Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Zoo News Digest 21st February 2018 (ZooNews 985)

Zoo News Digest 21st February 2018  (ZooNews 985)


Peter Dickinson


Dear Colleague,

A bit rushed for time to comment.

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,

Should we give up half of the Earth to wildlife?
The orangutan is one of our planet’s most distinctive and intelligent creatures. It has been observed using primitive tools, such as the branch of a tree, to hunt food, and is capable of complex social behaviour. Orangutans also played a special role in humanity’s own intellectual history when, in the 19th century, Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, co-developers of the theory of natural selection, used observations of them to hone their ideas about evolution.

But humanity has not repaid orangutans with kindness. The numbers of these distinctive, red-maned primates are now plummeting thanks to our destruction of their habitats and illegal hunting of the species. Last week, an international study revealed that its population in Borneo, the animal’s last main stronghold, now stands at between 70,000 and 100,000, less than half of what it was in 1995. “I expected to see a fairly steep decline, but I did not anticipate it would be this large,” said one of the study’s co-authors, Serge Wich of Liverpool John Moores University.

For good measure, conservationists say numbers are likely to fall by at least another 45,000 by 2050, thanks to the expansion of palm oil plantations, which are replacing their forest homes. On

The Political Chimp
As of January 2018, the symbolic Doomsday Clock reads two minutes to midnight. The current age of global instability and uncertainty has revived discussion of an age-old question: is war ingrained in human nature? Warfare has been studied for centuries, by everyone from historians of ancient Greece to primatologists. But something strange is happening to the way we consider the subject, especially with respect to the study of chimp-on-chimp violence. Conspecific killing among chimpanzees (i.e. when chimps kill one another) has become a particularly political and controversial topic, and contending arguments seem to reflect the ideological preferences and outlook of the researchers on either side of the debate. At issue are the implications data about primate warfare might have for our understanding of human violence.

A link between chimpanzee and human warfare has been stated outright by leading primatologists, who suggest that it demonstrates humans’ innate predisposition for violence. I first encountered this controversy during graduate school. Steven Pinker had just published The Be

Animal Trainers Gone Wild
For the past 34 years, Terrie Williams has been studying Weddell seals. Every few years, she heads to the Antarctic for 10 weeks at a time to study seal behavior. Her recent focus is on how the seals navigate under the thick ice; in particular, she’s looking for evidence that the animals rely on geomagnetic perception.

If she can prove that seals use Earth’s magnetic fields to find their way, like sea turtles, it will be the first time a marine mammal has been shown to do so. But, in the process, Williams has also begun to change scientists’ understanding of how to work with animals in the wild.

This year, she and the animal trainers who recently began to accompany her on her expeditions accomplished an important first. “We decided to try something pretty radical,” Williams says, “which was to do the entire expedition working with Weddell seals and never have to resort to se

Coldilocks, the oldest captive polar bear in the US, dies
The oldest captive polar bear in the nation has died.

The Philadelphia Zoo on Tuesday said that the 37-year-old bear, Coldilocks, was in declining health and was euthanized.

Zoo officials said Coldilocks had a variety of age-related medical issues, including problems with her kidneys and eyesight, but that visitors wouldn’t have been able to tell as the bear pounced playfully on toys, pulling them deep into her pool during early morning dips.

Zoos Worldwide Answer Call To Help Save Asian “Unicorn”
Global Wildlife Conservation Joins Zoos in Supporting Critical Saola Conservation Breeding Center

Although no zoo has ever cared for the antelope-like saola-and no biologist has ever seen one in the wild-zoos and affiliated organizations around the world have generously contributed or pledged more than $350,000 to support efforts that represent the last best hope to save the critically endangered species: a conservation breeding center. The fundraising campaign, which started Oct. 1 of 2017 and ends July 31, has so far generated donations from 22 zoos and affiliated organizations in North America and Europe.

World’s Only Non-Chinese-Owned Giant Pandas Reach Advanced Age in Mexico City
It’s 10 am and Xin Xin, now 27 years old and 102 kilograms (225 pounds), walks slowly down a corridor to begin her daily training routine.

She is one of two giant pandas at the Mexican capital’s Chapultepec Zoo, which is home to the only members of that species worldwide that are not owned by the Chinese government.

Away from the gaze of the zoo’s paying customers, Xin Xin undergoes a conditioning program every day under the supervision of her trainer, Ulises, and a zoo veterinarian, who offer her an apple – one of her favorite foods – provided she allows them to examine her with a stethoscope and brush her.

After Xin Xin’s routine is finished, Shuan Shuan, who is about to turn 30 and weighs 114 kilos, has her turn.

“It’s a conditioning program focused on allowing essential medical interventions,” the director of Mexico City’s zoos, Claudia Levy, told EFE.

She said that during the training routine the zoo’s team simulates the extraction of blood and X-rays. The idea is to get the bears accustomed to these procedures and ensure that thorough medical tests are stress-free.

Thanks to this daily routine, the pandas establish a bond of trust with the zoo employees and will not need to be anesthetized or coerced into undergoing medical exams when the time comes.

Even though Shuan Shuan is Xin Xin’s aunt, the two are in separate compounds because giant pandas are solitary animals and could harm one another if they lived together.

The care they receive has allowed these giant pandas – the oldest in the world outside of China, where that species

Rhinos Wanted – Dead or Alive
Major gaps between South African and Namibian legislation that regulates the endangered species trade allowed for the sale of at least 13 white rhino bulls from a South African game park to a Russian big game hunting outfit in Namibia. Nine of these rhinos were found to have died.

CITES Ignores Illegal Import of Wild Elephants by China
In the last two years, China has imported more than 80 live Asian elephants from across its border in Laos and almost 100 juvenile African elephants from Zimbabwe. They were all destined for zoos throughout China.

According to wildlife investigator and film-maker, Karl Ammann, last year Laotian Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith publicly declared the trade in live elephants illegal under national laws.

Professors Say Global Warming Isn’t Killing Frogs — Scientists Are
Kermit the Frog sang “It’s not that easy bein’ green” — and it’s apparently not that easy being a green of the warmist persuasion, either. Because while the recent decades’ decline in frog populations has been blamed on “global warming,” it turns out there’s another culprit, perhaps the most embarrassing one the warmists could imagine.

University of Utah professors Henry Harpending and Gregory Cochran provide some background at their blog “West Hunter,” writing, “Starting in late 80s, herpetologists began noticing that various kinds of frogs were declining and/or disappearing. There was & is a geographical pattern: Wiki says ‘Declines have been particularly intense in the western United States, Central America, South America, eastern Australia and Fiji.’”

Researchers were befuddled by this, say Harpending and Cochran, because many of the frog declines couldn’t be attributed to human impact (deforestation, mining, etc.), as they were in remote areas such as the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Costa Rica.

So, unsurprisingly, scientists

Tasmanian tiger just another marsupial in the pouch
Australia's ill-fated Tasmanian tiger looked like any other marsupial when born but assumed dog-like features by the time it left the mother's pouch, scientists said Wednesday in shedding new light on its puzzling evolution.

Using CT technology, they scanned all 13 juvenile specimens of the extinct carnivore found in collections around the world, developing the first 3D models of the tiger from birth to adulthood.

"These scans show in incredible detail how the Tasmanian tiger started its journey in life as a joey that looked very much like any other marsupial, with robust forearms so that it could climb into its mother's pouch," said Christy Hipsley, from Museums Victoria.

"But by the time it left the pouch around 12 weeks to start independent life, it looked more like a dog or wolf, with longer hind limbs than forelimbs."

Kangaroos, koalas, wombats and the Tasmanian devil are also marsupials.

The animal's resemblance to the dingo, a wild dog native to Australia, is one of the clearest examples of "convergent evolution" in mammals, which is when two unrelated species evolve to look very similar.

The Tasmanian tiger last shared a common ancestor with dogs and wolves around 160 million years ago.

Once ranging throughout Australia and N

Video: Man jumps into lion’s enclosure in Thiruvananthapuram zoo......
In a shocking incident, a man jumped into a lion's enclosure at the Thiruvananthapuram zoo on Wednesday.  He was immediately rescued by the staff of ...

Bear or farmer? Scientists find bears' eating habits are critical for maintaining vegetation
A new study looking into brown and black bears in Alaska's Tongass National Forest has found that the animals' occasional eating habits are extremely critical for maintaining vegetation in the region.

Bears thrive in the forest by feeding on Salmon, a fish which grows in the sea but migrates to freshwater streams to spawn. The animals wait for their food to show up but in the meantime, they gorge on berries or small fruits available nearby, according to an Associated Press report.

France to let wolf population grow despite farmers' fears
France is to allow the wolf population to grow from about 360 now to 500 by 2023, despite protests from farmers worried about their livestock.

A new plan announced by the government represents a rise of nearly 40% in the wolf population.

After being eradicated by hunters in the 1930s, the wolf made its way back into France from Italy in the 1990s.

Wolves are listed as a protected species by the Bern Convention that France has signed up to.


Putting primates on screen is fuelling the illegal pet trade
Why would animal rights organisation PETA praise a film in which a group of apes are brutally attacked by humans? The answer is that War for the Planet of the Apes, the most recent movie in the franchise, used no real primates in its filming.

Yet while computer generated imagery is now good enough to create realistic looking animals on screen, some movies still employ actual non-human primates. In the last few years, primate actors have been used in major Hollywood films such as The Hangover Part II (2011), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) and Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017).

Regardless of how these animals are treated on set, the reality is that they’re being placed in unnatural environments and made to act for other people’s amusement against their will. What’s more, there’s evidence that using real primates on screen actually encourages the illegal pet trade. It’s estimated that more than 3,000 great apes and hundreds of thousands of other primates are traded as pets and bush meat each year.

A recent study of films released between 1990 and 2013 found 70 movies in which primate actors appeared. Chimpanzees, capuchins and old-world

Nearly 100 Animals Left Behind at Abandoned Zoo in Reynosa
Authorities are figuring out what’s next after taking custody of dozens upon dozens of exotic species discovered at an abandoned zoo near Reynosa.

Officials say no one was at the Parque Recreativo y Ecológico Aventura Animal when they went to shut it down.

Among the species are an Arabian camel, macaw parrots, a black bear and at least 18 more types of species and around 100 animals in total.

The only people around were state police when they arrived to serve a search warrant after they say someone filed an anonymous complaint. The complaint alleged, “killing, mistreatment or cruelty to animals.”

Officials say they found the exhibits without proper food or water.

A baboon was found dead and a young tiger, unable to walk on his own.

Authorities say they didn’t just discover exotic species but also found bags of marijuana and cocaine.

They say the animals recovered at the zoo will be handed over to the Tamaulipas State Commission on Conservation and Financial Manag

Zoo and Wildlife Solutions Training Courses
Practical Implementation of the Zoo Licensing

For Local Authority Officers and Zoo Professionals
24th and 25th April 2018 at Blackpool Zoo
£200 for Two Days (£180 for BIAZA Members)

This training course will provide participants with a full understanding of zoo licensing. The course describes the law and what is required by licensed zoos, explains the licensing and enforcement process and provides in depth insight into what inspectors are looking for and how to prove your zoo complies with the requirements of the Secretary of Sates Standards of Modern Zoo Practice. This is a highly interactive course based on small group exercises and practical tasks in the zoo.


Dan Ashe: Zoos and Aquariums Adapt to Climate Change
In episode 59 of America Adapts, Doug Parsons talks with Dan Ashe, the President and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Previously, Dan was the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for 7 years under President Barack Obama.

Topics discussed in this episode:

What is the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and its role in conservation and adaptation;
How zoos can be ambassadors in deep red states in communicating climate change;
Dan’s tenure as Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service;
How state wildlife agencies have, nor have not, stepped up on climate change planning;
Dan’s climate legacy at the US Fish and Wildlife Service;
And a morale booster to current FWS employees on why what they do is so important!

The United States remains the biggest importer of trophy-hunted endangered animals in the world in spite of Donald Trump’s recent public comments overturning a decision by the US Department of Interior to allow elephant trophies into the United States.

In 2016 alone the US imported 3,249 or 60% of the animal trophies from just six African countries – Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. According to the trade database of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

One of the most popular big game mammals for trophy hunters to kill are elephants. Donald Trump has made specific reference to the horror of elephant trophy hunting before, yet hundreds of American hunters, including the President’s own sons, have on average imported around 200 elephant trophies annually. This excludes the approximate annual haul of 150 tusks and hundreds of feet, ears, teeth, skin pieces, and other elephant derivatives.

In countries like Zimbabwe and Tanzania,


A Zoo Without Borders: A Conversation with Beth Schaefer, General Curator at the Los Angeles Zoo
Since 2014, Beth Schaefer has served as General Curator of the Los Angeles Zoo, making her responsible for 1100 animals of over 250 species and their caretakers.  She also serves as co-chair of the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) Center's Animal Care and Welfare Advisory Group, which benefits Grueller's gorillas. Schaefer has previously worked at the Houston Zoo, Disney's Animal Kingdom, the Center for Great Apes, the Kansas City Zoo and the Charles Paddock Zoo. Following in the footsteps of the late Mike Dee (the zoo's longtime General Curator), she has brought her immense animal knowledge to the zoo and helped bring its animal care programs to the next level. Here is her story.

Confessions of a zoo exhibit designer
With a proud smile, Mr Cham Tud Yinn, 50, leads us around the Amazon Flooded Forest - the highlight exhibit of River Safari, which features manatees swimming among large tree trunks in a water tank.

Mr Cham is the director of exhibit design at Wildlife Reserves Singapore and has worked on projects in the Singapore Zoo and River Safari, including the Flooded Forest, the largest freshwater aquarium in the world and one of Mr Cham's favourites.

He said: "We wanted to mimic how trees in the Amazon become submerged when water level changes."

Although his work revolves around animals, Mr Cham rarely comes into contact with them. Instead, his job involves nitty-gritty details such as plumbing and filtration.

Using the Flooded Forest as an example, he said: "It is a big exhibit, and there is a lot to consider - the volume of water in the tank, how to filter the waste from the water such that it looks clean."

Mr Cham, who joined the zoo more than 22 ye

Nest of critically endangered Royal Turtle found in Cambodian river
Conservationists have found a nest of the critically endangered Royal Turtle with 16 eggs on a sandbar along Sre Ambel River in southwest Cambodia's Koh Kong province, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) said on Monday.

"This is the first nest of Royal Turtle found in 2018," the WCS said in a statement, adding that four local community rangers have been hired to guard it until the eggs hatch.

Listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as critically endangered, Southern River Terrapin (Batagur affinis), locally known as the Royal Turtle, is one of the world's 25 most endangered tortoises and freshwater turtles.

The Royal Turtle is named because in the past only the royal family could consume its eggs, the statement said, adding that it is designated as Cambodia's national reptile by a royal decree in March 2005.

In Hul, an official of Cambodia's Fisheries A


Throw them to the lions
 Edna Molewa is there to think slowly, act slowly and take decisions based on how she’s feeling that day.

She’s keen on selling our rhino horn stockpile, has granted emissions compliance exemptions to dozens of companies, including Eskom, and, in her previous portfolio, blamed wet coal for the electricity blackouts which, as we now know, was caused by the Guptas. My fear is that in Cyril’s rush to get rid of the rapacious termites, he will overlook bumbling imbeciles like Edna.

In terms of importance, the government ranks environmental affairs down there with sport and recreation. Edna seems to think it’s lame to protect stuff like animals and the climate. Take lions, for instance. I’ve never met Edna but from what I have read it seems unlikely she’s a cat person.

Members of the Arizona-based Safari Club International and Dallas Safari Club are also not cat people. They are not even animal people, unless by animal people you mean people who pay money to murder animal

Bugsologist - A Buggy Blog


Five dugongs wash up on Saadiyat beach in 'harsh blow' for the species
Five dugongs, including a pregnant mother with a fully-developed calf, have washed up on Saadiyat beach over the past few weeks in what may be the single biggest fatality of one of Abu Dhabi’s most vulnerable species, according to the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi.

The dugongs probably died by drowning after getting tangled in a illegal drift fishing net known as hiyali, according to the EAD, which has dispatched a team of experts to investigate the deaths and intensify monitoring in critical areas.

“This discovery is a harsh blow to one of Abu Dhabi’s most vulnerable species and it may be the biggest single die-off of dugongs recorded in a decade,” said Dr Shaikha Al Dhaheri, executive director of the terrestrial and marine biodiversity at EAD. “It once again affirms the vulnerability of these iconic species to human threats and the pressing need for fishermen to end irresponsible fishing practices.”

Abu Dhabi is home to the world’s second-largest population of dugongs, with about 3,000 found mostly in the waters around Bu Tinah Island, part of the Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve. Dugongs, their foraging habitats and their migratory routes in the UAE have been protected under Federal Law No 23 and No 24 since 1999. The UAE is also a signatory to the UN Convention on the Conservatio


The story of how the chiru was saved from the brink of extinction
At 15,000 feet, the early autumn winds had started to carry snow in their breath. On the road ahead was a convoy of cargo-laden trucks lumbering up the mountain pass. The colours were stark: a steel-grey road, brown mud tracks fast covering up with sleety snow, Chinese border guards in faded blue.

We turned our faces away from the unfriendly gust and took shelter under a stone column topped with a bronze figurine. I looked down at my boots dusted with snow and then up at the brass bovid looking down at me. This was why two of us were here: an odd couple from India, my colleague and renowned conservationist, the late Ashok Kumar, who was celebrating his 70th birthday, and I, about to embark on an expedition like none other.

Toy designers show keeping elephants amused not kids’ play
Art professors Richard M. and Laura S. Brown are combining arts and sciences to enrich the lives of two Asian elephants at a local zoo, and the couple is hoping their program goes national.

The Browns gave a presentation, “Toys for Elephants: Designing and Building Enrichment Objects for Elephants,” Tuesday afternoon in the Varis Lecture Hall at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in North Grafton. The couple shared their research as co-founders of the Handshouse Studio where the Toys For Elephants program is based.

In 2010, the Browns learned of two beloved 8,000-pound Asian elephants named Emily and Ruth living at the Buttonwood Zoo in New Bedford.

The couple learned about the elephants’ need for stimulation after talking with the zoo’s director and took on the challenge of enriching the elephants’ environment with limited funding, using art and design students.

Mr. Brown designed the “Toys For Elephants” program and introduced it at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston where he and his wife are faculty, in collaboration with the couple’s studio in Norwell.

The results were amazing – for Emily and Ruth, the students involved, and the community.

“Every zoo we’ve visited all over the country tells us they need more elephant enrichment,” Mr. Brown said. “We’re helping address the issue.”


Romeo the lonesome frog is feelin' the love
A campaign to raise $15,000 by Valentine's Day to fund a search for Romeo's Juliet before he croaks generated $25,000, an environmental group said.

Romeo is the last known frog of his kind. Given the normal life span of Sehuencas water frogs, he has only about five years left to live, giving urgency to his love quest.

Texas-based Global Wildlife Conservation teamed with dating website Match and the Bolivian Amphibian Initiative to raise money for Romeo's last shot at romance.

"People from around the globe showed their love this Valentine's Day for the world's loneliest amphibian," the environmental group said in a statement dated Friday.

"We are overwhelmed by the support from Match and all of the donors who generously let Romeo into their heart this week," said Arturo Munoz, founder of the Amphibian Initiative


Kamikaze sperm and four-headed penises – the hidden ways animals win the mating game
We all know that individuals fight over potential love interests. Just think of Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) and Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) scuffling – rather impotently – over Bridget Jones in a fountain. But you might be surprised to hear that the fierce rivalry continues behind the scenes – in the form of sperm competition. This is when the sperm of two or more males compete inside the reproductive tract of a female, to fertilise the eggs, something that is widespread in the animal kingdom.

It is generally assumed that the sperm in a female's reproductive tract around the time of fertilisation will belong to one male. But DNA fingerprinting has revealed that even "monogamous" bird species that form exclusive pair bonds are not as exclusive as was once thought.

In fact, extra-pair young (those fathered by another male) are found in around 90% of bird species, and extra-pair copulations (matings with a


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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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