Monday, July 10, 2017

Zoo News Digest 10th July 2017 (ZooNews 961)

Zoo News Digest 10th July 2017  (ZooNews 961)

Sample plate from Handbook of the Mammals of the World - Volume 5

Peter Dickinson

Dear Colleague,

So no sooner than the strike in Toronto Zoo ends than does one start in Pretoria zoo starts. The reasons for striking are different of course. Pretoria Zoo staff have been expected to work a seven day week without any extra remuneration for working weekends. I daresay that there is a bit more to it than that but that appears to be the sticking point. Thinking back I don't think I have ever been paid extra for working weekends. Zoos are a seven day a week operation, nothing changes except weekends are busier and I reckon we all appreciate that. We all have another life though. Staff do need time off to be alone or with friends and family. At least Pretoria Zoo has a union fighting for them (I have never been in a union). Think on though and read the link about "Of snarls and scratches: Stories from zookeepers who care for dangerous beasts"…It's all a bit of nonsense really till you read the statement by Saji, "the keeper for the zoo's hippopotamuses, says that he has stuck to his job even though it's on a contract basis only because of his love for the beasts.“I don’t get any allowances other than the daily wage. But I have worked here for the last 10 years only because I love being with them." …..'Contract Basis' ….this is the infamous Daily Wage for which many Zoo Keepers in Asia and the Middle East work. The wages are low and these staff have no protection at all. They can be terminated on a whim. Many of these contract/daily wage workers have worked as zoo keepers for ten, twenty, thirty years. Their expertise in some areas is invaluable. If they were to strike though they would be out on their ear. No protection whatsoever. The sort of thing they may wish to strike for would be things which keepers in the West have taken for granted since forever. I find it difficult to take these zoos seriously in any area whilst this situation continues to exist.

Lots of interesting links follow.

Did You Know?
ZooNews Digest has over 60,000 Followers on Facebook and has a weekly reach often exceeding over 350,000 people? That ZooNews Digest has subscribers in over 820 Zoos in 154+ countries? That the subscriber list for the mail out reads like a 'Zoos Who's Who?'
If you are a subscriber to the email version then you probably knew this already. You would also know that ZooNews Digest pre-dates any of the others. It was there before FaceBook. It was there shortly after the internet became popular and was a 'Blog' before the word had been invented. ZooNews Digest reaches zoo people.

I remain committed to the work of GOOD zoos, 


Zookeeper Pregnancy - Morning Sickness
I swear to god this is not your typical pregnancy/morning sickness blog post.

Not that there is anything wrong with so-called Mommy Blogging. In fact, there are some great ones out there, so I am told.  But the people who write that share at least three of the following qualities:

1) They have kids
2) They use coasters religiously and appropriately
3) They grow all of their own food with one hand (the other hand is usually doing something crafty)
4) They take perfectly artistic photos of everyday goings-on (such as pooping) that make it look like a utopian paradise
5) Their clothes match

I meet precisely one criterion in that list (hint, it is not number 5).  Even though I do have a kid, and I am 31 years older than said child, I feel like I am still in seventh grade.  This is a quality about my mindset that has not changed.  The only re

'Bertha' the hippo, Manila Zoo's oldest inhabitant, dies at 65
 "Bertha" the hippopotamus, Manila Zoo's oldest inhabitant, passed away Friday at 65.
Zookeepers said they found Bertha lifeless in her area this morning. They said the hippo may have died of old age as autopsy results did not point to any disease.
People who were in charge of taking care of Bertha also pointed out that the 65-year-old hippo had been moving slower than usual in the past two to three months.

Manila Zoo in the Philippines

Zoo official: This was not first time Kumar the orangutan escaped exhibit at Greenville Zoo
An orangutan escaped from its enclosure at the Greenville Zoo on Sunday, per zoo officials.

Jeff Bullock with the Greenville Zoo said the male orangutan was able to break one of the wires that held the enclosure netting together and slipped through the hole around 11:30 a.m. The orangutan then sat on top of the roof holding area, Bullock said.

A witness captured video of the orangutan during the very moment he escaped. Click to watch.

The zoo was then placed on lock down and all visitors were moved inside of the gift shop and various other safe areas.

Soon after, the orangutan returned to its enclosure through the hole and a curator brought in several pad locks to secure the netting where the hole was created. The orangutan never wandered away into the park area where visitors are.

Bullock says crew members then used water hoses and fire extinguishers to get the orangutans to retreat into the den area long enough for that crew member to secure the net using the pad locks. This is a tactic also u

Beluga whale dies at SeaWorld Orlando shortly after birth
SeaWorld Orlando says a beluga whale died shortly after it was born at the theme park and an investigation has begun into the cause of death.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that theme park officials say the calf was born this past week but was unusually weak and rose to the surface briefly before sinking to the bottom of a pool. Its mother was 17-year-old Whisper, who has lived at SeaWorld Orlando since 2010.

SeaWorld said animal care teams tried to revive the calf but were unable to save it. The cause of the newborn whale’s death is unclear.

Park officials say they will run

As Bradenton area mascot turns 69, let’s celebrate Snooty
Though the Bradenton area is fortunate to have many great ambassadors, there is one in particular whose contributions sometimes go unnoticed.

The good news is, he doesn’t seem to mind.

Snooty the Manatee, the “Oldest Living Manatee in Captivity” according to Guinness World Records, resides at the South Florida Museum in downtown Bradenton and will turn 69 on July 21.

His annual Birthday Bash on July 22 provides the perfect opportunity to see him and celebrate his life and contributions.

For those who don’t know his history, Snooty is the oldest-known manatee in the world. In the 1940s, Samuel Stout, owner of the Miami Aquarium and Tackle Company, acquired a permit from the state to exhibit a single manatee named Lady.

Baby giraffe at Maryland Zoo receives second plasma transfusion
A 3-week-old baby giraffe at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore underwent a second plasma transfusion Sunday and will continue to receive around-the-clock care, the zoo said.

The calf, Julius, has had trouble nursing and since he was born June 15, according to zoo officials, preventing him from receiving essential antibodies from his mother. Julius received a plasma transfusion from a giraffe at the Columbus Zoo three days after he was born.

On Saturday, a sudden change in Julius' bloodwork sparked "serious concern for the giraffe care and veterinary teams," according to the zoo's website. A critical care plan required a second plasma tr

Cotswold Wildlife Park backs RHS elephant campaign
COSTWOLD Wildlife Park is involved in a garden at this week’s RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show that highlights the destruction of Africa’s elephant population as a result of brutal ivory poaching.

It has worked with Tusk, a conservation charity set up to combat poaching in Africa, to create a garden named Not For Sale, which is made up of a ring of tusk arches, symbolising the scale of the slaughter of African elephants killed by poachers.

Sounds of the African savannah will play around the tusks while arid grasses, plants and acacia trees will help create a real sense of Africa.

At the end of the arched walk, the garden opens into

Gibbon Conservation Center Aims To Reintroduce Endangered Primates To Natural Habitats
20 species of gibbons–many of which are endangered or critically endangered–take shelter in the center, located in Saugus. In fact, this haven for the primates is the only institution in the world to breed all four genera of gibbons.
“From these 20 species of Gibbons, there is only one species that is only vulnerable, all the other ones are either endangered or critically endangered,” said Gabriella Skollar, the director of the Gibbon Center.
The endangered animals are becoming even more rare in the wild, Skollar said, because of human interference.
“The reason they are endangered is because of hunting and deforestation,” she said, adding that many gibbons are from dwindling forests in Southeast Asia. “They’re losing their habitat because they are cutting down the forest for palm oil plantations, cafe, tea plantations, creating roads, hardwood for furniture.”
The Gibbon Center, founded in 1976 by Alan Mootnick, provides consulting services to zoos, museums and government agencies such as the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and participates in all relevant species survival plans.
Entirely self taught, Mootnick spent 15 years caring for animals and studying captive primates before housing his first gibbon, according to the center’s website. He supported costs for the Gibbon Conservation Center by selling “personal assets” and running his own construction business until 1990 when it went non-profit.
He continued running the center until his deat

Flawed Indonesian captive breeding plan facilitates wildlife laundering
A new study has questioned the validity of Indonesia’s  plan that allowed breeders to produce over four million animals in captivity for trade in 2016.

The Captive Breeding Production Plan (CBPP) establishes quotas for the species and number of mammals, reptiles and amphibians that can be bred by licenced commercial breeding farms in the country. 

For 2016, the Plan applied to 13 captive breeding facilities, 129 mammal, reptile and amphibian species with a total of 4,273,029 animals to be produced through captive breeding.

However, a critical scrutiny of the Plan published today in Conservation Biology finds major flaws that permit the laundering of wild-caught animals into legal trade through falsely claiming they have been captive-bred.

Among the flaws highlighted in Biological parameters used in setting captive breeding quota for Indonesia’s breeding facilities, is the exaggerated inflation of the breeding capabilities of many animals—for one frog species the Plan sets a quota 67 times higher than the animal would have been able to produce naturally.

Researchers even found that quotas had been set for two species where no breeding stock was present in any of the country’s registered breeding facilities, nor did some quotas take into account how difficult it

Zoo Misconceptions

The Top 10 Behaviours of Expert Animal Trainers by Steve Martin
Think of a trainer you recognize as an expert. Now, think of the characteristics that inspire you to call that person an expert. Is it the person’s knowledge, skills, charisma, confidence, reputation or … something else? This presentation will operationalize some of the most important characteristics that expert animal trainers exhibit, from my point of view.

We all know great trainers in our lives, people we look up to, admire, talk about favorably with others. But, how does a person earn that reputation as a great trainer? And, what separates a great trainer from an average trainer? To answer these questions, we need to start by operationalizing the construct “training skill.” What does a trainer do to earn a reputation and label of “Expert?”

“Expert” Operationalized
Curators, managers, supervisors, veterinarians, directors and more would benefit from a description of the observable training skills of their staff. Since everyone’s training these days, how does a leader with no experience in training judge the skills of their staff? Because a person has read Don’t Shoot the Dog (a great resource by the way), has a whistle around their neck or a clicker in their hand, and uses jargon that confuses non- trainers, does not mean a person is a highly-skilled trainer. When a vet, curator or director watches a training session how are they to know skillful training when they see it? When the trainer tells them the animal is acting up, distracted by their presence, or messing with their minds, how does the director know the real problem isn’t the trainer encroaching on the animal’s personal space, unclear criteria, low rate of reinforcement, poor antecedent arrangement, or one of many other common training mistakes? For that matter, how does the trainer know?

Good training involves the artful application of scientific principles. As in other art forms, skill is a product of learning combined with practice. Where some people have developed their skill mostly by learning from their mistakes, others have benefitted from the guidance of knowledgeable and skilled mentors. As the training profession advances, there are increased opportunities to learn from mentors and other experts in the field through conferences and direct contact. However, animal training

Latest AKF out now

Don’t get us wrong about rhinos says Environmental Affairs
Last Friday (June 30) the Department of Environmental Affairs issued a curious media statement in which it notes with concern what it terms the misrepresentation of facts associated with the international trade in rhino horn. It warns that this trade is prohibited in terms of the Convention on International Trade in Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES). As a case of slamming the gate after the horse has bolted, this is hard to beat.

In April this year the Constitutional Court upheld a High Court decision overturning a 2009 moratorium prohibiting the domestic trade in horn. This followed a successful application brought by rhino farmers challenging the moratorium. Environmental Affairs took the decision to the Constitutional Court and lost. The Department is now preparing legislation to ratify the trade.

The result of the ConCourt decision requires an unbanning of domestic rhino horn trade retrospective to 2009, opening the gate for charges against the department by farmers for restriction of trade and loss of earnings. How it came to this, in the face of massive rhino poaching (over 1 000 a year) and an international ban on cross-border trade and massive public support for rhinos is simply disastrous bungling by the department. The outcome was so startling that there have been questions raised about collusion between the department and rhino farmers.

The point, though, is why would anyone want to buy rhino horn if it could not be onsold illegally to dealers in Asia where it’s worth more per kilogram than gold or heroin? With sophisticated poaching syndicates running circles around highly trained military personnel in th

Muslim prayers at Quebec zoo upset some people
A Quebec zoo is defending itself after receiving criticism for allowing a group of Muslims to pray on its premises.

Parc Safari says it has been the subject of hateful and racist comments since a YouTube video was posted on Sunday showing the prayers.

A woman can be heard shouting, “we are too conciliatory,” while another says she is against prayers in public spaces.

Zoo management says the Muslims respected all the guidelines and would have been expelled had they not.

Parc Safari officials say the zoo is a multicu

Zoo workers strike but animals OK
The Pretoria Zoo has failed in a last-ditch bid to prevent a strike.

The National Trade Union Congress slapped a strike notice on the National Zoological Gardens of SA yesterday.

Zoo spokesman Craig Allenby said the notice warned that members of the union, which represents about 120 zoo workers, intended demonstrating and picketing after the expiry of the 48-hour notice period.

He said the dispute related to an agreement signed in 2009 between the zoo and its trade unions on the implementation of a seven-day working week.

"[The union] is demanding that the agreement be cancelled and employees be paid overtime for weekend work."

Management emphasised that the zoo - which attracts more than 150000 children annually - was a seven-days-a-week operation and it was impractical and financially impossible to meet the demands of the union.

Founded in 1899, the zoo is the largest and oldest in the country. It is home to more than 5000 animal species - many of the

Elephant MASSACRE: Tragedy as 720 tuskers killed in biggest ivory haul for decades
The 15,873lb shipment – valued at £7.1 million – was uncovered in Hong Kong, highlighting how the demand for “white gold” is as high as ever despite global attempts to smash the illegal ivory trade.

Customs officials discovered the tusks wrapped up with fish inside a 40-ft container shipped into the former British colony from Malaysia.

The seizure sent shockwaves through the conservation community with calls for tougher sentences for those behind an illegal trade killing 80,000 elephants a year.

Heather Sohl, Chief Advisor on Wildlife at WWF-UK said today:  “This huge ivor

In South Africa, Lions Are Bred for Slaughter - and Volunteers Are Duped Into Helping
Images of magnificent lions appear on the computer screen. Their tremendous manes seem to be windblown. This is the menu, or shopping list, of a site that sells short hunting vacations in South Africa to hunters from around the world. The surfers are invited to choose the lion they find most impressive, mark it with the mouse and make a reservation. The company promises to provide the lion for a kill within a fenced-in, confined area. You can’t miss. The payoff comes fast. Who has time to waste these days, especially if you have money?
Hunting excursions in enclosed or confined areas, known as “canned hunting,” are organized down to the last detail and operate like a Swiss clock. The owners of the game farms who organize these safaris breed the lions especially for this purpose. The trophy hunters arrive tw

The Cheetah Man: Fota Director Sean McKeown on a life working with the wild bunch
Sean McKeown has an office view that dreams are made of. Floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the cheetah run at Fota Wildlife Park. Every so often one of them swaggers past the window, sometimes stopping to stare through the glass. There had been talk of a wall to border the cheetahs and the office building when Fota’s entrance was revamped in 2010, but the wildlife park’s director put a stop to that. The view he secured is only right for the person known in the industry as ‘The Cheetah Man’.

McKeown holds the stud book in Europe for the Northern cheetah, deciding if and when they should be bred in zoos around Europe. Under his watch, there has been a hugely successful cheetah breeding programme at Fota — to date, more than 200 have been born, the latest on May 29. The four cubs, two male and two female, went on view to the public for the first time last Thursday. It’s the second birth this year for mother Nimpy.

Cameras are positioned inside the den where the female gave birth. It’s to ensure the cubs, and mum, are safe and secure. The director has access to the camera feed on his phone, he shows me video after video of the cheetah caring for her young, admitting he has a soft spot for the breed.

But we are here to talk about another new addition to Fota Wildlife Park — the new tiger cub. It’s a rare feat for any zoo — just five or six litters of the Sumatran Tiger are born in captivity worldwide each year.

In the wild, the species is critically endangered, with current esti

Italy has its own subspecies of bear – but there are only 50 left
It’s hard to believe that just a few hours drive from Rome, a small population of bears has survived in isolation for thousands of years. They live in the Apennine mountains that run along the centre of Italy, where high peaks merge into woodland, lakes and pasture, with humans scattered in villages throughout.

These are brown bears (Ursus arctos), the most common and widespread of the eight bear species.

Brown bears can be found from the coldest coasts of Alaska to the relatively warmer mountains of Turkey, and right across Eurasia from Japan to Scandinavia.

Lynx could return to Britain this year after absence of 1,300 years
After an absence of 1,300 years, the lynx could be back in UK forests by the end of 2017. The Lynx UK Trust has announced it will apply for a trial reintroduction for six lynx into the Kielder forest, Northumberland, following a two-year consultation process with local stakeholders.

The secretive cat can grow to 1.5m in length and feeds almost exclusively by ambushing deer. Attacks on humans are unknown, but it was hunted to extinction for its fur in the UK. The Kielder forest was chosen by the trust from five possible sites, due to its abundance of deer, large forest area and the absence of major roads.

Sheep farmers and some locals are opposed to the reintroduction, but Dr Paul O’Donoghue, chief scientific advisor to the Lynx UK Trust and expert adviser to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) believes there are good reasons for reintroducing the predator.

Rx for orphan walrus calf: touch, massage, cuddle, repeat
Everybody needs a shoulder to lean on now and then. A walrus calf at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, Alaska, is getting one 24 hours per day.

Trained staff members, working in pairs, are touching, massaging and cuddling a calf all day and all night as part of its recuperation. The calf, estimated to be about 6 weeks old, was found last month without its mother several miles outside Nome.
Walrus are highly social and spend two years with their mothers, said Jennifer Gibbins, marketing and communications director for the center.
"They need constant contact," Gibbins said. "Part of the caregiving is providing that constant contact and tactile interaction.
The calf was spotted in mid-June on the deck of a mining barge. The walrus was still on the barge the next morning and the barge crew summoned wildlife experts.
The SeaLife Center is dedicated to marine research and education and features a public aquarium. It's the only facility in Alaska that holds a permit for marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation.
When the calf reached Seward on June 17, it weighed 120 pounds (54 kilograms) and was extremely lethargic.
"He was severely dehydrated," Gibbins said. "That was really th

Of snarls and scratches: Stories from zookeepers who care for dangerous beasts
There are few beasts in the world that fascinate and frighten us as much as the tiger. Even when we watch the majestic animal when it is within the confines of a cage, a shiver runs down the spine as it growls and fixes its fierce eyes on us.

But for 48-year-old Raman, one of the zookeepers at the Thiruvananthapuram Zoo, the tiger is an animal who can be a friend.

Around 9.30 am, Raman reaches the first cage and calls out, "George!". The response from his friend is immediate. "Grrrr!" growls George, as he puts his massive head out of the inner enclosure and strides out to the outer cage. On seeing Raman holding the water hose, George cannot contain his joy. He runs towards him with a huge roar, as if he's forgotten that there are iron bars between the two of them."Were you sleeping?" Raman asks George lovingly. "Come, let's take a bath!"

The great cat obediently sits, ready for a good splash.

Sprinkling water on George's head, Ra

VIDEO: Kai Palaoa To Governor – Sign Aquarium Life Bill
Kealoha Pisciotta of the Kai Palaoa group is adding her voice to the chorus urging Governor David Ige to sign Senate Bill 1240, a bill that would phase out aquarium fish collecting in Hawaii.

Gov. David Ige announced on June 23 that he intends to veto the bill because “there is concern that the science does not support the claims made by the bill. It will be premature to ban aquarium collection before doing the necessary studies.”

Pisciotta, a cultural practitioner with Mauna Kea Anaina Hou and Kai Palaoa, disagrees. She equates the aquarium with wildlife trafficking.

“Aquarium fish are actually our wildlife,” Pisciotta says. “Imagine if we just went out and we collected our w


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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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