Friday, April 7, 2017

Zoo News Digest 7th April 2017 (ZooNews 951)

Zoo News Digest 7th April 2017  (ZooNews 951)

Without Bees our planet is in Big Trouble

Peter Dickinson

Dear Colleague,

I like elephants. In fact they are close to being my favourite animal to work with. If the zoo is a mistress then the elephant is the mistress you go to visit. I have worked with around 16 animals during the past fifty years, both African and Asian and all hands on, free contact. They have varied in age from a year old to fifty plus. Some have been wild caught and others ex circus. I have always used an ankus which I consider a tool and not a weapon. I have never abused any of them, I have loved them and trusted them. I am not an expert, far from it, I don't like the word and besides there are other species I have worked longer with and probably know more about.
However I was extremely disturbed by the footage this week that came out of Hannover Zoo. You may have expected more condemnation or criticism from the professional elephant keepers of the world but there was very little of it. Elephant keepers stick together and it is a true statement "that the only thing that two elephant keepers agree upon is what the third is doing wrong" and few if any will do it in a public forum. It is much the same with the zoo community. Very few will critique each other and some by mandate are not allowed to do so.
This week I have seen photos of reputable zoo people together partying with some of the most disreputable. The disreputable often have the most influence and few if any will criticise. Pity. We will get nowhere very fast till they do. All this 'sticking together' shit or Peta, Born Free or whatever will get us next is crazy talk. We the good zoos need to expose and condemn till the bad zoos come in line or close down.
Returning briefly to Hannover, I was delighted to see that almost immediately that EAZA started an investigation. That is how it should be. It would be nice if the other illustrious zoo bodies issued a statement as well.

One thought crossed my mind about the new elephant facility at Whipsnade (excellent article, see below) which I have not seen. Has it been designed in such a way that the elephants can be managed 'protected contact' instead of the current 'free contact' should some new law be implemented? It would be a law I was not in agreement with.    

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, 



Medewerkers van dierentuin Hannover mishandelen jonge olifantjes

EAZA response to reports on elephant management techniques at Hannover Zoo
Amsterdam, 5 April, 2017: The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) has been made
aware of a report on elephant training techniques at Hannover Zoo. The film shows staff at the zoo using an elephant training tool known as ankus, and appears to show excessive physical discipline of the animals.
EAZA recognizes two forms of elephant management: protected contact management, and free
contact management. Protected contact management involves the construction of specialised
facilities where the elephant and keeper never share the same unrestricted space and all contact is undertaken through a protective barrier.
Free contact places animals and keepers in the same space and requires direct physical contact
between them. EAZA’s Elephant Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) recognises that there are benefits to each of these systems, and as a result accepts the necessity of

Chinese tourists scale wall with ladders to sneak into zoo
 Chinese tourists in northern China are still scaling walls to enter a wildlife attraction even after a man was mauled to death by a tiger earlier this year after climbing into another zoo, Chinese media reported.

Visitors to the Qinling Wildlife Park in Xian in Shaanxi province save 40 yuan (S$8.10) in entrance fees by paying local residents for access to a ladder to climb over a wall into the wildlife park, the Huashang

Concern over skinny lions at Joburg Zoo
A Johannesburg Zoo visitor, Adele Arnott and her four-year-old daughter recently expressed their great concern for the lions at Johannesburg Zoo. Arnott explained that her little daughter was shocked when she saw how thin two of the lions were. The main question which Arnott asked was whether the lions were being underfed or whether it’s something else.

Johannesburg Zoo and City Parks spokesperson, Jenny Moodley explained that one of the lions, Letaba, a young male white lion was donated to the zoo about two-and-a-half years ago.

Another Ocean Adventure standoff ends, says SBMA
A standoff that started in the afternoon of Monday ended around 1:30 a.m. yesterday after the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) stepped in to diffuse the tension between rival claimants to the Ocean Adventure Marine Park, here.

Eyewitnesses said there was an attempt from Subic Bay Marine Exploratorium Inc. former President Arthur Tai to take over the facility with the help of former employees and some armed men.

In a text message, one of the eyewitnesses stated that Tai’s “thugs were trying to take over the park violently. They have broken down doors, put the animals in danger because they turned off the electricity, and threatened other workers.”

The witnesses recounted that guests were fleeing as the group tried to shut down the operations of Ocean Adventure and the Camayan Beach Resort as both facilities were full of police officers from the Morong Municipal Police Station and the Special Action Force (SAF).

“We are dismayed that Arthur will put the welfare of the guests and workers in danger for selfish reasons,” a company official who refused to be n


Blood for bats
Blood-sucking bats, mythical or real-life?

The Philadelphia Zoo is home to 35 such creatures, which can drink up to half their weight in blood a day. Known as common vampire bats, the Desmodus rotundus species weigh only, on average, 42 grams, or roughly 1.5 ounces, but can live up to 30 years.

Twelve Cheetah Cubs Born at Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
The start of spring brought a cheetah cub boom to the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, Virginia, where two large litters were born over the course of a single week. Three-year-old Happy gave birth to five healthy cubs on March 23. Seven-year-old Miti gave birth to seven cubs March 28 — two were visibly smaller and less active at the time of birth and died, which is common in litters this large. Both mothers are reportedly doing well and proving to be attentive to the 10 surviving healthy cubs, which have all been successfully nursing. Each litter includes two male and three female cubs.

“The average litter size is three, so this time we’ve got an incredible pile of cubs,” said Adrienne Crosier, SCBI cheetah biologist and manager of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Cheetah Species Survival Plan (SSP), which matches cheetahs across the population for breeding. “In just one week, we increased the numbe

Finland to receive two giant pandas from China
​Finland to receive two giant pandas from China
Finland will receive two giant pandas from China as a gesture of friendship during the Nordic country’s 100th anniversary of independence this year.

The two countries today signed a cooperation agreement over giant panda research and protection as part of the Chinese President Xi Jinping’s official state visit to Finland.

The agreement means that a giant panda couple will be send from China to Ähtäri Zoo, which is located in the western part of Finland.

At the signing ceremony in Helsinki, Finnish President Niinistö thanked Xi for trusting pandas to Finnish care. Niinistö said Finland was aware that the Chinese considered giant pandas a national tre

Czech zoo helps return eagles, cranes into Far East wild
The zoo in the Moravian capital Brno will assist in returning Steller's sea eagles and red-crowned cranes into the wild in the Far East where their populations have critically shrunk, daily Pravo wrote on Tuesday.

Without people's support, the rare species are threatened with extinction due to intensive raw material exploitation in their habitats and also due to global warming unfriendly to wetland.

"A solution rests in their artificial breeding and the release into the wild," the zoo director Martin Hovorka is quoted as saying.

A few days ago, Hovorka was elected vice-president of the Eurasian association of zoos and aquariums (EARAZA) comprised of dozens of zoological gardens from central and eastern Europe and Asia.

He discussed the project of the eagle and crane return to the Far East wild in Moscow on Monday, Pravo writes.

In cooperation with the Brno zoo, a centre for the Steller's eagle salvation is to be established in the Amur River area to breed young eagles and release them into the wild.

The red-crowned-crane salvation project has already been

Cetacean scientists say aquarium decision 'banning research' crucial to endangered animals
Scientists say the Park Board's decision to ban cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium has far-reaching implications for research on endangered marine mammals in B.C.

'Critical' research

Andrew Trites, the director of the Marine Mammal Research Unit at UBC's Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, called the decision "short-sighted."

A lot of research can be done in the wild, he said, but certain research necessary to cetacean conservation can only be conducted with animals under controlled conditions

"We wouldn't be doing it if there was nothing to be learned. It's so critical," he said.

Trites noted, for instance, that questions remain regarding the declining population of southern resident whales in B.C.

"Are the animals getting enough to eat? Maybe that's what the trouble is. Well, how do you know how much food an animal needs to eat? You can only do that if you can determine their metabolic rates and look at their ability to assimilate and digest different types of food. You can only do that with a captive animal — there's absolutely no way to get that in the wild," he said.

"The banning of keeping cetaceans in

Caring for elephants at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo
At ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, we’re home to a herd of Asian elephants. These iconic creatures need little by way of introduction. People around the world are enthralled by the gentle giants, and visitors to Whipsnade are no exception.

I myself have always been in awe of elephants; their unique appearance, deep social bonds and gentle nature, which at times can seem at odds with their huge size, absolutely fascinates me.

Our elephants, a breeding herd comprising of one bull male, and a mix of adult females and their offspring, will move into a brand new home next week. We’ve called it the ‘Centre for Elephant Care’ to highlight to our visitors just how we look after these mammals. Nestled within 30 acres of land, made up of seven individual paddocks, the Centre has been designed to meet the complex needs of our herd.

Secret footage obtained of the wild elephants sold into captivity in Chinese zoos
Last year more than 30 young elephants were captured from the wild in Zimbabwe and flown by plane to China. The elephants – some reported to be as young as three – were dispersed to a number of zoos throughout the country, including the Shanghai Exhibition Park, the Beijing Wildlife Park and the Hangzhou Safari Park, according to conservationists.

But what are their lives like now?

This week, 12 of the calves went on show at the Shanghai park. The Weibo page for the zoo says their average age is four. The photos there were reviewed by Yolanda Pretorius, vice-chair of the Elephant Specialist Advisory Group of South Africa, who commented: “Overall their body condition seems to be slightly below average but it does not look as if they are starving. One of the elephants has temporal gland secretions and I am not sure whether this is a good or bad sign. In the wild, elephants mostly secrete from their temporal glands when they get excited.”

Meanwhile, recent photos and video said to show some of the elephants currently in Hangzhou reveal the animals behind bars and walking on concrete floors. The images were obtained by the animal welfar

Someone broke into Artis Zoo in Amsterdam on Sunday night and stole 10 of 14 pelican eggs. They also broke one pelican's leg, which resulted in the animal dying, and seriously disrupted the group of birds during breeding season. The Amsterdam zoo filed charges of animal cruelty, theft and vandalism, the zoo announced on Wednesday, ANP reports.

So far no suspects were arrested. The incident was also not caught on camera.

Artis director Haig Balian does not know what the burglars did to the pelican eggs. "You get strange people who have the strangest animals in house, but we have no evidence that the intruders were deliberately looking for the eggs. It might just be vandalism. But the ten eggs are real

The Whens And Wheres Of Saiga Antelope Re-Population
A study evaluating past saiga antelope re-introduction efforts has helped to rule out a planned re-introduction site, sparking the search for more ideal candidates. These findings, by researchers from the Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, in cooperation with scientists from the Oxford University, has been published in Scientific Reports. Millions of saiga antelope once roamed between their winter and summer ranges on the vast Eurasia steppe. However, saiga populations declined rapidly in the 1950s due to overhunting, habitat reduction and blockage of migratory routes. Saiga populations in Kazakhstan and Russia also decreased 90 percent in 20 years, causing them to be been listed as an endangered species. To restore the species, the Wuwei Endangered Wildlife Breeding Centre (WEWBC, now called Gansu Endangered Animal Protection Centre) was established in Gansu Province, China in 1987. Eleven adult saiga from the San Diego Zoo and the Berlin Taie Zoo were introduced to form the founder herd during 1988–1991, and o

The World's Rarest and Most Ancient Dog Has Just Been Re-Discovered in the Wild
The first sighting in more than half a century.
After decades of fearing that the New Guinea highland wild dog had gone extinct in its native habitat, researchers have finally confirmed the existence of a healthy, viable population, hidden in one of the most remote and inhospitable regions on Earth.

According to DNA analysis, these are the most ancient and primitive canids in existence, and a recent expedition to New Guinea's remote central mountain spine has resulted in more than 100 photographs of at least 15 wild individuals, including males, females, and pups, thriving in isolation and far from human contact.

Elmwood Park Zoo’s animal curator David Wood dies at 61
Elmwood Park Zoo is devastated to announce the passing of their beloved colleague and friend, David Wood. David Wood was Elmwood Park Zoo’s animal curator for 12 years. He died March 22 at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia due to complications from dermatomyositis. He was 61.

David Wood’s zoological career spanned over 40 years. He began as a keeper at the Philadelphia Zoo in 1973. He later became the zoo’s large mammals curator.

While at Philadelphia Zoo, David was the first person to breed naked mole rats on exhibit; he credited some of the success to playing radio station WMMR 24/7 to desensitize the mole rats to noise and vibrations.

Emaciated Venezuelan elephant becomes latest symbol of food crisis
An apparently malnourished African elephant in a Venezuelan zoo — her ribs showing through her sagging skin — has become the latest symbol the deep economic crisis in what was once one of Latin America’s most prosperous nations.

As pictures of an emaciated 46-year-old elephant named Ruperta in the Caricuao Zoo began circulating in newspapers and social media, Venezuelans have launched a food drive to save the pachyderm.

Seoul Zoo reopens this week
The Seoul Grand Park Zoo and Seoul Children’s Grand Park Zoo in Gwangjin-gu are reopened this week after 100 days when they were temporarily closed as some birds at the zoos tested positive for avian influenza (AI) last December.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government said on Monday that the two zoos will be reopened on March 30 as no further issues were detected during the in-depth inspection that lasted for three months. According to the city government, the Seoul Grand Park Zoo has taken tests and other thorough inspections by the National Institute of Environmental Research under the Environment Ministry immediately after the AI outbreak and all have been negative in final.
The Seoul city decided to temporarily shut down the zoo after two storks at a breeding site were found dead in succession on December 17, 2016. One week later, a black-faced spoonbill that was recognized as a natural monument was also found dead on December 24, 2016. They were all found to be infected with AI.
The Seoul city closed the zoo and began

Bearizona wildlife park in Arizona on lockdown due to armed suspect
An animal wildlife park in northern Arizona was forced to go into lockdown Monday after reports of an armed suspect nearby following a police chase.

Bearizona, located in Williams, posted a statement on its Facebook page that it was on lockdown due to a "possible armed and dangerous suspect" nearby.

‘Conservation is what we do’: Two recent hires put spotlight on Omaha zoo’s behind-the-scenes mission
This winter, the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium made two impact hires that could shape a new vision for conservation and create a better future for threatened cats.

One position, the chief conservation officer, is new. The other, a reproductive biologist, filled a crucial role left vacant for more than a year. The additions mean the zoo might focus on fewer projects and concentrate on making a greater impact.

Promise No. 1: Spread the word about conservation.

“Conservation is what we do, it’s what we’ve always done,” said Dr. Cheryl Morris, the zoo’s new chief conservation officer. “We just haven’t been good at telling people that we do it.”

The zoo spent $1.7 million on conservation in 2016, devoting the majority to Madagascar, where the zoo studies lemurs and has created a habitat restoration program that has seen more than 1 million trees planted.

There are dozens of other conservation projects, including the propagation of endangered plants, the reintroduction of toads into the wild a

Breitbart's James Delingpole says reef bleaching is 'fake news', hits peak denial
It takes a very special person to label the photographed, documented, filmed and studied phenomenon of mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef “fake news”.

You need lashings of chutzpah, blinkers the size of Donald Trump’s hairspray bill and more hubris than you can shake a branch of dead coral at.

It also helps if you can hide inside the bubble of the hyper-partisan Breitbart media outlet, whose former boss is the US president’s chief strategist.

Churaumi Aquarium hosts world-first tiger shark birth from captive breeding
Roughly between noon and 4 p.m. on March 23, a tiger shark gave birth in a shark display tank at Churaumi Aquarium in Motobu Town. Tiger sharks live in ranges from the tropics to temperate zones, and this is the first time a tiger shark has given birth from breeding in captivity. The mother gave birth to about 30 baby sharks, ranging from 60 to 80 centimeters in length.

The female tiger shark was caught in a stationary net off the coast in Yomitan Village, and afterward her breeding at Churaumi Aquarium began. She conceived at the time, as was detectable by the swelling of her abd

Brookfield Zoo Addresses Ethics of Animal Captivity
The ethical debate over zoos – and whether animals belong in them – has resurfaced over the past year, and now Brookfield Zoo is joining the discussion.

Lance Miller, the head of Brookfield Zoo’s animal welfare division, recently addressed concerns expressed by visitors to the zoo over exhibit sizes and whether they are big enough for the animals they house.

The comments were submitted via surveys the zoo asks guests to complete.

“We have noticed from your feedback that you have some concerns about ‘zoo exhibits being large enough’ for certain animals both here at Brookfield Zoo and other zoos and aquariums,” Miller wrote in a blog post dated March 13 on the website of the Chicago Zoological Society, which operates Brookfield Zoo. “The staff at Brookfield Zoo share your concern about wildlife and we have the science to help answer that question.”

The debate over animal captivity was revitalized last May when a 17-year-old gorilla, Harambe, was shot to death at the Cincinnati Zoo after a 3-month old boy

South Lakes Safari Zoo: Owner in appeal against licence refusal
The owner of a Cumbrian zoo, where a keeper was mauled by a tiger and hundreds of animals have died, has appealed against its impending closure.
David Gill was refused a licence to run South Lakes Safari Zoo in Dalton-in-Furness by Barrow Council earlier this month amid animal welfare concerns.
His decision means the zoo can remain open until a new company, formed by staff, can apply for its own licence.
Had Mr Gill not appealed, the zoo would have been forced to close next month.
Mr Gill has already handed management of the site

Aquarium succeeds in successive breeding of whale-bone eating zombie worm
An aquarium here has succeeded in successive breeding of a rare deep sea tube worm, often called the "zombie worm," which survives on the bones of dead whales fallen to the sea floor.

The particular zombie worms that are on display at Enoshima Aquarium were originally discovered in the sea at a depth of 225 meters -- off the coast of Cape Noma in Kagoshima Prefecture by the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology in 2012. Enoshima Aquarium has been breeding the organism with help from the agency on site since 2016 and has found ways to successfully carry out successive breeding of the zombie worm

Inspection finds the reasons dolphins die early deaths in South Korean aquariums
Some dolphins living in too small spaces without proper water temperature or medical attention
Dolphins in South Korea’s aquariums are living in poor conditions, a recent examination showed. The full-scale examination of dolphin welfare was the first conducted since dolphin shows were introduced at Seoul Grand Park in 1984.
“The eight dolphin raising facilities nationwide are poorly managed, an issue that the government has been neglecting for decades,” said Justice Party lawmaker and National Assembly Environment and Labor Committee member Lee Jung-mi on Mar. 29.
Between Feb. 22 and Mar. 3, a joint private-government inspection team consisting of Lee and representatives from the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, and animal rights and environment groups such as the Korean Animal Welfare Association, Care, and Hot Pink Dolphins conducted an examination of health management and facilities for dolphins at South Korea’s eight dolphin aquariums, including those at Seoul Grand Park and Ulsan’s Whale Ecology Experience Hall.
One major problem was the size of tanks at the aquariums, which were uniformly cramped. While total tank area did meet the legal standards of 84 square-meters in water area per animal and depth of 3.5 meters, many failed to meet the standard because tanks were partitioned into various sections, the report showed. The Ulsan Whale Ecology Experience Hall tank, where a dolphin was kept segregated, measured just 38 square-meters, while supplementary tanks at

Plans Approved for $500m Saigon Safari Park Including Hotel and Golf Course
Saigon Safari has been given the go ahead.

TTR Weekly reports that Ho Chi Minh City’s People’s Committee have approved the project.

According to Vietnam Net, Saigon Safari was originally to be developed by Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens Company, work started on clearing the 460ha site in Cu Chi Districtin 2004.

Following years of delays the project was handed over to Vingroup in 2015.  New plans were put forward in 2015 to develop Saigon Safari with

St. Louis Zoo Is Officially the Best Zoo in the Country
The Saint Louis Zoo was officially named the best zoo in the country today. The zoo took first place in USA Today's "10 Best" contest, which asked readers to vote for the best zoo out of twenty contestants. For about a month, people were welcome to vote once per day for their favorite zoo.

St. Louis was in the running with top-notch zoos from around the country, including Disney's Animal Kingdom and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. Those vacation hot spots didn't make the top ten, however — Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum took second and third place, while zoos in San Diego, Chicago, New Orleans, Cleveland, Fort Worth and Columbia, South Carolina filled out the top rankings.

This win has been a long time coming. USA Today held the same 10 Best contest in 2014, and St. Louis took second pla

Chimps pull off cage-break at Indira Gandhi Zoo in Visakhapatnam
It was a short-lived prison break for two chimpanzees who brought Indira Gandhi Zoological Park (IGZP) to a halt for two hours, after they fled their day enclosure, sending the visitors into a tizzy. Zoo keepers and authorities struggled for almost 90 minutes to tranquilise and return the free chimps to their enclosures. 

According to authorities of IGZP, three chimpanzees - Chiko (male), Chipa and Chikitha (both female), live in the chimpanzee enclosure. Chiko (18 years) and Chikitha (30 years) were found missing from their enclosure at around 9.50 am by the animal keeper G Chinna Rao, who alerted the officials and the emergency response team. The team rushed with the required tranquilisers, nets and other equipment.

Sources said that with the failure of the solar fence

Modern zoo practices vital to keep animals healthy
Minister for Schools Education and Archeology Rana Mashhood Ahmed Khan has stressed the need of learning modern zoo practices to keep animals healthy and safe in Pakistan.

Addressing the concluding ceremony of a two-week International Technical Training and Skill Development in Animal Keeping program at a local hotel on Friday, the minister said that local zoo keepers and wildlife officers would benefit from the experience and knowledge of British trainers.

Punjab University Vice Chancellor Dr Zafar Mueen Nasir, Dean Faculty of Life Sciences Dr Naeem Khan, Director British Council Lahore Kevin McLaven, Chairman Department of Zoology Dr Javed Iqbal Qazi, Dr Zulfiqar Ali, trainers from various universities from the United Kingdom, wildlife officers, zoo keepers, researchers and a large number of students were also present on the occasion. Mashhood said the British Council and private sector are collaborating in different projects which are valuable for the government. Dr Zafar Mueen Nasir said the PU would play its role in preservation of wildlife. “The Punjab University will not only work for improvement of life standard of the people but for bright future of the country,” he added. Kevin McLaven said the British Council is working for improvement in standard of education and provision of academic leadership in Pakistan.

The British Council would enhance its relations with PU further in future, he added.

Dr Naeem Khan said the training programme is hi

‘Know a wolf by its howl:’ Inside the tactics of Busch Gardens’ trainers
A young bald eagle surveyed his surroundings, acutely aware of a light March breeze, before seizing small chunks of fish in his beak.

Just six pounds, the eagle nervously rustled his wings as a golf carts whizzed by his perch, snatching up new pieces of fish after each cart turned the corner.

Trainer Jennifer Lafountain held the eagle, named Lincoln, awarding him small pieces of fish when he stayed calm. Lincoln, who was found with an eye injury and is blind in that eye, is training to become comfortable near golf carts, Lafountain said.

Lincoln is one of at least five dozen domestic and wild animals that live in Busch Gardens Williamsburg, a SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment company.

In the wake of several years of bad press and dropping stock values for their parent company SeaWorld – revolving around a documentary called “Blackfish,” which criticized SeaWorld’s treatment of captive orca whales – Busch Gardens officials assert they provide above and beyond care for their animals in captivity.

“I don’t think anybody is perfect, but I certainly feel, through the 20 years, I’ve had to experience the people I’ve worked with and the animals I’ve been fortunate to take care of, that at the end of the day, we’ve done the best we can,” Zoo

Flying foxes are facing extinction on islands across the world
Flying foxes are in deep trouble. Almost half the species of this type of fruit bat are now threatened with extinction.

The bats face a variety of threats, including deforestation and invasive species, but the main one is hunting by humans, says Christian Vincenot, an ecological modeller at Kyoto University in Japan, who highlights their plight in a perspective article in Science this week.

The bats are hunted for food, for their supposed medicinal properties and for sport. They are also killed by farmers to protect fruit crops. Around half of the 90,000 bats on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius have been killed in a government-sponsored cull in the past two years alone.

The threats are particularly severe for those species that live on islands scattered across the Pacific and Indian Oceans, which is most of them – 53 of the 65 species of flying fox are island-dwellers. “Islands exacerbate all these issues, because there are fewer places for the animals to hide,” says Vincenot.

But it is also islands that have the most to lose if the bats ar

The Fascinating and Complicated Sex Lives of White-throated Sparrows
Could this be the world’s most interesting bird? Sure, it doesn’t look that interesting. In fact, at a glance, it seems like a run-of-the-mill sparrow.

It doesn’t live in far-off exotic places, either: It may be outside your window right now. The White-throated Sparrow is common and familiar, hopping on the ground under bird feeders all over the eastern states in winter. It appears by the hundreds during migration in places like New York City’s Central Park and Chicago’s lakefront parks. But this seemingly ordinary backyard bird has a secret identity—or, actually, four secret identities. And it's these multiple personalites that place the White-throat at the center of mysteries scientists are still working out.

Watch a flock of White-throats in spring and you’ll notice they have two kinds of head patterns. Some wear snappy stripes of black and white across the top of the head. Others have more modest head stripes of dark brown and tan. That superficial difference might not seem like a big deal, but it reflects a remarkable divergence in the lifestyles of these individuals.

For years it was assumed that tan stripes indicated a young White-throat. As late as 1947, in his classic Field Guide to the Birds, Roger Peterson described the adult’s “striped black and white crown” and said the immature was “duller, but with the same essential recognition-marks.” By that time, there’d been hints already that the colors might not be just a function of age. For example, in The Birds of Massachusetts in 1929, ornithologist Edward Howe Forbush mentioned a two-year-old banded White-throat that “had not attaine

Protest stops Sri Lankan elephant bound for Auckland Zoo from flying
A baby elephant destined for Auckland Zoo has been stopped from leaving Sri Lanka following protests from animal rights activists.

Nandi, a six-year-old female elephant from Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, was gifted to New Zealand by Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena in Colombo in February 2016.

A zoo spokeswoman said at the time that it was the "next step in a long-standing and carefully planned programme of co-operation between Auckland Zoo and Sri Lankan authorities".

Nandi, who was born in captivity, was the right age and had the right temper

Australia's numbat population boosted after successful breeding in WA
Australia's numbat population has been boosted after a colony recorded its first successful breeding inside the largest feral predator-proof zone in Western Australia.

Kanagawa, Yamaguchi aquariums cut ties with body that banned dolphins caught in Taiji drive hunts
Two aquariums in Japan said Sunday they canceled their membership of the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums due to the organization’s decision to no longer allow the acquisition of dolphins caught in controversial drive hunts off the town of Taiji in Wakayama Prefecture.

Enoshima Aquarium in Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture, and Shimonoseki Marine Science Museum Kaikyokan, in Yamaguchi Prefecture, said they withdrew from JAZA on Friday because of opposition to the decision made in May 2015.

JAZA banned its members from acquiring Taiji dolphins after the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums urged the Japanese association not to take animals caught in the drive hunts amid international outcry that the practice is cruel. JAZA was threatened with expulsion from the global body.

The decision left the 89 zoos and 63 aquariums that belong to JAZA with no choice but to stop taking dolphins fro

Zoo Science for Keepers and Aquarists

New study finds rhino horn openly for sale in notorious Myanmar wildlife markets
Researchers from TRAFFIC, WWF and Oxford Brookes University have found evidence that rhinoceros horns are being openly offered for sale in Mong La, the notorious wildlife market situated in Myanmar on the border with China.

Surveys of Mong La’s markets in 2014 found a single rhino horn. In 2015, a second rhino horn, a single horn tip, small discs from the core of a horn, horn powder and horn bangles were observed, all openly for sale in high-end shops. The whole horns and horn tip were all believed to be from African White Rhinoceroses.

The shops selling horn also stocked a range of other protected wildlife, including whole elephant tusks, carved elephant ivory, carved hippopotamus teeth, and Tiger skins.

“The species on offer, including high-value species not native to Myanmar and several African species, suggest that organized criminal syndicates are involved in the wildlife trade between Myanmar and Africa, sometimes via China,” write the authors of the paper Rhinoceros horns in trade on the Myanmar–China border, published today in Oryx.

Mong La is known to cater mainly for Chinese tourists, with prices quoted in Chinese RMB and many transactions carried out in Chinese.

According to the paper, “Rhinoceros poaching in Africa is a direct result of increasing demand in Southeast and East Asian countries where cultural, historical, medicinal and more modern beliefs render rhinoceros horn a luxury good, an investment opportunity and a status symbol.”

Earlier surveys by the same researchers in 2006 and 2009 did not find horn for s

Cleveland insider: curator's love of animals proves timeless
As a young animal keeper at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Tad Schoffner knew when he had gained acceptance from the approximately 120 rhesus monkeys on Monkey Island. It was when they started ignoring him, but only because they trusted him.

That allowed Schoffner, after he had fed the monkeys and cleaned the exhibit, to sit among them and observe. He noticed that a dominant male held sway. The male wasn’t the biggest in the group but he had established himself as one tough monkey.

“I found it funny that he would be on one side of the island, and a squabble would break out on the other side, and he would just stand up and look at them, and that would stop everything,” Schoffner says. “It wa

The first SeaWorld park opened in 1964 but it was another 15 years before they introduced the concept of education, when they were legally mandated to do so - the park's founder even admits that the park was created "strictly as entertainment". A further 15 years passed before SeaWorld made the decision to put something back into conservation and so the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund (SWBGCF) was born. Although technically (and legally), the fund is a separate entity from SeaWorld itself, it's hard not to see the connection between the two!


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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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