Monday, January 11, 2021

"A Discussion about Poop Soup: The Case for Transfaunation"


"A Discussion about Poop Soup: The Case for Transfaunation"


January 18, 2021, at 8:00 pm eastern (Happy Hour begins at 7:45 pm eastern).  Please register in advance.  Registration is free.  Seating is limited.


We learn new things about our animals, their care and management, and ourselves daily. It is easy to think back to 5 or 10 years ago and recognize how far we’ve come. It is equally as easy to leave some of the ideas (good AND bad) in the past, for that is sometimes where they belong. However, it is equally important to review some of those “old” ideas with the lens of increased knowledge and perspective gained over time (lest we let a good idea go prematurely). The concept of transfaunation (aka – fecal transplant, fecal microbiota transplant (FMT), stool transplant, etc) has been around since the beginning of recorded time in humans, and currently receives attention for specific GI bacterial infections. In domestic animals, it has been used for centuries to treat poor digestion and associated maladies. Recently, we’ve started to become aware of (and employ) the practice across a wide range of taxa in our care. This will be a brief discussion of the practice, some pertinent literature and examples, and how it might be something for you to consider in better managing the health and care of your animals.


Presenter: Mike Maslanka, Senior Nutritionist and Head of the Department of Nutrition Science for the Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

Peter Dickinson
Independent International Zoo Consultant

Knapdale’s beavers boosted by successful reinforcement

 Knapdale’s beavers boosted by successful reinforcement 

Work to reinforce the population of beavers in Knapdale Forest in Argyll has come to a successful conclusion with the endangered species now more widespread and breeding throughout the area.

Scottish Beavers, a partnership between the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) and the Scottish Wildlife Trust, released 21 beavers into Knapdale Forest between 2017 and 2019 to bolster the population, with monitoring continuing throughout 2020.

The reinforcement project has increased the genetic diversity of Knapdale’s beaver population, which is important for its future survival. The new beavers brought to Knapdale were primarily sourced from Tayside and originate from Bavaria, while the original Scottish Beaver Trial population was sourced from Norway.

A successful pairing between beavers with Norwegian and Bavarian origins has not yet been detected, but it is likely to take place in the near future.

The isolated Knapdale population is now on a more secure footing as a direct result of this reinforcement. It is hoped it will connect with other populations in future, through either natural expansion or further releases in the area around Loch Awe.

Gill Dowse, Knowledge & Evidence Manager, Scottish Wildlife Trust said: “The Scottish Beaver Trial was a landmark conservation project that showed how beavers can create and restore important wetland and native woodland habitats.

“A limited number of beavers were introduced during the Trial so it was important to go back and release more beavers, giving them a good chance to thrive. After three years of fieldwork we can be confident this reinforcement project has been a success, and that we have done all we can to bolster the wild population in Knapdale.”

Dr Helen Taylor, RZSS Conservation Programme Manager said: “Monitoring the beaver population in Knapdale for the past three years and tracking the fortunes of these newly-released animals has painted a clear picture of a steadily growing population that is beginning to spread out into all the various waterways available in Knapdale Forest.

“It’s been fantastic that the project provided an initial solution for moving beavers from high-conflict areas in Tayside into Knapdale, where their positive impacts on the environment and on native biodiversity are clear to see.”

The final report from the Scottish Beavers Reinforcement Project, published today, contains a number of recommendations to secure a long-term future for beavers in Scotland.

These include developing a national conservation action plan for beavers, permitting reintroductions in other suitable areas of Scotland, and widening the ‘founder base’ by introducing more animals from Europe.

As the number of beaver trials in the UK increases, the report makes a number of recommendations for the welfare of animals within these projects. These include developing a genetic database of all beavers involved in translocations within Britain.

The project partners also hope that the Scottish Beavers project can act as a template for efforts to reintroduce beavers responsibly, both in other areas of Scotland and in other countries.

Gill Dowse added: “Encouraging a thriving beaver population in Scotland is an important step towards tackling the crisis facing nature. Bringing them back helps a huge range of other species, from dragonflies to otters. There are also substantial benefits for society, ranging from improved water quality to new opportunities for wildlife tourism.

“To ensure we fully benefit from the return of beavers and minimise future conflicts it is important to develop a clear action plan for the future of this protected species.”

Dr Taylor added: “After a 400-year absence from this country, beavers are back and we need to ensure they have a long-term future in Scotland, and throughout Britain. This means creating clear management strategies for the species that include monitoring both numbers and genetic diversity to ensure we avoid issues down the road.

“We also need to make space for these incredible ecosystem engineers, build a better understanding of where the most suitable release sites for beavers are, and learn to live alongside them once again so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of beavers, while reducing human-wildlife conflict.”

Scottish Beavers is a partnership between the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland created to continue the work of the Scottish Beaver Trial, which reintroduced Eurasian beavers into Knapdale Forest in 2009.

The reinforcement took place at the site of the original Scottish Beaver Trial in Knapdale Forest, mid-Argyll, on land managed by Forestry and Land Scotland. The project was licensed by NatureScot, which coordinated the monitoring requirements at the site and funded the trapping of beavers in Tayside for translocation.

The Scottish Beavers Reinforcement Project was supported by funders including players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

Peter Dickinson
Independent International Zoo Consultant

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

"Tabletop Drills – Practicing Your Zoo Emergency Preparedness Exercises within a Single Room"


"Tabletop Drills – Practicing Your Zoo Emergency Preparedness

 Exercises within a Single Room"

January 6, 2021, at 2:00 pm eastern


Please register in advance.  Registration is free.  Seating is limited.




Practicing for emergency events of all types within zoo and aquarium environments is not only smart preparation for all the many disasters we hear about regularly but also is a zoo association standard necessary for accreditation. While it is important to hold regular live-action practice drills, there are times when a live simulation drill may be too complex or logistically difficult, or too advanced for new or inexperienced staff for it to effect satisfactory lessons and experience. This presentation will describe a variety of “Tabletop Drills,” where your staff can congregate together and be led through an emergency event step by step with the staff describing what actions they would take as the event progresses. A tabletop drill can be formally scripted in advance by a leader with planned injections of complications to test the participants’ reactions. Or a tabletop drill can be set up by the leader with complications randomized by the rolls of specific numbered dice with the outcomes less predictable. Both methods stimulate thinking about potential emergency actions and help prepare your staff for live-action drills as well as real emergencies.


Presenter: Ken Kaemmerer, Curator of Mammals, Pittsburgh Zoo

Peter Dickinson
Independent International Zoo Consultant

Thursday, December 10, 2020

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and National Museums Scotland Contribute to UK’s First Zoological Biobank


The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and National Museums Scotland Contribute to UK’s First Zoological Biobank

Photo credit

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) and National Museums Scotland are playing a central role in the establishment of the UK’s first national zoological biobank with the launch of their biobank facilities. Located at the National Museums Collections Centre and Edinburgh Zoo, the infrastructure will improve storage and distribution of animal genetic material for conservation and research.


The national biobank is providing a hub for scientists across the UK, giving them access to tissue, cells and DNA from endangered species and other wildlife, which can be used in research and for conservation planning.

The Scottish zoological biobank hub is being developed as part of the CryoArks Biobank, funded by a £1 million grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). The project brings together Cardiff University, the Natural History Museum, National Museums Scotland, RZSS, University of Edinburgh and the University of Nottingham to expand and link collections across the UK.


The CryoArks initiative is led by Professor Mike Bruford of Cardiff University who said,

“CryoArks is making a step-change in the way that genetic material is curated and is making it available to more scientists.

“With the world facing unprecedented challenges for our wildlife and climate change, having access to this data will help us find solutions to protect our planet and its endangered species.”

As Biobank ‘hubs’, National Museums and RZSS will provide the expertise for a new level of sample storage and access to their samples by the establishment of ultra-low temperature freezer facilities, laboratory space, and making all samples available through an online searchable database. As a CryoArks partner, they offer on-site assistance in archiving sample material, and provide advice on embedding biobank sample collection during routine veterinary care and fieldwork.

Genetic data helps us understand a great deal about our planet, such as measuring shifts in biodiversity, discovering biological adaptations to climate and habitat change, and finding out why particular species have unusual characteristics. The samples held in the Biobank enable conservation researchers and scientists, now and in the future, to access genetic material such as DNA from a wide range of species, including those that are rare, endangered and extinct-in-the-wild, to help ensure their future survival.


Dr Andrew Kitchener, Principal Curator of Vertebrates, National Museums Scotland said

“This project is crucial in enabling researchers to engage with a vast resource of biological data samples which until now was difficult to access.

“We have a responsibility to future generations to ethically collect these biological samples, store them in appropriate conditions and make them available for research. These specimens are vital to our understanding of the natural world and our ability to map its changes and respond effectively to the demands of researchers working in conservation and ecology.”

National Museums Scotland has been collecting tissue samples from animals donated to the collection for more than 25 years and this legacy of several thousand samples has been added to the biobank, enabling quicker and easier access for scientists across the UK.

Dr Helen Senn, Head of Conservation and Science Programmes, RZSS said,

“Well managed sample collections are critical research tools which can be used to improve conservation outcomes for many threatened species. We are extremely grateful to the multitude of researchers and zoological institutions who are contributing samples that can be used by scientists for the benefit of wildlife around the world.”

Wildlife conservation charity RZSS also has a partnership with the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) and it is one of the four hubs, alongside those in Denmark, Belgium and Germany, of the EAZA Biobank. This is an initiative to increase collection, curation, storage and use of valuable genetic resources from animals held in EAZA institutions across Europe and the Middle East for the purposes of population management and conservation research. The ultimate goal is to biobank a sample from every living zoo animal so this data can be accessed for future conservation management and research.

10 December 2020

Peter Dickinson
Independent International Zoo Consultant

Cher Takes on Pata Zoo


Cher Takes on Pata Zoo

After her success in aiding with moving Kavaan the elephant from Islamabad zoo in Pakistan to a wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia* Cher has now set her sights on getting 'Bua Noi' the gorilla away from Pata Zoo in Bangkok. She has sent letters to the relevant Thai Government authorities.

I wish her the best of luck. WAZA failed, Jane Goodall failed, Gillian Anderson and several other celebrities have failed. Annually for at least the past ten years the worlds press have attacked Pata Zoo to no avail.



My last visit to Pata Zoo was in 2019. Nothing much had changed since my several previous visits. More run down than previously. Dirtier too. What really disturbed me was that they now had a Bonobo. This unfortunate animal appeared more disturbed than any of the other primates, and understandably so.

*If Bua Noi is relocated where would she go? I was disturbed to read that some in Cambodia are planning to breed with Kavaan. Cambodia (like Thailand) needs to stop their Orangutan Boxing matches.

Peter Dickinson
Independent International Zoo Consultant

Thursday, September 17, 2020




The first edition of the International Zoo Yearbook rolled off the press in 1960. The current edition which is still at the printers will, very sadly, be the last one.

It will be a sad loss to Zoo Professionals the world over though happily today there are several other publications which serve the purpose of disseminating information.

I recall when I started my zoo career back in 1967 that there were very few publications dedicated to the care and welfare of zoo animals. Happily I had access to those first few editions of the Yearbook which I read cover to cover several times.

I then used to purchase each annual edition as it was published until I could no longer afford to do so.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Pont-Scorff Zoo in Trouble


Pont-Scorff Zoo in Trouble

You are reminded that Pont-Scorff Zoo is the collection that was purchased my Animal Rights Activists as a showpiece.


"It's calumny": the Pont-Scorff zoo defends itself after accusations of negligence


A report from the Department of Population Protection points to several anomalies in the administration of the zoo, bought 8 months ago by the Rewild association. She wants to file a complaint for "slanderous denunciation".


Following a visit on June 29, the Morbihan Directorate for the Protection of Populations (DDPP) points out in a report several alleged negligence on the part of the Rewild association, which has been managing the Pont-Scorff zoo for 8 months. She wants to transform this former zoo open to the public into a rehabilitation center for wild species.


A lack of qualified personnel?


First, it says in the report that the zoo is lacking in "capability" for all wildlife. These are people who can take care of different animals. This is a false problem, retorts the association. According to her, there is no longer any need for these capacities because the establishment is no longer open to the public. Likewise, the zoo ensures that it has been in contact for 2 months with a very qualified capacity worker to solve the problem. Because, it is the height, explains Rewild, there has not been any more this kind of people for several years in Pont-Scorff, well before its takeover . Similarly, according to the manager of the zoo, Jérome Pensu, some of his employees are quite "capable" for many species.


Veterinary registers in question

Jean-Michel Chappron, director of the DDPP, also notes the absence of an up-to-date veterinary register . " There has simply never been, " retorts the manager of Pont-Scorff, " only a multitude of papers signed by various and varied veterinarians, more than 10. There are prescriptions, medical prescriptions. We have passed months to sort everything, species by species. We are in the process of reconstituting this register ". For him, the job was never done by the previous owners.


2,500 kilos of corpses at the knacker

Among the unclear points of the DDPP report, there are also these almost 2,500 kilos of animal corpses sent to the renderer . The services of the Prefecture do not know where they come from. " When we arrived, the fridges were full of corpses. We had to get rid of them and do the job that was not done, " says Jérome Pensu, the manager. This is without counting the death of Jakob, a rhino weighing 1,300 kilos who died a week after Rewild arrived at the site.


Criminal proceedings

Following this report, a formal notice was sent to the zoo via a prefectural decree dated September 2. He invites the establishment to regularize its situation on October 10, under penalty of criminal prosecution and legal consequences. " It's pure slander. We're going deep into the dirt, " Rewild defends. The association wrote an 80-page audit to describe the situation the zoo was in when it arrived, which it sent to court. At the same time, she intends to request an appeal to extend the deadlines. A complaint will be filed for "slanderous denunciation".


Please see original article in French: