Monday, May 1, 2017

Zoo News Digest 1st May 2017 (ZooNews 954)

Zoo News Digest 1st May 2017  (ZooNews 954)

The next elephants?

Peter Dickinson

Dear Colleague,

Perhaps it's age or something but the death of the elephants in Seville hurt me more than it should have done. I didn't know them, never saw them and knew little about them. Their loss however triggered memories of elephants I knew and loved. Most now dead and others I know not where they have gone. I really can relate to the loss, the grief, the keepers in Seville must feel right now.

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, 


Bali mynah conservation project gets international support
Indonesia’s efforts to conserve the Curik Bali (Rothschild’s mynah) by involving local communities living in areas around the Bali Barat National Park (TNBB) have received attention and support from international conservation bodies and zoo associations.

Curik Bali Conservation Association (APCB) chairman Tony Sumampau said that since 2004, the association had striven to breed of the myna, which is on the brink of extinction, by involving local communities in activities to conserve the species.

These efforts were strengthened with the issuance of a decree from the environment and forestry minister, which permits local people, especially those who lived in areas around the TNBB, to breed Curik Bali, he said.

The initiatives conducted by the APCB to save the Curik Bali from extinction has drawn attention from international conservation bodies and zoo associations from Europe and Asia.

“They include the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the Asian Species Partnership, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria and EAZA Passerine TAG [Taxon Advisory Group],” said Tony, who is also director of the Indonesia Safari Park, recently.

He said there were 17 Curik Bali breede

A Huge Tragedy
Rumors have abounded since Monday 24th April but as yet I am unaware of the tragic story appearing the press anywhere.
Tragedy struck the bachelor group of elephants at La Reserva del Castillo de las Guardas near Seville in Spain. Six out of the seven animals has succumbed to some sort of poisoning. The exact cause has yet to be confirmed but it is believed to be botulism.

My sincere condolences to the

Elephant kills handler during feeding time at Bali park
A male Sumatran elephant killed its keeper on Friday morning in Bali when the man entered its enclosure to feed the animal.

I Nyoman Levi Suwitha, 60, also known as Mangku Levi, had been the owner of Bakas Levi Rafting, an elephant park and adventure tour company based in Bali’s Klungkung regency. The company is known for offering elephant rides through the jungle, along with rafting trips.

Levi had just entered the elephant’s enclosure to feed it when the elephant suddenly wrapped its trunk around his body and threw him as far as 12 meters, according to a report by Detik.

Staff on duty immediately moved to evacuate Levi. The man was rushed to Klungkung General Hospital, but was pronounced dead upon arrival. His body was later sent to the morgue at Sanglah

Delhi zoo quizzed on smuggled animals replacing the dead
Accused of illegally capturing wild animals, like the Indian civet, to replace dead ones to avoid an enquiry, Central Zoo Authority (CZA) has sought explanation from the Delhi Zoo, a document accessed by IANS revea;s.

"The Central Zoo Authority had requested Director, National Zoological Park, New Delhi to submit a factual report" on the "illegal capture of Small Indian civet and other wild animals" within seven days. "However, it has been 19 days but the factual status has not been submitted to this office," CZA Member-Secretary D.N. Singh said in a letter dated April 19.

This was the second reminder by the CZA seeking an explanation from the Delhi Zoo.

The allegations, termed "quite serious" by the CZA, were made by green activist Ajay Dubey.

A senior official of the Delhi Zoological Pa

The other ivory trade: Narwhal, walrus and... mammoth
They may not attract the same headlines as African elephants, but there are several different species traded on the international market today
Considered to be a “sea unicorn” in the centuries before the Arctic was properly explored, the “horn” of the narwhal was an object of fascination for Europeans, and particularly monarchs, who paid for the tusks with many times their weight in gold.

Queen Elizabeth I is said to have spent £10,000 on a narwhal tusk, a fortune in Elizabethan England, roughly equivalent to £1.5m today, and had it placed within the crown jewels

Couple to be charged with illegally keeping lions after boy dies
Police have opened an inquest into the death of a 12-year-old boy who was attacked by a lion in Limpopo three weeks ago.
The child, Kristian Prinsloo, died just one day after his 12th birthday, and had been in an induced coma in the ICU at Muelmed Mediclinic in Pretoria since the April 8 attack.
It has also emerged that the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has opened charges against the couple who owned the lion.

Kristian was visiting his grandmother, Marie Strydom, who lives on the luxury estate with the lion’s owners Cor and Alet Vos, outside Lephalale, on the Mogol River bank, when the attack happened.

Best Zoos in America for Chimpanzees
Chimpanzees share 98% of the same DNA as humans but are in danger of extinction because of deforestation and hunting. It would be a tragedy if these animals are lost since they are so interesting, complex and similar to us. They communicate through a sophisticated system of facial expressions, body postures, gestures and vocalizations like we do, live in complex communities who all know each other through large gatherings but feed, travel and sleep in much smaller groups, have a pecking order that is complex, fluid, flexible and subject to change and use tools like us. Their communities are so different from each other in communication, diet, tool use and behavior they are sometimes considered by researchers to amount to cultural difference. Here are some zoos with outstanding exhibits for these great apes and work towards saving them.

Lawmakers in Mexico approve reforms to ban captivity of marine life
After two failed attempts, representatives of the political parties PVEM, PRI, Encuentro Social and Nueva Alianza endorsed the reform of Article 60 of the General Wildlife Law on marine mammals with 242 votes in favor and 190 against it.
Without debate or abandonment of the meeting room by deputies of Morena, PAN, PRD, and of the Citizen Movement, as happened at the sessions of April 6 and 20, the plenary approved the reform to prohibit the use of marine mammals of any species, such as whales, dolphins and manatees, in fixed or itinerant shows.
Conservation-oriented research, carried out by higher education institutions and in accordance with applicable regulations are exempt from the new reforms.
The approved reform states that the owners of marine mammals in captivity will have a period of 30 calendar days to complete an inventory, w

Colorado Animal Sanctuary Euthanizes All Its Animals After It’s Denied Permit To Move
Local officials say other sanctuaries had offered to take in the lions, tigers and bears.
A Colorado community is in shock after an animal sanctuary battling housing problems resorted to euthanizing all 11 of its exotic animals, despite the county planning commission claiming other facilities had offered to take them in.

Lion’s Gate Animal Sanctuary in Agate announced in a statement last week that it had euthanized five bears, three lions and three tigers. The statement blamed the deaths on the Elbert County’s planning commission for refusing the sanctuary’s request to move to another site because of flooding.

“The flooding and resulting damage prevents us from reasonably continuing our operation and caring for our animals safely,” the organization had said in an earlier online petition for their move.

Facility owners Peter Winney and Joan Laub reasoned in their statement last week that they wouldn’t have had to euthanize the animals if the local government officials had not denied their request to move. They identified the animals killed as “Victims of Elbert County Commissioners.”

Government office razed after ban on hunting, logging

Protesting efforts to prevent them from hunting wildlife and felling trees, villagers in Ratanakkiri’s O’Yadav district set fire to the local Environment Department office on Saturday.

According to Acting Department Director Thon Sokhon, nearly 200 villagers gathered around the office around 9am to demand that he and other officials return wood they confiscated from the villagers and stop preventing them from hunting and clearing forests.

Sokhon said some villagers came armed with machetes, stones and axes and proceeded to set the office’s stairs on fire, along with some of the confiscated wood and a table. Some of the villagers, said Sokhon, escaped with two phones as well as knives and axes stolen from the office.

He said he and his colleagues did not pursue the villagers and that his team is

In Missouri, Mexican Wolf pup proves artificial insemination can help save species
An endangered Mexican wolf gave birth this month to what conservationists say is the first such pup born using previously frozen sperm and artificial insemination.

The wolf was born April 2 at the Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka, using semen collected last year by St. Louis Zoo research and animal health staff and stored at the zoo’s cryopreservation gene bank. A University of California-Davis professor and veterinary doctor administered the insemination Jan. 27 with assistance from zoo animal health staff.

Endangered Wolf Center spokeswoman Regina Mossotti said the wolf pup received its first health checkup Monday and was in good shape. The pup weighs about 5

Banded mongooses target family members for eviction
Banded mongooses target close female relatives when violently ejecting members from their social groups, University of Exeter scientists have found.

Most animals are less aggressive towards family members, but dominant members of banded mongoose groups target relatives.
The reason for this surprising behaviour is that unrelated mongooses are more likely to fight back - making it more difficult to evict them.
Females are the prime targets because the pups of dominant mongooses are less likely to survive if there are too many females breeding in the group.
"Targeting close relatives for eviction like this is the opposite of what we would expect social animals to do," said lead author Dr Faye Thompson, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation

What Do College Students Think of Blackfish?
Recently, I skyped in to discuss Blackfish and SeaWorld’s care of orcas for a college class at the University of Central Florida. From my understanding, the students were asked to analyze the movie and conclude the reliability of the film. The first question I asked the class was, “how many of you believe that the information in Blackfish is true and SeaWorld is a terrible, evil corporation?” In a class of I would estimate 50+ students, not one person raised their hand. Of course, some students may have wanted to raise their hand but were too afraid to considering I used to work at SeaWorld.

I answered their questions, gave them my experience of working with the whales highlighted in the film. Then, a few weeks later, the teacher sent me feedback from the students. I was shocked. Not only did almost every student’s research conclude that Blackfish was mostly untrue but I was surprised that so much of what I shared was new information to them – primarily the fact that the whales found water work with the trainers reinforcing.

With permission from the teacher, I have published comments fr

Bear rips off a nine-year-old boy's arm and EATS IT at West Bank zoo
A bear ripped off the arm of a nine-year-old boy who tried to feed it during a school trip and then ate it.
The incident happened at Qalqilya zoo, in the Palestinian city of Qalqilya, on the western edge of the West Bank.
A police spokesman today said the boy approached the caged bear with food when the animal pounced, severing the limb at the elbow.
The bear then ate the arm. The boy is currently being treated at a local hospital.
The zoo, the only one of its kind in the West Ban

Mysuru Zoo is on a mission to breed animals in captivity
Homemaker from Kerala, Shailaja Raj, has a special bond with Mysuru Zoo. A resident from Kozhikode, she has been doing her bit for the conservation centre in taking care of a wild animals. Thanks to a special initiative of the zoo, hundreds of commoners share similar bond with it.
Sometime ago, the homemaker was on a visit to the tourist hub with her family. While touring the facility, she fell in love with it, while the family members came to know about the animal-adoption scheme offered there. "While we elders were enlightened about the scheme, my sister's children asked me to adopt a ring-tailed lemur. We adopted the lemur for one year by paying Rs 5,000. It is a rare opportunity to serve wildlife and I feel privileged," she told TOI.
While zoos across India are educating people abo

Sri Lanka overturns ban on adopting elephants
Sri Lanka said Wednesday it was overturning a ban on adopting baby elephants, drawing sharp criticism from the animal protection lobby.

Elephants are revered as holy in the mainly Buddhist nation, where the high-maintenance beasts have become a status symbol for the wealthy elite.

The animals are also kept by temples for use in religious ceremonies, and the ban had led to worries there would not be enough tame elephants for Buddhist pageants.

"Wildlife conservation is good but we also need to conserve our cultural pageants," said government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne after the cabinet overturned the ban on adoptions.

Senaratne said the government decision had been motivated partly by overcrowding at Pinnawala, a 27 hectare (66-acre) coconut grove that was originally set up as an elephant orphanage and now also runs a successful breeding programme.

He said strict conditions would be put in place to ensure the animals' welfare. Individuals would have to pay 10 million rupees ($66,000)for an elephant, although temples would get them for free.

But Asian elephant expert Jayantha Jayewa

China's rare milu deer return in victory for conservation
he newborn fawn walks unsteadily among the trees that were once part of the Chinese emperor's hunting grounds, where more than a century before its forebears died out in their native China.

This April marks the start of the birthing season for the milu deer, which has long been famed as having the head of a horse, the hooves of a cow, the tail of a donkey and the antlers of a deer. As the herds across China grow each spring, they mark a rare conservation success story in a country suffering from pollution and other environmental challenges.
"Our protection of the milu is about protecting our living cultural heritage and natural heritage," said Guo Geng, vice director of the Beijing Milu Ecological Research Center, where they expect about 30 fawns this year. Known as Pere David's Deer in the West, the milu's significance to Chinese culture is embodied in its a

Should penguins be an animal attraction?
A group of small honking and flapping penguins gathers around an aloe vera plant in what seems to be the wildlife equivalent of a chat at the water cooler. Others dive into a nearby pool with a splash as some territorial neighbors - two ducks - defend their patch.

The scene is probably a common one in coastal Peru and Chile, the places these Humboldt penguins traditionally call home. But it's the last thing a visitor to a sauna in a small town in rural Brandenburg, around 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the German capital Berlin, might expect to find.

Lübbenau, with its network of canals, is known as the city of punts and pickles. In 2008, the Spreewelten Bad added penguins to its list of attractions. The spa houses 18 Humboldt penguins in a small enclosure equipped with nests, rocks and a pool. Visitors can even swim alongside the penguins - albeit separated by a large pane of glass.

"Of course, the people think the penguins are great," Laura Schäfer, one of the spa's animal keepers, told DW. "Because when the penguins are swimming through the tank behind me and the visitors come up to the glass, the penguins react and play with the v

How Fiona and Namsai told the world our story
On January 24, 2017 the history of Cincinnati Zoo would change forever. A premature calf, Fiona, was born six weeks early. Being the first hippo born in Cincinnati in 75 years, the birth of Fiona was big news in itself. But the fact that the calf was in a critical condition made it go all around the world. We all saw the pictures and videos of the mini-hippo in its keepers arms, and later on taking her first steps, her first swim and at last her first meeting with mommy.
Its not the first time a cute baby animal steal the hearts of millions. We have had them here in Kolmården too. It started with Nelson in 1995, the first rhino to be born in Sweden. He had a brain damage and did not survive more than a week. On the floor in the locker room the zookeepers had placed him on blankets and with veterinarians by his side TV could follow his every breathing. Eleven year

Death of a Rockstar

First bison calves born in Banff National Park in 140 years
The first bison calves to be born in 140 years in Canada's oldest national park are taking their first steps.
Conservation staff at Banff National Park in the western province of Alberta say they hope the three calves will be joined by seven more in coming weeks.
A herd of 16 plains bison, including 10 pregnant females, were successfully reintroduced to the park in February.
There used to be some 30 million bison in Canada until they were hunted almost to extinction in the 1800s.
About a quarter of a million remain on a sliver o

The Illegal Wildlife Trade: Sample Retail Market Prices
In the illegal wildlife trade, like all transnational crime, the majority of participants are involved for financial gain. Retailers generally face little enforcement risk while realizing strong profits, as the value of a particular commodity, be it a wild African grey parrot or grams of bear bile, increases dramatically as it makes its way from source to market country.
African grey parrots are endemic to the rainforests of equatorial Africa, however rampant poaching, deforestation, and habit loss, among other threats, have led to a sharp drop in the size of wild populations. This species is one of the most traded birds in the world and can retail for approximately US$2,000.  
Slow lorises appear cute and cuddly, but their illegal capture and treatment are anything but. An undercover investigation by Freeland Foundation found slow lorises for sale for approximately US$5,000 in Pattaya, Thailand. Asian elephants, particularly babies, are popular in Southeast Asia’s tourist trade. Poachers will kill adult elephants in order to capture and sell their babies, which can retail for approximately US$7,000 in Thailand.
While more great apes are killed for the bush meat trade, some are poached for the exotic pet, animal park, and zoo trades. The United Nations Environment Programme reports that traffickers who illegally sold gorillas

All mammals big or small take about 12 seconds to defecate
Everyone poops, and it takes them about the same amount of time. A new study of the hydrodynamics of defecation finds that all mammals take 12 seconds on average to relieve themselves, no matter how large or small the animal.

The research, published in Soft Matter, reveals that the soft matter coming out of the hind ends of elephants, pandas, warthogs and dogs slides out of the rectum on a layer of mucus that keeps toilet time to a minimum.

“The smell of body waste attracts predators, which is dangerous for animals. If they stay longer doing their thing, they’re exposing themselves and risking being discovered,” says Patricia Yang, a mechanical engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

Yang and colleagues filmed elephants, pandas and wartho

Opinion: Rhinos should be conserved in Africa, not moved to Australia
Rhinos are one of the most iconic symbols of the African savanna: grey behemoths with armour plating and fearsome horns. And yet it is the horns that are leading to their demise. Poaching is so prolific that zoos cannot even protect them.

Some people believe rhino horns can cure several ailments; others see horns as status symbols. Given horns are made of keratin, this is really about as effective as chewing your finger nails. Nonetheless, a massive increase in poaching over the past decade has led to rapid declines in some rhino species, and solutions are urgently needed.
One proposal is to take 80 rhinos from private game farms in South Africa and transport them to captive facilities in Australia, at a cost of over US$4m. Though it cannot be denied that this is a "novel" idea, I, and colleagues from around the world, have serious concerns about the project, and we have now published a paper looking into the problematic plan.
Conservation cost
The first issue is whether the cost of moving the rhinos is unjustified. The $4m cost is almost double the anti-poaching budget for South African National Parks ($2.2m), the managers of the estate where most white rhinos currently reside in the country.
The money would be better spent on anti-poaching activities i

Of course you can learn from a mahout how to handle people
His current objects of love are Radu and Madu, the beastly sisters from India. He has been with them for just over six months. But their PDA is on full display. He hugs and caresses them, feeds them, sweet-talks to them. His patience: their devotion; his care: their trust - they make for poignant lessons for those willing to learn.

"Taming an elephant is exactly like wooing a woman. They will play hard to get. But you win them over ultimately with loads of patience and care."

"Can you dare touch a woman without first winning her trust? You invite her out on dates, give her flowers, shower her with compliments and gifts, right? It is the same with elephants. I have to woo them, romance them and train them to love me the way I want them to."

Mudenda fell in love 17 years ago, and he is still going strong. It all began when he took up a job with Wild Horizon, an elephant safari company in Zimbabwe in 2001. "I was working with baby elephants who were orphans. Their mothers got killed by poachers and in other accidents. I beca

Officials suspended for dehorning rhinos
Two Mangaung Metro officials from the Bloemfontein Zoo have been suspended for allegedly dehorning two rhinos without permission.

Mangaung Metro Municipality spokesperson, Qondile Khedama, said in a statement that the two officials were suspended on Monday after it was discovered they had undertaken the dehorning process of two rhinos without the official authorisation from the city manager, Tankiso Mea.

He says the city manager has to be informed of the process of dehorning before it is done and

Shaving Manatees—for Science!
Manatees are not beautiful or buff, but they have something no other mammal does: body hair with super powers. Body hair is a defining feature of all mammals. We all have it, some more than others, but no mammal is known to use it quite like the manatee.

Scientists have been curious about the manatee’s fuzz for a while now. Unlike seals, with their thick, warm pelts, or dolphins and whales, which are sleek and bare, manatees have a scraggly sprinkling of individual hairs here and there. What’s more, under a manatee’s skin, beneath each hair, is another oddity—a blood sinus.

“Pumping blood to the surface to supply 3,000-plus hairs across the body? That’s an expensive endeavor,” says Joseph Gaspard, director of science and conservation at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium and lead author of a new study on manatee hair. So Gaspard and his colleagues set out to see wha

Vancouver Aquarium pushes back on cetacean ban
The Vancouver Aquarium is making a last ditch effort to thwart a park board bylaw amendment which would ban the importation and display of cetaceans, like dolphins and belugas.

Aquarium officials hope a campaign to drum up public support will sway park board commissioners, who in March, voted unanimously in favour of making a change to the bylaws.

Randy Pratt, incoming board chair at the aquarium, argued on Thursday the ban would put the Marine Mammal Rescue program at risk — a program responsible for helping more than 100 animals in distress in B.C. each year, though the vast majority aren't cetaceans.

Vietnam's national Elephant Conservation Centre gets one step closer
This week we finalised the layout of Vietnam's Elephant Conservation Centre based just outside Yok Don National Park in Dak Lak province. This has been two years in the making and has involved working alongside the Elephant Conservation Centre, Animals Asia Foundation, Wild Welfare and local architects; IDIC.

As well as supporting the conservation of the country's remaining wild elephants, the centre's unique design has been formulated to provide a home for Vietnam's last tourist elephants and any injured or orphaned wild elephants that cannot be returned to the wild.

Based on my own research into the needs and welfare of elephants in captivity, as well as fifteen year

How Social Media Saved One of the World’s Last Sumatran Rhinos
Millions of people around the world rely on social media platforms like Twitter to receive minute-to-minute updates on news breaking globally. It isn’t every day though that a single tweet can cause a domino effect that led to the rescue of a severely endangered Sumatran Rhino named Puntung.

A few weeks ago, South Africa-based environmental journalist Adam Welz clicked on a link to an article about one of the last two female Sumatran rhinos in Malaysia, and the facial abscess that threatened to take her life.

Only Captivity Will Save the Vaquita, Experts Say
It was not the first time Robert L. Brownell Jr. had seen a dead vaquita, the rare and endangered porpoise that was lying on the stainless-steel necropsy table inside the Tijuana Zoo on Monday. But it might well be one of the last.

Mr. Brownell, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, had in effect discovered the porpoise, finding the first full, dead specimen in 1966. The world’s smallest member of the cetacean grouping, which

Elephant tranquilliser: The new, deadlier trend in the raging opioid epidemic
Law enforcement agencies across the country are raising alarms about the increasing trend of finding heroin laced with an extremely lethal elephant tranquilizer called carfentanil, The Washington Post reports.

The drug is 10,000 times stronger than morphine and 100 times stronger than fentanyl, just two milligrams of which is lethal—that’s about one toss of a salt shaker. Carfentanil can be absorbed through the skin, and just a puff from re-sealing a plastic bag can be lethal, raising risks for first-responders. Just a whiff can kill a drug-sniffing dog.

Though authorities are struggling to identify it in overdose cases—and sometimes not trying due to the health risks—carfentanil has been linked to dramatic increases in overdoses, which were already at alarming levels amid the nationwide opioid epidemic.

Penguins in the Byculla Zoo: Why not?
Mast! It’s rare to hear that classic Marathi word expressing appreciation in Mumbai’s Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan, also called the Byculla zoo, where the happiest mammals invariably look like the fruit bats that hang lazily from the vast canopies of rain trees. You can hardly blame the 64-year-old elephant for not competing. But these days the word echoes in the area where the zoo’s newest inhabitants, seven Humboldt penguins, are housed.

There were eight but Dory died after she contracted a bacterial infection. When the city imported the birds from South Korea, Mumbai’s globalized elite was aghast. It’s okay to go skiing at a snow park in Dubai or spend time with the Polar bear at the Singapore Zoo

The litigon rediscovered
On 18 January 2017, two litigon cubs were unveiled for public display at a safari zoo in Haikou, China1. The cubs represent an important biological phenomenon, being born of a fertile tigon (a tiger-lion hybrid) and an African lion. They also raise important questions on the biological species concept and the fertility of hybrid individuals.
Earlier, in July 2016, scouring through the archives of the National Library in Kolkata, India, an information scientist* and a librarian** laid their hands upon a rare photograph published in 1980 in the daily newspaper The Statesman2. The photograph, procured and reproduced here (Figure 1) was that of a male litigon. It was described in an accompanying news report as a hybrid of a male Asiatic lion Panthera leo persica and a female tigon (hybrid of a male tiger Panthera tigris and a female African lion P. leo of unknown subspecies) from the Alipore Zoological Gardens in Calcutta (now Kolkata)2. The litigon was named Cubanacan by Jose Lopez Sanchez, the erstwhile Cuban Ambassador to India, and photographed on the cub’s first day of public viewing in the zoo.

The litigon grew up to be one of the world’s largest big cats of the time, weighing around 363 kg, a record 3.5 m long and 1.32 m wide at the shoulders3. However, this second-generation hybrid was forgotten in subsequent literature, although sporadic discussions of tigons and ligers (hybrids of male lions and female tigers) continued in popular media.

Cubanacan was born after 15 years of hybridisation attempts that started in 1964 at the Alipore Zoo4. The zoo reportedly produced its first hybrid cat, a tigon called Rudrani, on 13 October 1972 in the sixth litter of a female African lion Munni and a male tig

Meet the visionary who restored 5,500 acres of wrecked Texas land to paradise
Fifty years ago, the wildly inspiring David Bamberger bought the worst land he could find with the aim of bringing it back to thriving life.

Although David Bamberger was born into poverty, he went on to become an immensely successful fast food tycoon before cashing in his chips and assuming the role of Totally Inspiring Steward Of The Land. It's not the storyline one might expect from somebody who started a fried chicken empire – but it's a beautiful story.

After selling his company, Bamberger took to the hills to begin his work. "My objective was to take the worst piece of land I could possible find in the Hill Country of Texas and begin the process of restoration," he says in the short film Selah: Water from Stone. He settled upon a wasteland of 5,500 overgrazed acres of "wall-to-wall brush, there wasn't any grass, there wasn't any water, nobody wanted it," he says – and thus, Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve was born. By "working with Mother Nature instead of against her," he says, he was able to bring it

Half of All Species Are on the Move—And We're Feeling It
The shrubs probably responded first. In the 19th century, alder and flowering willows in the Alaskan Arctic stood no taller than a small child—just a little over three feet. But as temperatures warmed with fossil fuel emissions, and growing seasons lengthened, the shrubs multiplied and prospered. Today many stand over six feet.

Bigger shrubs drew moose, which rarely crossed the Brooks Range before the 20th century. Now these spindly-legged beasts lumber along Arctic river corridors, wherever the vegetation is tall enough to poke through the deep snow. They were followed by snowshoe hares, which also browse on shrubs.

Today moose and hares have become part of the subsistence diet for indigenous hunters in northern Alaska, as meltin

El Salvador zoo: Prosecutors investigate 'suspicious deaths'
Prosecutors in El Salvador have opened an inquiry following the suspicious deaths this week of a puma and a young monkey at the National Zoo.
Prosecutors suspect the animals became ill through neglect.
The investigation will also look into the death of a zebra at the same location earlier this month.
Those deaths follow that of a hippo called Gustavito at the National Zoo in February, which caused outrage in El Salvador and beyond.
Fake allegations
Staff initially said that the hippo had been stabbed and beaten by unknown assailants.
Following the death, zoo director Vladlen Hernandez said he did not believe employees were involved in any attack and a

Kristian dies a day after his 12th birthday following attack by lion
Kristian Prinsloo has died a day after his 12th birthday.

He was attacked by a so-called tame fully grown lion outside Lephalale nearly three weeks ago, Netwerk24 reports.

Kristian has been in an induced coma in the ICU at Muelmed Mediclinic in Pretoria since the attack on April 8. He was in a critical condition and connected to a respiratory device the entire time.

Bleeding stopped

After undergoing both a MRI and a CT scan, his parents, Herman and Adri were told about two weeks ago that the doctors couldn’t pick up any brain activity. Two of his neck vertebrae were damaged during the attack and doctors were unable to perform any operation because of swelling on his bra

Opinion: Rhinos should be conserved in Africa, not moved to Australia
Rhinos are one of the most iconic symbols of the African savanna: grey behemoths with armour plating and fearsome horns. And yet it is the horns that are leading to their demise. Poaching is so prolific that zoos cannot even protect them.

Some people believe rhino horns can cure several ailments; others see horns as status symbols. Given horns are made of keratin, this is really about as effective as chewing your finger nails. Nonetheless, a massive increase in poaching over the past decade has led to rapid declines in some rhino species, and solutions are urgently needed.
One proposal is to take 80 rhinos from private game farms in South Africa and transport them to captive facilities in Australia, at a cost of over US$4m. Though it cannot be denied that this is a "novel" idea, I, and colleagues from around the world, have serious concerns about the project, and we have now published a paper looking into the problematic plan.
Conservation cost
The first issue is whether the cost of moving the rhinos is unjustified. The $4m cost is almost double the anti-poaching budget for South African National Parks ($2.2m), the managers of the estate where most white rhinos currently reside in the country.
The money would be better spent on anti-poaching activities in South Africa to increase local capacity. Or, from an Australian perspective, given the country's abysmal record

New population of rare cat species discovered

Researchers working in Borneo have found a new population of a secretive wild cat.

Scientists carrying out wildlife surveys in the Rungan Landscape in Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, have captured footage of a bay cat.

This camera trap video was recorded 64 km south-east of the species' known distribution range.

New details emerge about elephant deaths at Fellsmere center | Video, digital extras
For the first time since The National Elephant Center closed last August, longtime supporters of the shuttered site are learning new details about how three pachyderms and a baby, during delivery, died over a two-year span.

The 225-acre compound just outside Fellsmere near the Brevard County line remains dormant, but Craig Piper, the director of city zoos at the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York City, recently said it’s possible that zoo animals may return someday. Piper served as vice chairman of the center’s board of directors.

“The Fellsmere facility remains a wonderful site that could be mobilized when a need is determined to house elephants or a number of other species,” Piper said in an email about the former citrus grove property.

The $2.5 million complex, a collaborative effort of zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, opened in 2012 and began housing elephants the next year.  It was touted as a place for aging and transient elephants and was designed to provide a home for males and females whose original zoos could no longer keep them.

Four African elephants — brothers Tufani and Tsavo, their pregnant mother Moyo and Thandi, an unrelated female — came to the center tog

Study finds bonobos may be better representation of the last common ancestor with humans than common chimpanzees
A new study examining the muscular system of bonobos provides firsthand evidence that the rare great ape species may be more closely linked, anatomically, to human ancestors than common chimpanzees. Previous research suggested this theory at the molecular level, but this is the first study to compare in detail the anatomy of the three species.

Threatened Species? Science to the (Genetic) Rescue!
This still-controversial conservation technique will never be a species’ panacea. But it might provide a crucial stop-gap
ike the doomed passenger pigeon in 1914, the pink pigeon of Mauritius is standing on the edge of a precipice. After watching all of its other pigeon cousins on this remote island go extinct—including the dodo, its infamous island-mate last seen in 1662—this rosy-hued bird is now looking down the dark gullet of extinction itself.

After yo-yo’ing down to a population of just around nine individuals in the 1990s, the studly birds are back up to a population of about 400 today. But that number is still small enough to leave them dangerously vulnerable. The pink pigeon’s lack of genetic diversity has left it increasingly susceptible to a parasite-causing disease called trichomonosis, which kills more than half of its chicks and limits population growth.

Why this zoo is putting gigantic, slimy ‘snot otters’ back in streams
Herpetologist Don Boyer inevitably drew attention when he drove into town. People would notice his truck, with “Bronx Zoo” emblazoned across the side, and want to know what he was doing in their corner of western New York.

“Releasing hellbenders,” he told them.

“People were like, 'Hellbenders? Why are you releasing them?' " Boyer recalled Friday.

One glance at the creatures was unlikely to assuage nervous onlookers. The Eastern hellbender, the largest salamander in the Western Hemisphere, looks as though someone yanked out a giant's esophagus, gave it legs and taught it to swim. The two-foot-long amphibian has slime-covered skin, beady eyes and a paddle-like tail. Its ruffled torso resembles the edge of a lasagna noodle, inspiring one of the creature's many colorful nicknames, “old lasagna sides.” Other monik

Why this British woman is fighting to save African lions from extinction
Africa’s lion population is agonisingly low.  In Tanzania, Amy Dickman, a Devon-born conservation biologist, is working to help local tribes live in harmony with these wild beasts, and to save them from all-too-possible extinction.

Amy Dickman has always been fascinated by big cats, and as a student, on her first project in Tanzania, she felt she had arrived. She had been working with cheetahs in Namibia for six years, and now she would be working with lions. Pitching up at the camp on the edge of the Great Ruaha River, she was impressed with the accommodation: spacious canvas tents built securely on wooden platforms.

She was less dazzled when she was shown her own quarters – a small two-man ‘pup tent’ of the type that people take to Glastonbury and throw away afterwards – and even less impressed when she noticed tracks in the mud indicating that the tent was parked directly on a hippo trail from the river.  So she moved it off the hippo trail and went to bed.

But, she says, on such a project, in the daytime you are 95 per cent trained biologist and five per cent terrified human. At night it’s the other way round. Darkness fell, acco

In late February, a three-and-a-half-year-old cub clambered into a crate marked “Contents one panda” to begin a sixteen-hour, one-way flight to China. Bao Bao was born at the National Zoo, in Washington, D.C., and this was her first trip overseas. Her parents have lived in the American capital since 2000, but they, like all giant pandas, remain the property of the Chinese state, which lends the animals to foreign zoos for around a million dollars per year. Any products of overseas panda unions also belong to the Chinese motherland.

Initially, Bao Bao had trouble adjusting to life in her ancestral homeland. The local dialect (Sichuanese) and diet (supplementary steamed buns, rather than biscuits) bedeviled her. Nevertheless, by the time the American-born panda ended her quarantine last month at the Dujiangyan Panda Base, in the hills of Sichuan province, she was, as David Wildt, a senior scientist and the head of the Center for Species Survival at the National Zoo, described to me, “doing really great.” Indeed, species-wide, giant-panda news is positive. China’s captive-breeding program, into which Bao Bao will be seconded once she reaches sexual maturity, has produced a bumper crop of piebald babies. More important, the giant panda was taken off the endangered-species list last September because China’s efforts to safeguard its mountainous habitat have allowed the population to grow. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (I.U.C.N.) now classifies the animal as merely “vulnerable.” In Beijing, considerable political will is dedicated to protecting the panda. After all, it would be awkward should China’s furry ambassador to foreign governments end up extinct.

The panda may be protected, but other animals are not so fortunate. China’s craving for bits of other beasts—elephant tusks, rhino horns, pangolin scales, bear bile, tiger bones, sea-horse skeletons, donkey hides—has decimated fauna populations worldwide. In addition to an ancient fascination with decorative ivory, Chinese demand is tied to traditional Chinese medicine, which has for centuries claimed efficacy in dubious ingredients. Rhino horn, to take one example, is considered helpful in treating blood disorders and even cancer, despite being largely composed of keratin, the ingestion of which is not much different from chewing one’s fing


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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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