Thursday, March 30, 2017

From Beethoven to Bieber, why playing music to chimps is falling on deaf ears

From Beethoven to Bieber, why playing music to chimps is falling on deaf ears

Playing music to captive chimpanzees has no positive effect on their welfare, researchers have concluded.

Previous research conducted with chimpanzees living in laboratories has suggested that playing music has positive effects on the animals' welfare, however, other research with zoo-housed primates has yielded mixed results.

Many zoos continue to broadcast music to their primates either as a form of enrichment or for the enjoyment of caregivers.

Research conducted by Dr Emma K Wallace, from the University of York's Department of Psychology, investigated how classical and pop/rock music affected the behaviour of the chimpanzees at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo to establish if it impacted positively or negatively on their welfare.

Further research involved a 'chimpanzee jukebox' , which allowed the chimpanzees at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo and the National Centre for Chimpanzee Care, Texas, the option to choose whether they wanted to listen to classical music, pop/rock music or silence.

Some of the music that the chimpanzees were able to select included work by Mozart, Beethoven, Adele and Justin Bieber.

The combined results of these studies show that neither classical nor pop/rock music has a positive effect on the welfare of these chimpanzees. They also did not show any consistent or persistent preferences for either type of music or silence.

Dr Wallace said: "These results suggest that music is not something that is relevant to captive chimpanzees and are supported by recent work with zoo-housed orangutans that were unable to distinguish music from digitally scrambled noise.

"However, whilst music does not appear to have a positive effect on captive chimpanzee welfare, it equally did not have any negative effects.

"As such it should not be considered a successful form of enrichment for these animals but, providing that the animals have the option to avoid it, music can still be played for animal caregivers."

"These results also highlight the possibility that music appreciation is something that is a uniquely human trait."The welfare of captive animals, especially those living in zoos, is of the utmost importance to those who care for them.

Providing animals with enrichment, such as toys, puzzle-feeders or unfamiliar smells, is a commonly used method of presenting the animals with mental challenges or novel forms of stimulation.

Peter Dickinson
Independent International Zoo Consultant

Monday, March 27, 2017

Zoo News Digest 27th March 2017 (ZooNews 950)

Zoo News Digest 27th March 2017  (ZooNews 950)

Peter Dickinson

Dear Colleague,

Zoos are not or should not be about who has the biggest, rarest, oldest, most, most expensive, or the only and yet these are the things which make the newspapers more often than anything else. It was therefore refreshing this week to see a different range of articles appearing. You and I know that most of all a zoo must be about quality care and husbandry by informed and professional zoo keepers. This what our marketing departments need to be promoting more. And when it comes down to it every writer needs to make a distinction on whether they are talking about a good zoo or a bad Dysfunctional zoo because, unfortunately, around the world the vast majority of zoos ARE bad zoos. They need to be named, condemned, rooted out and closed down and the GOOD zoos need to do this not the likes of the Born Free Foundation (Zoo check). This week the Born Free Foundation have taken it upon themselves to announce a 15 point plan which includes "Establish a full-time and centralised independent zoo inspectorate to ensure consistency in licensing and inspection of zoos". Now as the Born Free Foundation attend every open meeting of the UK government zoo inspectorate they can only be too aware that the UK has the best zoo inspection system in the world. Okay, it's not perfect but it was good in the first place and has been improving year upon year. Are the Born Free Foundation suggesting that the current zoo inspectors are somehow corrupt or not doing their jobs? Maybe yes or maybe no. By 'independent zoo inspectorate' do they mean apart from the qualified UK Government zoo inspectors? Who are they going to choose? Luvvies or scientists who have never lifted a finger working hands on in a zoo in 40 years? Zoos need inspecting by experienced zoo people with zoo experience and not outsiders. I am not saying that the current situation cannot be improved because it could. I would very much like to see the implementation of random unannounced inspections at any time. Just this one inclusion would sort out so very much.

The really sad thing is that so many bad zoos don't actually know they are bad zoos. The management lie to themselves, knowingly or unknowingly, and they lie to their staff. Worst of all is that they lie to the public as well. Millions of zoo visitors go home with false information.

Perhaps the most frequent statement levelled at zoos by the Anti Zoo Anarchists is "they don't return animals to the wild". It is true enough as in most cases we don't….but we will when it is safe to do so. It may be in a hundred years from now but the GOOD zoos will be in a position to do so. The good zoos manage populations of animals cooperatively ensuring genetic strength and vigour.

I suppose I should make a mention of 'April the Giraffe' about whom I have not carried a single link. Credit to the Animal Adventure Park in New York who have managed to keep the impending birth foremost in other zoo news for over a month. By now however I imagine the whole thing is starting to become something of an embarrassment.

So very sorry to learn of the death of Harry Schram. I was an admirer from afar. I was never fortunate enough to meet him but we had corresponded on and off for ten years or more. My sincere condolences to his family and friends. His passing is a sad loss to the zoo world.


Did You Know?
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If you are a subscriber to the email version then you probably knew this already. You would also know that ZooNews Digest pre-dates any of the others. It was there before FaceBook. It was there shortly after the internet became popular and was a 'Blog' before the word had been invented. ZooNews Digest reaches zoo people.

I remain committed to the work of GOOD zoos, 



Penguins: Court asks CZA to be present at next hearing
Bombay high court while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) opposing the exhibition of Humboldt penguins at Byculla zoo, on Friday directed the central zoo authority (CZA) to remain present in court on the next date of hearing. The court issued this direction when the petitioner informed that CZA had issued show cause notice to Byculla zoo for not complying with certain necessary conditions for renewing recognition of the zoo.

Petitioners Advocate Advait Sethna along with Ruju Thakkar argued before the division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice G.S. Kulkarni that as per seven-year-old data, these penguins were a threatened species and now, even more so, which is why the degree of care they required was much greater as compared to other animals and birds. The petitioners alleged the pool had developed cracks. They pointed out that CZA, an autonomous statutory body regulating all zoos, had issued show cause notice to Byculla zoo in September last year. Mr Sethna said recognition of the zoo needed to be renewed every year and CZA issued notice to the zoo because it did not comply with certain conditions stipulated by CZA.

Chief Justice Chellur asked the petitioner if anybody was

The urgent priorities identified by Born Free include Government intervention to:

Act swiftly to bring in a ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses across the UK (a Manifesto commitment)
Establish a full-time and centralised independent zoo inspectorate to ensure consistency in licensing and inspection of zoos
Introduce a ban on the trade in, and private keeping of, all species of non-human primate across the UK
End the import, sale and keeping of wild-caught mammals, reptiles and amphibians as pets.*
Will Travers, who will launch the plan, said: “The Prime Minister recently claimed that the UK was number two in the world when it came to animal welfare. However, the lack of attention and effort that has been paid to the keeping of wild animals in captivity seriously undermines that claim. Without resolute action, not only will our reputation suffer, but, more importantly, wild animals in our care will suffer unnecessarily.”

China embraces killer whale shows, even as SeaWorld ends them
Forget the oohs and aahs. The recent debut of killer whales at China’s largest aquarium here has sparked concerns worldwide that the country is repeating similar mistakes that plagued some U.S. marine parks.

China is experiencing a boom in marine parks as an increasing number of Chinese flock to watch the sea creatures perform. That also has resulted in overcrowded tanks, poor water quality and ignorance about marine mammal illnesses at the attractions.

Park operators are ignoring animal welfare and worker safety, according to animal rights activists.

“They are going through a learning curve that is not necessary and completely outdated — and they’re taking an enormous risk,” said Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist with the Animal Welfare Institute in Washington, D.C., who recently visited some of China's largest marine parks. “A trainer will be inj

Belfast Zoo confident of accreditation after work to tackle concerns
The new manager of Belfast Zoo has said past problems that dogged the facility and saw its membership of an international standards body suspended have been addressed.

The quest to build a family tree for Earth’s most diverse snake genus has uncovered three new species—one of which is named after Cerberus, the monster guarding the Greek underworld’s gates.
At first glance, Atractus cerberus doesn’t look especially imposing. The brown and yellow snake doesn’t get much longer than 12 inches, and it lives an unassuming life along the borders of forests within Ecuador’s Pacoche Wildlife Refuge, hiding under rocks and logs.
But just a few miles down the road from the snake’s habitat, more than 1,200 acres of forest have been stripped bare—the footprint for the Refinery of the Pacific, a massive oil refinery that’s been under construction since 2008. The denuded landscape reminded the researchers who discovered the snake of the underworld. And like Cerberus, the newfound snake “guarded”

Zoo Knoxville investigating mysterious deaths of 33 reptiles
Zoo Knoxville is investigating the mysterious deaths of 33 reptiles.

According to a news release from the zoo, when staffers entered the building Wednesday morning they found 30 snakes and one lizard unresponsive.

Zoo clinic staffers and veterinarians from the UT College of Veterinary Medicine responded. Surviving animals were evacuated and given oxygen, while others were checked for heartbeats using ultrasound.

Of the 52 animals housed in the building, 33 died, including three critically endangered species.

"It's devastating. It's a lot bigger than just the individual snake in our collection," Zoo Knoxville director of animal care, conservation and education Phil Colclough said. "All these are pieces to a larger conservation puzzle and in some cases with these animals,

Lanthier: Sadly, zoos and aquariums are becoming some animals' last refuge
Lost in the passionate debate in Vancouver about beluga whales is the sobering question all Canadians should be asking as we celebrate our nation’s 150th birthday. Which of Canada’s magnificent wildlife species do we want to save for the next 150 years?

We proudly cite our spectacular wilderness and abundant wildlife as symbols of our national identity, but the reality would shock most Canadians. With 248 species listed as endangered, our nation is part of the global mass extinction that has seen 60 per cent of vertebrates disappear over the past 40 years. In that same period, 80 per cent of our

Elephant handler takes case to court
A Surin-based elephant handler is preparing to go to court to prove his ownership of an elephant that was found in a Phuket safari, claiming the pachyderm is one he lost 14 years ago in Krabi. Somsak...

Staff layoffs at Calgary Zoo amid animal health division restructuring
Some veteran keepers at the Calgary Zoo will be losing their jobs as the facility is looking to make changes to the staff members in charge of animal health care.
Zoo administrators are looking at a new contract with the Animal Care Centre in Strathmore and that means that at least three staff members would lose their jobs.
Officials have already let the personnel who would be affected know but they haven’t said much more.
The changes, the zoo says, are expected to increase flexibility and make operations more cost-effective.
Now, officials are working to determine if the centre in Strathmore will meet their needs and, if it does, they will go ah

African painted dog: Perth zoologist devotes his life to saving endangered, misunderstood animal
A century ago there were 500,000 African painted dogs in 39 countries across Africa.

Now just 5,000 to 6,000 remain in the wild.

Perth Zoo's John Lemon has devoted his life to saving the dog.

"When I'm not here at the zoo, I'm in Africa, that's my life," the founder of Painted Dog Conservation Incorporated told ABC Radio Perth.

"I'm a self-confessed workaholic but I really do want to try and save a single species in my short lifetime."

Humboldt Penguins with ‘Western names’ unveiled in Mumbai Zoo
Now a new controversy has erupted over their names on the inaugural day.
“The BMC has named the Penguins as ‘Donald, Daisy, Olive, Popeye, Bubble, Flipper and Mr Molt’ — We strongly protest these Western names and demand that they should be renamed with good Indian names,” Pravin Chheda, Congress’s ex-BMC Leader of Opposition told IANS.
These Humboldt Penguins belong to the South American species found in the icy cold coasts of Chile and Peru.

Artis zoo managed to successful artificially inseminate false gharial this week. As far as is known, this is the first time in the world that artificial insemination was successfully done on this species of crocodile, Artis announced in a press release

The zoo has had this endangered species of crocodile in residence since 1887. There are only an estimated 2,500 false gharials in the wild. They can be found in Malaysia, southern Myanmar and on the Indonesian islands of Borneo, Java and Sumatra.

World' rarest dolphin heading towards extinction
New Zealand's Maui dolphin, the world's smallest, is headed to extinction after a half-century of lethal encounters with fishermen's nets. Even as government-funded scientists detail its decline and opposition Labour and Greens call for net bans - which opinion polls show most Kiwis support - the ruling National Party, headed by a fishing magnate, denies there is any problem. CHRISTOPHER PALA reports …

10 amazing birds that have gone extinct
In addition, this comprehensive set also features portraits of every bird species to have gone extinct since the year 1500, that we have reliable visual records of. Below are just some of the hundreds of species of bird that have been wiped out by human activity in the modern era.

Lebanese NGO rescues maggot-infested Siberian tiger cubs destined for a zoo in war-torn Syria
An animal rights group in Lebanon is caring for three dehydrated, maggot-infested Siberian tiger cubs that were rescued on their way to a zoo in neighboring war-ravaged Syria.

Animals Lebanon said Saturday that its members rescued the cubs earlier this week after they had spent more than a week cooped up inside a cramped crate in "unacceptable" conditions at the Beirut airport.

The cubs flew into Lebanon from Ukraine on March 7 and were supposed to travel on to a zoo in Syria.

Instead, due to apparent confusion about their travel arrangements, they spent a week inside the wooden crate at the Beirut airport, said Animals Lebanon's Vice President Maggie Shaarawi.

"Everything was wrong. There was no tray in the crate for when they urinate. They were swimming in their faeces and urine. There was no bowl for water," Shaarawi told AFP.

Images published by Animals Lebanon show the weak cubs, covered in maggots and faeces, squirming in the small crate as volunteers from the group work to c

Flock of Spanish Immigrants Arrive in Israel to Help Boost Vulture Population
There are now 200 vultures in Israel, about half their number two decades ago. Their nests in recent years have not exceeded 50, as opposed to between 90 and 120 at the beginning of the previous decade, according to figures presented at a conference last week. Over the past two years the Israel Nature and Parks Authority has begun releasing the wild birds brought from Spain. However, experts say this will only delay the extinction of the population, and other means will be necessary if vultures are to continue soaring over Israel’s cliffs and canyons.
The figures were presented to the annual conference by the chief avian ecologist, Ohad Hatzofeh. From the conference he went on to Ben-Gurion airport to help receive 10 vultures arriving from Spain.
The decline in the vulture population has accelerated over the past two decades, mainly due to pesticides the birds ingest when they prey on the carcasses of wild anim

Experts work to improve ‘alala’s chances
Thursday evening’s community talk at Mokupapapa Discovery Center was more difficult than usual for ‘Alala Project outreach and education specialist Lea Ka‘aha‘aina.

Last year, talks focused on plans for the long-awaited release of ‘alala (Hawaiian crow) back into the wild, where they have been extinct since 2002.

This talk had to address the reality of reintroduction efforts: Nature is an unforgiving habitat.

The first five ‘alala, all juvenile males, were released in December into Pu‘u Maka‘ala Natural Area Reserve. But within a week, three were found dead. Necropsies performed found that two birds were killed by a natural predator, the ‘io (Hawaiian hawk), and one died of starvation.

The remaining two birds were brought back to the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center, home base for several ongoing bird reintroduction and population restoration efforts, including the ‘alala project. Plans to release a second cohort of female birds were put on hold.

The community’s response in December was a largely an outpouring of support and encouragement, Ka‘aha‘aina said.

“The public really does have a good understanding and good continued support (of the releases),” she said.

That understanding is in part thanks to ongoing outreach efforts. From frequent social media updates on Facebook and Instagram to special events (a pre-release celebration last year drew more than 600 people), word of mouth has been key in keeping people aware of all that goes into ‘alala reintroduction.

More than 40 people attended Thursday’s talk to learn more about what would happen next.

“This was not the outcome that we had hoped for, but it was also not unexpected,” Ka‘aha‘aina told the group. “It was a good reminder for all of us who work on the project, as well as all of you out in the public, that the nature of reintroductions is that they’re inherently chall

Leif Cocks says multi-nationals don't care about fate of orang-utans or Indonesian rainforest
AFTER more than 30 years fighting to save our close cousins the orang-utans from extinction, conservationist Leif Cocks has a dire warning.

“We are really on the edge now,” Mr Cocks said. “We have to turn it around in the next few years otherwise you can say we’ve got orang-utans in zoos or small patches of forest, but they are doomed.”

In his new book, Orangutans: My Cousins, My Friends, Mr Cocks makes an impassioned plea to save the orang-utan, an animal that shares 97 per cent of its DNA with hum

Indonesia ‘Death Zoo’: President Widodo Petitioned to Save Starving Sun Bears at Bandung Zoo
A petition imploring Indonesia President Joko Widodo and Minister of Environment and Forestry, Siti Nurbaya Bakar, to shut down the Bandung Zoo on has so far garnered more than 704,900 signatures. The petition was started after video of what appear to be emaciated Sun Bears (also known as honey bears) was posted on social media sites, including that of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta).

In the video above posted by Scorpion Wildlife Trade Monitoring Group, Sun Bears in a dirty moated pen can be seen scurrying for food thrown from visitors. One faces in the direction of the camera and swings its head from side to side; a clear sign, according to Peta, of ‘zoochosis‘, a captivity-induced mental illness.

The latest video shows little difference in the condition of the Sun Bears when compared with the video below, said to have been shot at the same zoo last year, with the exception that the most emaciated looking Sun Bear in the first video can not be seen i

Penguins bring in 20,000 visitors to zoo on Sunday
Fearing that the entry fee for Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan and zoo in Byculla could be increased, thousands of Mumbaikars tried to visit it on Sunday. It was also the first Sunday since the inauguration of the enclosure on March 17.
The zoo authorities said approximately 20,000 people had visited it on March 19. Zoo director Dr Sanjay Tripathi said they had informed local police about the large crowd. "We have been continuously monitoring the situation since Sunday morning. In the recent past, there has never been such a huge crowd to visit the g

Decades before Vancouver Aquarium debate, zoo faced similar controversies
Tuk was a sad old beast by time he died in 1997.

Slowly roaming hang-jawed around his pen, the 37-year-old polar bear had been the only impediment to the official closure of the Vancouver Zoo in Stanley Park.

The Vancouver Park Board had voted four years earlier to close the zoo; then, as now with the cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium, people hotly debated keeping mammals in captivity.

The bear had arrived at the relatively new zoo in the 1950s as a playful cub from the Northwest Territories, his mother shot by a Inuit hunter.

Tuk joined the other animals at the zoo, most of them kept in small enclosures for display — as was the practice at the time.

"That's the standards of keeping animals back then," said former zoo curator and researcher Vernon Kisling.

"They didn't have the advanced knowledge we have today."

But as Tuk got older, the Vancouver zoo, like zoos around the world at the time, was looking to shift its focus from a menagerie of exotic animals to a wildlife conservation centre. For som

Saving endangered species at world's only cassowary rehabilitation centre in FNQ
Nestled in a pocket of rainforest near the far north Queensland coast is the world's only rehabilitation centre for critically endangered southern cassowaries.

Current estimates suggest there are fewer than 4,500 cassowaries remaining in the wild, and while much of their rainforest habitat is now protected, what little remains is fragmented by roads and development.

Garners Beach Cassowary Rehabilitation Centre veterinarian, Dr Graham Lauridsen, said most birds housed in the facility were either victims of car strikes, or were chicks orphaned as a result of car strikes.

Great bustards 'establishing' in the UK
Great bustards are "on the point" of becoming self sustainable in the UK for the first time in 185 years.
The world's heaviest flying bird was hunted to extinction in the country, with the last bustard shot in 1832.
Since 2004, the Great Bustard Group (GBG) has released hundreds of chicks on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire.
David Waters, from the GBG, said if it was a "reasonable year" it would be the first "new great bustard population" to be established "anywhere in

Reconstruction of Yakutia’s zoo estimated at $12 million
The head of the Russian region of Yakutia, Egor Borisov, stated the need for upgrading the infrastructure of the Republican zoo “Orto-Doydu” located in the Khangalassky district.

“Yakutia needs a modern zoo. The project is estimated approximately at 700 million rubles (that is $12 million — editor’s note). The substantial part is how to build modern enclosures, that is why the costs will be very large,” — Yegor Borisov told Interfax news agency.

According to the republican Ministry of Nature Pr

As attitudes change, Chinese lawmakers seek better protection for rhinos and other endangered animals
Slowly but surely, Chinese attitudes toward wildlife conservation are changing.

At China’s annual parliamentary session, lawmakers from Hong Kong have submitted a formal proposal to ban the commercial farming of bears for the extraction of their bile and urged stronger efforts to combat the illegal trade in rhino horn, officials said Tuesday.

Separately, there were also calls at China’s annual legislative and consultative assemblies for an end to tiger farming in China and for a ban on the use of pangolin scales in traditional Chinese medicine.

Conservationists welcomed the moves, which reflect a gradual change in Chinese attitudes toward endangered wildlife and the use of wildlife products in medicine, as ornaments or in food.

“This great result for rhinos and bears just goes to show how a bottom-up approach can work, from grass roots all the way up to the Politburo,”

Rhino Horn: Cure or Curse?
Today we're heading into South Africa, where grim-faced game rangers ride in their Land Cruisers clutching Vektor R4 assault rifles. They're on the hunt for poachers, who are, somewhere in the brush, illegally killing rhinos at the rate of more than three a day. Poaching is, by far, the most profitable industry in the nation by each of several metrics. What could drive people to want rhino horns so badly they'll kill for them? It's a subject that's rife with misinformation — including, most likely, a lot of what you think you know about it.

This global demand for rhino horn was brought into stark focus in March of 2017 when a crime was committed that shocked everyone, as it was as horrible as it was unexpected. Poachers broke into a wildlife preserve called Thoiry Zoo just outside of Paris sometime during the night and killed Vince, a 4-year-old white rhino. Vince was shot three times in the head and his front horn was chainsawed off. The much smaller second horn was only partially cut through.

At the time, rhino horn on the black market — often bought and sold using untraceable Bitcoin cryptocurrency — was running about $25,000/lb (€51,000/kg). That's about 40% more than gold. We don't know the weight of what was taken from Vince, but the white rhino's front horn is the largest of the rhino family. Its weight averages 4 kg (8.8 lbs). This means it's likely the poachers netted over $225,000 (€215,000) from that one horn alone. Bold poaching in the suburbs of a major European city like Paris becomes a lot more believable when you consider that nearly a quarter million dollars of gold was just sitting there, virtually unguarded. Who

The Jakarta Aquarium, a ‘new generation’ boutique aquarium is the Indonesian capital’s only aquarium.
Developed by Taman Safari Indonesia (TSI), the country’s leading aquarium and zoo operator, and sited in a mall in the Podomoro City integrated development resort it seeks to showcase the rich marine life of Indonesia’s waters.

China-backed Dam Project May Threaten Myanmar Wildlife Sanctuary
Environmental activists say plans for a large dam threaten wildlife sanctuaries in Myanmar’s northern Karen state.

China would finance the proposed Hatgyi dam on Southeast Asia’s Salween River. The Sinohydro company of China and Thailand’s Electricity Generating Authority are building the dam.

The Salween is the longest river in Southeast Asia that does not have a major dam. Now, developers want to build seven dams on the main part of the river.

Saw Paul Sein Twa is the executive director of the Karen Environmental and Social Action Network, or KESAN. He says the proposed dam project should be stopped. He says his group needs to study the wildlife in the area.

“The dam will flood the area where we have f

Australia's last African elephant dies at Dubbo zoo
The death of an African elephant at Dubbo's Taronga Western Plains Zoo has marked the end of an era for the species in Australia.

Cuddles was the zoo's oldest inhabitant and, according to the zoo, the last African elephant in captivity in Australia.

She arrived in 1977 from the United Kingdom with two other females and was estimated to be 46 years old.

Zoo staff had been monitoring Cuddles closely over the past week as her health had slowly declined due to digestive issues.

The Dubbo facility's director Matt Fuller said the elephant was very special to many people, including staff and visitors.

"She was a much loved member of the zoo community," Mr Fuller said.

"She's got a lot of history,

No room at the zoo for dangerous crocodiles
Crocodile farms and zoos are ­refusing to house dangerous crocodiles removed from the wild because it is too expensive or they are running out of room.

The Queensland government’s crocodile management plan has ruled out a cull and ­relies on shifting problem crocs to zoos and farms. But several of the institutions warned the solution might not be sustainable.

John Lever, who owns the Koorana Crocodile Farm near Rockhampton in central Queensland, said he refused to take a 1.2m male saltwater crocodile from near Cairns last week because of the expense.

“Females are in very high ­demand as breeders, they are an asset,” Mr Lever said. “But nearly all crocodiles removed from the wild are males … when you take a large male croc, it’s not an asset, it’s a liability.”

Mr Lever said it was expensive to house the m

Doha Zoo animals attract Agriteq visitors
A number of wild animals, including chimpanzees, and a bird of prey are attracting many visitors at the fifth Qatar International Agricultural Exhibition (Agriteq), which opened at the Doha Exhibition and Conventions Centre (DECC).

The four-day event, under the patronage of HE the Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani, hosts a large number of local and international companies from the agricultural industry across a 12,000sq m area.

Among the Doha Zoo animals at Agriteq, a pair of chimpanzees seemed to be getting the most attention from passersby while a ‘golden eagle,’ known as one of the largest and fastest raptors in North America, charms visitors with its elegant feathers and stunning look.

Doha Zoo also showcases a large python from India, some small poisonous snakes, a wild frog, a parrot, and some young goats. The zoo houses more than 1,000 animals at a facility in northern part of Qatar, it is learnt. “We have been taking very good care of these animals at their sanctuary, a well ventilated and air-conditioned facility,” an employee told Gulf Times.

There are suitable enclosures for various types of animals, including a carnivorous section and a clinic with a quarantine section, which treats sick animals and provides them with proper healthcare. “We vaccinate and feed animals with nutritious food such as alfalfa, green leaves and pellets for disease prevention, apart from vitamins,” h

Rare Frog Discovery Has Researchers Hopping for Joy
A discovery involving a rare California frog has researchers hopping for joy.

Nine egg masses from the California red-legged frog were discovered on March 14 in a creek in the Santa Monica Mountains, which stretch from Los Angeles westward along the Malibu coast into Ventura County.

The threatened species hasn't been seen naturally in the mountains since the 1970s and the National Park Service has been trying to rebuild the population by transplanting eggs from a population in the nearby Simi Hills.

The discovery of new egg masses indicates that after four years of effort, the population is showing signs of sustaining itself without human help, although transplants will continue, the park service indicated.

"I was literally crying when the stream team showed me the photos of egg masses," Katy Delaney, a National Park Service ecologist with Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, said in a statement. "The years of work we've put in is showing amazing progress. There's still plenty of work to be done, but th

Zoos across country on alert over possible outbreak of fatal protozoan disease
The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) has alerted all zoos across India to take preventive measures to avert a possible outbreak of Trypanosomiasis – a protozoan disease that have, in the past, killed more than a dozen tigers and leopards in Indian zoos.

The alert, in the form of a circular marked as ‘urgent’, was issued on March 6 following the death of a wild dog at the Indira Gandhi Zoological Park in Vishakhapatnam recently.

“We have sent the alert to all large, medium, small and mini zoos across India, chief wildlife wardens of all the states, around 13 civic bodies and four steel plants. These civic bodies and steel plants also maintain small zoos with the permission of the CZA” said Brij Kishor Gupta evaluating and monitoring officer of CZA.

Experts said that Trypanosomiasis is usually spread by flies which thrive in unhygienic conditions. It is mostly the big cats that get infected resulting in death in many cases. The infected animals may or may not show symptoms such as fever, loss of appetite, anaemia among others.

“This time, however, it has infected a wild dog. It died o

A Chinese investment giant just took a big stake in SeaWorld
China-based Zhonghong Zhuoye Group will buy Blackstone Group's 21% stake in SeaWorld Entertainment, the embattled US-based marine park operator said on Friday.

SeaWorld said Zhonghong will buy the stake for $23 per share, a premium of nearly 33 percent to the stock's close on Thursday.

Zhonghong – a diversified holding company for investments in real estate, leisure and tourism – will pay about $429 million for the stake, according to Reuters calculations.

SeaWorld faced critic

SeaWorld Stake, Long Held by Blackstone, Is Sold to Chinese Firm

Unique Sơn Trà Reserve under threat
The Sơn Trà Nature Reserve – the green lung of Đà Nẵng - will turn into a desert, and the worlds biggest population of red-shanked douc langurs (Pygathrix nemaeus) will become extinct unless  rapid development of hotels and resorts there is not stopped.

The warning was issued by the head of the representative office of the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) in Việt Nam, Dr Hà Thăng Long, who spoke to Việt Nam News about the poor management and planning of the Sơn Trà Peninsula that has shrunk wildlife and primate habitats. Red-shanked douc langurs have been declared endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

“Stop construction. Do not build any hotels in the reserve. The Sơn Trà Nature Reserve, which was partly hurt by unaware human activities, should be conserved in a special regime,” Long said in an interview.

“Sơn Trà Mountain, included in the Nature Reserve, is vulnerable to human activities that cannot be tolerated as it was in past decades,” Long explained.

He said the 4,300ha Nature Reserve occupies a precious and rare biodiversity of mountain, fo

Thorough investigations needed following major rhino horn seizures in SE Asia
Viet Nam continues to take centre stage in the global illicit rhino horn trade in 2017 with two large, back-to-back seizures totalling 67 horns in Southeast Asia that reaffirm the country’s links to rhino horn consumption and trafficking.

In the first seizure on 10th March, Thai Customs discovered 21 rhino horns in luggage that arrived in Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport on a flight from Namibia. One of two female suspects who had travelled to Bangkok to collect the bag, had come from Viet Nam.

Both women fled while the luggage was being searched.  Warrants have been issued for their arrest.  The two police officers and a senior official from the Ministry of Justice, who were reported to have escorted the women with the rhino horn-laden luggage, are all under investigation. 

Days later a seizure of 46—more than 100 kg—of rhino horns took place in Viet Nam at Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport. Authorities discovered two suitcases on a flight from Kenya containing 57 kg and 61 kg of rhino horns.  Customs officials who discovered the two bags were unable to trace the contraband back to any traveller.

The forensic testing of rhino horn is a requirement under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to which Viet Nam and Thailand are both signatories. While Thai authorities have announced plans to sample DNA from horns seized in Bangkok to determine their origin, it remains uncertain if Vietnamese authorities are intending to do the same for the Hanoi seizure, despite the CITES requirement.  Their reluctance may be linked to an incident last year when rhino horns sent for sampling by Viet Nam were reportedly stolen en route to South Africa from the luggage of a Vietnamese official.

Investigations following enforcement actions like these often come to a dead end when officials are unable to trace the origin of the contraband, or when concealed shipments of high-valued commod

Cheetah attacks cause uproar over 'petting'
South Africa has been rocked by several incidences of cheetah attacks over the past week, leading to an outcry for an end to wild animal petting.

According to Algoa FM, a 3-year-old boy was attacked by a cheetah on a farm in the Free State on Sunday.

Sadly, the boy succumbed to his injuries en-route to a Bloemfontein hospital via helicopter.

The owner of the farm, wildlife filmmaker Joh Varty, says on Facebook that while he takes full responsibility for the child's death, the attack was the result of his workers' carelessness.

“On the Friday night a large amou

Pigs' teeth and hippo poo: behind the scenes at London zoo
London zoo was established in 1828 and is the world’s oldest scientific zoo. Created as a collection for the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the animals from the Tower of London’s menagerie were transferred there in 1832 and it opened to the public in 1847. Today it houses more than 20,000 animals and almost 700 species.

ZSL is not funded by the state – it relies on memberships and fellowships, entrance fees and sponsorship to generate income.
Gareth Chamberlain is one of the senior keepers at the zoo’s Into Africa section. He says: “I specialise in the giraffe and the okapi. The okapi is a forest relative of the giraffe – it’s probably one of the most beautiful animals on the planet, without a shadow of a doubt my favourite species in the world. It has a bit of a history to ZSL, which was the first zoo to discover the okapi, and it has a history for me as well because I used to come to London zoo with my parents as a child and I had a book called Ganda the Okapi – I still have it at home, actually. I used to bring the book and sit in the okapi house, which was part of the giraffe house back then, and just sit and stare at the okapi for the entire day. So I feel like I’ve grown up with them.

Leprosy revealed in red squirrels across British Isles
Leprosy has been found in red squirrels across the British Isles and scientists believe they have been infected with the disfiguring disease for centuries.

The endangered animals carry the same bacteria that cause the human disease, research has revealed. This results in lesions on their muzzles, ears and paws, adding to the sharp decline in their numbers caused by invading grey squirrels, which appear immune to the disease.

It is possible that humans have caught leprosy from red squirrels in the past, as their fur and meat was once prized. But the last case of leprosy contracted in the UK was in 1798, indicating the risk is now extremely low.

“We should be even more concerned about the squirrels now and not frightened of them,” said Prof Anna Meredith, at the University of Edinburgh and one of the leaders of the new study. “We have found it is widespread all over the UK and Ireland, but we don’t want people to be alarmed. It has been around a long time and there have been no human cases for hundreds of years.”

Nonetheless, Meredith said: “You need to be s

Bristol Zoo defends the size of its lions' enclosure after critics call it too small
Bristol Zoo has defended the size of its lions’ enclosure after critics claimed it is too small.

The zoo says the animals are not stressed and able to display their full range of natural behaviours.

The response comes after a petition was launched which calls “to get Bristol Zoo to agree to get a bigger, better, more suitable outside enclosure for their lions”.

Alison Holloway, who organised the petition on the 38 degrees' website, said: “These poor animals are in a tiny enclosure, with no real outside space to roam like lions naturally should.

“They pace up and down, staring at their spectators with blank expressions.

“There is no need for them to be in such a sm

Mumbai: Elephant hurt, but bureaucrats deny caretaker is to blame
A 54-year-old female elephant named Anarkali, housed at Byculla’s Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan, allegedly sustained injuries on her head and tail after her caretaker used a hooked whip (ankush) to control her. The use of ankush on animals is banned by the court. However the zoo authorities rebutted the allegation saying that the elephant sustained the injuries while sleeping.

However, the ankush, the sharp-edged weapon made of iron is used on sensitive parts of elephants to compel them to obey to the commands of elephant trainer (mahout). Its semi-circle hook-like portion, which can cause serious harm, is usually applied on the elephants. Jamal Khan, one of the mahouts looking after elephants at the zoo, said, “To control an elephant you need the ankush. They (elephants) obey you when they’re shown the ankush, oth

What does gestural communication of great apes tell us about human language?
Our language is one of the features that define us as human beings and distance us from all other animals. Though no other species has developed language like us, animals communicate with each other through a vast set of signals.

In the case of great apes, they communicate by vocalizations, facial expressions, body displays or gestures. Due to the phylogenetic proximity between humans and great apes, the study of gestural communication is particularly attractive since it allows to hypothesize how language evolved in our species. And the evolution of human language is one of the hardest scientific topics to do research. The reason is simple: language does not fossilize. That is why we are forced to look for other clues to enlight us about how our language evolved and great ape gestures can lead us much further in the search for answers than we previously thought.

First of all, great apes employ gestures in an intentional, flexible and goal-oriented ways and display them in various contexts like grooming, playing or feeding. For example, to request food, great apes usually use begging gestures in which they stretch their arms and open their hands towards

Yellow fever killing thousands of monkeys in Brazil
In a vulnerable forest in southeastern Brazil, where the air was once thick with the guttural chatter of brown howler monkeys, there now exists silence.

Yellow fever, a virus carried by mosquitoes and endemic to Africa and South America, has robbed the private, federally-protected reserve of its brown howlers in an unprecedented wave of death that has swept through the region since late 2016, killing thousands of monkeys.
Karen Strier, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of anthropology, has studied the monkeys of this forest since 1983. She visited the reserve—her long-term study site near the city of Caratinga—in the state of Minas Gerais, in January of 2017. "It was just silence, a sense of emptiness," she says. "It was like the energy was sucked out of the universe."
Using what in some cases are decades of historical data, Strier and a team of Brazilian scientists focused on studying primates in Brazil's patchwork Atlantic Forest are poised to help understand and manage what happens

China's First Orca Breeding Center Sparks Controversy
SeaWorld announced a year ago that it would end orca breeding at its parks in the U.S. One year later and nearly 8,000 miles away in China, another such program is just getting started.

The Chimelong Group, one of the country’s biggest amusement park operators, revealed that it opened a breeding center for orcas on February 24 at Chimelong Ocean Kingdom—the first program of its kind in China. Located in Zhukai, a city in the southeast, the park has five males and four females ranging in age from five to 13. The orcas, also known as killer whales, were plucked from Russia’s Sea of Okhotsk, according to the China Cetacean Alliance, a coalition of inter


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About me
After more than 49 years working in private, commercial and National zoos in the capacity of keeper, head keeper and curator Peter Dickinson started to travel. He sold house and all his possessions and hit the road. He has traveled extensively in Turkey, Southern India and much of South East Asia before settling in Thailand. In his travels he has visited well over 200 zoos and many more before 'hitting the road' and writes about these in his blog

Peter earns his living as an independent international zoo consultant, critic and writer. Currently working as Curator of Penguins in Ski Dubai. United Arab Emirates. He describes himself as an itinerant zoo keeper, one time zoo inspector, a dreamer, a traveler, an introvert, a people watcher, a lover, a thinker, a cosmopolitan, a writer, a hedonist, an explorer, a pantheist, a gastronome, sometime fool, a good friend to some and a pain in the butt to others.

"These are the best days of my life"

Peter Dickinson
Independent International Zoo Consultant