Saturday, February 17, 2018

Zoo News Digest 17th February 2018 (ZooNews 984)

Zoo News Digest 17th February 2018  (ZooNews 984)

Happy New Year

Peter Dickinson


Dear Colleague,

The other day there was yet another Peta petition posting for the removal of Maali the elephant from Manila Zoo. They had been quiet for quite some time and yet here they were again like a thorn in the foot which you can't quite remove completely. I am not a fan of Manila Zoo but there are much worse places in Manila and in the Philippines as a whole. As to 'Maali' though I was not concerned. This elephant, though she could benefit from a larger enriched enclosure and companion animals joining her there is better staying in Manila where she is much loved and cared for. Then just a few days after the Peta petition I learned that John Chua had died of cancer. John loved Maali and Maali loved John. For years he had been defending her and protecting her from the likes of Peta. He even left his hospital bed especially to visit her. Maali is going to miss him. So my surprise at the new Peta petition disappeared….these ignorant animal rights anarchists do not change their tactics…always putting the boot in when people are down and hurting. RIP John, you are much loved and missed by many.

White Tigers, White Lions. Why is it that some zoos cannot get it through their heads that they are not doing Tigers or Lions any sort of favour by keeping and breeding these anomalies. They are so inbred that they are anti-conservation. Although I can sort of see the point in exhibiting them they should not be bred. I have pointed this out to many zoos over the years which announce the arrival of these animals with great fanfare. Those zoos which deigned to reply have always said they had no intention of breeding them and yet every one of them has (accidentally). As to rarity….no they are not. Beautiful they may be they are as common as muck. A little over 10 years ago I was asked to manage a collection of 200 white tigers. Heaven knows how many there are now just in that one place.

Lots of interest follows. 


Did You Know?
ZooNews Digest has over 73,000 Followers on Facebook( and over 73,000 likes) and has a weekly reach often exceeding over 350,000 people? That ZooNews Digest has subscribers in over 823 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,

Conservation and Government Partnerships: A Conversation with Rich Block, CEO of the Santa Barbara Zoo
The Santa Barbara Zoo is one of the finest small zoos in the nation located on the Pacific Ocean. In the last decade, it has become renowned as a leader in the conservation of several California species including the Channel Island fox and the California condor.  Rich Block has served as the zoo’s CEO since 1998. Prior to coming to the Santa Barbara Zoo, Block worked at a number of other zoos, worked at the World Wildlife Fund for several years and served as Executive Director of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. Here is his story.

Facial attraction: Red-fronted lemurs recognize photos of their own species
Wild red-fronted lemurs (Eulemur rufrifrons) appear to be able to recognize individuals belonging to the same species (conspecifics) from photographs, a study published in the open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology suggests.

Researchers at the German Primate Center found that red-fronted lemurs spent significantly more time looking at pictures of conspecifics than at pictures of other, closely related species (heterospecifics).

Dr Hanitriniaina Rakotonirina, the corresponding author said: "We were surprised to find that the animals appear to be able to differentiate among closely related sister species. For example, males of the rufous brown lemur (Eulemur rufus) and the red-fronted lemur (Eulemur rufifrons) are difficult to distinguish by the human eye. However, we found that lemurs seem to be able to do it."

The time lemurs spent looking at pictures correlated with genetic difference; the more genetically different individuals were (which corresponded to how different they looked), the less time lemurs would spend looking at their pictures. Females showed a more pronounced response than males. This may indicate that female red-fronted lemurs perceive and respond to differences in fur patterns and coloration to recognize viable mates from their own spec

In Defense of Biodiversity: Why Protecting Species from Extinction Matters
A few years ago, I helped lead a ship-based expedition along south Alaska during which several scientists and noted artists documented and made art from the voluminous plastic trash that washes ashore even there. At Katmai National Park, we packed off several tons of trash from as distant as South Asia. But what made Katmai most memorable was: huge brown bears. Mothers and cubs were out on the flats digging clams. Others were snoozing on dunes. Others were patrolling.

During a rest, several of us were sitting on an enormous drift-log, watching one mother who’d been clamming with three cubs. As the tide flooded the flat, we watched in disbelief as she brought her cubs up to where we were sitting — and stepped up on the log we were on. There was no aggression, no tension; she was relaxed. We gave her some room as she paused on the log, and then she took her cubs past us into a sedge meadow. Because she was so calm, I felt no fear. I felt the gift.

In this protected refuge, bears could affo

Chiang Mai zoo puts white tiger cubs on display
The Chiang Mai Night Safari on Tuesday introduced its new additions of three white tiger cubs ahead of Chinese New Year celebrations.

The three-month-old cubs were two males named Fufu, or wealth, and Facai, good luck, plus one female, Ping-an, peace, acting zoo director Netnapa Sutthithamdamrong said.

Barrow MP hails victory as new independent zoo inspectorate to be launched
BARROW MP and zoo campaigner John Woodcock hailed the introduction of a new zoo inspectorate as 'a huge victory for safer zoos'.

The Animal Welfare Plan, launched today by Cumbrian Labour MP and shadow Environment secretary Sue Hayman, would introduce a new independent zoo inspectorate to raise standards of animal welfare and improve the quality of licensing and inspections in zoos.

The announcement comes following catastrophes in zoos across the country, resulting in abuses of welfare and deaths of hundreds of animals in their care. One of the most stark examples was that of South Lakes Safari Zoo, whose failings were revealed when the data on the numbers and causes of fatalities and illnesses in that zoo were published, and the zoo’s lic

Russia’s Oldest Polar Bear in Captivity Dies at 38
Russia’s oldest polar bear has died at the age of 38, a zoo in Perm has announced.

Polar bear Amderma was captured in the Yamal-Nenets autonomous region in 1989 and her carers estimate she was born in 1980. After brief stays in zoos in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kazan, she finally found sanctuary in Perm.

The death occurred on Feb. 7, but was not reported by the zoo until this week. "She lived there happily for 21 years, giving birth to five healthy cubs," the zoo’s press service said in an online statement.

Dublin Zoo announces arrival of Baby elephant
Dublin Zoo is celebrating the birth of an Asian elephant calf.

Proud mum, Anak, gave birth to the healthy male calf on Saturday, February 10 after a 22-month gestation period.

Yes, 22 months!

The new arrival is Anak’s second calf and the seventh elephant calf born at Dublin Zoo in less than four years.

“We are delighted to welcome our new arrival to Dublin Zoo and happy to report the calf is healthy, strong and was standing within minutes of his birth,” said Gerry Creighton, Operations Manager at Dublin Zoo.

“It is fascinating to watch the younger females interact with the calf, as they are working together to protect him. Witnessing the sights and sounds of an elephant birth, is important to inexperienced females in th

Pachyderms on the pitch
The 2018 King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament is set to kick off from March 8 to 11 on the banks of Chao Phraya River, next to Anantara Riverside Bangkok, with a full range of fun elephant festivities for the whole family.

Now in its 16th edition, the festival has become one of the biggest charitable events in Southeast Asia with approximately US$1.5 million (Bt50 million) raised to date, which has gone to various charities that benefits the elephants of Thailand. These include housing for the mahouts and families, shelters for the elephants and a mobile blood centrifuge and elephant ambulance for the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre (TECC).Funds from this year’s event will be donated to various projects including the Zoological Parks Organisation of Thailand, which supports veterinary and educational projects to improve the year-round lives of elephants and mahouts in the Surin Province. The donations have also funded workshops for mahouts and vets on how to keep elephants happy as well as a conservation education tri

Exposed: Inside the Mind of a Lion Murderer
Why would anyone be interested in killing a lion? Even if it was for free, which it is not.  As a psychologist this is what I try to understand.

In 2014, after visiting South Africa, I wrote an article titled “Lion Canned Hunting, the person behind the ‘Hunter’”. This was before the infamous “Cecile the Lion” incident which sparked the world and exposed the brutal and pitiful practice of canned hunting. At the time, the psychopathic industry of canned hunting was unknown to most people. On the first of July 2015, Cecil the emblematic lion in Zimbabwe, is killed by an American dentist and exposed this barbaric kind of hunting to the world. Hearing of this industry for the first time, people were shocked and disgusted that this existed and was even legal. I decided to look back since my article was written and see how things have evolved and analyse the persona who indulges in such practices.

Creating A Guest-Friendly, Engaging Zoo: A Conversation with Randy Wisthoff, CEO/Executive Director of the Kansas City Zoo
 Randy Wisthoff has been a household name in the zoo business since he served as Associate Director at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo from 1987 to 2003. During this time, he served as right hand man to director Lee Simmons as he turned the zoo into a world-famous institution with many cutting edge exhibits that were best of its kind. In 2003, Wisthoff became CEO/Executive Director of the Kansas City Zoo, a large institution that had just been privatized in order to realize its potential and operate more efficiently. He has made the zoo much more guest friendly, added several popular animals and engaging experiences and led the zoo to having more than one million guests. Here is his story.

Unseen killers are wildlife's worst enemies
Unquestionably, construction tycoon Premchai Karnasuta is the man of the moment. His name is on everyone's lips, after he and three of his entourage were arrested and charged with poaching in Unesco's...

First elephant born at Woburn Safari Park beats the odds to survive Ebola-like virus
A three-year-old Asian elephant at Woburn Safari Park has beaten the odds to recover from an aggressive disease which is fatal in 80% of recorded cases. Similar to the Ebola virus in humans, elephant endotheliotrophic herpes virus (EEHV) can seriously weaken the circulatory system in juvenile elephants leading to rapid deterioration.

Look to penguins to track Antarctic changes
Penguins preserve records of Antarctic environmental change. The birds’ feathers and eggshells contain the chemical fingerprints of variations in diet, food web structure and even climate, researchers reported February 12 at the American Geophysical Union’s 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting.

The Antarctic environment has changed dramatically in recent decades. Overfishing has led to a decline in krill, small swimming crustaceans that are a key food source for birds, whales, fish and penguins in the Southern Ocean. Climate change is altering wind directions, creating open water regions in the sea ice that become hot spots for life.

These changes have cascading effects on food webs and on the cycling of nutrients. “Penguins are excellent bioarchives of this change,” says Kelton McMahon, an oceanic ecogeochemist at the University of Rhode Island  in Kingston.

Penguins are at the heart of the Antarctic food web, and their tissues are known to capture details about what they’ve eaten. Different food sources contain different proportions of carbon and nitrogen isotopes, forms of the elements with different num

Six white lions introduced to Taman Safari on Imlek
Visitors of wildlife park Taman Safari Indonesia (TSI) in Bogor had the opportunity to observe six white lions brought in from Canada at the end of January.

The white lions were introduced for the first time to the public during an education program held during Chinese New Year, locally known as Imlek, at the park’s baby zoo on Friday.

Taman Safari Indonesia director Jansen Manansang said the six white lions – four females and two males – were brought to Indonesia from Canada on Jan. 28.

White lions were rare, he said, and it was predicted that there were only around 100 of them left in the world.

Jansen further said that the spe

White Lion Breeding Is Not Conservation


Association of Zoos and Aquariums and U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance Join Forces
Today, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance (USWTA) announced their joining of forces in a united effort to fight the global epidemic in wildlife trafficking. Effective immediately, Sara Walker former Executive Director or the USWTA, will join the AZA staff in Silver Spring, Maryland and the USWTA is now a program of the AZA.

“Wildlife trafficking is a global epidemic, and is driving some of the world’s most beloved animals to the brink of extinction,” said Dan Ashe, President and CEO of AZA. “AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are world leaders in saving animals from extinction, and this strategic alignment with travel, media, and consumer products business leaders, as well as conservation NGOs, will create and sustain powerful momentum.”

Pioneer of pheromone studies Ratan Lal Brahmachary no more
Ratan Lal Brahmachary, distinguished biochemist and a pioneer of tiger pheromone studies in India, died in the wee hours this morning (13 February 2018) in a nursing home in Kolkata, India. He was 86.
Widely known for his research in pheromones, the biochemical messengers in living organisms, Brahmachary made significant contributions in tiger behavioural studies researching the animal for over 50 years.

Interestingly, he was an astrophysicist by training and a student of eminent Indian theoretical physicist Satyendra Nath Bose. Brahmachary shifted streams to study pheromones at the Indian Statistical Institute under its founder Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis. He studied many species of wildlife, notably big cats, and undertook research trips to his favourite continent Africa fourteen times.

An ardent admirer of entomologist Gopal Chandra Bhattacharya, Brahmachary studied ethology in the Amazon basin in South Americ

Tributes paid following death of Zoo’s ex-birdkeeper Shep Mallet
Shep Mallet, whose real name was John, was a former curator of birds at the wildlife park, where he worked for around 35 years.

He was a colourful character in the history of the Zoo and was known for his jokes and pranks – and for always wearing his wellies.

Dr Lee Durrell, honorary director of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, paid tribute to Mr Mallett, who was born in Southampton to Jersey parents. He died on 9 February.

Dr Durrell said: ‘Shep was a great character in the annals of the Zoo and Trust, perhaps most famously for working with Gerry on a breeding programme for the rare white-eared pheasant in the 1960s, before most zoos were doing such things.

‘He was also known for his jokes and pranks, which everyone fell for. With his white hair and beard in later years, visitors often mistook Shep for Gerry, and he would lead them around the Zoo, chatting gaily about this and that animal, as if he were Gerry. Everyone went away happy.’

Writing on Facebook, former colleague Chris Haines said: ‘Shep was very enjoyable to work with. He was a great fount

Expressions of interest - Operation, Management and Development of Belfast Zoo
Closing date: 12 noon on Friday 16 March 2018.

To obtain a copy of the prospectus and questionnaire email

Our world and our nation are undergoing rapid social change, which I believe is at the root of our current, unsettling and disruptive politics. Think how our collective societal views have changed, and continue changing, on things like gay marriage, LGBTQ equality, marijuana legalization, and in our professional orbit, animal rights, protection, and welfare. Change is disruptive, and that is reflected in today’s social dialogue and politics—coarse, angry, and sometimes a bit scary.

The comforting news is that our overall course of change is positive.

Nearly 150,000 Bornean Orangutans Lost Since 1999, Cutting Population By Half
Earlier this month, an orangutan was found brutally shot to death in Borneo. In January, one was found decapitated and floating in a river. In 2017, oil plantation workers were accused of killing and eating one of the island's orangutans.

These stories are examples of small, incremental intentional killings of the island's endangered species. But according to a new study, published in the journal Cell Biology, such losses are adding up—contributing to the overall, long-term decline of a fragile species.

The comprehensive study pulled from data collected by 38 different research organizations. When Maria Voigt, the study's lead co-author and a researcher from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research, crunched the numbers, she found just under 150,000 Borneo orangutans were lost between 1999 and 2015—roughly half the population.

While many experienced habitat loss, the study found the primates were disappearing largely from forested areas, l

Wildlife crime: Pangolin trade still flourishing despite ban
Pangolins are small mammals that only move around at night. Hardly a zoo has been able to keep one alive. And yet, they sit above the elephant and rhino as the most illegally trafficked animal in the world.

Pangolins are amazing: With shiny scales and pointy heads, they look like miniature dinosaurs; baby pangolins ride around on their mothers’ tails; they slurp ants with 25cm-long tongues; and they can curl up into an armoured ball that foxes any predator – except humans. Being so elusive, not much more is known about them.

Pangolin researchers meeting in January 2017 in Singapore concluded that increased demand from China for pangolins has led to "great declines" in populations across Cambodia, Viet Nam, and Laos.

“Pangolins have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, but growing human populations and greater wealth across China have increased demand,” says the Worldwatch Institute. “Pangolin fetuses, sca

The Paradox Of The Platypus
Ever since I was a young child I have been fascinated by the animal kingdom, especially its more exotic members. When people asked me what I wanted to do when I grow up, I always replied I wanted to have a zoo. The response would be laughter; having a zoo is no job for a nice Jewish boy. Then I decided to become a rabbi, which was met with even greater disapproval; being a rabbi, I was told, is certainly no job for a nice Jewish boy.

But then I started to look into what the Torah says about the animal kingdom. To my delight, I discovered a wealth of fascinating material, and for the next twenty years I studied, wrote, and taught about it. In addition to rabbinic ordination, I co


 The Living Museum: A Conversation with Dave Zucconi, Retired Director of the Tulsa Zoo
 During his 27-year tenure as Director of the Tulsa Zoo, Dave Zucconi transformed the institution into not just a modern zoo but also an accredited museum. He came up with the vision for the LaFortune North American Living Museum, a groundbreaking exhibit that incorporated animal habitats with museum-quality interpretation. Zucconi served as President of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and as Chair of its Accreditation Commission. He wrapped up his career in zoos by serving as Director of the El Paso Zoo for three years. Here is his story.


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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
+971 50 4787 122 | | Skype: peter.dickinson48

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