Friday, October 25, 2013

Zoo News Digest 20th - 25th October 2013 (ZooNews 879)

Zoo News Digest 20th - 25th October 2013 (ZooNews 879)

Giant Armadillo

Dear Colleagues,

The Toronto Zoo elephants had a safe passage and appear to be settling in well at their new home. No doubt however they will be missing their keepers. I feel for the elephants and I feel for the keepers. This is no easy time for any of them. It is especially not easy when we read of these nasty, digging remarks from the ARA's. There is a special place in hell for people like that. It is always their way to put the boot in when their 'foe' is down. It is pure blinkered ignorance.
I still maintain the move was the wrong one to make. No doubt there are going to be others. The most disturbing thing I heard this week was ""I found out on Saturday that the committee the zoo reports to has included zoocheck, animal alliance, Ontario humane society and the born free organization to help “run” the zoo! This was passed by city council and is now in law!" 
How on earth can this have happened? This is insane! I actually believe that there is a place within zoos for such organisations, possibly in rotation, on the Ethics Committee. Here though matters can be discussed in a common sense way with all the facts to hand. This to me sounds like the foxes have been let into the hen house. These foxes won't just make their kill but will 'put the boot in' as well.
I'll be honest I started to worry more about Toronto Zoo when they imported white lions back in early 2012.  At the time I asked myself, Why? I still don't know, but feel there was a clue there that there was someone somewhere in management making bad decisions. I have never visited Toronto zoo but know it to be a good zoo and the video 'Why' which you will see further down the blog shows just why. Meanwhile I wish them the best of luck with pest control because those foxes just have to be culled out if the place is to survive.

All in all it has been a really interesting week. Time bandits hard at work though. There never seems time in a day for me to do all that I want to.

More than a bit worried about the rain back home. I've seen it heavy but never like some of the photos on my Thai friends facebook.

My mail box is just not working out. Mail is going astray. Even lost my last but one passport for a while. So for now please send all paper mail, books for review etc to :

Peter Dickinson
10 Cheshire View
Appleyards Lane

My mail will be forwarded to me to wherever I am from there. My contact phone number remains the same:

00971 (0)50 4787 122


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L.A. Zoo attempts to close Komodo dragon gender gap
The L.A. Zoo has found a way to identify the lizard's gender before eggs are hatched, allowing managers to produce more females and strengthen the population.
The Los Angeles Zoo is trying to raise the population of female Komodo dragons, a giant and endangered lizard, by using a DNA test originally devised to identify the gender of bird eggs.

Swelling the female ranks would help close a gender gap in captive dragons in North America, which is home to 71 males, 46 females and six of the giant lizards whose sex remains unknown. It would also move the species closer to a self-sustaining and genetically diverse population, which scientists believe they would reach with 75 males and 75 females.

"Until now, we couldn't control the gender of the dragons we hatched out — creating a lopsided male-heavy population," said Ian Recchio, curator of reptiles and amphibians at the L.A. Zoo. "In captivity, it's not uncommon for males to kill females, and females are prone to often fatal complications in pregnancy."

Another reason for wanting to manage the number and sex of Komodo dragons hatched each year: They are expensive to keep and grow big enough to eat a human being.

"Komodos are like keeping tigers," he said, admiring one of the two adults on exhibit at the zoo, a 10-foot male with a powerful tail, slashing stiletto claws and toxic saliva.

The procedure, first attempted at the L.A. Zoo, involves insertion of a fine needle into the leathery shell of a baseball-sized dragon egg halfway through its 260-day incubation period, and extracting a small sample of blood without killing the embryo. The sample is submitted to a laboratory for DNA testing to dete

Bees suspected in zoo bird deaths
Months after the fact, people are still concerned about, and talking about, the deaths in July of two ravens and a turkey vulture at the Alameda Park Zoo.

"I was shocked and saddened. I was fond of Edgar," zoo director Steve Diehl said Tuesday during an interview in his office. Edgar, one of the ravens, was named after Edgar Allen Poe, author of "The Raven."

Diehl explained that during a severe windstorm, a branch carrying a bee colony dropped and landed on top of the raven exhibit in the Bird of Prey area. The bees stung and killed the three birds, and stung a great horned owl and a Harris hawk, which Diehl said he treated with Benadryl, and they recovered.

"We removed the birds in that area as a precaution, and now we've put them back," he said. "The park has been here for 100 years, and the bees have been here for 100 years. They pollinate our trees and flowers.

"I've been here 27 years," Diehl continued. "I've walked by those bees every day, and we've never had anything like this happen before. I've never had a bee sting. This was an isolated situation, a catastrophic event."

Rob Shepler, of Mayhill, a member of the board of directors of the New Mexico Beekeepers Association, was in Diehl's office. Shepler said he had just heard about the incident Friday while attending the Western Apicultural Society meeting in Santa Fe.

It was reported there by a USDA inspector, who requested anonymity. The USDA has to be informed of deaths of animals and int

Carnivore keepers at Edinburgh Zoo today announced the birth of the Zoo’s first ever African hunting dog. The announcement coincides with the reopening of the hunting dog walkway, which keepers had closed to visitors in August as they suspected Jet, the pack’s non-dominant female, was pregnant. With less than 5,500 hunting dogs left in the wild, the birth of this puppy is an immense achievement for Edinburgh Zoo. Habitat fragmentation is one of the biggest factors in the hunting dogs’ decline, as the packs need a large range in order to remain sustainable. Hunting dogs are also heavily persecuted by farmers, despite rarely attacking livestock. Education and conservation breeding programmes such as the one Edinburgh Zoo is part of remain crucial to saving this species from extinction.

Bhutan - About phalluses, a zoo no one visits, plenty stray dogs and a national dish that causes ulcers
A visit to Bhutan is something one must 'Must Do' in one's lifetime. Besides the scenic beauty and people, there are little things in Bhutan that make the place even more beautiful and also curious in a way. For instance:
There is one major zoo in Bhutan in Thimpu and it houses only one animal species - the national animal Takin (a goat-antelope). While the zoo, which is more of a natural reserve spreads into hundreds of acres, there are only a handful of Takin inside and very few visitors. A visit to the zoo is not always part of a tourist's itinerary.
*Quite a few tourist hotels in Bhutan are run by women only. Not only are the women 'bell-girls' who carry luggage to t

Elephant bullhooks? Not in L.A.
The City Council should take another step in protecting the animals and ban the tool in any kind of performance anywhere in the city, including circuses.
As human understanding of elephants has evolved, so has our treatment of them. Zoos decades ago freed these largest of land mammals from standing for hours in chains on arthritis-inducing concrete. Also gone from many zoos is the bullhook, an instrument that resembles a fireplace poker that is used to poke, prod or strike an elephant. Although the blunt end can be used as a lead for an elephant, the sharp end makes it a tool of coercion. The Los Angeles Zoo stopped using the bullhook in any manner in 2010. Similarly, the San Diego Zoo does not use it.

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Council will consider banning the bullhook — or any instrument that could be used like one — for use on elephants in any kind of performance anywhere in the city. That would mean that elephants in traveling shows, circuses and other events could not be managed with bullhooks. This is a smart and humane measure and should be adopted. The council will also consider an out-and-out prohibition on the use of elephants in traveling shows and exhibitions in the city.

Chances are the bullhook ban will amount to a de facto ban on circuses that want to bring elephants to Los Angeles, because handlers generally use bullhooks to train elephants to perform. This ordinance will certainly affect the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which features performing elephants and makes an annual weeklong appearance at Staples Center.

Stephen Payne, a spokesman for Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Bros., said the ordinance would have the effect of "kicking us out of Los Angeles."

Ringling allows trainers and elephants to be in close proximity — or "free contact" — and therefore the tool must be used for safety purposes, Payne said. He contends that the company's handlers use it professionally and humanely.

The Assn. of


Jellyfish rule the world
Jellyfish are taking over the world, scientists say. They are reproducing too much and not dying enough. They are clogging up power plants. They are messing with fishing hauls. They are making it unpleasant to swim at beaches. The nature of that unpleasantness ranges from mild discomfort to death.

Here are some of the things worth loving and fearing about jellyfish — the strange, beautiful creatures from the deep that may soon rule us all.

Houston Zoo hosts Chinese interns
With the rapid development of the zoo industry in China, there have come more and more exchanges between Chinese and the US zoo officials.

Liu Xiaoqing, director of animal management at the Guangzhou Zoo, and Tu Rongxiu, director of animal breeding and protection at the Shanghai Zoo, have been on a two-week working visit to the Houston Zoo that ends next Wednesday.

"The Houston Zoo made comprehensive arrangements for our visit," said Tu. "We were shown every animal exhibit in the zoo and got to see how each one works. We also met with officials from various departments to share experiences and exchange information and knowledge."

What's impressed Tu the most so far have been the zoo's programs in animal welfare and animal training. "The zoo is like an ecological park," she said, "with all of its exhibits set up as if the animals were living in their natural habitats.

"They've done a great job in animal training, such as animal decompression and treatment. The trainers demonstrate the processes to the public as well,' Tu said, adding that her zoo had carried out similar — though not as developed — training in 22 of its positions.

"We have much to learn from our hosts," Tu said.

Guangzhou Zoo's Liu said what the Houston Zoo has done will be what his zoo will aim for.

Houston "is doing an excellent job in animal enrichment, for instance giving tigers special scents to improve their sense of smell', Liu said. "In addition, the zoo gives the animals many more toys than Chinese zoos do."

Founded in 1922, the Houston Zoo — a 55-acre lush green park that houses more than 6,000 wild animals representing more than 800 species — was named one of the top 10 zoos in the US by Parents magazine in 2009.

David Brady, the Houston Zoo's chief marketing officer, said it is important for the zoo to exchange ideas with its Chinese counterparts, especially on topics such as animal enrichment, welfare and observation.

Brady said this was the first time they had ever hosted zoo officials from China. "I think it is great. Our staff met with them and worked with them,

Captive koalas in crisis as numbers plunge to 40
The number of koalas at zoos in Japan has fallen by more than half in the past 15 years, worrying zoo officials and fans of the critters that have attracted zoo visitors for nearly 30 years since their introduction to Japan.

The number of koalas raised at eight zoos in Japan has dwindled to 40 as of Oct. 22, down from 96 in 1997. The decrease is largely attributed to the aging captive population of the marsupials and their inbreeding. Experts have noted cooperation with Australia—the animal’s native country—will be essential for boosting their numbers.

It was on Oct. 25, 1984, that koalas first arrived in Japan—six male koalas from Australia. Tama Zoological Park in Hino, Tokyo, Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Nagoya and Hirakawa Zoological Park in Kagoshima each received two koalas to raise. In 1985, seven female koalas were brought to Japan.

One of them gave birth to the first koala cub born in Japan the following year at Higashiyama Zoo.

Since then, koala breeding was successful for more than a decade until a decrease in the number of koalas became apparent in 2000. The pregnancy rate dropped, while many cubs died at birth or while they were young.

Masami Kurobe, deputy director of Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens, who played a central role in projects to help protect the species at the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums, in Tokyo, said: “It is difficult to introduce new koalas since the Australian government has limited the export of the animals. It makes breeding difficult.”

Tama Zoological Park has only two koalas after a female koala aged 2 years and two months died in September. There has been a dramatic decrease in koala numbers at the zoo, which had 10 koalas in 2000.

According to the zoo, koalas reach breeding age when they are 4 to 8 years old. Koalas are said to be able to live as long as 15 years in captivity. The last two koalas that were brought to the zoo arrived in 1999.

Hirakawa Zoological Park in Kagoshima, which currently has eight koalas, was home to 27 koalas in 1997. The city’s mayor, Hiroyuki Mori, worked hard to secure the koalas, thro

Opinion column: Common sense
A story made national news back in November 2012 due to the shocking nature of the event. You may remember hearing about it. Headlines read something like, “2-year-old mauled to death by African wild dogs.”

Ringing any bells? If not, here’s a refresher. Mother and 2-year-old son visit the Pittsburgh Zoo in Pennsylvania. They get to the wild dog enclosure, where visitors stand up above the dogs, looking down into the large pen.

A wooden, 4-foot railing surrounds the viewing area above and around the enclosure, and it’s built so that the top angled back toward the visitors. In other words, if a child was to jump up onto the railing, he or she would slide back to a parent or guardian.

On this particular day, the mother picked up her young son and held him over the railing to get a better look at the carnivorous pack animals. She then promptly dropped him, where he was ripped apart and eventually died.

Violent, sure, and terrifying for all of those at the zoo that day. The prosecuting attorney in that county chose not to file charges against any party, calling the entire event a “tragic accident.”

The story should’ve ended there, but it didn’t. The family of the deceased 2-year-old decided it was the zoo’s fault the child d

Asia for Animals (AFA) Conference
 13th – 17th January 2014

'Blackfish' film ignores SeaWorld's benefits to conservation, research
Shortly after 1:30 p.m. on February 24, 2010, a SeaWorld Orlando trainer lost her life in a tragic accident involving one of the park's killer whales. The death of Dawn Brancheau was an occasion of almost unbearable sadness for those closest to Dawn -- her family, friends and colleagues at SeaWorld.
I was honored to know Dawn and count myself among those SeaWorld team members deeply affected by her loss.
Dawn's death has been the subject of thousands of articles, broadcast news stories, blogs, books, and now a feature film called "Blackfish." Many of these accounts trade in the details of Dawn's death in graphic detail. They do so not to inform but, rather, regrettably, because of the desire to sensationalize.
Filmmaker: Why I made 'Blackfish'
The three years since Dawn's death have seen the emergence of individuals who have chosen not to honor her memory, but rather to use the events of February 24, 2010, to advance their own interests. Some seek commercial gain. Others seek to forward a political or philosophical agenda. Still

National Conference on Iranian Cheetah in October 2013

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Giant Otters are an eye catcher near the entrance to the Yucatan Tropical Hall at Zlín Zoo. The species is endangered and managed in a breeding program (EEP). The otters have an indoor pool and a large outdoor pool that they can use during the summer season.



Thanks to Alejandro Fernández we are able to offer the Spanish translation of the Rio Negro exhibit at Zoo Duisburg in Germany:


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Beyond Reproach
Many members of the zoo community have followed the recent events at the Toronto Zoo with great concern.  The antics of the animal rights activists have been documented and described in great detail by the group known as Zoos Matter, and do not need to be rehashed here.  Every zoo professional will have their own reaction to the elephant issue as it played out in Toronto, from anger and disgust (the reaction I’ve seen the most of) to denial (“It could never happen here!”) to indifference (“doesn’t apply to me…”).

After thinking about it in some depth, I’ve settled upon my own course of action.  It takes the form of a new philosophy, summed up in two words: Beyond Reproach.

Now, I am in no way suggesting that the keepers of the Toronto Zoo were in any way responsible for the misfortune that has befallen them, that they themselves were not “beyond reproach.”  Instead, I am saying that this is a reminder that there are those forces outside of our institutions who do not wish us well.  There are people – some with a feeling of guilt, some without such moral qualms – who like reading bad news about zoos and aquariums.  When an animal dies (as all animals, zoo or wild, must), when an escape occurs, or when a keeper is injured or even killed, they take some satisfaction in it, seeing their feelings about zoos validated.  When positive news happens – the birth of an animal, the opening of a new exhibit that improves the quality of life for animals – they are quick to put a negative spin on it.  They are a small but vocal group, and nothing we do will make them happy.

Knowing that there are people waiting to lay traps for us is the first step towards avoiding them.  We need to be proactive and give anti-zoo activists as little ammunition as possible.  The way to do this is to carry out our duties in a manner that is beyond reproach.  This extends up and down the chain of command, from the director to the curators to the keepers, aquarists, educators, horticulturalists, and everyone else who is a part of the zoo’s mission.  Upper-level management, not surprisingly, has the potential to make the most dramatic, high-profile impact.  Build exhibits that aren’t going to be considered “good” for a few years; build habitats that will stand the test of time and be considered ideal for the foreseeable future.  Plan your collection wisely

Fifth International ZooKeeper Congress

All change at the zoo?
For more than a century now families have been visiting the Giza Zoo in Cairo, but the history of zoos in Egypt dates back to the ancient Egyptians and the reign of Queen Hatshepsut of the 18th Dynasty who sent a hunting crew to Somalia that came back with a number of monkeys, reptiles and giraffes and established a public garden for people to visit.
Fatma Tamam, today the manager of the country’s zoos, tells the story of the Giza Zoo. “In 1867, the Khedive Ismail decided to establish a zoo in Cairo, at first in Zamalek and then at what was then the Giza Palace, its current location, in Cairo. The resulting zoo was then opened to the public in 1891 by Ismail’s son the Khedive Tawfik.”
“Today, the zoo is famous for the Gabalaya Al-Alaa, a resthouse made of coral in which singer Abdel-Halim Hafez once sang, and the Geziret Al-Shay, or Tea Island, which has featured in many films. There is also the hanging bridge, built in 1901. The Zoo is 83 feddans in area, and it has some 166 species of animals, including some 70 species of mammals, 56 species of birds and 27 species of reptiles. The overall number of animals in the zoo is 5,295 — 2,913 birds, 1,616 reptiles and 736 mammals,” she said.
The zoo also contains species that are threatened in their native countries, such as Californian sea lions and rare trees like the Indian Bengali Fig and the American Mahogany. It became a member of the African Zoo Union in November 2008, and is now considered to be the largest zoo in the Middle East. 
Mohamed Fahim, a visitor to the zoo who had decided to spend the day with his wife and children there, expressed his dismay at some features of the facility, however. “I’m not happy because the water in the ponds is not clean, although there are fountains to avoid this, and there are some places in the zoo that are closed to visitors. You have to pay LE10 to see some parts of the zoo, which is too much as I’m here with my family, and if I use a camera I have to pay an additional LE30. There are also no cafés to sit in as a family,” he said.
Abeer Salah, who enjoys a trip to the zoo every once in a while, also had reservations. “There are hardly any signs to tell you where the animals are, so you barely know your way around. There should also be more attention paid to cleanliness, and some parts of the zoo have not been weeded,” she said. 
The main problem facing the zoo administration is Law 89 that only allows it to buy objects, not living animals, and prohibits it from buying or selling the ones that are there. In July 2012, animal rights groups also called for better living conditions for the animals in the zoo, though in November 2012 the Ministry of Agriculture, which has overall responsibility for the facility, decided to close the zoo to the public every Tuesday in order to help the workers to maintain it.
Amina Abaza, founding chair of the Society for the Protection of Animal Rights in Egypt (SPARE), said that many of the animals in the zoo were not well cared for. “The state of the animals in the zoo is catastrophic, and it has been like t

2nd International Animal Training Conference
5th - 8th October 2014

The Role of Giant Armadillos as Ecosystem Engineers: Giving free housing and shelters to others
A South American project into the little-known giant armadillo has unearthed the mysterious creature’s role as ecosystem engineers, giving housing and shelter to others.

Undertaken by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s regional coordinator for Latin American, Dr Arnaud Desbiez, the project is a partnership between Scottish charity RZSS, a Brazilian NGO (IPÊ - Institute for Ecological Research), and a private cattle ranch (Baía das Pedras).

The species is so enigmatic, that it was only two years ago that the first ever photograph of a giant armadillo was taken, followed by the successful shot of a giant armadillo young captured earlier this year for the very first time by an automated camera trap.

Now researchers in Brazil have been able to publish a scientific paper describing the role of giant armadillos as ecosystem engineers. Giant armadillos regularly dig deep burrows, which researchers have discovered provide new habitats and influence resources for many other animals. Using camera traps in the Brazilian Pantanal, the project has photographed over 24 different species using giant armadillo burrows as either a thermal refuge, shelter against predators, feeding ground or resting spot. The role of this poorly known species as an ecosystem engineer may be of high value to the community of vertebrates in the Pantanal and other regions in its extensive range.

Dr Arnaud Desbiez, Project Coordinator and the Latin Coordinator for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, said:
“It’s amazing to see that such a secretive species which occurs at such low densities can play such an important role within the ecological community.

“The role of this poorly known species as ecosystem engineer may be of high value to the community of vertebrates in the Pantanal and other regions in its extensive range. Giant armadillos are found throughout most of South America and in a diversity of biomes.

“Climate change is predicted to increase maximum air temperatures, our data loggers placed inside giant armadillo burrows demonstrate that temperatures within the burrow remain constant (24 degrees Celsius). Giant armadillo burrows offer an important refuge from extreme conditions and their role may become more important as impacts from climate change increases”

Since July 2010, the Pantanal Giant Armadillo Project has successfully established a long-term ecological study of giant armadillos at the Baía das Pedras Ranch in the Nhecolândia sub-region of the Brazilian Pantanal (visit The main goal of the project is to investigate the ecology and biology of the species and understand its function in the ecosystem using radio transmitters, camera traps, burrow surveys, resource monitoring, resource mapping and interviews.

Now the important role of giant armadillos as ecosystem engineers has recently been described by the project. Interactions amongst terrestrial vertebrates are important in ecological structuring. While trophic interactions are more commonly examined, non-trophic species interactions can also play an important role in shaping ecological communities. Such non trophic interactions include the role that many organisms play in creating, modifying and maintaining habitats, a process described as ecosystem engineering.  An ecosystem engineer is an organism whose presence or activity alters its physical surroundings or changes the flow of resources, thereby creating or modifying habitats and influencing all associated species. Ecosystem engineers directly or indirectly affect the availability of resources to other species by changing some components of the environment.

Giant armadillos are a fossorial species, which means they spend most of their time underground in burrows of their own construct. Burrows can be up to 5m deep and 35cm wide, and have a large sand mound in front of them. For over two years, in the central Brazilian Pantanal wetland, giant armadillo burrows were searched for and monitored using camera traps placed near their entrance. Camera traps are set off by any motion in front of them and can fire a sequence of pictures enabling researchers to describe behaviours. Over 2,000 sequences describing the behaviour of 24 different species of animals were obtained.

The sand mound in front of the burrow was used by white lipped peccaries, feral pigs and collared peccaries to wallow, rest and cool down. This usually occurred when the mound of sand was fresh and still humid. Giant anteaters were also photographed taking sand baths in the mound, while the lowland tapir and even pumas were photographed using the sand mound as a resting spot. Many species searched for their prey either in the sand mound (jay, lizard, tegu, small rodents, coatis, crab eating fox, curassow) or at the entrance of the burrow (seriema, small rodent, Tegu, raccoon, crab eating fox, ocelot, tayra).

Many species (16) used the burrow itself as a refuge against predators or temperatures (both high and low) or to seek resources. All the other species of armadillos present in the study area (Southern naked tail armadillo, nine banded armadillo and yellow armadillo) were registered spending prolonged periods in the giant armadillo burrows. However the xenarthra that was most often documented using giant armadillo burrows was the scansorial Southern tamandua, which was photographed remaining for prolonged amounts of time in the burrow, as well as being observed feeding in the burrow on termites or ants.  Carnivores such as ocelot, crab eating fox and tayra were documented resting in burrows for prolonged periods, as well as reptiles such as lizards, tegu or tortoises. Collared peccary were also photographed entering and disappearing inside the burrow and up to two animals entered inside the burrow together.

Giant armadillo burrows play an important role in the ecosystem.  Burrows, the large sand mound and deep gallery affect geomorphology, soil characteristics, hydrology, vegetation communities and animal diversity at scales from the micro-site to the landscape. The variety of food webs modulated by the burrows/holes and the provision of shelter illustrate a bigger unsuspected role of the giant armadillo. Although rarely seen, giant armadillos play a key role in the ecological community and the species deserves to be better understood and protected.

Dolphinarium moving forward with key vote
Coral World is one step closer to building its "Dolphin Experience."

Members of the Senate Economic Development, Agriculture and Planning Committee heard testimony from people on both sides of the dolphinarium addition to Coral World, and they liked what they heard.

The committee, by a 6-0 vote, approved an amendment Monday evening to Coral World's existing lease agreement that would allow the venue to construct an addition for an exhibit that Coral World's owners said they have been trying to put into place for years.

Senators Janette Millin Young, Donald Cole, Sammuel Sanes, Diane Capehart, Myron Jackson and Shawn-Michael Malone voted to send the Coastal Zone Management permit for the dolphinarium to the full legislative body for action. Sen. Nereida Rivera-O'Reilly was absent.

The permit is expected to be on the agenda for Wednesday's meeting of the full Legislature.

Coral World General Manager Trudie Prior told the Senate committee that Coral World never has made a profit but that she and her husband, Neil, are willing to invest about $5.2 million to make the exhibit happen.

In total, since taking the attraction over in 1997, the couple has invested $17 million, including the purchase of Coral World and the shortfalls it has experienced.

"Helping Coral World would help the V.I.," she said.

A dolphin exhibit would bring about 25 additional jobs to the venue's existing 65 and also would bring in more tourists, Prior said.

That sentiment was echoed by representatives of the territory's tourism officials, including the V.I. Tourism Department.

"I've heard, 'Your destination's old. Your destination's tired. Your destination needs something new,'" said Lisa Hamilton, president of the V.I. Hotel and Tourism Association.

Though there also is a similar dolphin exhibit on Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, the Coral World exhibit would attract an additional 25,000 to 35,000 visitors to the U.S. Virgin Islands annually, Prior said. The territory, she estimated, loses about 14,000 visitors to the British Virgin

Zoo elephants getting fat, study says. Or is that curvy?
Don’t tell Dumbo, but he’s got too much junk in his trunk. That spherical silhouette, it turns out, isn’t so healthy — even for elephants.

Zookeepers have long suspected it. And now they have some science to back it up.

America’s zoo elephants have gotten fat.

“Look at what percentage of the U.S. population is currently obese. Are we surprised that we’re feeding our elephants a little too well?” said Anne Baker, former director of the Toledo Zoo. “We’re feeding ourselves a little too well.”

This fall, zoo researchers from across the country are wrapping up the biggest study of zoo elephant health in the nation’s history. And they’ve uncovered a range of major findings, from the health of elephant feet, to the miles they walk, to the prominence of their posteriors.

Over three years, the team examined more than 100,000 pages of medical records, 6,000 blood samples and 40,000 pounds of elephant dung. Subjects included 255 elephants in 70 zoos from Mexico to St. Louis to Miami.

Researchers hope to submit the study to scientific journals for publication as soon as this winter. But even preliminary findings, they said, are revealing.

Keepers and activists have long worried about elephant foot and joint problems, attributed to hours spent on hard concrete and stone. But researchers counted 75 percent of the elephants in this study without joint problems, as well as a noticeable decline in foot issues since 2011. Zookeepers figured an increased use of grass, rubber and sand flooring in elephant pens has helped.

“This is really good news,” Jill Mellen, a scientist at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, told zoo professionals at the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ annual conference last month in Kansas City.

In addition, elephants in the study walked more than some believed — about 3.6 miles on average a day, up to a maximum of about 11 miles. That, said Cheryl Meehan, an animal welfare scientist and the study’s project manager, stacks up well against distances documented in recent studies of walking among wild elephants.

“If you pay attention to the public press, often one of the main criticisms is that elephants don’t walk enough in zoos,” Meehan said.

The study also unveiled a few concerns. Two-thirds of the animals studied, for ins

Search under way for monkeys missing from Belfast zoo
A search is continuing for two monkeys who escaped from their enclosure at Belfast zoo.

Six lion-tailed macaques managed to get out on Monday - four have since been returned.

The other two monkeys have been seen in the grounds or near the zoo.

Belfast zoo said it has been monitoring their movements and has positioned a number of traps and staff in the areas where the missing animals have been seen.

One of the monkeys was captured by zoo keepers in the grounds of Belfast Castle.

The incident was filmed by Michael McGowan, who was walking his dog in the castle grounds at the time.

Mr McGowan told the BBC he spotted the monkey shortly before it leapt on to a window ledge on the castle.

"The dog took a second glance, I took a second glance, and the monkey wasn't in the least bit worried about hum

Mahouts to ride on Govt House (video)
Elephant owners and mahouts from different provinces gathered at the Royal Elephant Kraal in Ayutthaya’s Muang district on Thursday and prepared to march to Bangkok to protest against an amendment to the Wildlife and Preservation and Protection Act.
The group, comprising more than 100 members, brought with them supplies and over 100 elephants, which were to be trucked to the capital overnight and ridden to Government House on Friday.

Under the amendment bill, authority over Thai elephants will be transferred from the Department of Provincial administration to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.

The owners and mahouts argue the amendment will empower the department to confiscate a domesticated elephant if the owner fails to produce documented proof of ownership. However, this was not always possible.

The group said elephants that are bred by villagers should not be confiscated by the government because they have done nothing wrong.

They were also worried that wildlife authorities would not be able to take proper care of seized elephants.

The elephant owners and mahouts also opposed the provision in the Wildlife and Preservation and Protection Act that prohibits the sale of organs and trunks from dead animals, which they said affects their earnings.

Pol Col Sermkit Sitthichaikan, acting chief of Ayutthaya p

A win-win solution for captive orcas and marine theme parks
 The film "Blackfish" compellingly describes many of the reasons why keeping orcas in captivity is -- and always has been -- a bad idea.
The main premise of the film is that these large, intelligent, social predators are dangerous to their trainers. But orcas are also directly harmed by being confined in concrete tanks and the science is growing to support this common sense conclusion.
The latest data show that orcas are more than three times as likely to die at any age in captivity as they are in the wild. This translates into a shorter life span and is probably the result of several factors. First, orcas in captivity are out of shape; they are the equivalent of couch potatoes, as the largest orca tank in the world is less than one ten-thousandth of one percent (0.0001%) the size of the smallest home range of wild orcas.
Second, they are in artificial and often incompatible social groups. This contributes to chronic stress, which can depress the immune system and leave captive orcas susceptible to infections they would normally fight off in the wild.

Third, they often break their teeth chewing compulsively on metal gates. These broken teeth, even drilled and cleaned regularly by irrigation, are clear routes for bacteria to enter the bloodstream. These are the obvious factors; there are almost certainly others contributing to the elevated mortality seen in captivity.
These factors boil down simply to this: Captivity kills orcas.
Yes, they may survive for years entertaining audiences, but eventually the stressors of captivity catch up to them. Very few captive orcas make it to midlife (approximately 30 years for males and 45 for females) and not one out of more than 200 held in captivity has ever come close to old age (60 for males, 80 for females). Most captive orcas die while they are still very young by wild orca standards.
There is a win/win solution to both the trainer safety and orca welfare dilemmas facing marine theme parks around the world, including SeaWorld in the United States.
These facilities can work with experts around the world to create sanctuaries where captive orcas can be rehabilitated and retired. These sanctuaries would be sea pens or netted-off bays or coves, in temperate to cold water natural habitat. They would offer the animals respite from performing and the constant exposure to a parade of strangers (an entirely unnatural situation for a species whose social groupings are based on family ties and stability -- "strangers" essentially do not exist in orca society). Incompatible animals would not be forced to cohabit the same enclosures and family groups would be preserved.
Show business trainers would no longer be necessary. Expert caretakers would continue to train retired whales for veterinary procedures, but would not get in the water and would remain at a safe distance (this is known in zoo parlance as "protected contact"). And the degree to which they interact directly with the whales would be each whale's choice.
A fundamental premise of these sanctuaries, however, is that eventually they would empty. Breeding would not be allowed and captive orcas would no longer exist within the next few decades.
Many wildlife sanctuaries, for circus, roadside zoo and backyard refugees, exist around the globe for animals such as big cats, elephants and chimpanzees. The business (usually nonprofit) model for these types of facilities is therefore well-established for terrestrial species and can be adapted for orcas.
Wildlife sanctuaries are sometimes open to the public, although public interaction with the animals is usually minimized. A visitor's center can offer education, real-time remote viewing of the animals, a gift shop, and in the case of whales and dolphins can even be a base for responsible whale watching if the sanctuary is in a suitable location for that activity.
Marine theme parks do not need to lose out financially by phasing out orca shows; this is a transformative proposal, not a punitive one.
Creating a whale or dolphin sanctuary is not entirely theoretical. Merlin Entertainments is

The wild animal circus ban, or when is a wild animal not a wild animal?
The question to ask is why it appears the government is seeking out the prohibition of some 'wild' animals in circuses whilst appearing not to apply the same rules to the same animals use in other public entertainment and leisure events.
As some will know, the UK government has brought forward a proposed bill to ban all wild animals from UK circuses from 2015. As a provisional measure in December 2012, it introduced a codified welfare inspection and licensing system for all circuses displaying wild animals. Currently two British circuses hold such licenses.

Despite the fact, that even in its latest response to consultation the government states within the first paragraphs that:
"...the Government's position that there remains insufficient evidence, in line with the findings of the 2007 'Radford Report', for a ban on welfare grounds."
It still plans to go ahead with the proposed ban.

It also rejects a suggested amendment that, while a ban on all big cat species and elephants would proceed, a proscribed list of animals that could be consider, 'wild' (such as snakes, camels, zebras or racoons) would still be allowed in travelling circuses. They rejected this amendment stating:
"The arguments that the Government has put forward in support of the proposed ban do not appear to lead to the conclusion that it is still acceptable to still use some species of wild animal but not others. The issue that the Government has been asked to address is not the number of wild animals used in travelling circuses, nor their species, but the fact that they are used at all."
So there we have it. The government is effectively saying that, despite accepting the scientific evidence showing that there is no reason to ban on welfare grounds, they think it is completely acceptable to ban all wild animals just because they do not like wild animals in circuses; a judgement based on aesthetics and nothing at all to do with welfare.

In fact, this is confirmed by a furt

Voices of SeaWorld: Animal Care and Welfare at SeaWorld

 Jack Hanna on "Blackfish" Jack Hanna is the Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo. He makes the case for Sea World's care of their orcas. He says the people who work at the parks "love these animals as much as they love their families."

Report on Woodland Park Zoo elephants released
Uncertainty surrounds the future of the elephant exhibit at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.

A task force assigned to study the health and well-being of the zoo's three elephants released its final report on Tuesday.

There is a growing body of evidence suggests captivity is harmful to elephants.

So the zoo commissioned a task force and on Tuesday two options were presented: one would keep them at the zoo and expand the herd. Another option would be to allow them to age out or retire.

The expert review panel found the overall health of the Chai, Bamboo and Watoto was good. All three were considered bright, alert and active. And that staff of the elephant exhibit are well trained and provide excellent care.

But the task force did raise some concerns. There are isolation issues. Bamboo is separated from Watoto, which experts say can be harmful to the herd's overall social well-being.

They noted a moderate level of repetitive behaviors by Chai, which can signal stress or frustration.

"The pacing, the head bobbing, the head swiveling these are all behaviors elephants do to numb the traumas of captivity," said Alyne Fortgang, co-founder of Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants.

The elephants are also getting older - two of the three are of post-breeding age.

The task force presented two long-term options to improve the exhibit and livelihood of the elephants:
Option 1: Create a multi-generational herd with an effective breeding program.
- Implement expeditious strategies to build a multi‐generational herd, including the natural breeding of Chai. In addition to, or instead of breeding Chai, consider bringing in additional cows and perhaps a bull to create a multi‐generational herd.
- Begin the exhibit and program pla


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