and sawed off its horn at a zoo in France.

The head of Britain’s National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) said the French attack, the first of its kind in Europe, was a wake-up call, and urgent security checks needed to be made to protect the 111 rhinos in captivity in the UK.

The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) said it has a herd of greater one-horned rhinos and white rhinos at Whipsnade zoo in Bedfordshire and was increasing security patrols following the French attack.

“These animals are kept in secure enclosures guarded by full-time security teams, who also conduct regular patrols across the zoo,” a spokesman said. Double-layered barriers and electric fences were already in place.

“Our security teams at ZSL London zoo and ZSL Whipsnade zoo are aware of this tragic incident and will be increasing their on-site patrols.”

The chief executive of Chester zoo, Dr Mark Pilgrim, said the killing was a “devastating new development in the rhino poaching crisis”. He said the zoo had “sadly been aware of this threat for some time

330kg of Malawi ivory seized at Suvarnabhumi
Officials on Tuesday confiscated more than 300kg of elephant tusks from Malawi at Suvarnabhumi airport and arrested a Gambian national on charges of ivory smuggling and violating customs laws. The seizure...

Neocolonial Conservation: Is Moving Rhinos to Australia Conservation or Intellectual Property Loss
The Australian Rhino Project ( proposes importing 80 rhinos from South Africa to Australia by 2019 at a cost of over $US4 million, with the first six due to have been moved in 2016. This project has high-profile supporters in the private sector, zoos, and both governments, and is gaining major publicity through association with sporting teams and TedEx talks ( However, establishing extralimital populations of African rhinos is a very low-priority conservation action, particularly given over 800 are already in captivity, and we argue this project diverts funds and expertise away from more important conservation activities; the proposed captive conditions will lead to selection for domestic traits; the most likely species involved is the white rhino, which is the lowest priority rhino species for conservation; it removes a driver of in situ conservation; it does not focus on the critically endangered Asian rhino species; and it extends the historical exploitation of Africa’s resources by colonial powers. There are also insufficient details in the public domain about the project for objective decision-making. We believe this is misdirected neocolonial conservation and the policy support from both governments for this project should be reconsidered.

 ******* in March 2017

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Hello ZooLex Friend,
We have worked for your enjoyment!



Himalayan Mountains is a themed area at Karlsruhe Zoo that makes good
use of a cool and shady slope. With a breeding pair of red pandas the
Zoo takes part in the European conservation breeding program for this
species and also supports conservation projects in the Himalayas.

Here is the German original:



Don't miss it - 4th to 7th April 2017 in Wroclaw, Poland!

Please use this link for information and registration:

With 42 presentations and two discussion panels, a dense programme is
waiting for participants of the first international zoo design
conference since 2004. The first day is dedicated to "zoo design trends
and developments" including a discussion on "zoo strategies and design
answers." The theme of the second day is "enrichment for welfare" with
speakers from around the globe. The third day is about "technical
aspects of zoo design" and will end with a discussion on "working with
external experts" before a visit to Wroclaw Zoo in the afternoon:

ZooLex together with Wroclaw Zoo organizes this international zoo design


We keep working on ZooLex ...

The ZooLex Zoo Design Organization is a non-profit organization
registered in Austria (ZVR-Zahl 933849053). ZooLex runs a professional
zoo design website and distributes this newsletter. More information and


4 Major Wildlife crises in SA, where is the DEA?
While the Department of Environmental Affairs is the custodian of SA’s wildlife and natural resources on a governmental level, a few pressing environmental cases in dire need of national attention are being blatantly ignored.

Apart from the fact that the DEA says it would like to legalise domestic trade in rhino horn in order to ‘clear its house’ of the rhino horn stock, there are a number of other shocking actions – or perhaps the lack of action –  that needs urgent attention from the department.

As the world celebrates the official World Wildlife Day across the globe, we take a look at four wildlife issues in SA which have baffled conservationists so far in 2017.

Dade City zoo ordered to stop letting tourists swim with tigers
The United States Department of Agriculture has ordered Dade City's Wild Things to end its tiger cub swimming encounters and pay a $21,000 fine for exposing the animals to "rough or excessive public handling."
The order, issued Feb. 15 and effective March 22, found the zoo's swim program broke the law when it allowed tigers to be harmed during handling and exposed people to dangerous conditions four times between September 2011 and October 2012.

The decision follows a lawsuit the USDA filed in July 2015 citing Animal Welfare Act violations. A lawsuit People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed in October, alleging the zoo's encounter program violates the Endangered Species Act, is still pending.

Parts of Vienna zoo close after bird flu virus found in dead pelican
Parts of Vienna's Schoenbrunn Zoo have been closed to the public after the highly contagious H5N8 bird flu virus was found in a pelican that was put down this week, the zoo said on Wednesday.

The H5N8 strain, which is deadly for birds but has not been found in humans, has spread across Europe and the Middle East since late last year, leading to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of poultry and the confinement of flocks indoors.

The zoo's Dalmatian pelicans had been kept in a tent since December as a preventive measure, the zoo said in a statement. One of them became acutely ill on Monday and was put to sleep.

"We now have proof that it was infected with the H5N8 strain of bird flu," zoo veterinarian Thomas Voracek said in the statement.

The rest of the pelican flock is being tested for the virus and results are due on Thursday.

"In order to protect the remaining bird stock, the bird house, the rainforest house and the desert house are closed with im

Vienna zoo puts 20 pelicans to sleep after bird flu virus found
Vienna's Schoenbrunn Zoo tested its pelican flock, one of the largest of any zoo worldwide, after the virus was found in one pelican earlier this week.

The virus has spread widely across Europe and the Middle East since late last year, leading to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of poultry and the confinement of flocks indoors.

The zoo's Dalmatian pelicans had been kept in a tent since December as a preventive measure but one of them became acutely ill on Monday and was killed.

"To protect the remaining bird stock we had to put down all pelicans this morning," zoo veterinarian Thomas Voracek said.

The bird house, the rainforest house and the desert house at the zoo will remain closed to the public.

Latest figures from the European Centre for Disease Pr

Tasmanian devils helped to fight off facial tumour disease with live cancer cell injection
Scientists reveal they have for the first time successfully treated Tasmanian devils suffering from the deadly devil facial tumour disease.

The breakthrough is hoped to speed-up development of an effective vaccine, which can be administered to devils in the wild.

The successful treatments have been made on captive animals, with scientists injecting live cancer cells into the infected devils to make their immune system recognise the disease and fight it off.

The international research, led by the University of Tasmania (UTAS), has been published in the scientific journal Scientific Report, and details the effective use of immunotherapy on the species.

Five devils with the disease were treated using the technique over six years, and three survived.

UTAS professor of immunology Professor Greg Woods likened it to "fighting cancer with cancer".

"We used the cancer cells, cultured them

New Australian tick species discovered for first time in more than 50 years
A new Australian tick species discovered in Western Australia is the first to be formally recognised in more than 50 years.

The new tick was named Ixodes woyliei because it has a taste for a rare marsupial called a woylie.

Woylies, or brush-tailed bettongs, were once found across more than 60 per cent of mainland Australia but are now critically endangered in WA and endangered nationally.

Predation by foxes and feral cats and possibly disease have caused woylie populations to crash by 90 per cent in seven years, according to Murdoch University parasitology researcher Amanda Ash.

Dr Ash told ABC Radio Perth it was the first Australian Ixodes tick species to be described in a scientific journal in more than 50 years.

"We thought it might have been a different speci

Zoos: Prisons or protection?
Animal lovers everywhere can relate to the excitement and wonder associated with going to the zoo. However, many are also dismayed by the small enclosures and the often oppressed and miserable-looking animals trapped inside.

Not surprisingly, animal welfare organizations, such as PETA, have spoken out against zoos, condemning their push for profits, as well as the unnatural and depressing environment in which many animals live.

They have a point, but PETA tends to paint the issue as black and white when, in fact, the reality is far more complex.

In contrast, organizations, such as the American Humane Association (AHA), are intent on elevating the welfare standards of zoos and aquariums worldwide. While the AHA acknowledge the problems in

It’s a horrific story. 486 animals had died at South Lakes zoo in the space of over four years, frequently as a result of poor husbandry practices, and sometimes found still decaying in the enclosure. The owner, David Gill (whose attitude has been of concern for the zoo community for a while now), has been refused the licence and it all seems likely the place will, rightly, be closed.

South Lakes is a bad zoo; it is not, however some press opinions have already starting hinting, an example typical of zoos. These articles range from suggesting that live animals on public display is a bygone that should be replaced by virtual reality, to saying that all zoos should be outright banned.

On top of this mess, the tragic news broke yesterday that in a historical first, a rhino at Paris Zoo was killed by poachers. It’s horn removed to fuel the illegal trade, this confirm

How zoos should be changed for the modern world
Campaigners are calling on British zoos to beef up security and overhaul their animal care after a series of tragic incidents among captive animals across Europe. They are warning that the shooting of a rhinoceros in a French zoo by poachers could be the first of many such animal slaughters. And they are concerned about the South Lakes Safari Zoo in Cumbria which was refused a new licence this week after almost 500 animals died within four years. Vince A four-year old white rhinoceros, called Vince, was found bloodied and mutilated at Thoiry Zoo, 30 miles west of Paris, this week after its killers shot him three times and cut off his horn with a chainsaw. The horrific incident highlights the difficulty of keeping animals safe in captivity, which makes them “sitting ducks” for determined poachers, campaigners say. This is the first time an animal has bee

Zookeeper reveals never-before-seen photos of North Korea’s infamous zoo – where a chain-smoking chimp is the star attraction
THESE incredible photos offer a fascinating glimpse into everyday life inside North Korea’s infamous Pyongyang Zoo – where a chain-smoking chimp is the star attraction.

They show hordes of people peering into enclosures, where hundreds of exotic animals – donated to the country by some of history’s worst dictators – are housed.

Why the Audubon Zoo's white tiger, King Zulu, won't be replaced
Audubon Zoo spokeswoman Katie Smith said that King Zulu, the aged and ailing white tiger that was euthanized on Sunday (March 5), will not be replaced. At least not with another white tiger.
Snowy striped cats like King Zulu, which had been part of the zoo collection since the early 1980s, are splendid to behold, but the narrowly selective breeding necessary to produce them can weaken the individuals. And procreating white cats doesn't contribute to the increase of the population of normally colored animals.

As Smith wrote via email: "Breeding practices that increase the physical expression of single rare genetic traits can compromise the welfare of individual animals. This hastens a population's loss of gene diversity and creates a domesticated form of the species that no longer represents or resembles the wild population."

A story on titled "Why White Tigers Should Go Extinct" details the pitfalls of inbreeding tigers to perpetuate white coats.

The Audubon Zoo, Smith wrote,

Closure order throws zoo future into doubt
THE long-term future of South Lakes Safari Zoo (SLSZ) has been thrown into doubt.

The Dalton attraction, which has become the centre of the country’s media attention after a harrowing list of nearly 500 animal deaths was released, has been issued with a closure order which means it must shut its doors to the public in less than a month.
The order, which can be appealed, was made by Barrow Borough Council’s (BBC) licensing committee this week after it refused to grant a new zoo licence to its founder David Gill.

SLSZ was served the notice after the committee found the zoo had failed to comply with a direction order on its licence requiring robust management and staffing to be in place. The zoo has 28 days from today (Thursday) to appeal.

The closure order was issued just hours after councillors unanimously refused to grant Mr Gill a fresh six-year licence to operate the zoo.

Councillors are expected to consider another licence application to run the zoo in the coming weeks. It has been submitted by Cumbria Zoo Company Limited (CZC), who have been operating the zoo sinc

Lions, elephants and other exotic animals could be phased out at Belfast Zoo
Long-term options for the future of loss-making Belfast Zoo include the removal of exotic animal species or the possible relocation of the facility. Belfast City Council, which owns the 55 acre site at Cave Hill, is considering a number of key issues after concerns were raised last year about animal welfare at the zoo.

In a report, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (Eaza) stating that many of the enclosures were too small and it listed seven minor concerns about the welfare of animals. The Council said at the time that work was under way to rectify the issues raised. Coupled with these concerns, the council is also trying to determine how to stem the haemorrhaging of money from the zoo, which has been running at a deficit of £2m for the past three years. It already been agreed that th

Dead rhinos, penguins, polar bears in zoos - why do we get so upset about animal stories?
A penguin found decapitated– a polar bear cub dead from an unknown cause – a white rhino shot through the head – all news that led to a public outcry. Why do we get so het up about animal stories?
The killing of a rhino in a Paris zoo, the death of a polar bear cub in Berlin, the fate of a penguin that disappeared from a zoo in the German city of Mannheim – there has been no shortage of shocking reports relating to zoo animals recently. This kind of story attracts widespread public attention. Anger, frustration, sadness, disgust.  So what is it about these animal tales that arouse such strong emotions in so many of us humans?
According to a recent study of human-animal relations from the University of Quebec-Montreal and the University of Melbourne , we feel a "psychological bond" with animals, and a kind of solidarity. Catherine Amiot and Brock Bastian are working to understand the psychological links that make people empathize with animals.
The more people subjectively perceive that animals and humans share similarities and common factors, the more they tend to feel solidarity with them, Catheri

Arrests 'big step' in chimp trade battle
A series of dramatic arrests of notorious wildlife traffickers is being hailed as "one big step" against the illegal trade in baby chimpanzees.
Last weekend one of the most prolific animal dealers in West Africa was found and detained in Guinea.
Prior to the arrest, he had been on the run for four years.
This followed the arrest last month of the dealer's father who was regarded as the key figure in a vast smuggling network spanning the region.
And only a few months ago a year-long BBC News investigation led to the arrests of two traffickers, Ibrahima Traore and his uncle Mohamed, in neighbouring Ivory Coast.
Videos circulating on the black market showed dozens of baby chimpanzees held in a distinctive blue room that served as their holding centre while buyers were sought.
Chimpanzees as a species are listed as endangered because their populations are dwindling in the face of deforestation and poaching but a collapse in their numbers in West Africa means they are described as "critically endangered" there.
It is against international law to seize or sell the chimpanzees but baby chimps are in big demand as pets for wealthy buyers in

Smelly send-off as elephants pack trunks
Knowsley Safari Park is moving its elephant herd over to France during the construction of a new habitat – with a rather smelly way of settling them into their new home.

Plans are underway for a state-of-the-art facility to be built here on Merseyside as part of the park’s ‘Foot Safari Transformation’ project.

In the meantime, Knowsley’s four African elephants will be making the move over to ZooParc de Beauval in Saint-Aignan in southern France to participate in the European Breeding Programme while their old habitat is being renovated.

To help them cope with the transition, their own dung is being shipped across the Channel as well as some French equivalent coming in the opposite direction.

Eveline de Wolf, Head of Animal Collection for the park, said: “We have been preparing for this move for the last year and our team of keepers have been working c

New Approach Used by Cincinnati Zoo Reproductive Scientists Improves Pregnancy Odds
An ocelot kitten born four weeks ago at the Texas Zoo in Victoria was produced using a new artificial insemination (AI) approach that improves the timing of AI relative to the female’s ovarian cycle. The birth of a healthy kitten helps to validate this “fixed-time” AI method for producing pregnancies in endangered cat species.

Animal to man, fear of the next pandemic
On a frigid night a few days after Christmas 2012, Trish Khan drove back to the Milwaukee County Zoo to check on the star attraction, a playful, wildly popular 5-year-old orangutan named Mahal. It was almost 11 p.m.

Khan, the zoo’s primary orangutan keeper, was off on medical leave. Yet she’d come in earlier in the day, as soon as she heard something was wrong with Mahal.

Raised on a horse farm in Wisconsin, Khan has a passion for animals, especially primates and most especially orangutans, a great ape found in Asian rainforests and admired for its intelligence.

Even so, her deep affection for Mahal was unique. She had flown to Colorado to pick him up from the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo after the orangutan had been rejected by his mother. Khan had accompanied Mahal to Milwaukee, and when he settled

Zoos in World War II
War and film buffs are probably aware of The Zookeeper's Wife, a British-American movie slated for release at the end of the March. Based on historical events, it's about the keepers of the Warsaw zoo who hid and saved hundreds of Jews. Apropos of this upcoming film, we'll take a look at how World War II affected animals living in the world's cities at the time.

International Congress of ZooKeepers
Latest Newsletter

Surprisingly, leaving predators in peace boosts livestock on Australian farms
One hidden environmental cost of livestock farming is that it causes the deaths of untold numbers of predators. Worldwide, leopards, tigers, wolves, wild dogs, and foxes are persecuted because they’re thought to pose a risk to farmers’ valuable cattle, sheep, and goats.
In Australia, dingoes find themselves at the crux of this conflict: farmers shoot, trap, and poison these animals to stop them predating on sheep and cattle on countryside ranches. The perception of dingoes as pests is so deeply ingrained, in fact, that Australian farmers are widely encouraged to eradicate the animals from their land in return for state-provided bounties. But the ecological consequences of that practice are worrying. As dingoe

High price of rhino horn leaves bloody trail across the globe
On the black market it is reputedly worth more than its weight in gold or cocaine, and this week the lure of rhino horn brought the bloody business of poaching to a zoo near Paris. There, in the dead of night, criminals broke in, shot a white rhino called Vince three times in the head and then hacked off its eight-inch horn with a chainsaw.

The attack marks a shocking new development in a crisis that sees more than three rhinos killed every day in their southern African homelands. Trade in rhino horn is completely illegal but demand from Vietnam and China fuels poaching and smuggling, putting the rhinos at risk of extinction.

Rhino horn is made of keratin – the same material as human fingernails – but an urban myth about a senior Vietnamese figure being cured of cancer pushed up demand in recent years and as its price rose, it has become a status symbol and hangover tonic. Longer-standing uses such as a supposed fever treatment in traditional Chinese medicine and as ornamental carvings have also driven up prices.

AZA Statement on ‘Troubling’ Vancouver Park Board Vote
 Last evening, the Vancouver Park Board took a troubling action in  directing staff to develop options to amend local law to prohibit the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre from importing or displaying whales, dolphins and porpoises. The Science Center is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), and in response, the Honorable Dan Ashe, AZA President and CEO, issued the following statement:

Public wanted cetaceans ban: Vancouver commissioner
The unexplained deaths of two belugas at the Vancouver Aquarium last fall were a "tipping point" in the city's debate over cetacean captivity and helped lead to a historic vote to ban the practice, says a park board commissioner.

Sarah Kirby-Yung, a commissioner who previously worked as the aquarium's spokeswoman, said after two nights of emotional hearings and thousands of public submissions it became clear that banning cetaceans at the aquarium was "the will of Vancouverites."

"Our job is to listen to the public," she said Friday. "This is an issue where public sentiment has been changing and, progressively, people have been feeling more and more uncomfortable."

The board voted unanimously Thursday night to ask staff to bring forward a bylaw amendment to proh

Songster provides hope for rarest bird in Galapagos
With an estimated population of 100 individuals, saving the mangrove finch from extinction is not an easy task. However, thanks to funding by the Galapagos Conservation Trust and three years of intensive conservation management of the species in the Galapagos Islands by the Charles Darwin Foundation, the Galapagos National Park Directorate and San Diego Zoo Global, an individual singing male could be the evidence that it has all been worth it.

The Mangrove Finch Project is working in the Galapagos Islands to save the Critically Endangered mangrove finch, whose global population consists of only around 100 individuals. The tiny population is still at risk, as it is affected by low nesting success due to the parasitism of nestlings by the introduced parasitic fly, Philornis downsi and predation by invasive rats. To try and counteract these effects, in 2014 a multi-institutional project led by the Charles Darwin Foundation and Galapagos National Park began to head-start mangrove finches by collecting eggs from the wild, captive-rearing the chicks and releasing the fledglings back to their natural habitat. The wild parents are able to lay again, so this can double the chance of breeding success.

Over the last three years, 36 individuals have been head-start

First evidence of rhinoceros' ability to correct gender imbalance
Research led by Victoria University of Wellington has demonstrated the ability of rhinoceros to modify the sex of their offspring to avoid the dominance of one gender and limit severe competition for breeding.

The study, led by Associate Professor Wayne Linklater from Victoria's School of Biological Sciences, provides the first experimental evidence in the wild that unbalanced population sex ratios can result in a compensatory response by parents to 'correct' the imbalance.
"This is called a homeostatic sex allocation (HSA) response—a biological theory first proposed in 1930," explains Associate Professor Linklater.
"Almost all population models assume birth sex ratio is fixed. Our evidence indicates that this may not be the case."
The study, published today in Nature Ecology & Evolution, was co-authored by Dr Peter Law from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa, Pierre du Pr

How to kill wild animals humanely for conservation
Every year, trained professionals kill millions of wild animals in the name of conservation, human safety and to protect agriculture and infrastructure. Commercial pest-control operators, government agents and conservationists trap beavers, poison cats, shoot wolves and gas rabbits in their warrens with varying levels of ethical oversight. Now, animal-welfare experts and conservationists are making a bid to ensure that these animals get the same consideration given to pets and even to lab animals that are killed.

People use methods such as carbon dioxide gas, drowning and painful poisons, to kill non-native or ‘pest’ animals, says Sara Dubois, chief scientific officer for the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Vancouver, Canada. She considers these methods inhumane. But no one bats an eye, she says, because those animals are considered ‘bad’.

Dubois is the lead author of a set of guidelines published on 9 February in the journal Conservation Biology1. The authors — a group of animal-welfare experts, conservationists and government researchers from around t

Black cockatoo rescue renews fears for wildlife at Perth road project
An endangered black cockatoo has been rescued from the side of a road near the construction site for the controversial Perth freight link project.

Days after Western Australia’s environment minister, Albert Jacob, said he would defy state senators’ recommendation to suspend works pending an environmental all-clear, the black cockatoo was spotted in a

All the Right Moves- What It Takes to Transfer Animals Among Zoos
In 2016, more than 4,000 animals transferred to or from Brookfield Zoo. Each of these animal moves—from the tiniest dart poison frog to a 600-pound tiger—is based on careful strategy and involves meticulous preparation and planning.

When we transfer an animal to another institution, we make sure the animal is healthy and, if young, is weaned. We provide the other institution with complete medical and behavioral records for the animal and may even send along a supply of its food to make the transition easier. Based upon breeding season and weather, we determine the best time of year for the transfer to take place.

Animal welfare before, during, and after transport is of the utmost importance to us. As every pet owner can attest, even under the best circumstances, travel can be eventful for animals. Digestive systems often may be temporarily disrupted, so one type of preparation might be to begin a course of probiotics to bolster stomach health prior to the transfer.

Most zoo-to-zoo trips are by land, so we may begin behavioral modifications to prepare for the trip, such as training animals to enter a trailer. We also maintain a group of trusted animal movers, professionals who understand and are dedicated to caring for our precious cargo. In some cases, members of our own

Zoo forces orangutans to fight in boxing gloves and wear bikinis
This place isn’t monkeying around.

A Thailand zoo recently hosted an event featuring orangutans boxing as other apes stood outside the ring banging on drums and dancing in bikinis.

The wild display at Safari World has gotten mixed reviews over the years, but some argue it should be shut down.

“[Orangutans are] extremely intelligent, and the zoo was exploiting that,” said Samantha Fuller, a teacher from Boston living and working in Thailand. Fuller saw the show on a recent school field trip.

“They’re smart and can tell when they’re being laughed at,” she said. “It upset me so much I had to come home and shower just to

How do you bury a 12,000-pound elephant in secret? Oregon Zoo had a plan
How do you transport a recently-deceased elephant, who weighs more than six tons and who is infected with a highly contagious disease, from the zoo in the west hills of Portland to his secret burial site some 90 minutes away without anyone knowing?

The answer: very carefully.

When Packy, the 54-year-old iconic elephant at the Oregon Zoo, was euthanized last month after a long battle with drug-resistant tuberculosis, the zoo had a number of plans in place.

One of those plans was how to get Packy, who weighed in excess of 12,000 pounds when he died, from the zoo to his final resting place in secret.

According to a draft of the transportation plan obtained by The Oregonian/OregonLive through a public records request, things were set in motion Feb. 8, the day before Packy died. An "incident commander" was assigned to the plan, which was cryptically ca

Dead tiger keeper’s mum still waiting for apology
The mother of a handler who was killed by a tiger at South Lakes Safari Zoo in Cumbria four years ago has never had an apology from the park’s owner.

The zoo was fined £297,500 after Sarah McClay, 24, was killed in an accident that a judge said was “as tragic as it was foreseeable”.

David Gill, the owner of the attraction, at which 500 animals died in less than three years, many from injury, neglect and hypothermia, has had no contact with Fiona McClay, but she was sent a cheque for £50, payable to Sarah, for wages, months after she died.


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About me
After more than 49 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 many more before 'hitting the road' 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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