Monday, April 16, 2018

Zoo News Digest 16th April 2018 (ZooNews 989)

Zoo News Digest 16th April 2018  (ZooNews 989)


Peter Dickinson


Dear Colleague,

Exciting times at Dalton Zoo (South Lakes Wild Animal Park). It never stays out of the news for very long. Correct me if I am  wrong but this was the first time that armed police were called in.

The change in management at Dubai Safari was a bit of a shock. I had heard rumours but in the end the actual changes were a surprise. It gets a lot of press here in the UAE and none of it negative. It is a different story in other quarters. Rumour follows rumour. I would dearly like the place to be a huge success.

Delighted to learn of the closure of the dolphin park in Bali. I have had horrific reports of this place. I also know there would be a huge scoop if some brave investigative reporter dug deep into this and other dolphin facilities in Indonesia. However it would be dangerous work.

For some months now I have been trying to figure out exactly when I started my zoo career. Was it 1967 or 1968? I honestly can't remember as it was so long ago. Then I saw the story of the 50th anniversary of Banham Zoo. Well I actually remember that because I had a work colleague go down to join the collection before it opened to the public. Then there was 2001: A Space Odyssey. I was listening to a programme about this on Radio 4. I went to see that shortly after it was released in early 1968. It was the 'thing' at the time to watch it stoned (I wasn't). Then there was the arrival of Cuddles the Killer Whale in Flamingo Park Zoo. That was 1968. I remember it well as my girlfriend became his trainer. I had been working then for quite some time. So my career either started mid to late 67 or early 68. I don't really suppose it really matters one way or another it was just a long long time ago.

I am glad to see that Phuket Zoo is getting it in the neck again. It needs to. If you read the article you will see the reference to Safari World in Bangkok. It is an impressive place to visit but in reality it is just as bad as Phuket Zoo. Big questions surround their use of Orangutans and what really happened to the animals they smuggled in before. It continues to bother me where all these Orangutans come from. Does any collection in Thailand actually breed them? ....Honestly?? What happens to all the 'boxing Orangs' once they reach an unmanageable age? Where do they go?

Although finally taken into protective care after being held at Phuket Zoo for two years, Milo died just weeks later. (See story here.)

Whether or not Milo was legally acquired was never made clear. However, officials were proud to announce that two other baby orangutans discovered at Phuket Zoo during an inspection resulting from the Milo fiasco were legally acquired – from Safari World in Bangkok. (See story here.)

My health? We now you ask...I am still not completely recovered. It is still two steps forward and one backwards. Three changes of medication. Blood tests, x-rays and ultrasounds and still not to the root of the problem. Further tests today...more tomorrow and the next day. I am feeling a lot better though.

Lots of interest follows. 


Did You Know?
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I remain committed to the work of GOOD zoos,

Bio-Functional Habitats and Quality of Life: A Conversation with Douglas Richardson, Head of Living Collections at the Highland Wildlife Park

Douglas Richardson has long been an established authority on animal welfare in European zoos. Over the course of his career, he has worked at the Edinburgh Zoo, Bronx Zoo, Howlett's Wild Animal Park, London Zoo, Bioparco di Roma and Singapore Zoo. Richardson currently serves as Head of Living Collections at the Highland Wildlife Park, part of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. Under his watch, the park has welcomed the first polar bear cub born in the U.K. for 25 years and hopes to reintroduce Amur leopards into the wild. Here is his story. @ Highland Wildlife Park Douglas Richardson …
That Python in the Pet Store? It May Have Been Snatched From the Wild
In the market for a new pet? Maybe something a bit exotic? For many consumers, reptiles and amphibians are just the thing: geckos, monitors, pythons, tree frogs, boas, turtles and many more species are available in seemingly endless varieties, many brilliantly colored, some exceedingly rare.


Podcast: A Conversation with Peter Giljam
Peter Giljam is the animal training coordinator at Kolmarden Zoo in Sweden. He is a specialist in marine mammals and has previously won the People’s Choice Award at the 2013 IMATA conference. He became the vice president of IMATA in 2016. Peter blogs regularly on the topic of animal training at

Vol 10, No 4 (2018)

Armed police deployed to Dalton zoo and man arrested
ARMED police officers were deployed to Dalton zoo and a man arrested on suspicion of blackmail following a report of vandalism at the park.

Cumbria Police said armed police were called in to attend South Lakes Safari Zoo as a precaution on Friday night.

The force confirmed that a 56-year-old man, from the Seascale area, was arrested on suspicion of blackmail and that he had been released on police bail.

Cumbria Police and Cumbria Zoo Company

Hangzhou to build giant panda research and breeding center
The park Saturday signed an agreement with the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda on the breeding project.

Construction of the center, which covers an area of 6 hectares, is scheduled to start this year and be finished by 2022.

Currently, there are four giant pandas in Hangzhou, two at Hangzhou Zoo and two at Hangzhou Safari Park. The project is scheduled to bring in another 20 giant pandas by 2022.

Li Desheng, an expert from the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda, said there were many zoos with giant pandas across the country, but there were only a very few research and breeding centers.

The center will also conduct giant p

Tiger farms and illegal wildlife trade flourishing in Laos despite promise of a crackdown
Laos, a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, has long held a key role in the global wildlife trade. Corruption and a flow of easy money across its porous borders have allowed the illegal trafficking of pangolins, helmeted hornbills and other wildlife products, as well as the country’s notorious tiger farms, to thrive.

In 2016, the Laos government told the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) in 2016 that it intended to shut down the tiger farms. However, a Post Magazine investigation has found the farms are flourishing, with another major operation having opened since the pledge was made. One expert described the trade in tiger parts used for medicines and potency treatments as “out of control”.

Last year the count was 30. When this year’s count came back at 12, optimism for the survival of the vaquita porpoise drained out of researchers’ hearts. Little hope remains for the species whose lives have been snared by illegal gillnet fishing in the Gulf of California.

Spanish for “little cow,” the vaquita were only discovered in the 1950s. Half a century later, they are the most endangered cetacean, on the brink of vanishing forever. The world’s smallest porpoise species, the vaquita average around 5 feet in length and 95 pounds. Tucked between the Baja Peninsula and mainland Mexico, the only habitat for the species is the northern part of the Gulf of California. Though the area has been set aside for protection for the vaquita, their numbers have continued to plummet. The major cause of death is drowning, caused by entanglement in illegal gillnets.

Griffon vultures from ARTIS released into the wild
Last weekend, two young griffon vultures (Gyps fulvus) from ARTIS Amsterdam Royal Zoo were released into the wild on Sardinia. After some hesitation, one by one the birds left their temporary aviary, spread their wings and soared into the sky.

They joined a group of twelve other vultures that had been released and went on to explore their new environment. The released birds hatched in ARTIS in April and May of last year. One of these chicks was raised by a pair of male griffon vultures. The other is the offspring of two griffon vultures from Spain that were wounded in the wild and subsequently housed in ARTIS. While their injuries meant those birds could not be returned to the wild, their offspring is now living freely in nature. ‘A very special moment for ARTIS,’ says ARTIS Director Rembrandt Sutorius.

Bonobos also share their game with 'strangers'
Meat-making and the distribution of the hunt by dominant males is a celebration with chimpanzees that does not happen every day or every week. It is also a way to strengthen ties between males in the group and to seduce females into sex. That is important for the ties within the group.

Bonobos are closely related to chimpanzees, but it has only recently become known that they too ate meat, from a trapped monkey or forest antelope. Women are dominant in bonobos. In accordance with that social structure, they are also females who distribute the meat to friends and allies. Now it is also seen that bonobos share their game with members of a neighboring group, something that would be unthinkable in chimpanzees, as two primatologists write in Human Nature (online April 5).

The closely related bonobos and chimpanzees share a common ancestor with humans (who must have lived somewhere 8 to 5 million years ago). It is often argued in science that the aggressive behavior of bonobos could be more like the behavior of distant prehistoric people than the much m

Dubai Safari to operate under new management
Under the directives of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Meraas has signed an agreement with Dubai Municipality to manage Dubai Safari.
Meraas has also appointed Parques Reunidos, a world-renowned operator of animal parks, to oversee the day-to-day running of the destination in line with international best practices.

Phuket Zoo under fire over animal conditions
The news follows Brit photographer Aaron Gekoski reporting “horror” conditions at Safari World and Pata Zoo in Bangkok, as well as Phuket Zoo, through a report posted by UK newspaper The Sun online.

The report noted despairing conditions for animals and blasted Safari World in Bangkok for forcing orangutans to perform shows to entertain tourists, including having the apes perform a fake boxing match with female orangutans wearing skimpy bikinis and posing as “ring girls”. (See story here.)

Piyawat Sukon, Chief of the Khao Phra Thaew Non-Hunting Area Thaew Conservation Centre in Thalang, today (April 10) confirmed to The Phuket News that Phuket Zoo is already under orders to improve conditions for apes and monkeys kept there – if it wants to keep its license as a public zoo.

The Khao Phra Thaew Non-Hunting Area Office is the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) office responsible for the welfare of wildlife animals in Phuket and neighbouring provinces.

Mr Piyawat pointed out that Phuket Zoo was instructed to improve conditions fro animals during an inspection about three months ago by a committee of the Zoological Park Organization (ZPO), which is the ulti

The Champion of the Ghost of the Forest: A Conversation with John Lukas, Former Director of White Oak Conservation and Conservation Manager at the Jacksonville Zoo
During his thirty years as Director of White Oak Conservation, a conservation center and breeding facility for endangered species in Yulee, FL, John Lukas left a significant mark on reproductive science and sustainability of a variety of endangered species, notably white rhinoceros, cheetahs, Grevy's zebras and okapi. He made sure one dollar for every two dollars spent on animal care at the facility went to saving species in the wild. Lukas founded the International Rhino Foundation and the Okapi Conservation Project (he is considered the world authority on okapi.) He currently serves as Conservation Manager at the Jacksonville Zoo. Here is his story.

Success Starts With Observation; Antecedent Arrangement
How many of us look around the exhibit, to all the animals and the people etc before starting a training session? Throughout my experience I have seen many start of sessions that already went into incorrect animals from the start. Antecedent arrangement is more important than you think. Sometimes its better to skip a session then to force it.

More than just menageries: First look at zoo and aquarium research shows high output
Most of us think of zoos and aquariums as family destinations: educational but fun diversions for our animal-loving kids. But modern zoos and aquariums are much more than menageries. According to a new study, the institutions are increasingly contributing to our knowledge base on biodiversity conservation and other scientific topics.

Through an analysis of scientific literature, the study's authors determined that researchers at zoos and aquariums have contributed at least 5,175 peer-reviewed articles to conservation, zoology, and veterinary journals over the past 20 years.

"This paper is the first quantification of research productivity of zoos and aquariums. It shows a trend of substantial and increasing publishing through time," says Eric Larson, a freshwater ecologist in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois. "Zoos and aquariums are definitely players in scientific research."

The 5,175 papers came from 228 zoos and aquariums, all of which are members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. As part of its accreditation standards, the AZA requires conservation and research activities. Larson and his co-authors wanted to see if these standards were having an effect in terms of research output. Clearly, they were.

Other factors mattered, too. The authors looked at the age, size, financial status, type, and mission statements of the 228 institution

Hamilton Zoo curator Samantha Kudeweh's death result of cost-cutting - WorkSafe
Cost-cutting ultimately claimed zookeeper Samantha Kudeweh's life when she was mauled by a Sumatran tiger, according to a WorkSafe report into her death.

Hamilton Zoo was critically understaffed and changes made to a gate system on the tiger enclosure where Kudeweh was killed in 2015 contributed to the tragedy, the report said.

The crucial change, installing a two-gate airlock system and repositioning the keeper gate following a near-miss encounter between another keeper and tiger in 2013, meant Kudeweh, 43, could not easily see the tigers' exit gates were open.

And simple changes including painting sliding-gate counterweights a bright colour could have saved Kudeweh's life, but the paint was deemed too expensive to buy, according to the report - released to the Herald under the Official Information Act.

Popularity of tigers, lions, bears could be their downfall: study
Iconic animals like elephants, tigers, lions and panda bears are everywhere in movies, books and toystores. But their wide pop culture presence skews public perception of how endangered these animals really are, researchers said Thursday.
Online surveys, zoo websites, animated films and school questionnaires were scoured by US and French researchers for the study, published in journal PLOS Biology.

Using these sources, scientists made a list of the top 10 most charismatic animals: tigers, lions, elephants, giraffes, leopards, pandas, cheetahs, polar bears, gray wolves and gorillas.

Researchers also found that almost 49 percent of all the non-teddy bear stuffed animals sold in the United States on Amazon were one of these 10 charismatic animals.

In France, 800,000 "Sophie the giraffe" baby toys were sold in 2010, more than eight times the numbers of giraffes living in Africa.

Lead author Franck Courchamp of the University of Paris said that these animals are so common in pop culture and marketing materials that they create a "virtual population" in people's minds, one that is doing far better in perception than reality.

"Unknowingly, companies using giraffes, cheetahs or polar bears for marketing purposes may be actively contributing to the false perception that these animals are not at risk of extinction, and therefore not in need of conservation," Courchamp said.

The average French citizen "will see more virtual lions

PETA opposes Pittsburgh Zoo application to import elephant semen from Canada
Continuing its battle to end the practice of keeping elephants in captivity, the organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is opposing a recent federal application from the Pittsburgh Zoo to import elephant semen from Canada to help improve the genetic diversity of its elephant herd.

“PETA will call on [U.S.] Fish and Wildlife Service to reject the application because elephants do not do well in captivity,” said Rachel Matthews, associate director of captive animal law enforcement with the PETA Foundation, citing research on elephants in captivity.

But Barbara Baker, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, downplayed the research PETA cites — calling much of it outdated — and argued that importing the semen from Canada “will add brand new genetics to the U.S. elephant population.”

The zoo — which has never successfully artificially inseminated an elephant — will attempt to use the se

Zoo refrains from putting out giraffes, prefers castration
The Usti zoo has had castrated the first of its two redundant male Rothschild giraffes that would have had to be put out otherwise, its spokeswoman Vera Vrabcova has told CTK, adding that the surgery was demanding and also risky for the animal.

After growing up, giraffe males cannot remain with their mother herd. However, other zoos from the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), of which the Usti zoo is a member, have no capacities to accept a foreign male.

The lack of space for swelling giraffe herds is a problem of all European zoos.

The Usti zoo discussed the fate of its two adolescent males for many months.

"As a member of the EAZA, our zoo is bound to observe the recommendation of experts, which is either euthanasia or other means to prevent further reproduction of the given animal. We sought a more positive solution, also because the [breeding] coordinator promised us to have a castrated male placed in a facility outside the EAZA," zoo director Roman Koncel said.

The other male can remain in Usti, posing no danger of fu

Biodiversity 101: Are Earth’s wild megafauna doomed?
Pop quiz: How many species of big, land-dwelling animals are there in the world?

Count all the different kinds of big cats, bears, wolves, wild dogs and other carnivores weighing at least 15 kilos. Add large herbivores — 100 kilos or more — such as bison, zebra and deer, along with rhinos, elephants, large apes, giraffes, hippos, wild pigs, tapirs...

What’s the final tally?

The answer, based on this widely used definition of terrestrial megafauna, is 101.

That modest number is sure to shrink to double digits, and could continue to diminish at an alarming rate, biologists warn.

Three fifths of these iconic creatures are already listed as threatened with extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which tracks the survival status of Earth’s animals and plants on its Red List.

Wake Bali Dolphin’s tanks are empty as facility has been closed down.

First opened in August 2014, the park featured a 10 x 20 meter chlorinated pool containing four wild-caught bottlenose dolphins. While Wake Bali claimed the mammals were “previously stranded and rescued by fishermen”* in reality, they were illegally-caught from the wild waters in the area of Java for the purposes of interacting with paying tourists. Dolphin Project held a protest in front of the facility on opening day, where our activists were attacked and injured.

Swedish zoo kills 500 rescued lizards with liquid nitrogen
More than 500 reptiles rescued by Swedish police from animal smugglers have come to a grisly end, being killed instantly by being dropped into liquid nitrogen.
Police last month made headlines across Sweden when they discovered 760 lizards, 67 turtles, 18 snakes, two crocodiles, one water monitor and eleven frogs in a disused shop in the small town of Löberöd.

The animals were placed at the Tropicarium Rescue Centre at Kolmården Zoo near Norrköping, which spent 100,000 kronor on extra terrariums to house them, and had to pay staff overtime to look after them.

Unfortunately, the lack of any information about the animals’ origins meant that they could only be passed to institutions, and as only 50 of

Artificial insemination, an option for captive breeding of Asiatic cheetahs
A French team of vets will soon travel to Iran to help Iranian experts implement artificial insemination in a hope to rebuild stagnant cheetah populations, YJC qouted Me’marian as saying.

The two Asiatic cheetahs, well known as Delbar and Kushki, are physically ready to undergo the procedure of assisted reproduced, he highlighted, and however, he didn’t provide any further details on the exact time of the project.

Previously the Iranian team were only exploring other options for breeding the cheetahs in captivity wishing for the animals to conceive naturally, but now after some years they are thinking of actually implementing artificial insemination

In 2007, a hunter named Kushki bought a male cheetah cub from hunters who intended to kill him and gave the cub to the Department of Environment (DOE). The cub was named after his savior. The male cub was moved to Pardisan Zoo when he was seven months old. Four years later, a female cheetah cub found by a shepherd in Shahroud, Semnan Province, was saved by DOE and named Delbar. She was held in captivity until the autumn of 2014 when she too was moved to Pardisan Zoo to meet her potential mate.

The Asiatic cheetah, also known as Iranian cheetah, is a critically endangered cheetah subspecies surviving today only in Iran numbering at about 50.

Currently the cheetahs are inhabiting in protect

New specimen of one of world's rarest turtle species found in Vietnam
Turtle experts said they have identified a fourth specimen of the Yangtze giant softshell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei), one of the world's largest known freshwater turtle species, also one of the world's rarest, in Vietnam's Hanoi capital, local media reported. The Hanoi-based Asian Turtle Program of Indo-Myanmar Conservation (ATP/IMC), a Britain-based conservation charity, said they have identified the fourth specimen of the Yangtze giant softshell turtle in Xuan Khanh Lake in Hanoi's outskirts, daily newspaper Vietnam News reported. ATP/IMC researchers and an ecologist at Washington State University matched environmental DNA collected from water samples from the lake to known samples from the species, and then confirmed the presence of at least one giant turtle living in the lake. The finding helps to raise the number of these turtles living around the world to four and opens up the opportunity for breeding one of the world's rarest animals. This finding brings new hope, with the possibility of bringing wild animals together in a controlled environment for captive breeding, daily newspaper Nhan Dan (People) reported. However, the conservation and future of this, the world's rarest turtle species, is far from guaranteed, a great deal of effort is now ne

Wildlife Traffickers Are Illegally Selling Animal Parts on Facebook, Advocates Say
 Facebook is displaying advertisements for well-known American corporations on group pages operated by overseas wildlife traffickers illegally selling the body parts of threatened animals, including elephant ivory, rhino horn and tiger teeth.

In a secret complaint filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, wildlife preservation advocates allege that Facebook’s failure to stop illicit traders using its service for illegal activity violates the social network’s responsibilities as a publicly traded company.

Facebook didn’t respond to requests for comment. Its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, was expected to testify on Capitol Hill on Tuesday about other issues.

The complaint, a copy of which was provided to The Associated Press, was initially filed in August on behalf of an undercover informant represented by the National Whistleblower Center, a non-profit legal advocacy gro

Fit for porpoise: Gene changes made 'river pig' unique
China's critically endangered Yangtze River porpoise is a distinct species, meaning it cannot interbreed with other porpoise types to pass on its DNA, a major analysis of the creature's genome revealed on Tuesday.

The finless, dolphin-like creature, which sports a permanent, almost human grin on its snub-nosed face, is the world's only freshwater porpoise.

But there are only about 1,000 individuals left in the wild—a number shrinking by 14 percent per year—and conservationists warn the critter is poised to follow the long-snouted Yangtze River dolphin, or baiji, into extinction.

For the latest study, intended to spur conservation efforts, an international research team analysed the genome of the Yangtze River porpoise and compared it to 48 other finless porpoises from different regions.

The exercise revealed that the animal known as "river pig" in China was a "distinct" species and "genetically isolated from other porpoise populations", the experts wrote in the journal Nature Communications.

Previously, finless porpoises were classified as a single species with three sub-species, of which the freshwater Yantze River group was one.

From a South Norfolk Farm to one of the UK’s most well known zoos and one of the region’s top visitor attractions in East Anglia.
When Harold Goymour retired in 1952 after selling a thriving bakery business and bought a farm in Banham as a country retreat, with a view of enjoying country life with his wife Ethel, who would have thought that what started as a mixed livestock, arable and fruit farm would evolve into one of the UK’s most well-known zoos and major tourist attractions in East Anglia.

The farm sold produce, such as apples and strawberries, directly to the public and was also home to a small collection of ornamental pheasants which attracted a good number of customers to the area, despite the fact that Banham was not one of the easiest places to find, and to this day can prove elusive to the first-time visitor!

At this time it was easy to go into a local pet shop and buy anything from a crocodile to a chimpanzee, a bear cub to a lion cub! There were no import restrictions, no conservation and no rabies quarantine regulations, animals were being brought into the country by enthusiastic people wanting exotic pets.

However, as some of these exotic pets grew larger and their natural instincts started to emerge, they became dangerous to the household. The farm began to receive offers of exotic animals; people were begging the farm to take on their increasingly unmanageable pets. The first to arrive were two Canadian timber wolves, three Australian dingoes and a Himalayan bear.

Banham Zoo evolved, and in February 1968 the first visitor admission rate was charged; two shillings and sixpence for adults and one shilli

'UK's last lion tamer' Thomas Chipperfield refused licence
The UK's last lion tamer has been refused a licence to use three big cats in a travelling circus.

Thomas Chipperfield's appeal against the decision, made by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in July, was also dismissed in court.

A Defra spokesman said it remained "absolute" in its commitment to ban wild animals in circuses.

Mr Chipperfield, of Winchester, Hampshire, said no welfare concerns were raised and he plans a new appeal.

Singapore Zoo's 27-year-old polar bear Inuka found to be in declining health after April 3 check-up
Inuka, the first polar bear to be born in the tropics, is in declining health, Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) revealed on Thursday (April 12).

The 27-year-old resident of the Singapore Zoo, which is run by WRS, went through a health examination on April 3 and results showed that it has a stiffer gait that is particularly noticeable in its hind limbs.

The abnormal shuffling gait has resulted in abrasions on its paw pads, while age-related muscle atrophy is clearly evident, WRS, said in a statem

The Center for Species Survival: A Conversation with David Wildt, Head of the Center for Species Survival at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia was founded by Ted Reed, the late longtime director of the National Zoo, in 1975. Its purpose was to be a place where the zoo’s scientists could work with animals living in more naturalistic spaces without concessions to guests. It is home to the Center for Species Survival, whose goal is to research, propagate and manage endangered animals. “The idea [of the Center for Species Survival] is to secure populations of endangered species through scientific investigations,” articulated David Wildt, leader of the center. Here is his story.

Video of Bolingo the gorilla doing handstands in a zoo branded 'irresponsible'
Animal-welfare experts have condemned an entertainment park for teaching a gorilla to do handstands.

Video of Bolingo copying his keeper as she stands on her hands at a US attraction has been shared hundreds of times on social media.

The 12-year-old animal, kept behind glass, experiments and learns to put his feet to the spot where her feet are up.
Chris Draper, head of animal welfare and captivity at the Born Free Foundation in Britain, said the video highlighted the shortcomings of keeping wild animals behind bars.
Charity Freedom for Animals (formerly the Captive Animals Protection Society) condemned the footage.

“Releasing a video like this to the public is damaging and completely irresponsible,” said spokeswoman Nicola O’Brien. “This just teaches people that animals can be trained to perform tricks and are here for our entertainment.

Hyena Conservation
Only four species of mammals that fall under the Hyaenidae family, Hyaena brunnea, Crocuta crocuta, Hyaena hyaena, and Proteles cristata, exist today. Of the four, striped and brown hyenas, Hyaena hyaena and Hyaena brunnea respectively, are listed as near threatened in the ICUN red list (Wiesel 2015). These carnivores are very misunderstood due to lack of research and education about them. Many misconceptions regarding the Hyaenidae family are mysteries worth revealing. These dog-like animals have an interesting history and a purpose in our world today.

Roughly twenty-three million years ago, during the Miocene epoch, the evolutionary story of the hyenas began to tell its tale. Hyenas, though similar in characteristics to dogs, share their ancestry with felines. Hyenas fall in to the suborder Feliformia, and their common ancestor dates back to about twenty-five

Perhilitan urges zoos to attain world-class status
The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) is urging zoos in the country to change the concept or exhibit designs in efforts to attain world-class status.

Perhilitan director-general Datuk Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim said that the time has come for the country’s zoos not to be solely tourist destinations and profit-oriented.

He cited a number of well-known world-class zoos such as in Thailand (Zoo Khao Kheow) and in Singapore which were a hit among visitors.

“We hope the concept of the zoo is changed because besides improving the economy it will provide job opportunities to the people.

“The zoo also functions as a centre of conservation, research, education and wildlife handling,” he told reporters after signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Perhilitan and Bukit Merah Resort Sdn Bhd in Ecopark Bukit Merah Laketown, h

Renew the Zoo: A Conversation with Chris Pfefferkorn, Senior Vice President of the Birmingham Zoo
 After spending 18 years in leadership roles at the Oregon Zoo, Chris Pfefferkorn became Senior Vice President of the Birmingham Zoo in 2015. He was impressed by the zoo's willingness to take on a number of unique projects- such as establishing the first bachelor herd of African elephants in the nation, breeding a number of rare birds and being one of a handful of zoos to take part in the eastern indigo snake recovery program. Pfefferkorn is currently helping lead the zoo through the Renew the Zoo capital campaign, which will give the zoo a new entry plaza and Asian Passage, a modern Asian exhibit featuring species like tigers and orangutans. Here is his story.

Cash Before Conservation
The King of the jungle has been losing its habitat over the past decades and you are more likely to see lions, especially cubs, in cages or fenced enclosures than ever before. But what is the fate of the thousands of lions being bred in captivity around South Africa?

Lessons From Lemurs: To Make Friends, Show Off Your Smarts
Do smart kids make more friends? If others see their cleverness paying off, then yes — at least, that seems to be true for our primate cousins, ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta), report a team of Princeton University researchers.

“We were able to show clever lemurs — some of our earliest primate relatives — increasing their social centrality as the result of their problem-solving,” said Daniel Rubenstein, Princeton’s Class of 1877 Professor of Zoology and a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and the senior author on the April 5 paper in the journal Current Biology.

“Our findings are highly significant because no other study has previously shown that the relationship between learning and social network position are feedback-based, such that learning influences network connections and position in addition to being influenced by it,” said Ipek Kulahci, the first author on the pape

Assam: State zoo ill maintained, alleges CSM
 In a press meet held in Guwahati on Sunday, Chiriakhana Suraksha Mancha (CSM) general secretary Rajkumar Baishya has alleged that the authorities of Assam State Zoo & Botanical Garden are neglecting the upkeep of the zoo while duping the general people that with every passing year it has been making improvement in the zoo infrastructure and its upkeep.

On the other hand, the CSM has pointed out that the number of deer in the zoo is rapidly declining. Stating that earlier the number was 1200 and now the number it has declined to 400, the Mancha expressed its suspicion that zoo officials and staff could be consuming deer meat.

Further, the CSM alleged that the cages and dens are very ill maintained, throwing to the wind important aspects like hygiene and proper health of the animals.

The Mancha has further alleged that invaluable items like ivory was earlier lost from the zoo earlier. While a probe committee was formed, its report has not been made public. The Mancha alleged that same is the case with other probe reports pertaining to the zoo.

 WildGenes - The Science of Conservation                                                                             

Endangered species are the real threats
I am glad we finally have an acting secretary for fish, wildlife and parks who understands the threat posed by so-called endangered species. Susan Combs, formerly comptroller of Texas, described additions to the endangered species list as “incoming Scud missiles” and has long waged an active campaign against the insidious golden-cheeked warbler. I could not be more delighted that she is Ryan Zinke’s selection.

She sees what far too many environmental advocates do not: that these are all creatures who would devour us if they had their way. Why should we do them the courtesy of preserving their habitats, even going so far as to reteach the panda how to reproduce? Pandas would not do so for us. Combs’s personal white whale (not the blue whale, although that is also an endangered specie), the aforementioned warbler, cannot physically harm us, as it is too small and too busy piping a lovely

King cobras in Thailand: why some villagers worship the snake and others drink its blood
A king cobra lay under grandpa’s bed, peeking from behind the elderly man’s leather sandals. The large snake was discovered by Jak, a 10-year-old boy who raced into the room after a wayward chicken ventured in from the courtyard.

The fraught politics of the polar bear: how an Arctic icon has been exploited
he first polar bear cub to be born in the UK for 25 years recently emerged from its mother’s den at the Highland Wildlife Park in Scotland. It has already been spotted slipping about in its ice-covered enclosure and a list of potential names will be released by next month.
Yet it’s the story of a different cub that best reveals the species’ plight. In 2013, an orphaned polar bear arrived at Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg, Canada, from the Arctic town of Churchill on the edge of Hudson Bay. When sea ice is in short supply, bears have been forced to scavenge for food in towns. This was most likely what the cub was doing the day

Choosing Animals Over People?
Hearts melt seeing the wildlife in the Dzanga Sangha rain forest. But is it wrong to focus on animal welfare when humans are suffering?
The cutest primates on earth may be Inguka and Inganda, gorilla toddler twins who playfully tumble over each other here in the vast Dzanga Sangha rain forest, one of the best places to see gorillas, antelopes and elephants play.

The only risk: They are so heedless and unafraid of people that they may tumble almost into your lap — and then their 375-pound silverback dad may get upset. His name is Makumba and he expresses displeasure with a full-speed charge, hurtling toward you until he’s only inches away.

Training Medical Procedures; Urine Sampling
All of us who have animals in their life are connected to veterinarian technicians. Animals do get medical challenges running through their lives. As animal caretakers we have to try and be pro-active to these situations and scenarios. To be able to check our animals in a voluntary manner we need some basic behaviours to be trained. The animals have to have a good relationship with the trainer and understand control, targets, call overs, follow, tactile etc. for further sampling but this doesn’t have to be the case.

Marine mammals for example, we need those basic behaviours because they are more of their time in the water. When we have those steps ready we can go on with body checks. Those further checks are important to go into training for fluid samples. With marine mammals we do daily body checks where we ask the animals in all type of body positions to be able to have a proper look. When these behaviours such as line ups, mouth open etc have a well-established positive history we can move on to the next step

Taking on the Zoo on the Bay: A Conversation with David Anderson, Retired Director of the San Francisco Zoo
David Anderson's career in zoos paralleled their growing involvement in saving species, first with the development of Species Survival Plans to build sustainable populations of endangered species in human care and later with growing contributions to field projects. After serving as General Curator at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, Anderson spent fourteen years at the helm of the San Francisco Zoo. Among his accomplishments there were privatizing the zoo, getting a $40 million bond for capital improvements and significantly growing the zoo's conservation footprint. This is his story.

The increasingly realistic prospect of ‘extinct animal’ zoos
A traveller marvelling at snow leopards in a conservation park. A foodie who wants to taste pangolins without breaking the law. A game hunter tracking a black rhino which will be replenished after the kill.

To some people, these scenarios seem like dystopian nightmares. To others, they’re exciting prospects. And as the science advances, they may be more feasible than they might first appear. Some researchers are even exploring how animal cloning could change the tourism industry by 2070.

Puffin beaks are fluorescent and we had no idea
A scientist in England has made an enlightening discovery about Atlantic puffins — under a UV light, their bills glow like a freshly cracked glow stick.

"It was sort of discovered by accident," said Jamie Dunning, the ornithologist who first saw the beaks light up.

Dunning normally works with twites, another type of bird, but he had been wondering if puffins had Day-Glo beaks for a while, since crested auklets — seabirds in the same family — also have light-up bills.

Thanh Hoa authorities at loss at how to deal with illegal tiger farm
Last year, Hanoi police arrested Nguyen Mau Chien and accomplices who are members of a trans-boundary wildlife trafficking ring with 36 kilos of rhino horn, two frozen tiger cubs, and other wildlife products.

The authorities also found out about Chien's unlicensed tiger farm. Chien set up a farm with 12 tigers in 2006 but one had died and no new tiger has been added to the farm since.   

In 2007, Thanh Hoa Province People's Committee fined Chien for his illegal tiger farm but allowed him to continue running it. Five years later, the provincial forest ranger unit issued the licence for Chien's farm to breed and preserve the tigers. The license expired last year and this remains the only tiger farm in Thanh Hoa.

On March 20 this year, Chien was given 13 months of imprisonment and his wife was imposed a suspended sentence of six months. He also admitted that two frozen tiger cubs were taken from the farm.

The Education for Nature-Vietnam asked the provincial authorities to seize the tigers as the farm was illegally set up in the first place and it didn't do anything to help protect tigers.

Thieu Van Luc, vice head of the provincial forest ranger unit, said they had contacted many conservation centres but none wanted to take the tigers because they can't give them suitable living conditions.

After a meeting with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Vietnam CITES Management Authority, the Department of Biodiversity Conservation and the Education for Nature-Vietnam, it is concluded that the authorities can't seize the tigers yet as there is no official con

Would-be monkey thieves bitten as animals at Wellington Zoo fought back
Would-be thieves armed with bolt cutters would have suffered bite marks after a troupe of squirrel monkeys at the Wellington Zoo fought back during an overnight break-in.

Wellington Zoo today reported a monkey had been stolen - but later confirmed the animal had been hiding.

The female squirrel monkey had been presumed stolen after zookeepers this morning discovered the enclosure had been broken into and could not find the female monkey.

Karen Fifield, chief executive of the Wellington Zoo Trust, told media staff were concerned by the would-be thieves' sophistication.

Giraffe dies after falling into trench at zoo
A male giraffe at the Arignar Anna Zoological Park in Vandalur died on Thursday night. “Rahman, a 20-year-old giraffe, fell into an eight-foot deep trench inside its enclosure and suffered serious injuries. The zoo’s animal keepers used a crane to hoist the animal out. It was then shifted to the zoo hospital, where the doctors declared the animal dead at 11.50 p.m.,” zoo officials

The saola’s biggest supporter explains why he looks for an animal no one can find
Bill Robichaud encountered his first saola in the late 1990s. The mammal, which is considered one of "the most surprising zoological finds of the 20th century," lives deep in the Annamite Mountains and is the only genus of its kind. When Robichaud learned that a saola was being held in captivity in Laos, he went to observe her. He was taken aback by what he found: a calm, endearing creature that did not fear humans. It was these characteristics that led him to stay with her for 18 days — up until the day she died.

The Kulan is back in the Central Steppes of Kazakhstan
For the first time in more than a century kulan – or Asiatic wild ass – are now roaming the central steppes of Kazakhstan. On 24th October 2017, a first group of nine animals was released into an acclimatisation enclosure on the edge of the Altyn Dala protected area in central Kazakhstan. The animals had been transported 1200 km by helicopter from Altyn Emel National Park in the southeast of the country. They will be released in early spring.

When Whales and Humans Talk
Harry Brower Sr. was lying in a hospital bed in Anchorage, Alaska, close to death, when he was visited by a baby whale. 
Although Brower’s body remained in Anchorage, the young bowhead took him more than 1,000 kilometers north to Barrow (now Utqiaġvik), where Brower’s family lived. They traveled together through the town and past the indistinct edge where the tundra gives way to the Arctic Ocean. There, in the ice-blue underwater world, Brower saw Iñupiat hunters in a sealskin boat closing in on the calf’s mother.

Brower felt the shuddering harpoon enter the whale’s body. He looked at the faces of the men in the umiak, including those of his own sons. When he awoke in his hospital bed as if from a trance, he knew precisely which man had made the kill, how the whale had died, and whose ice cellar the meat was stored in. He turned out to be right on al

Freezing breakthrough offers hope for African wild dogs
Dr Damien Paris and PhD student Dr Femke Van den Berghe from the Gamete and Embryology (GAME) Lab at James Cook University, have successfully developed a sperm freezing technique for the species (Lycaon pictus).

The highly efficient pack hunters have disappeared from most of their original range across sub-Saharan Africa due to habitat destruction, human persecution and canine disease, leaving less than 6,600 animals remaining in the wild.

Dr Paris said population management and captive breeding programs have begun, but there is a problem.

"One goal of the breeding programs is to ensure the exchange of genetic diversity between packs, which is traditionally achieved by animal translocations. But, due to their complex pack hierarchy, new animals introduced to an existing pack are often attacked, sometimes to the point of being killed," he said.

Dr Paris said the new sperm freezing technique could now

Walking with lions: why there is no role for captive-origin lions Panthera leo in species restoration
Despite formidable challenges and few successes in reintroducing large cats from captivity to the wild, the release of captives has widespread support from the general public and local governments, and continues to occur ad hoc. Commercial so-called lion Panthera leo encounter operations in Africa exemplify the issue, in which the captive breeding of the lion is linked to claims of reintroduction and broader conservation outcomes. In this article we assess the capacity of such programmes to contribute to in situ lion conservation. By highlighting the availability of wild founders, the unsuitability of captive lions for release and the evidence-based success of wild–wild lion translocations, we show that captive-origin lions have no role in species restoration. We also argue that approaches to reintroduction exemplified by the lion encounter industry do not address the reasons for the decline of lions in situ, nor do they represent a model that can be widely applied to restoration of threatened felids elsewhere.

I say, I say, I say: What's the difference between a king penguin and liquid?
King penguin colonies move and organise themselves in a way that is "astoundingly" similar to how liquids behave, according to research published today.

The penguin probe, led by Richard Gerum of the University of Erlangen-Nuernberg in Germany, looked at how king penguin colonies organise themselves at the start of breeding season.

When the time comes to procreate, the normally laid-back birds turn into territorial, pecking beasts who will – like the towel-brandishing holidayer – maintain their position for weeks, even in the face of predators.

The research is the first to investigate the structural order – the behaviour that allows for communication and navigation, as well as protecting against predators – of king penguins.

The hunt for London's thylacines shows a greater truth about Australian extinction
On a cold, dark night in the winter of June 2017, hundreds of people gathered on the lawns of Hobart's Parliament House to join a procession that carried an effigy of a giant Tasmanian tiger (thylacine) to be ritually burnt at Macquarie Point.

In an act called "the Purging", part of MONA's Dark Mofo festival, participants were asked to write their "deepest darkest fears" on slips of paper and place them inside the soon-to-be incinerated thylacine's body. This fiery ritual, a powerful cultural moment, reflects the complex emotions that gather around this extinct creature.

More than a spectacle, the Dark Mofo event can be read as a strange memorialisation of loss and a public act of Vandemonian absolution in respons

Let's bring animal trainers and scientists together
In 1903 the brothers Wright showed the world their first airplane, called the Flyer. It was airborne for only 12 seconds!

In 1974 the F16 Fighting Falcon ruled the skies. In only 71 years airplanes developed from a simple structures into deadly fighter machines.

Animal training has been on going for at least 6000 years, and still we don't understand it entirely. Animal motivation stems from more than stimulus control, reinforcers and or punishers, and many other aspects are important such as choice, control, social opportunities, play, trust, and security. The sciences of behavioural learning principles, together with the latest research in the animal welfare domain should lead us to not only science-based but also ethical based decisio

Conservationists use astronomy software to save species
Researchers are using astronomical techniques used to study distant stars to survey endangered species.

The team of scientists is developing a system to automatically identify animals using a camera that has been mounted on a drone.

It is able to identify them from the heat they give off, even when vegetation is in the way.

Details of the system were presented at the annual meeting of the European Astronomical Society in Liverpool, UK.

The idea was developed by Serge Wich, a conservationist at Liverpool John Moores University, and Dr Steve Longmore, an astrophysicist at the same university. He says that the system has the potential to greatly improve the accuracy of monitoring endangered species

Phew, it wasn’t the zoo
A breed-and-release programme to save tuatara has been cleared of infecting wild animals with a feared fungus.

A disease from a nasty fungal family that kills snakes and bearded dragons has been found in New Zealand’s threatened tuatara, but tuatara seem unbothered.

It appears the ancient reptiles might have harboured Paranannizziopsis australasiensis for aeons without anyone realising.

Conservationists feared the worst when lab tests revealed a previously-unknown fungus infesting the sores of at least five tuatara and a bearded dragon at Auckland Zoo.

Vancouver zoo quarantines rabbits to protect them from deadly virus
A disease that’s killed hundreds of feral rabbits in British Columbia has prompted a Metro Vancouver zoo to take precautions to protect its bunnies and those of the public.

Menita Prasad, animal care manager of the Greater Vancouver Zoo, said four of the animals have been placed under prolonged quarantine to guard against the spread of rabbit hemorrhagic disease.

The virus that affects European rabbits has been detected in the Vancouver Island communities of Nanaimo and Comox as well as in Delta, B.C.

It includes fever and convulsions and kills a rabbit within 36 hours.

Prasad said the rabbits were quarantined on March 14 and three of them were available for viewing only during the Easter weeken

This week we were very sad to receive the news that our application to Lush to hold a Charity Pot party at our local Lush Oxford store was denied because we accept funds from zoos. We first learned about the Charity Pot fund from our lovely associates at EAST, who are linked to a zoo (that is also a rescue centre), Monkey World. We subsequently have attended many conferences run by zoo conservation groups that have had Lush-funded attendees. It never occurred to us that Lush was anti-zoo, and indeed, we have always been funded by zoos and during that time, have done 3 Charity Pot parties, ran an event in the opening week of Lush’s flagship shop in Oxford street, our team members have worked for Lush and wrote articles about Little Fireface Project for the internal staff newsletter, and our team has passionately supported the

10 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Zoos
Zoos are a constantly evolving workplace. Over the past 50 years, exhibits have gotten increasingly naturalistic, diets for certain species have become more standardized, and captive breeding programs have turned into nationwide campaigns. Yet if one thing’s remained constant, it’s the fact that keeping the animals in our zoos both happy and healthy requires a great deal of time, coordination, expense, and old-fashioned willpower. It’s not an easy job, but most zookeepers say they wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Zoo Uses Honey From Bees to Treat Injured Sea Turtles
A zoo in Melbourne, Florida, is using honey from bees to help other animals at the zoo. In a video posted to their Facebook page, the Brevard Zoo explains how the honey is being used to treat injured sea turtles.

According to the video, five sea turtles are being treated with the bee honey to help naturally heal open wounds on their shells.

Sweden becomes first Nordic country to X-ray living giraffe
Veterinarians and keepers at Kolmården wildlife park have X-rayed one of the zoo’s giraffes, becoming the first in Scandinavia to conduct the challenging examination.
The examination was made possible by modifying the giraffe’s stables and installing new X-ray equipment, reports SVT Öst.

The giraffe, Garp, was trained for several months before undergoing the test, which consisted of an X-ray of its jaw.

Living wild animals such as giraffes are not usually capable of being still to the extent required for accurate X-ray images to be taken.

But there are several medical benefits to the test, as well as a reduction of risk associated with tranquilising a large beast such as a giraffe.

“Investigations and treatments that can be performed on conscious animals that cooperate with zookeepers reduce the risk of stress and injuries that can occur in association with tranquilising,” Kolmården vet Bim Boijsen s

‘They’ll rip your face off’: How humans inherited warlike aggression from chimpanzees
HUMAN beings inherited warlike nature and aggressive characteristics from chimpanzees, one of our closest living relatives.

Primatologist Jane Goodall hit home the point in the recently-released documentary Jane, about her life studying chimpanzees, starting in Eastern Africa more than four decades ago.

Back then, Goodall thought chimpanzees were friendly apes, and neither frightening nor as dangerous as Africa’s big cats, lions, leopards and cheetahs.

But as her research would reveal, chimpanzees were dangerous and the DNA they share with humans gave humans our dark side, The Mirror reported.

“I didn’t know chimpanzees can rip your face off,” Goodall said. “I had no idea of their brutality. There was no one talking about that.

“There were no people out in the field whose research I could read about, except one man who painted himself with baboon poo and sat in hides, hoping chimpanzees would appear.

“Sometimes I was frightened of things


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About me
After more than 50 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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