Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Study Links Neurological Disorders in Captive Felids to Improper Diet

New Study Links Neurological Disorders in Captive Felids
to Improper Diet 
OTJIWARONGO, Namibia (30 Dec, 2014) – Findings from a recently published research study confirm what many scientists have long suspected. A high incidence of neurological disorders among captive felids in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), including demyelination of the spinal cord, correlates to copper and Vitamin A deficiencies, which is attributable to meat diets not properly supplemented nor based on mixed, whole carcass prey. The study was conducted by the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory (CVRL) in Dubai, UAE, with collaboration from Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), Namibia; Institute of Animal Nutrition, Vetsuisse Faculty Zurich; and Centre for Applied Biotechnology and Molecular Medicine, University of Zurich.
The study compared blood and tissue samples among captive felids, including cheetahs, lions, and snow leopards, that were fed different diets. Thirty percent of the animals that did not receive supplements and existed primarily on a poultry muscle meat diet displayed clinical neurological signs such as ataxia, lack of coordination, swaying gait and moderate to severe hind limb weakness. Despite having normal appetites, these animals developed hind limb paresis and were eventually unable to stand. They either died or were euthanized, as damage is permanent and there is no treatment.
“The Role of Copper and Vitamin A Deficiencies Leading to Neurological Signs in Captive Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) and Lions (Panthera leo) in the United Arab Emirates”, was published in Food and Nutrition Sciences (2014, 5, 1978-1990). Claudia Kaiser, DVM, of the CVRL and the Institute of Animal Nutrition, Vetsuisse Faculty Zurich, Zürich, Switzerland, is the study’s lead author. Dr. Kaiser worked with the CVRL from 2012 to 2013 and completed the study as her Doctoral thesis from Zurich University under the supervision of Prof. Annette Liesegang.
“We did this study because of all the post mortem findings of the previous years at the CVRL. Due to the fact that there was demyelinisation of the CNS in a lot of felids that were ataxic before euthanasia or natural death, we wanted to know if there was a correlation between the symptom and their nutrition. The results showed us that a supplemented diet is one of the key factors of keeping wild animals healthy in captivity”, said Dr. Kaiser. “Captive animals cannot care for themselves, so it is our responsibility to optimise their lives in captivity”.
According to Dr. Laurie Marker, Founder and Executive Director of CCF and one of the study’s co-authors, cheetah myelopathy is the term used to describe ataxia, hind limb paralysis and pareses caused by degenerative lesions on the spinal cord. It’s been found historically among some cheetahs kept in zoos, wildlife parks and private collections, but is now being reported with alarming frequency in the United Arab Emirates, where cheetahs are popularly kept as exotic pets, most often where the cheetahs were illegally catured in the wild. Cheetah myelopathy can lead to vision loss, muscle weakness, stiffness, spasms, loss of coordination, loss of sensation, pain, and changes in bladder and bowel function. The majority of these cases are fatal.
“Many Emirates view cheetahs and other large felids as status symbols, but are often unfamiliar with the animal’s proper care or diet. Big cats need the vitamins, minerals and trace elements found in bones, viscera, fur and feathers to remain healthy”, said Dr. Marker. “Unfortunately, many cheetahs kept as pets are not fed whole carcasses with appropriate supplements, nor are they provided with the correct supplements to balance their diet. As a result, they experience debilitating health problems, and many will die prematurely”.
With fewer than 10,000 wild cheetahs remaining and 50 to 70 percent of poached cubs dying en route to the Arabian Peninsula, there is little doubt the illegal trade in cheetahs is taking an already endangered species closer to the brink of extinction. “More education is needed to reduce the demand for cheetahs as exotic pets. If these wealthy exotic animal owners truly care about their animals, they would use their resources to educate others and help protect these majestic creatures where they belong, in the wild”, added Dr. Marker.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Friday, December 12, 2014

Edinburgh Zoo nominated for two Giant Panda Zoo Awards

Edinburgh Zoo nominated for two
Giant Panda Zoo Awards

Edinburgh Zoo’s giant panda Yang Guang and his keeper Michael Livingstone have both been nominated for top prizes at the third annual Giant Panda Zoo Awards, the Oscars of the panda world.

Yang Guang has been nominated in the cuddly, yet fierce and competitive, “Favourite Panda Outside of China” category and one of his keepers, Michael Livingstone, has been nominated for the “Panda Keeper of the Year” award.

Panda fans and experts from around the world are invited to vote for their favourites after nominees were announced this morning (12 December 2014). Voting has now opened and will close on 18 January 2015. The Gold, Bronze and Silver winners will be announced at an award ceremony on 23 January 2015.

Michael Livingstone, giant panda and carnivore keeper at Edinburgh Zoo, said:
“We are honoured to be nominated for two Giant Panda Zoo Awards this year. Not only do they highlight and reward organisations involved in panda conservation, but are a unique tool to educate the public on the issues faced by the giant panda and inspire people to discover what can be done to help.

“I was overwhelmed when I first found out that I had been nominated, and a little shocked as it was completely out of the blue! I’m definitely in good company as Yang Guang has also been nominated this year for the ‘Favourite Panda Outside of China’ award. We’ve had success in this category before as Yang Guang actually won the silver prize in the inaugural year of the awards, then the following yearour female panda Tian Tian won Gold!”

Michael, aged 26, has been a zoo keeper at Edinburgh Zoo since the summer of 2009. He started as a temporary hoofstock keeper, before landing a permanent role in the carnivore department. Michael has the honour of being one of the select group of dedicated panda keepers that have looked after Yang Guang and Tian Tian since they arrived at Edinburgh Zoo in December 2011.

Alongside the day-to-day care of the two pandas, Michael is involved in the panda breeding programme for which he regularly collects samples from both pandas and monitors their behaviour. In April, Michael was present at the artificial insemination of Tian Tian. Here he was on hand to help prepare the surgical room and assist with the dedicated care of both pandas. Michael continued to work round the clock during Tian Tian’s pregnancy as he collected crucial samples from her at various points of the day and throughout the night - these were used to track and monitor the stages of Tian Tian’s pregnancy. In the latter stages of pregnancy, Michael was one of the panda experts who took it in shifts to watch Tian Tian 24 hours a day through CCTV. In July this year, Michael also visited the Bifengxia panda base where he spent time with Chinese colleagues learning about pregnant pandas, pandas in labour and newborn cubs.

The Giant Panda Zoo Awards were created to promote panda conservation, education and research activities on website The site focuses on spreading the word about giant panda conservation and providing the latest news on the world’s panda population.

Visit to vote.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

2015 Courses at Durrell Conservation Academy

2015 Courses at Durrell Conservation Academy

An Introduction to GIS for Conservation Managers
16th February – 21st February 2015
Location: Jersey

Most of the great issues confronting modern conservation have a spatial element. This five day course is designed to provide participants with an understanding of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). GIS is a computing tool that provides high quality data to underpin conservation action, allowing information about species, habitats and landscapes to be described, analysed, and graphically represented.

The course is co-directed by Durrell Conservation Academy staff in association with Dr Mark O’Connell, Director of Ecological Research & Training.

Course fee: £575 - On-site accommodation is available for £35 per night, including meals.

Facilitation and Communications Skills
23rd February – 27th February 2015
Location: Jersey

During the course you will learn and practise essential workshop facilitation skills, including:

  • Decision making
  • Conflict management
  • Cross-cultural sensitivity
  • Group dynamics
  • Active listening
  • Consensus building

The course is co-directed by Dr Susie Ellis, Executive Director of the International Rhino Foundation, and Dr Kristin Leus, Programme Officer for CBSG-Europe, in association with Durrell staff. It will be based at Durrell Conservation Academy at Durrell's headquarters on the Island of Jersey, British Channel Islands.

Course fee: £575 - On-site accommodation is available for £35 per night, including meals.

Endangered Species Recovery
20th July – 31st July 2015
Location: Jersey

The Endangered Species Recovery (ESR) course is a two week introduction to the issues and practical skills involved in saving threatened species from extinction. You will develop a critical understanding of biodiversity conservation and the issues it raises, as well as practical research skills. This course is perfectly suited for those wanting an up to date summary, and has also proved invaluable to those considering a career change to conservation as a profession.

The course will be based at Durrell Conservation Academy at Durrell’s headquarters in Jersey. Teaching will be delivered by Durrell’s own conservation specialists and several internationally renowned experts brought in from elsewhere.

Course fee: £1,000 - On-site accommodation is available for £35 per night, including meals.

Latest Developments in Primate Conservation
6th September – 10th September 2015
Location: Jersey

The course is designed for anyone working in or considering working in the field of primate conservation, or others simply wishing to gain a detailed up to date understanding of this topic (e.g. educators). You will develop your knowledge of the latest primate conservation theory, and gain key practical skills.

The course is run in conjunction with primate conservation practitioners within Durrell, and confirmed guest lecturers, leading gorilla specialist Ian Redmond OBE, primate expert Prof John Fa, and Emeritus Professor Simon Bearder from Oxford Brookes University.

A limited number of opportunities will be available for course participants to gain practical primate husbandry experience alongside the course.

Course fee: £575 - On-site accommodation is available for £35 per night, including meals.

Conservation Breeding and Husbandry of Birds
5th October – 9th October 2015
Location: Jersey

The Conservation Breeding and Husbandry of Birds is a five-day course designed to equip you with the necessary skills to successfully manage and breed birds in captivity. The course is targeted at curators, keepers and veterinarians from zoos and other institutions (e.g. universities) and private keepers involved in the captive management of birds.

The course will be run by Durrell's Bird Department in conjunction with Durrell Conservation Academy. Course faculty will include visiting experts in bird husbandry and conservation.

Course fee: £575 - On-site accommodation is available for £35 per night, including meals.

Conservation Breeding and Husbandry of Callitrichids
13th October – 16th October 2015
Location: Jersey

Conservation Breeding and Husbandry of Callitrichids is a four day intensive course designed to equip participants with the necessary skills to successfully manage and breed primates, particularly callitrichids in captivity. The course is targeted at curators, keepers and veterinarians from zoos and other institutions (e.g. universities) involved in the captive management of primates.

The course will be run by Durrell Conservation Academy in conjunction with Durrell's mammal and veterinary departments. Course faculty will include visiting experts in callitrichid husbandry and conservation.

Course fee: £460 - On-site accommodation is available for £35 per night, including meals.

Durrell Conservation Academy
Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
Direct: +44 (0)1534 860037
Fax: +44 (0)1534 860002

Les Augrès Manor, La Profonde Rue,
Trinity, Jersey JE3 5BP
Channel Islands, United Kingdom

Friday, October 31, 2014

Zoo News Digest October 2014 (ZooNews 902)

Zoo News Digest October 2014 (ZooNews 902)

Happy Halloween to all

Dear Colleagues,

Today is the first day of my vacation. October has been a really busy month for me, one of those where I don't seem to have had two minutes to rub together. There is always something that eats into my time. I did however manage to get away to attend the International Training Conference in Twycross and very quick aside trips to Edinburgh and Bourton -on-the- Water. Met a lot of people I only previously knew by name along with a few old friends. Going away meant preparation and coming back meant catching up. Planning for vacation meant preparation again. Sunday I fly to Thailand for wild relaxation. There will be more catching up to do when I get back. Life is good.

Sorry though that I will miss the 'Animal Keepers, Trainers and Wildlife Professionals of the Middle East' night out on the 6th November. Even sorrier that I will miss the next meeting of Arabian Association of Zoos and Aquariums in Al Ain. We can't have everything though.


I remain committed to the work of GOOD zoos, not DYSFUNCTIONAL zoos.

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Conservationists (including Richard Branson) the world over campaign to conserve lemurs

Friday 31st October marks the first ever World Lemur Day, a celebration spearheaded by the Malagasy primate expert group Groupe d’Etude et de Recherche sur les Primates (GERP), to raise awareness of lemur diversity and highlight critical conservation needs at both national and international levels.

More than just a celebration, World Lemur Day is also intended to show the Malagasy government how the rest of the world is interested in lemurs; encouraging the government to conserve them.

The Malagasy President came into office in late January of this year and lemur conservationists the world over await positive changes to protect these primates.

Timothy Smart, British Ambassador to Madagascar, said: “Lemurs are now the world’s most threatened group of primates. We are urging President Rajaonarimampianina and the Government of Madagascar to increase drastically their efforts to protect lemurs and their remaining forest habitats which are a unique natural and cultural heritage for all Malagasies and the World. We stand ready to assist them in these efforts.”

The largest threat to lemurs is habitat destruction (caused by man) and also subsistence hunting. This is not to be confused with commercial hunting; Malagasy communities hunt lemurs for survival.

It is perhaps a coincidence that World Lemur Day falls on the same day as Halloween, but it fits well: The word ‘Lemures’ was used in Roman mythology for ghosts or spirits of the dead, and conservationists the world over are trying to ensure this does not become a reality for these primates.

Richard Branson, who is known for conserving lemurs on his private islands in the Caribbean, said: “There probably used to be 150 of these magnificent lemur species, some bigger than gorillas, and sadly we're now down to 101 species. As their habitat disappears and they continue to get killed for food, there's a real danger that the number could drop well below 100. World Lemur Day will hopefully raise awareness of the dangers and make sure this never happens. As a species, we must make sure that no other species on this planet is ever lost again.”

A budget of only $7.6 million is required to implement the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s conservation strategy for lemurs and their forest habitats. The funds collected from this World Lemur Day will contribute to that budget.

Christoph Schwitzer, Director of Conservation at the Bristol Zoological Society and vice chairman of the IUCN Primate Specialist Group, responsible for primates in Madagascar, said: “Madagascar is unique in having such a large number of primate species that only occur there and nowhere else in the world, but it is also unique in the extreme level of threat that these animals are facing. The IUCN lemur conservation strategy gives us the toolset to fight lemur extinctions. We now need to pull together all available resources and implement it!”

Bristol Zoological Society will be joining in the celebrations of World Lemur Day on Friday 31st October, by holding a number of lemur-related activities at the Wild Place Project’s Madagascar exhibit, which has its own Madagascan school hut and market stall.

The Wild Place Project is home to mongoose lemurs, which are Critically Endangered and ring-tailed lemurs, which have recently gone from being Vulnerable to Endangered.

Guests visiting the Wild Place Project on Friday will also be able to see the lemurs tucking into pumpkins. Will Walker, animal manager at the wildlife attraction said: “Lemurs love to play with pumpkins and eat the succulent flesh and plump seeds, which are a great addition to their regular diet as they are high in vitamins A, C, potassium, protein and fibre.”

A day in the life of a Dublin zookeeper

"I started officially as a zookeeper when I was 15, although it wasn't really my first day on the job. My dad was a keeper and a lot of the keepers' kids spent plenty of time in the zoo. The novelty never wore off; it was such an adventurous playground, and you ran around thinking you were Tarzan. From the time I could walk, I used to go there, so, in many ways, working there was a natural progression. I was counting down the days until I could finish the Inter Cert and work there.

Captive rhinos exposed to urban rumbles

The soundtrack to a wild rhinoceros's life is wind passing through the savannah grass, birds chirping, and distant animals moving across the plains. But a rhinoceros in a zoo listens to children screaming, cars passing, and the persistent hum of urban life.
A group of researchers from Texas believes that this discrepancy in soundscape may be contributing to rhinos' difficulties thriving and reproducing in captivity. During the 168th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), which will be held October 27-31, 2014, at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown Hotel, they will present their acoustical analysis of a captive  habitat, a first step towards understanding the impact of  on these .
Though zoologists have studied the impact of factors like diet and hygiene on rhino reproductive health, sound has been largely ignored. However, rhinoceroses have some of the keenest senses of hearing in the animal kingdom, able to perceive infrasonic sounds below the frequency range of human range of hearing. In the wild, they can sense predators coming from miles away by the vibrations their footsteps send through the ground. Because rhinos are so sensitive, noise that humans don't notice – or can't even hear – could be distressing and disruptive to them, negatively impacting their health, s

Exclusive: Owners of Spain's Parques Reunidos ponder $2.6 billion sale -sources

The private equity owners of Parques Reunidos are sounding out interest for a sale that could value the Spanish zoo, marine and water park operator at about 2 billion euros ($2.6 billion), four sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The company, which is owned by UK-based private equity fund Arle Capital, could come up for sale as soon as the first half of 2015, the sources said.

They cautioned that no banks had been hired as yet and any sale process could still fall through.

Arle Capital declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Parques Reunidos denied the company was for sale.

Madrid-based Parques Reunidos operates 72 sites around the world including Italy's Mirabilandia, France's Aquasplash and the Miami Seaquarium, which it bought in July this year.

Parques struggled through the financial cri

RWS false advertising for dolphin attraction?

Few things are as magical as spotting a double rainbow. Swimming with dolphins is one of them. Unfortunately, unlike countries like Hawaii or Australia, dolphins aren’t native to the waters of Singapore, and not all of us have the privilege to travel overseas to do that. The next best alternative? Dolphin interaction programmes at Dolphin Island.” – Marine Life Park Blog, the official blog for Resorts World Sentosa’s Marine Life Park
As magical as it may sound, the reality is far from it. The above, taken from the Marine Life Park blog promoting the dolphin interaction programme by the marine park, runs contrary to documented cases of dolphin sighting in Singapore’s local waters.
Nature lovers who frequent our southern islands have in October 2014 - draft

~°v°~  ~°v°~  ~°v°~  ~°v°~  ~°v°~

Hello ZooLex Friend,
We have worked for your enjoyment!



The redevelopment of a sea lion enclosure at Chester Zoo allowed the 
creation of a Giant Otter facility that was particulaly designed for 
breeding this endangered species. The exhibit offers a visitor shelter 
with underwater viewing and interactive elements with messages about 
biology and conservation of this species.

We would like to thank Chloe Helm for presenting this exhibit in ZooLex.



Thanks to Eduardo Díaz García we are able to offer the Spanish 
translation of a previously published presentation on a Giant Otter 
exhibit at Zoo Zlín:

Nutrias Gigantes, ZOO a zámek Zlín


We keep working on ZooLex ...

The ZooLex Zoo Design Organization is a non-profit organization
registered in Austria (ZVR-Zahl 933849053). ZooLex runs a professional
zoo design website and distributes this newsletter. More information and

Celebrating Plants and the Planet:

Plant news you can use! Were you aware you needed some hot plant news?
October's news links
(NEWS/Botanical News) aim to worm their way into your thoughts:

. Is there anyone in our field who isn't aware that sloths descend
from the trees to defecate? Why do they take the risk? It has to do with the
algae in their fur. Oh and moths. Sounds plausible.

. Many plants of the savannas have defensive thorns to deter
browsers. Who protects the plants that lack thorns? Perhaps lions!

. Diverse native plant communities protect themselves from invasive
plants by harboring hungry hungry caterpillars. Many a truth is revealed in
children's books.

. As increasing CO2 levels acidify oceans, verdant seagrass beds
protect marine life from harm.

. With the climate and ecosystems changing, what's the landscape
restoration community to do? Assist landscapes in becoming the next great
thing? Or sit back and see what happens? 

It is stinkbug season here. Taking a page, perhaps, from the lionfish
control handbook, some now propose eating them

Please share these stories with associates, staff, docents and - most
importantly - visitors! 

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stories every day as well as hundreds of stories from the past few years.


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Peter Dickinson
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