Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Trade In Zoo Tigers In Thailand

Today the Bangkok Post published an excellent article on the Tiger Trade in Private Zoos in Thailand. Read the entire article below and click on the link to view the photos accompanying the article. Thank you Bangkok Post but I hope you continue your investigation because it does not go far enough. You have exposed some of the loopholes now lets stop them up. With all of these loopholes exposed I cannot believe the statement "Following the large seizure of tiger meat and carcasses in early February, National Parks Department officials and police inspected private zoos in Chon Buri, including the Million Years Stone Park, Pattaya Crocodile Farm and Si Racha Tiger Zoo. The latter had been accused before of involvement in the illegal trade in tigers and tiger parts. However, said Mr Theerapat, his department was able to account for all tigers there." His department was able to account for all the tigers there....HOW? These places are churning Tigers out. Sri Racha had over 400 Tigers last time I visited four years ago. They must be breeding AT LEAST fifty cubs a year because they always have cubs for bottle feeding. I saw around 40 cubs on my day in a year. They openly admitted to breeding 'a lot'. I reckon that there should be in the region of 6-800 animals there now. Where are they going? Come on now get real here. A database was meant to have been set up to monitor Tigers after Sri Racha illegally exported those 100 tigers to China a few years the same place that is now importing all the Rhinoceros. All these Tiger Farms are breeding tigers. There are not enough zoos for them to supply. The authorities must be totally blind if they cannot see what is going on.

Is it because they are frightened to implicate Sri Racha because of Royal connections? I have the greatest respect for the Thai Royal Family and admire the King and the Princess immensely but just because Sri Racha hangs a few photographs of various Royal personages feeding Tiger cubs should not give this evil place credibility. The same applies for the awful and infamous Tiger Temple which are another cruel establishment shipping animals out the back door. Holy monks? These guys and their cohorts are giving Buddhism a bad name. (Punch A Tiger On The Head, Pull Its Tail! )

None of these tigers is worth a dime. They are all inbred and are likely to be subspecific hybrids and are valueless to conservation.

There was considerable input to the Bangkok Posts article by the owner of the Chiang Mai Tiger Zoo. Sorry....but just as bad as the rest.

Are zoos cashing in on tiger trade?

Privately owned wildlife parks have long been implicated in the illegal sale of endangered animals and animal parts, but the lack of a DNA database and difficulty in collecting information means there is little clear evidence to confirm the suspicions
Trade and trafficking in tigers and tiger parts in Thailand drew international attention following the seizure of 400kg of tiger meat and carcasses in Bangkok's Khlong Sam Wa district earlier this month. It's remained a thorny issue in Thailand despite global efforts to save the animals from extinction.

All five remaining tiger subspecies are considered seriously endangered and three subspecies have vanished in the last 60 years. In addition to human encroachment into their habitats, this is also driven by a demand for tiger parts which are believed by some to bring health and vitality.

In Thailand, despite protective measures the poaching of wild tigers in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries continues, and more seizures of tigers and tiger parts _ believed to be mostly from tigers bred in captivity _ indicate that consumer demand is growing.

There has been no substantial evidence proving the involvement of private zoos and wildlife parks in Thailand in supplying tigers and tiger parts to the black market, but suspicions remain because of the large sums of money to be made in the trade and the high costs of running these operations. Private zoos are legal in Thailand under the 1992 Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act and are allowed to possess wildlife species listed as preserved and protected under the act. There are currently 15 preserved species and 1,302 protected species recognised under Thai law.

Operators of private zoos must first obtain a zoo licence (Sor Por 21) and also a temporary permit to possess wildlife species (Sor Por 2) from the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department. Of the 40 licensed private zoos in the country, 21 raise and breed tigers.

The 1992 act strictly outlaws trade in tigers or tiger parts, and moreover, tigers are protected by the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which prohibits international trade in protected animals, animal parts and derivatives for commercial purposes.

This means that the private zoos cannot buy or sell tigers or other restricted animals to each other or to anyone else. Private zoo owners usually say their animals were in their possession before the restrictions were in place or are the offspring of such animals. Transfers of animals between licensed private zoos are also allowed with approval from the National Parks Department, but this is a complicated process.

As the number of private zoos has grown, the National Parks Department has tightened the regulations for issuing new licences for the zoos, and concerned government agencies have also stepped up suppression efforts against smugglers.

Last year, government officials rescued two leopard cubs (which are also protected) at a place that had been designated for a new private zoo in Chaiyaphum province. The owner had not yet obtained a licence from the National Parks Department. Earlier, two adult leopards were seized at the same location. The owner could not provide any documents to show where he obtained the animals. According to a National Parks Department official, the leopards were taken from the Huay Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary in Uthai Thani province. The department withdrew the owner's application for a licence to set up a zoo.

National Parks Department deputy director-general Theerapat Prayoonsit said that his department cannot prohibit anyone from applying for a licence to set up a private zoo. However, he added, the department closely monitors the population of tigers in each zoo to ensure that they are not sold to traders.

At present, 888 tigers from 21 private zoos are registered with the department, which is also responsible for recording the identity of each tiger. Si Racha Tiger Zoo in Chon Buri is the largest operation of this type in the country, holding about 400 tigers.

Noting that the law does not limit the number of animals a zoo may keep, Mr Theerapat said, ''What we can do is ask for cooperation from the zoos to limit their tiger populations and give them good care.''

However, he added, the zoo owners may ''fiddle with'' the number of tigers. ''For example, if four cubs are born, they report only two. So they can sell the other two cubs or raise them in another place,'' he said. ''If anything happens to these tigers we cannot trace them back to the zoo.''

Pol Col Kiatipong Khaosam-ang, deputy commander the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division (NED), agreed that this is a big problem. ''This is the easiest method used in promoting the illegal tiger trade,'' he said.

''When a tiger dies, the [private] zoo will not report to the authorities as required. It is sold in the black market, and a new tiger is brought to the zoo.''


Following the large seizure of tiger meat and carcasses in early February, National Parks Department officials and police inspected private zoos in Chon Buri, including the Million Years Stone Park, Pattaya Crocodile Farm and Si Racha Tiger Zoo. The latter had been accused before of involvement in the illegal trade in tigers and tiger parts. However, said Mr Theerapat, his department was able to account for all tigers there.

Chuwit Pitakpornpallop, owner of the Trakarn Tiger Zoo in Ubon Ratchathani province, said that domestic licensed and regulated tiger zoos are always the first place authorities look to make arrests or seize live tigers whenever this type of case surfaces. But he said that licensed private zoos are always open for inspection from authorities, and added that National Parks Department regional officials regularly inspect his zoo every two or three months, along with police from the NED.

The inspection covers all kinds of preserved and protected wild animals in the zoo, he said. ''They will check the animals' microchips, take photos of each animal and check its documents, and look at records of births and deaths. They also take DNA samples,'' said Mr Chuwit.

However Kanita Ouitavon, a senior scientist at the department's Wildlife Forensic Science Unit, said the National Parks Department does not have DNA samples from private zoos.

There is a plan to start a DNA database in the near future, an initiative Ms Kanita fully supports. Such a database would make it much easier for the department to fulfil its mandate to keep track of all protected animals in the possession of private zoos. This issue was at the forefront of Interpol's ''Third Meeting of the Wildlife Crime Working Group'' in Bangkok from Feb 13-17. The group endorsed DNA testing as a way to stamp out trade in wild meat by tracing the origins of seized meat. At the meeting, assistant national police chief Chalermkiat Sirworakan said, ''We need the help of forensic medicine in the suppression of wildlife crimes,'' and added that DNA testing and establishing a relevant database was not a complicated procedure. He suggested that the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry fund the programme.

Meanwhile, Mr Chuwit said authorities should be looking elsewhere than at private zoos, and challenged them to inspect big livestock farms, especially those along the borders, where he says tigers are illegally bred and traded in the black market.

''For instance, a big cattle farm in Kanchanaburi province and an unlicensed tiger farm in Saraburi province breed and slaughter tigers for sale,'' he said.

Another significant source of trafficked tigers is farms in neighbouring countries such as Malaysia and Myanmar, said Mr Chuwit.

''Tigers are transported through Thailand, Laos and Vietnam to China. The tigers and tiger parts which are often seized in Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan provinces are from farms along the borders inside neighbouring countries,'' he said.

Mr Theerapat agreed that many tigers seized in recent years have been smuggled from neighbouring countries.

During the past few years smuggled tigers and other wildlife have been found in trucks carrying fruits and other goods from the South. The drivers have told authorities that they were to deliver them at Talad Thai market in Rangsit, on the outskirts of Bangkok. Mr Theerapat said the market has huge cold storage warehouses.

Pol Colonel Kiatipong Khaosam-ang, NED deputy commander, said Thai authorities can and do seek cooperation from government agencies in neighbouring countries, but added that it is also necessary to strictly control the domestic facilities because some of them supply tigers for illegal breeding and slaughter.

Mr Chuwit admitted that in spite of regulations requiring private zoo operators to inform authorities of births and deaths, some domestic tiger zoos do not report the actual figures. He blamed it on the ''time-consuming process'' of obtaining legal transfer permits which allow private zoos to exchange animals. These are granted only in rare cases.

''In some cases, a private zoo urgently wants tiger cubs for show to attract customers. Under such circumstances, unregistered tiger cubs can be easily transferred to licensed zoos,'' he said. However, this doesn't happen very often because most zoos can easily breed their own cubs.

Mr Chuwit said that another situation that encourages illegal trading among private zoos is the exchange of adult tigers to avoid problems from captive inbreeding and keep the animals genetically healthy. Tigers grow very fast and can mate when they reach three years old, he said, and because getting legal approval is usually a long process, some zoo owners buy unregistered cubs and register them as newborns at their zoos.

But he said that selling or trading unregistered cubs is ''not worth the risk''. If caught, the zoo must pay a heavy fine and may be closed down.

''And forget about an exchange of tigers with zoos in foreign countries. After problems occurred in the transfer of 100 tigers from Si Racha Tiger Zoo to China many years ago, the National Parks Department won't allow any private zoos to import or export tigers,'' said Mr Chuwit.

At present his operation has possession of 48 tigers at Trakarn Tiger Zoo and 54 at Tiger Kingdom, an offshoot zoo in Chiang Mai's Mae Rim district. Each year an average of 10-15 tiger cubs are born in captivity at the two zoos. With the increasing number of tigers he plans to supply two more private zoos in the near future, one in Phuket and one near Suvarnabhumi airport on Bang Na-Trat Road. He looks on this as a good business move that also solves the expensive problem of caring for too many tigers. Mr Chuwit said that private zoos facing financial problems often separate males and females, but each has its own way of dealing with the matter.


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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Zoo News Digest 19th - 25th February 2012 (Zoo News 807)

Zoo News Digest 19th - 25th February 2012 (Zoo News 807)

Dear Colleague,

Why am I giving prominence to the first link this edition? It is just a letter to a newspaper but it is typical of the dozens of well meaning ignorance of zoo related correspondence one sees in newspaper letters and comments each and every week. Zoos need to write to the newspapers more and clean up these delusions which are being portrayed as fact...there are people who believe them.

"Surat zoo will soon be home to African white buffalo, rhino..." Interesting....what is an African white buffalo? The article goes on to say it is rare and endangered....or is it just because it is white and yet another zoo joins the list of zoos presenting freaks! There is a two headed tortoise just been put on display in a museum in the Ukraine. Can you imagine the list of zoos who would bid to purchase such a creature should it be offered for sale? I can. And then they would argue 'science' and 'conservation'.

What of the baby Orangutan and Silvery Gibbon in the Abu Dhabi Kids Park? Not a whisper, not a word. Has anything been done? The IUCN SSC (Species Survival Commission) specialists and experts all are meeting in Abu Dhabi this week. Will any of them go and investigate this crime I wonder? Will any of them ask the question?

Dubai Zoo is in the news again. See the links. Usually it is in letters page that one sees criticism and complaint. This latest news is unlikely to bring any complaints at least from those prepared to use their real names.

So the Irwins have been in Vegas. I hope that the visit to Siegfried and Roy's Secret Garden do not indicate a possible partnership with White Tiger Breeders.

The situation at Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand appear to have escalated. None of this has been about anything but corruption in high places fanning the flames of ignorance.

I note that Bill Oddie is getting a bit of flak for making a comment about use of the ANKUS on an elephant he was riding as "barely a tickle". Harmless enough statement and probably quite true but enough to raise the ire of the ignorant...which leads me back once again to the first link this week.


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On With The Links:

Patronizing zoos perpetuates a sad and dangerous cycle
Re "Two gorillas briefly escape Kansas City Zoo enclosure" (, Feb. 20): As the incident at the Kansas City Zoo demonstrated yet again, it is incredibly difficult to contain wild animals. When they escape, zoo animals are likely to attack people and many carry transmittable disease like herpes and rabies. In addition, the quality of life for animals in zoos is severely diminished. Gorillas living in zoos lack natural social structure, and have only a fraction of their natural three-square-mile range. Zoos may tout expensive, state-of-the-art enclosures for a few popular animals, but they cannot properly care for dozens of different species.
If you are interested in seeing and learning about wild animals, catch a glimpse of native animals on a walk or hike. Watch footage

Dutchman shines spotlight on Thailand's baby elephant trade
The discovery of six slaughtered elephants last month in two of Thailand's national parks has exposed a nasty secret about the country's ubiquitous elephant tourism industry.
Dutch national Edwin Wiek, founder of the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, jumped on the wild elephants' gruesome demise in Kaeng Krachan and Kiu Buri parks to draw attention to a lucrative trade in baby elephants that has been carried out with the seeming compliance of government officials.
In an article titled Thai Elephants Are Being Killed for Tourist Dollars published in The Nation newspaper on January 24, Wiek said that the six elephants had been killed to get their babies, not for elephant meat and ivory as claimed by government officials.
He argued that the incident demonstrated that the trade in baby pachyderms was no longer just a cross-border business with Myanmar, but that poachers were now targeting Thailand's own depleted herd of fewer than 2,000 wild elephants.
Based on his own investigations, Wiek estimates that two to three baby elephants are poached from the wild per week.
A baby elephant can fetch up to 1 million baht (32,260 dollars) at camps in Ayutthaya, Chiang Mai, Hua Hin, Pattaya, Phuket, where they are trained to perform tricks and provide rides for tourists.
Foreign tourists might think twice about supporting the elephant business with their money if they were aware that many of animals had been poached from the wild and their parents slaughtered, Wiek said.
After the article was published, Wiek's animal sanctuary in Phetchaburi province was raided on February 13 by 70 armed officials from the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department.
The officials demanded to see ownership documents for some 400 animals kept at the wildlife rescue charity, established in 2001.
Although Wiek had proper ownership documents for his six pachyderms, national park officials claimed that 103 smaller mammals lacked proper documentation and vowed to confiscate them.
The animal sanctuary was still under armed guard this week.
Wiek has claimed that the raid was revenge for his exposure of the authorities' complacency, if not complicity, in a booming business in baby elephant trafficking.
Thai authorities claim otherwise.
'The discovery of the six dead elephants had nothing to do with the raid on Wiek's place,' said Damrong Phidej, director-general of the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department.
'There are so many of these charities and none of them have proper paperwork for the animals, so we are trying to straighten it out a bit,' Damrong said.
The first two animal sanctuaries on Damroing's hit list happened to be the department's most outspoken critics.
The Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai was raided by 100 national park department officials on February 8, days after its charismatic founder Sangduen Chailert gave an interview on Thai TV Channel 9 about the illegal traffic in baby elephants.
Sangduen, better known by her nickname Lek, runs a sanctuary for some 71 pachyderms, many of them elderly or suffering from injuries sustained from working in Myanmar's logging industry or Thailand's tourism sector.
'We had the paperwork for all our elephants,' Lek said. 'But I told the park officials they could take our buffalos if they wanted them.'
In Thailand, where elephants have been used as beasts of burden in the timber industry for centuries, the animals are classified as 'livestock,' but require proper ownership papers to prove they are not wild elephants.
There are an estimated 3,000 domesticated elephants in Thailand, many of which have been shifted from the timber industry to tourism since the kingdom banned logging in 1988.
Since baby elephants don't require registration papers until they are 9 years old, it is fairly easy to get babies poached from the wild into the legal fold by providing them with foster mothers.
Wiek has urged Thai authorities to collect DNA data on all domesticated female elephants in Thailand as an easy way of proving whether their babies are their own or kidnapped from the wild.
While many of his colleagues in the animal protection business have criticized Wiek's confrontational approach, nobody denies that the baby elephant trade exists, although the traffic seems to be chiefly in baby elephants poached from Myanmar, also called Burma.
'Burma has logging but no tourism, while Thailand has tourism but no logging, and the Burmese wants the Yankee dollar and the Thais have it because this is a cash economy,' said

Gorillas missed: Two escape exhibit at Kansas City Zoo
Water hose was used to lure animals back to enclosures. Public was never in danger.
But on Sunday at the Kansas City Zoo, Mbundi and his half-brother Ntondo decided to stir up a little trouble instead.
The western lowland gorillas, each weighing more than 400 pounds, managed to get from their enclosed exhibit into a zookeeper area. That triggered a “code red” and prompted zoo employees to herd visitors into buildings as a precaution.
Two keepers who were in the area and realized that they were close to the animals climbed a ladder out of the exhibit, said Zoo Director Randy Wisthoff.
Zoo officials emphasized that the public was never in danger during the three-hour incident, which ended when employees

Oregon Zoo's California condors at six eggs and counting this busy breeding season
At the Oregon Zoo, it's half a dozen and counting -- California condor eggs, that is.
With two eggs arriving last week, the zoo's breeding program, part of a larger effort to restore the critically endangered species, is on track to deliver perhaps as many as eight chicks this season, says Kelli Walker, lead condor keeper.
"Each new egg," Walker says, "is critical to the survival of the species."
Condor egg-laying and hatching season is seldom without drama in the zoo's breeding facilities, a large barn and flight pens at the Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation in rural Clackamas County. This season is no exception.
When Walker found a small hole in one eggshell earlier this month, she washed it with sterile water, applied diluted antiseptic and covered the hole with a thin layer of glue. When she "candled" it -- held it up to a bright light to check for signs it

Zoo requests $30 million in state bonding
Minnesota Zoo Director Lee Ehmke came before a House committee Wednesday, Feb. 22 to describe a bonding request that includes a $30 million request to upgrade the Tropics Nocturnal Trail and exhibit renewal on the Northern Trail, among other projects.
Ehmke held aloft a big piece of peeled paint from the salt water dolphin tank in the zoo’s Discovery Bay exhibit as evidence of the need for state funding.
Peeling paint is not something the zoo wants around its marine animals, Ehmke explained to the Senate Capital Investment Committee.
Nor do the federal

Panda power rebounds at Ueno Zoo
Tokyo's Ueno Zoo has already been visited by more than 4 million people this fiscal year, thanks to the arrival of two giant pandas from China that haved helped it top the mark for the first time in 19 years, zoo officials said Wednesday.
"At the current pace, we expect 4.4 million people to have visited the zoo by the end of March," one official said, noting the tally broke 4.05 million at the end of last month.
Attendance has been sluggish since the April 2008 death of giant panda Ling Ling, the zoo's star attraction since 1992.
But last April, the zoo reintroduced pandas for the first time in three years by leasing male panda Ri Ri and female Shin Shin from China. Attendance immediately surged.
The officials said about 3,000 visitors lined up outside the zoo for the pandas' debut on April 1, the

Because his 300 fish need va-va-room: Thierry Henry rebuilds his £6m home to fit in FOUR-STOREY 5,000 gallon tank
Stretching 40ft from the bottom of his house to the very top, it will take 5,500 gallons of water to fill, house 300 fish and cost a staggering £250,000 to build.
This is the giant aquarium footballer Thierry Henry is so keen to have that he wants to rebuild his luxury home to accommodate it.
The former Arsenal striker has lodged controversial plans to demolish his £5.9 million North London house – which was completed only in 1999 and is described as one of the finest examples of modern architecture in the UK – and replace it with a larger property.
His proposals detail the extravagant four

Rare pygmy Nile crocodiles turn up in new areas
They're some of the least known and most poorly understood reptiles in West Africa
Conservationists working in Uganda are finding new areas that are home to one of the least known crocodilians in Africa, the pygmy Nile crocodile.
A team of Ugandan researchers trained by the late John Thorbjarnarson, a noted crocodilian expert with the Wildlife Conservation Society, is conducting population surveys of these poorly understood crocodiles in Kidepo Valley National Park.
Pygmy Nile crocodiles were reconfirmed as still present in Uganda only three years ago, and their conservation status remains unknown.
Crocodilians are an order of animals that includes alligators, crocodiles and other large reptiles.
In 2011, scientists lead by Matthew H. Shirley of the University of Florida discovered that pygmy Nile crocodiles are not a smaller race of the more common Nile crocodile but actually a unique population of a distinct crocodile species distributed

Friday Weird Science: Does your menstrual blood attract BEARS?!
While Sci was listening eagerly to Kate Clancy's appearance on Skeptically Speaking last Sunday (you'll be able to download the episode soon), I was flabbergasted to find out that there is a rumor out there that, if you go out hiking on your might attract BEARS.
Not only that, the rumor was apparently widespread enough that someone actually did a study to find out if it was true.
Which is good, I'd hate to fear for my life while hiking because I'm shedding my uterine lining. I'd like the think bears are more sensible than

Spurs or Ankus?
The Atlanta mounted police unit currently has twelve officers, all wearing spur's with now fear of reprisal for "animal abuse." Eleven officers and their mounts are assigned to patrol a regular beat and special details, such as festivals, parades and other community events. One additional officer and three horses are in training. The unit is expected to expand to 18 officers and mounts over the next 3 years.
Equestrians(which would include Atlanta's mounted police unit) commonly wear spurs to emphasize their leg aids. The leg aids, USUALLY(interpret "usually" for yourself) pressing the heels against the horse's sides, urge the mount to move off or transition from a slower gait to a faster gait. When spurs are applied, the horse feels a SHARPER(sharp as a tack or a sharp tongue?) urgency from the rider and PAYS CLOSER ATTENTION(you can interpret this as "controlling an animal hundreds of pounds larger then you") to what the rider is asking it to do. When properly used, spurs are an extension of your leg aids, allowing your cues to the horse to be SUBTLER AND MORE REFINED(you may not even have to use them each time, but they are still there, just in case......... Like a bull hook off stage Ernie or a bull hook held wrong with the metal hidden in your hand to

ISSN 0973-2543 (online)

February 2012 | Vol. XXVII | No. 2 | Date of Publication 21 February 2011


Feature articles
Marketing in Indian Zoos -- Indian Zoos on their way to Market
Pp. 1-2

Guidelines for Developing Framework Mechanism for Mobilizing Corporate Financial Support for Supplementing Management of Zoos
-- B.S. Bonal, Brij Gupta & Naim Aktar, Pp. 2-5

What makes a mammal attractive to the public at the Zoological Park of Sapucaia do Sul in southern Brazil?
-- Elenara Véras dos Santos, Leonel de Souza Martins, Danusa Guedes, and Júlio César Bicca-Marquesa, Pp. 6-11

Promoting Human Elephant Coexistence among conflict area inhabitants of Coimbatore, South India-Refresher Course
-- R. Marimuthu, Pp. 12-13

Zoo Lex - Zoo Miami Harpy Eagle Encounter
Pp. 14-17

Wildlife Week 2011 - Education Reports
Pp. 18-19

Technical articles
A Case Study on Indian Vulture (Gyps indicus) rescued in Orchha, Madhya Pradesh, India
-- Amita Kanaujia and Sonika Kushwaha, Pp. 20-22

Knowledge about Owls among general public in Madurai District, Tamil Nadu
-- R. Santhanakrishnan, A. Mohamed Samsoor Ali and U. Anbarasan, Pp. 23-24

A case report of tuberculosis in a captive Sloth Bear (Melursus ursinus)
-- D.T. Fefar, B.M. Jivani, R.A. Mathukiya, V.V. Undhad, D.J. Ghodasara, B.P. Josh, C.J. Dave and K.S. Prajapati, Pp. 25-26

A preliminary report of Phumdis from Narthamalai hills, Pudukkottai District, Tamil Nadu
-- Senthil, D., P. 27

Successful treatment of Leptospirosis in a captive lioness -- a case report
-- K.S. Subramanian, K. Vijayarani, and R. Thirumurugan, P. 28

Cross reactivity of deer immunoglobulin G (IgG) with antibovine IgG conjugate
-- Chintu Ravishankar, Nandana D., Anneth Alice John, Reni M. R., Mathew Sebastian, George Chandy and Anoop S., Pp. 29-30

International Aquarium Congress 9-14 September 2012, Cape Town
P. 31

The 4th International Congress on Zoo Keeping 9-13 September 2012 Singapore
P. 32

Scientists: New amphibian family augurs more India discoveries
Scientists have found what they say is a new family of legless amphibians in Northeast India – animals they say may have diverged from similar vertebrates in Africa when the land masses separated tens of millions of years ago.
The find, the scientists say, might foreshadow other discoveries in Northeast India and might help show the area played a more important evolutionary role than previously thought.
The creatures are part of an order of limbless, soil-dwelling amphibians called caecilians – not to be confused with snakes, which are reptiles. Caecilians were previously known to consist of nine families in Asia, Africa and South America.
But different bone structures in the head distinguish this apparent 10th family, and DNA testing links the creatures not to other caecilians in India, but to caecilians that are exclusively from Africa, the scientists report this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London.
The new family has been dubbed Chikilidae by the scientists from India, Belgium and the United Kingdom, including lead author Rachunliu Kamei, who was pursuing her doctorate at University of

New lizard species found in Junagadh named after Gujarat A new species of gecko, first found on a wall at Junagadh’s Vagheshwari Mata Temple, in the Girnar Hills, has earned Gujarat the distinction of having a lizard named after it.
But those who discovered the gecko say the state may host more new species while simultaneously warning human activity, especially tourism, could increase pressure on habitats.
The Hemidactylus Gujaratensis — which typically measures a little shorter than five-inches in length —was found in October 2007 by Raju Vyas and Sunny Patil, who are both members of one of India’s most prestigious nature organisations, the Bombay Natural History Society.
Vyas currently lives in Vadodara and works as a herpetologist with the Sayaji Baug Zoo. Patil is from Mumbai. Hemidactylus Gujaratensis, according

Potamites Montanicola, New Lizard Species, Discovered In Andes Researchers have discovered a new species of lizard in a strange place. The brightly colored, water-loving lizards live in the Andes Mountains in southern Peru -- an odd place to find them, scientists say, because of the chilly conditions.
The semi-aquatic reptiles, dubbed Potamites montanicola, grow to about 2.5 inches (6.4 centimeters) in length from nose to hindquarters. Because lizards are not warm-blooded, scientists are wondering how they survive the alpine settings.
The newfound lizards proved elusive quarry. In August 2010, researchers found a single specimen near a wooded mountain stream. From the moment he saw it, lead researcher Germán Chávez said, he knew the little lizard must be a new species, because it looked so different from other lizards in

First Asian houbara chick of season born The International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC) has announced the hatching of its first captive-bred Asian houbara chick of the season, at the National Avian Research Centre in Sweihan.
This chick is one of thousands to be produced in the UAE this year as part of President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s strategy to protect and conserve§ion=theuae&col=

Extremely rare beaked whales filmed for the first time ever in Australian waters Australian researchers on Thursday revealed they had filmed a pod of extremely rare Shepherd's beaked whales for the first time ever.The Australian Antarctic Division team was tracking blue whales off the coast of Victoria state in January when they spotted the reclusive mammals, which are so rarely seen that no population estimates of the species exist.
Voyage leader Michael Double said the black and cream-coloured mammals with prominent dolphin-like beaks had been spotted in the wild only a handful of times through history.
According to the Australian environment department, there have only been two previous confirmed sightings - a lone individual in New Zealand and a group of three in Western Australia.
They have never been filmed live before.
“These animals are practically entirely known from stranded dead whales, and there haven't been many of them,” said Double calling the footage “unique”.
“They are an offshore animal, occupying deep water, and when they surface it is only for a very short period of time.”
Double said what was remarkable about the sighting was that the whale was previously thought to be a solitary creature, yet was in a pod of 10 to 12.
“To find them in a pod is very exciting and will change the guide books. Our two whale experts will now carefully study the footage to work out the whale

Surat zoo will soon be home to African white buffalo, rhino
If all goes well, animal lovers in the diamond city would be able to see zebra, giraffe, African white buffalo, cheetah and African rhino at Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC)-run Sarthana zoo. The zoo authorities have initiated efforts to bring best of the wild species here from the zoos in the African and other foreign countries.
After Mysore and Junagadh, Surat will be the third zoo in the country to get rare and majestic animals.
"Sarthana zoo is relentlessly trying to get these majestic animals for the animal lovers in Surat in particular and Gujarat in general," said Dr Prafful Mehta, in-charge zoo superintendent.
Mehta said zoo authorities have applied for import licence with director general of foreign trade (DGFT) to airlift the wild species from foreign countries.
Once the clearance comes from DGFT, the matter would be referred to deputy director of wild life in the DGFT to check various issues related to animals' import and quarantine measures taken by the concerned in importing the wild and endangered species from the foreign countries.
"After getting import licence from DGFT, we can directly get in tough with the reputed zoos in the foreign countries to get the wild species under the international exchange programme or on direct purchase," added Mehta.
Meanwhile, the zoo authorities are planning to approach various departments of Central Government for getting clearance for the wild animals. The departments are ministry of environment, ministry of agriculture and ministry of commerce.
Zoo authorities disclosed that they have started correspondence with some of the reputed international agencies based in Bangkok and The Netherlands, who have got international licence for the transfer of the rare and endangered species.
"Veterinary certificate and health protocol have to be

Arrests made in US rhino horn smuggling ring
 The US has made seven arrests in a multi-state rhino horn-smuggling ring, seizing $1m (£637,000) in gold ingots.
The arrests come after an 18-month-long investigation, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) told the BBC.
Rhinos are an endangered species, but their horns are smuggled for buyers who believe they cure cancer.
Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe told the Los Angeles Times the arrests had "dealt a serious blow to rhino horn smuggling both in the US and globally".
Rhino Rolexes
Agents working on Operation Crash (named after the collective noun for the rhinoceros) arrested individuals in four states: California, Texas, New York and New Jersey.
Edward Grace, deputy chief of law enforcement for the FWS, said the seven individuals were charged with multiple counts, including trafficking endangered species and conspiracy.
"The rhino is an animal of prehistoric origin that is facing possible extinction because of an illegal trade for its horns on the black market that is driven by greed," Ignacia Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division told the Associated Press news agency.
Authorities seized $1 million in cash, diamonds and Rolex watches bought with funds from the sale of smuggled horns, along with 20 rhino horns.
The investigation was undercover until alleged trafficker Wade Steffen and his family were stopped in a California airport with $337,000 in their luggage.
Officials said they had intercepted at least 18 shipments of rhino horns from the Steffen family and an exotic animals auction house owner.
Three of the alleged traffickers, Jimmy Kha, 49, his girlfriend Mai Nguyen, 41, and his son Felix Kha, 26, were detained in southern California.
It is thought that Mr Steffen had been sending supplies to the Khas from 2010.
Three others - Amir Even-Ezra, antiques expert David Hausman and Jin Zhao Feng, a Chinese national - have also been taken into custody.
Only about 30,000 rhinos remain in the world, with only hundreds of certain sub-species.
When smuggled, the horns

Penguins Decimated by Greedy Blubber Merchant Bounce Back Impressively Three squawks for conservation! After New Zealand businessman Joseph Hatch boiled down 3 million Macquarie Island king penguins for their blubber, public outrage helped make the island a wildlife sanctuary in 1933. The king penguins then flourished undisturbed, growing from the decimated population of 3,400 to half a million today. Those raw numbers look good, but to gauge the population’s viability, scientists needed to find out a little more. A new study has found that the population has also recovered to pre-slaughter levels of genetic diversity, just 80 years after their near-extinction.
Population bottlenecks like the one caused by Hatch’s steam digester mean not only fewer individuals but also less diversity in the gene pool. This makes it difficult for the population to adapt to any stresses—a disease, for example, that can wipe out the remaining population if everyone

Turtle hunt a toxic issue
Testing done on snapping turtle road kill in Ontario found most of the creatures to be a toxic soup of PCPs and mercury, Ontario Nature Staff Ecologist John Urquhart says.
Opponents of the Ontario Snapping Turtle hunt say the population cannot withstand the combined pressures of pollution, cars, disappearing habitat and hunting given their low rate of reproduction.
An 11,000-signature petition calling for an end to the snapping turtle hunt will be presented to the Ontario legislature this week.
"The amount of snapping turtles dying on roads in Ontario is more than enough to cause a decline in just about every population near a road," Urquhart said. "In addition to that, 70% of the wetlands in southern Ontario are gone."
A new report by the David Suzuki Foundation, Ontario Nature and the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre, says snapping turtles have been around for 40 million years but are now being pushed to the brink.
" The Road to Extinction: A Call to End the Snapping Turtle Hunt highlights a controversial provincial policy that allows snappers to be hunted, despite being listed as a species at risk and identifies eight hotspots where thousands of turtles are being run over and killed

'Rhino horn gang' strikes in Germany
A gang of four has carried out an "unbelievably audacious" theft of rhino horns worth 50,000 euros ($69,923.76 CAD), German police said Tuesday, the latest in what appears to be a spate of similar robberies.
As two of the suspected thieves distracted staff at a museum in Offenburg, south-western Germany, the other two clambered on a display case, removed a rhino head from a wall and smashed off the horns with hammers, police said.
"Then everything happened in the blink of an eye," police said in a statement.
"The two men stuffed the horns into a bag and left the museum. At the same time, the other two lost interest in their chat with staff members and followed their accomplices," the statement added.
The rhino head was left behind during the suspected robbery, which happened on Saturday afternoon, according to authorities.
Rhinoceros horn is especially prized in Asia where many consider it to have aphrodisiac and disease-fighting properties.
The perpetrators "acted with unbelievable

Shaikha Latifa donates rare big cats to Dubai Zoo
Shaikha Latifa bint Rashid bin Khalifa bin Saeed Al Maktoum has donated lions and tigers to Dubai Zoo at the fourth Dubai Family Forum, which is being organised by Princess Haya bint Al Hussein Islamic Cultural Centre, an affiliate of the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department in the emirate.
The forum is being held under the auspices of Princess Haya, wife of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-president and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
Mona Belhasa, assistant to the Director-General of the Department of Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities for Institutional Support Affairs and chairperson of the higher organising committee of the event, expressed gratitude and appreciation for the gesture, which helped the zoo achieve its edutainment purposes by increasing the number of animals.
“Spreading over an area of 10,000 square metres, the zoo is home to several rare animals,” she said, adding that it is situated in a vast area designed to resemble nature and provide each animal its suitable habitat.
‘‘The zoo will break the record in terms of visitor turnout by the end of the forum in April,” Belhasa said. The Dubai Family Forum hosts a wide array of events and entertaining activities such as cultural and awareness programmes, poetry sessions, educational courses, Islamic and public lectures and contests that mainly target children to enhance social and traditional principles§ion=theuae&col=

Call of threatened frog species saved as a mobile phone ringtone
Keepers at Chester Zoo are hoping that a mobile phone ringtone will help raise awareness of a highly threatened species of frog and save it from extinction.
They have recorded the mating calls of the green eyed frog - one of the world’s most endangered species - and made it available to download from the zoo’s website.
The species is so rare that the zoo in Cheshire is maintaining the world’s only population of green eyed frogs, outside of its native Costa Rica.
Twenty-three of the frogs are being kept in a purpose-built amphibian laboratory, which keepers call an ‘APod’ (Amphibian Pod) and is where they carry out important research and conservation breeding.
In the wild, the zoo also works with the Monteverde Conservation League in Costa Rica to monitor the rare species, also known as the Rancho

Irwin family plays at dolphin habitat
A Las Vegas visit by the family of late Australian TV crocodile hunter Steve Irwin raised questions Thursday about whether they were following through on his plans to open a zoo here.
Irwin's widow, Terri, and their children, Bindi and Robert, were guests of The Mirage on Thursday during the family's tour of Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat.
Before he was killed while filming a stingray in September 2006, Steve Irwin had plans to open a Las Vegas offshoot of the Australia Zoo founded by his parents near Brisbane, according to published reports.
Terri Irwin told an Australian newspaper three years ago that hundreds of Australians would be among 900 people employed at the wildlife showcase in Las Vegas.
Asked whether the family was in town for talks about the zoo, a

5 teenagers referred to prosecutors for burning monkey at zoo with fireworks
Five 18-year-olds had their cases referred to prosecutors on Feb. 23 after a large amount of lit fireworks were thrown in a monkey exhibit at a zoo, burning one of the animals.
According to investigators, in the morning hours of Jan. 3, the teenagers threw lit fireworks into a pen with 26 monkeys, burning the nose of one. Surveillance footage shows what appear to be the teenagers shining flashlights on the monkeys and throwing in fireworks one after the other. After the video was released and caused a stir, the teenagers turned themselves in to police. According to the Fukuchiyama Police Station, they have admitted to the allegations, saying they did it for fun.
On Feb. 15, the teenagers went to the zoo to apologize and were told by the head of the zoo, Toshikuni Nihonmatsu, that he wanted them to apologize to the animals. Reportedly, the teenagers

Trying to get zoo animals to breed is both art, science
With her gray, hairy whiskers, deep wrinkles and jagged claws, Meatball, a southern three-banded armadillo, isn’t the sexiest animal at the Lincoln Park Zoo.
Solitary by nature, this type of armadillo gives birth to only one offspring at a time. Candles and champagne won’t work for these loners. Their human caretakers need to study their habits to learn what puts them in the mood, analyzing hormones to try to figure out when females are most receptive to mating and whom they might be interested in.
“Compatibility is a real issue,” said Dave Bernier, general curator at the Lincoln Park Zoo. “You have to worry about aggression. Stress levels need to be low.”
Birds do it, bees do it, even armadillos do it. And for more than a decade, about 90,000 animals living in North American zoos and aquariums like Meatball have mated — or not — under the watchful eye of zookeepers in a program based at the Lincoln Park Zoo.
Started in 2000, the Population Management Center brings together the country’s zoos and aquariums to help endangered species survive, avoid inbreeding of genetically linked animals and keep zoos full but not overcrowded.
Now, the PMC is moving into its next phase, a more advanced animal and one that officials at the Lincoln Park Zoo hope will lead to an even deeper understanding of the most basic of animal instincts. A new online database is helping researchers gauge what happens when they transfer animals to other zoos to mate. How does the animal adjust to its new surroundings? How does the introduction go for the new mate? Do they mate and successfully produce healthy offspring? The new PMCTrack aims to find out, analyzing thousands of data points about America’s zoo animals.
For many of these animals, this isn’t about sex. It’s about species survival, the motivation driving different institutions to work together for a common goal.
“This is more than about baby animals,” said Sarah Long, PMC’s director. “We want to save species. It’s not often you see separate economic entities working together. It’s still amazing to me it all works.”
For other species, not breeding is as important as getting their groove on. “We don’t have space for everyone to breed willy-nilly,” Long said. “Everything is planned.”
Each animal species has a team of matchmakers, zoo staff from around the country who volunteer their time to weigh in on matches. In person or online, the teams weigh everything from the animals’ personalities to their genetic makeup before recommending if animals be moved from one zoo to another for a possible match.
Some animals, like Meatball, are classified as “holds” — basically a sentence to celibacy for a variety of reasons. In Meatball’s case, she was hand-raised and is small in size. Bernier is concerned she would have trouble giving birth.
Like human matchmaking, animal matchmaking

Vulture egg ‘breaks’ all hopes
Dashing long-awaited hopes of breeding, the egg laid by a white-backed vulture a fortnight ago at the Nehru Zoological Park fell from the nest and smashed to the ground. The male vulture, in a bid to readjust the nest pulled out a few twigs which led to the egg falling down, zoo officials said. This was captured by the CCTV cameras installed at the breeding centre.
The egg was crucial for the centre that became operational about a year-andhalf ago, four years after it was announced, to initiate captive breeding of the endangered birds. The scavenging birds have been almost wiped out

UK shamed as appetite for cheap timber sees it top sales of illegal wood
The £700 million trade is 'one of the best kept secrets', say campaigners, with consumers largely unaware they are buying illegally felled timber
The UK has only one year left to get ready for new EU rules designed to stop the import and sale of illegally logged wood, timber and paper - but is it ready?
From March 2013, companies importing timber into the EU will be required to keep evidence documenting where the wood has come from. In practice this means companies will have to do as much as they can to ensure their timber is legal. If they can't prove this 'due diligence' they will be liable for prosecution, which could lead to a fine and ban on trading.
However, with the onus on individual countries to enforce the rules and loopholes already exposed, campaigners fear sales of illegal wood will continue.
With an estimated £700 million worth of illegally logged timber bought by consumers every year, WWF estimates the UK is the biggest market in terms of value in Europe. This is largely because it buys so much both directly and indirectly from countries with illegal felling problems, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
As well as the conservation value of forests, illegally logged timber deprives local communities of their livelihood, government tax revenues and has been linked to conflict. Illegal wood also depresses the market price by between 7-16 per cent, according to estimates, making it more difficult for legitimate traders who are sustainably managing wood a

Two-headed tortoise goes on show in Ukraine
A two-headed Central Asian tortoise has gone on show at the natural science museum in Kiev where visitors will be able to observe the different eating habits of each head over the next two months.
"Strictly speaking it isn't a tortoise with two heads, but rather two conjoined tortoises," Yuri Yuravliov, a zoologist, told AFP.
"The female has two heads, two hearts, four front legs, but only two hind ones, and one intestine," he explained.
The five-year-old tortoise has a heart-shaped shell, about a dozen centimetres in width, according to an AFP journalist.
The two heads are quite different, even in their feeding habits.
The left one is more dominant and active, "prefers green food, while the other prefers more brightly-coloured food -- carrots and dandelion flowers," said Yuravliov.
The tortoise, a species that can live 50 to 60 years, was kept from birth by a Ukrainian in his home, he said.
"Animals with this type of pathology

A parrot in captivity is one of the more visible symbols of illegal trade in India, where all native wildlife is fully protected. To help enforcement officers identify native parrot species, and thereby clip the wings of the illegal bird trade, TRAFFIC India with support from WWF-India has produced a identification poster entitled “Parrots of India in Illegal Trade”.

Identification of parrots and other species in trade is a major challenge, but the new poster will help enforcement officers identify the 12 native Indian parrot species. The posters will be distributed to Police, Customs, Forest Departments, Railway Protection Forces, educational institutions such as schools and colleges.   

Despite the blanket ban since 1990-91 on trade in all India birdspecies, hundreds of parrots are collected and traded annually in India.

They are taken from the wild and smuggled to various parts of the country and beyond. The bulk of the trade is in three to four week old chicks.

Parrots are caught using nets and bird-lime. Adult parrots are traded throughout the year, with chicks arriving in trade between December and June. For every bird that reaches the market place, several are believed to die en route.

Of the 12 native species, eight are regularly found being illegally trade. They include Alexandrine, Rose-ringed,Plum-headed, Red-breasted, Malabar, Himalayan and Finsch’s Parakeets and Vernal Hanging-parrot.

For centuries, parrots have been kept as pets mainly because they are straightforward to keep and easy to replace because of the large numbers in trade. This has in turn created demand that has led to an organized illegal trade in parrots.   

Abrar Ahmed, ornithologist and a bird trade consultant to TRAFFIC India said, “The Alexandrine Parakeet is one of the most sought after species in the Indian live bird trade and is traded in large volumes throughout the year.

“The chicks are collected from forested areas and transported to bird markets in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Patna, Lucknow and Kolkata.

“Many specimens are smuggled by Indian dealers via Pakistan, Nepal andBangladesh to bird markets in various parts of the world”.

“Alarmingly, three species of Indian parrots —Nicobar, Long-tailed & Derby’s Parakeets— are considered by IUCN as Near Threatened with extinction, with illegal trade posing a significant threat.”

MKS Pasha, Co-ordinator of TRAFFIC India said: “Few know that our favourite and well-known ‘mithu’ is a protected species in India.Their chicks are captured remorselessly from the wild, and many to not make it to the final destination.”

“The parrot trade is substantial and well organized, but it can be counteracted through concerted enforcement actions at the grassroot level and mass awareness campaigns.

“TRAFFIC India’s new poster is a step in this direction. We hope it will also inspire children and young people too, because they are the ones who will influence future change and can play a significant role in curtailing the demand for our native wildlife.”

Enrich your career with these great professional training opportunities from AZA this spring!

Advances in Animal Keeping | This one's a keeper!
April 28 - May 3, hosted by Toledo Zoo
Advances in Animal Keeping covers the essentials of animal keeping across all taxa. The course focuses on the very highest standards in animal husbandry, in combination with problem solving, team building, and interpersonal skills. To learn more or register, visit:

Don't miss out on the member discount!
Advances in Animal Keeping is a cooperative effort between the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK), so members of either organization qualify for the discounted member rate.

Amphibian Biology, Conservation, and Management | Toadly unfrogettable!
April 28 - May 4, hosted by Toledo Zoo
Amphibian Biology, Conservation and Management builds capacity in amphibian husbandry, amphibian welfare, amphibian medicine, and in-situ and ex-situ amphibian conservation. Students acquire significant knowledge and skills in basic amphibian biology, captive care requisites, medical issues, breeding protocols, management of ex situ populations, in situ conservation strategies, and more. To learn more or register, visit:

Amy Rutherford
Professional Development Program Manager
Association of Zoos & Aquariums
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David Hancocks has graciously shared the transcript of his recent talk that may be relevant for people working on zoo issues in Asia. Zoo News Digest reaches more zoos around the world than any other publication so I am taking the liberty of spreading it even further. All may not agree with everything David has to say but there is a lot of food for thought. - Peter


David Hancocks

Because I have less time than I anticipated to present this paper I have added a photograph. It is worth at least a thousand words, and thus saved me about ten minutes explanation of a basic problem with so many zoos, which say one thing but do the opposite.

In 2112 people will be looking back on a century of biodiversity losses of heartbreaking proportions, and I wonder what they will think of our zoos who so spent so much energy preserving their status quo while doing so little to conserve wilderness habitats or even wild species.

Compared to 100 years ago, zoos today offer excellent medical care and diets, but these simply reflect improvements in human society. And though zoo animals no longer live in barred cages, they often exist in conditions little better than the old menageries. Too many modern zoo spaces are much too small, and while the spaces may look green the animals have no contact with living vegetation, and shuffle along dusty corridors confined by electric wires.

The main difference from a century ago differences is a new look, which is essentially superficial,and is typically a peculiar distortion of the natural world, since zoos have developed a design vernacular that I think is best described as Tarzanesque. Modern zoos often resemble a Hollywood version of Africa on a B-movie set.

The program for this symposium on The Future of Zoos declares that, “One hundred years ago, our zoo sconsisted of menageries that displayed exotic species in row upon row of barren cages. Today. Zoos are dominated by multi-species zoo displays that strive to replicate entire ecosystems. “ This is a fine ambition, but zoos must make considerable changes not just to reach this worthy goal but simply to begin the journey.

The first step requires acceptance of present shortcomings, awareness of self-delusion and false claims, an earnest degree of self-criticism, and openness to the concerns of others.

The AZA states that,“The survival of the world’s endangered species pivots on the conservation and education efforts of modern zoos. ” They produce statistics claiming that 97% ofAmericans approve their conservation efforts – a statistic Robert Mugabe would envy. They say that 93% support the conditions marine mammals endure in captivity, which, if true should be a mark of shame not pride.

The AZA asserts that simply visiting zoos directly benefits wildlife conservation, and that seeing an elephant up close inspires visitors to become life-long conservationists who make personal lifestyle changes and donate finds to conservation programs.

With more than 70 million zoo visits each year, why don’t we see evidence of these exuberant converts in general society?

Non-zoo funded research shows that any promises by visitors to change behaviors after receiving zoo messages are of brief duration. But the AZA refuses to accept these findings, and keeps promoting zoos as wonderful institutions performing miracles.

In this way the AZA is the biggest threat to zoo progress, even to zoos’ survival. In fighting so bitterly to protect the tradition of keeping mega-fauna, they are leading zoos into a dead end. In a rapidly changing world, zoos are in danger of declining into irrelevance while boasting about great achievements.

Most zoo animals are in spaces so inadequate they require toys to distract them from stereotypic behaviors. Public spaces are dreary, visually chaotic and unpleasant. Visitors are offered hot dogs, but rarely vegetarian or ethically sourced foods. Zoo gift stores are usually filled with junk. It is rare to find zoos demonstrating consideration for fair trade, sustainability, environmental pollution, the evils of factory farming, carbon footprints or other basic conservation ethics.

Double-speak,exaggeration and distortion, however, are commonplace. The force and volume of spin-doctoring by the AZA causes not only the public and the media to believe their propaganda but also the people who work and volunteer in zoos. This in turn prevents recognition of zoo inadequacies and the need for serious dialog about overcoming them.

It would be of enormous benefit if the AZA would host symposiums such as this one, openly examining the ethics, the values, and the options for zoos, involving people within and without the zoo world, and do so at least every two years. There is much that is waiting to be done.

There is urgent need for zoos to pay closer attention to the interconnectedness within natural systems and the interdependence between all living things.

There is equally vital need to improve the welfare standards of all beings in their care. Greater commitment to excellence in design is imperative.

There is, too, great need for zoos to broaden their skills by adding scientists in senior positions, particularly ecologists and geologists with their characteristically wide and deep views on nature. Ideally these scientists would emulate the works and ethos of people such as George Schaller and Alan Rabinowitz, two rare exemplars in the zoo world.

Zoos must also better help their communities to appreciate, engage with, support and protect the remnants of the natural world in their regional backyards.

To achieve all this, zoos will have to be more vigilant, self critical, and creative, and employ more diverse skills from the sciences and from the arts to interpret nature.

Among the spectrum of our contextually isolated natural history institutions, each devoted to artificially separated divisions of the natural world, zoos are unique in having responsibility for care of living animals. In that regard we need to remind ourselves of Heini Hediger’s words: “The standard by which a zoo animalis judged should be the life that it leads in the wild.

Zoos describe their animals as ambassadors, but fail to treat them with the dignity and respect that is the inherent right of such status. To correct so many zoo shortcomings,I believe Welfare should be designated as the central pillar of justification for zoos.

If it was, zoos would come to recognize their inability to meet the needs of charismatic mega-fauna in urban zoos. They would place closer attention on the emotional well-being of zoo animals and support what Cynthia Moss describes as the “elephantine joy” she witnesses among wild elephants. Zoos hate such anthropomorphism. Frans de Waal, however, worries that if we do not endow animals with human emotions “we risk missing something fundamental about animals and about us.” Charles Darwin,too, wrote extensively about emotion in animals, and dismissed the notion of human uniqueness.

If we have evolved an innate affinity for the natural world, we should assume that elephants and other intelligent sentient beings also have such psychological, biological and cultural tendencies.

Such considerations would mean no more locking animals indoors, especially for the long winter months, denying them the pleasures of sunshine on their faces, the breeze on their fur, the scents and feel of new growth of living plants; no more spaces too small for running, chasing, leaping, swimming; no more concrete floors that may look natural but prevent digging or wallowing; no more concrete trees or plastic lianas; no harshly lit and acoustically devastating night cages.

Zoos that cannot conform to these strictures have not only the wrong attitudes but also the wrong animals in their collection, inhabitants from bioclimatic zones too distant from the zoo’s own biome.

Zoos with welfare at their heart would raise new standards of awareness of animals’ needs; would recognize the impossibility of satisfying the needs of many traditional zoo species; would give new attention to all the small species that do well in captivity, many of which used to be common in zoos but through negligence have disappeared. Zoos would then realize that smaller species can better promote biodiversity awareness and allow more illustrative stories; they would discover they can create and maintain more convincingly naturalistic exhibits; and with very small life forms promote more direct examples of interdependence and interconnectedness, and thereby more effective ecology based stories. Such zoos would also sustain a more caring community.

From this basis zoos truly could begin to become ecology centers, and begin to talk about ecological complexity and ecosystems.

Building exhibits for this purpose will be challenging. Effective communication is always dependent upon effective design, and zoo design is already extraordinarily difficult. For a start there are three clients – animals, visitors, and staff –with conflicting requirements. But the greatest challenge to effective zoo design is that designers, who are hired to solve problems, are very rarely given a well defined problem to resolve. Zoos accept other zoos as the paradigm, using them as exemplars, measuring themselves only against what is done elsewhere.

It is time to ignore what other zoos do. Nature is the Norm.

The concept of landscape immersion in zoo design was based upon creating landscapes that looked and felt as natural as possible, for both zoo animals and zoo visitors. Landscape immersion is spoken of today as if it was the standard, but is in fact hardly ever attempted. Most exhibit spaces– or what most zoos unabashedly call “zoo habitats” -- offer nothing of real value to the animals, and the environment for visitors resembles only a suburban park.

Visitors seeing animals in unnatural environments develop poor attitudes towards them. This is why precise representation of nature is imperative; it is the only context in which to fully appreciate them. It is why the crass artificiality that pervades so many exhibits, demonstrating dominion over animals, is a disservice to wildlife conservation.

I want to suggest some specific actions:

· Hire local landscape architecture firms who have ecology based design experience. Do not allow them to visit other zoos. Allow them to question your goals and your motives. Along the trajectory of their learning curve they will cause you to reconsider assumptions. They will more seek new design solutions. They will not resort to the current cookie cutter approach.

· Include a geologist and an ecologist on the design team.

· Seek every opportunity to demonstrate sustainability, biophilia and welfare as values to share with visitors.

· Appoint an animal representative to every design team – ideally from outside the zoo –and give them responsibility to ask hard questions. “What can I do for mental stimulation in this space? Why are you giving me a concrete bedroom with no windows and fluorescent lights?”

· Maintain a nursery yard for trees and big plants and for tree limbs and big root stumps that are soaked or buried to hasten decay and insect infestation, to recycle through exhibit spaces. If animals are killing trees in exhibits, remember Terry Maples admonition to his staff, “Plant more trees.”

· Accumulate a visual library of natural artifacts and conditions to serve as archetypes for zoo exhibits. Throw away photos of other zoo designs.

· Do not place a statue of a tiger at the zoo entrance. Do not stick a big photo of a tiger at the ticket window. Do not mark “Tiger” on a space on the zoo map. Do not write “Tiger” on signposts. Do not name a certain path as “The Tiger Trail.” Do not place graphic panels about tigers on the path. Do not place a nameplate on a handrail saying “Tiger.” If you feel you have to do any of these things, do not then be surprised if your visitors express frustration at not seeing a tiger at that point.

· Do not delude yourself with talk about designing exhibits in which visitors “make discoveries” or take “journeys of exploration.” Instead, build huge landscapes that simulate a biome, mark the area on the map and at the biome entrance with nothing but a name. Then let visitors use their senses to explore this landscape and try to see they can find, animate or not.

· Within this biome, restrict all interpretive material to spaces distinctly separate from the landscape immersion experience.

· Use theASDM docent training program as the model for all zoo docents. It is tough, and challenging, very wide ranging, and remarkably effective.

· Question every design and planning decision for its effectiveness in demonstrating the need to explain and to glorify biodiversity. Its loss is the greatest imminent threat the world faces.

The prelude to “The Biophilia Hypothesis” uses compelling language to describe broken elephants in logging camps, referring to them as “but a shadow of their unbowed counterpart in the wild.” Too often this applies to elephants and other big animals in small spaces in zoos.

The prelude also uses E. O. Wilson’s comments on seeing a captive peccary in a Surinam village,“its repertory stunted by the impoverished constraints of human care … a mute trapped inside an un-natural clearing.”

I will leave it to each of you to consider to what extent any parallels can be drawn between these observations about broken elephants and peccaries and the situations that persist in so many zoos, circuses, aquariums and dolphinariums.

Similarly, the following quotation will have different meanings in different minds, but for me it seemed especially pertinent for our ambitions about future zoos. It is from a New Yorker article about, of all things, ballet, and says, “There is a point in art where aesthetics meets morals – where beauty, by appearing natural, gives us hope.”

David Hancocks
February 2012

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