Saturday, June 24, 2017

Zoo News Digest 24th June 2017 (ZooNews 959)

Zoo News Digest 24th June 2017  (ZooNews 959)

Cúc Phương National Park
I recall walking down this road very late one night. 
No visible 'human' light but my way lit by fireflies dancing in front of me. 

Peter Dickinson

Dear Colleague,

So it is going to happen at long last. They are going to auction off Rhino horn from the huge stocks that are held by fat cats in South African bank vaults. The argument is that if it is available on a 'legal' market then there will be no demand for wild horn. I would love that this was true but I very much doubt it and will look very closely for a reduction in poaching statistics. It is not as if there has not been a legal market for quite some time. Selling live animals on the hoof for export happens every year. Sadly some of these animals have been slaughtered before the boats have even left the docks. Then there are the farmed Rhinos in China….they have been operating for years but the demand has continued to rise. I can even foresee an increased demand for 'wild' horn as people are like that. Wild Sea Bass always demands a higher price than farmed. It may seem a world away but it isn't really. All this auction is going to do is going to make a bunch of rich people even richer. The Rhinos will not benefit at all.

I reckon I need to update this article but it is mostly still relevant

Whilst on the subject of farming. There are literally hundreds of crocodile farms (there is even one planned for the UAE) and these produce countless thousands of animals each year. I have visited a number of these places attached to zoos. One of these, the Samutprakarn Crocodile Farm and Zoo claims to have some 60,000 crocodiles. I believe it and think I saw more than that number. That is just one place and there are dozens of similar places in Asia before venturing elsewhere. So every bit and part of a crocodile you could possibly want has been available on the legal market for years. Yet this week we learn that difficulties in the Egyptian economy has seen a rise in the poaching of Nile crocodiles. So even with an abundant supply someone somewhere is always going to kill the free.

Reading of the Cheetah in Kuwait disturbed me. It is so easy to forget when you are keeping a watch on the illegal trade in one Arabian Gulf country that it is going on in all the others. Having the money and a powerful 'friend' means you can do whatever you want to do. There are laws in place now but they really need to be taken seriously.

I was watching the dispute between the charitable donations for Bandung Zoo with interest. A very bitter and nasty fight. I hear a lot of stories and have a greater insight than most in some. All is not as it seems. Newspapers need to do a lot more digging.

What is a Conservationist? I believe the dictionary definition fits it…"a person who advocates or acts for the protection and preservation of the environment and wildlife." That's me and everyone else who has a role in the good modern zoo. I have noticed of late that the press seem to be turning the term to mean those who work with animals in the wild. That's wrong.
I also consider myself to be a Zoologist even though I do not have a degree in zoology. I daresay many others working in good zoos feel the same and 'Zoologist' is what I usually put on any landing card I have to complete when entering a new country. I mention this because I noted this week a Canadian Zookeeper being refused leave to return to work in the US because she put zoologist on her visa renewal form.

At the end of the day though and in spite of the various titles over the years, Zoo Curator, Head Keeper, Zoo operations manager etc I consider myself first and foremost a Zoo Keeper….and proud of it!

Lots of interesting links follow.

Did You Know?
ZooNews Digest has over 60,000 Followers on Facebook and has a weekly reach often exceeding over 350,000 people? That ZooNews Digest has subscribers in over 820 Zoos in 154+ countries? That the subscriber list for the mail out reads like a 'Zoos Who's Who?'
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, 


Avian egg shape: Form, function, and evolution
Avian egg shape is generally explained as an adaptation to life history, yet we currently lack a global synthesis of how egg-shape differences arise and evolve. Here, we apply morphometric, mechanistic, and macroevolutionary analyses to the egg shapes of 1400 bird species. We characterize egg-shape diversity in terms of two biologically relevant variables, asymmetry and ellipticity, allowing us to quantify the observed morphologies in a two-dimensional morphospace. We then propose a simple mechanical model that explains the observed egg-shape diversity based on geometric and material properties of the egg membrane. Finally, using phylogenetic models, we show that egg shape correlates with flight ability on broad taxonomic scales, suggesting that adaptations for flight may have been critical drivers of egg-shape variation in birds.

Bats really do harbor more dangerous viruses than other species
Is there something special about bats? The question has been hotly debated among researchers studying the origins of deadly viruses. Marburg, Ebola, severe acute respiratory syndrome: They have all been linked to bats, leading some scientists to argue that something about the mysterious mammals makes them especially likely to harbor viruses dangerous to humans. “Bats are special,” is their motto. But others argue that the bat order is very well-studied and very big—one in five mammalian species is a bat—biasing results.

That debate may finally be over. A broad look at all viruses known to infect mammals suggests that bats are, indeed, more likely to carry unknown pathogens that can wreak havoc on humans. Surprisingly, the study comes from researchers who until now were bat doubters. “As a scientist, you accept the results of your own study—even if they prove you wrong!” says disease ecologist Peter Daszak of the EcoHealth Alliance in New York City, a senior author on the new study.

Daszak's group started out trying to answer a broader question: Where should scientists concentrate efforts to find as-yet-unknown viruses threatening humanity? Most emerging infectious diseases are zoonoses, diseases that originate in animals, and some may have the potential to trigger massive epidemics. But there are th

Taking care of turtles in Cúc Phương
Nestled in the dense greenery of Cúc Phương National Park, a team of volunteers and staff work tirelessly to look after around 1,000 rare and endangered turtles. Lê Hương & Hồng Vân report.

Taking trays containing freshly ground paste of vegetables and fruit, Lina V. Wedel and Simon Brauburger head for nearby enclosures to feed the turtles, one of the important tasks they perform every morning.

They chat while putting the trays in the feeding areas, without forgetting to take a quick look at the turtles swimming in the small ponds or crawling on the banks.

The Cúc Phương Turtle Conservation Centre (TCC) in Cúc Phương National Park is home to some 1,000 turtles of 30 domestic and foreign species. The park is in the northern province of Ninh Bình, some 120km east

Crocodile Poaching Booms as Egypt Tourism Crumbles
If they’re small, you use the bulk of the boat to hustle them into the shallows, then snag them by hand, Mahmoud tells me. He should know, having spent the past decade poaching the scaly beasts around the southern city of Aswan.

If they’re medium-size, perhaps the length of a kayak, he says (he won’t tell me his family name because of the illegal nature of his work), you noose them with barbed wire traps. And if they’re monsters—up to 18 feet of whiplashing tail, bristling teeth, and relentless aggression—you dazzle them with a spotlight, entangle them in fishing nets, and subdue them with a shot to their exposed underbelly.

“There’s not a crocodile I can’t catch, or a hunting ground I don’t know,” Mahmoud bragged. “I’ve made my li

Male desert tortoises don’t mate after being relocated and scientists want to know why
Pity the relocated male desert tortoises. Once they are airlifted or driven to new homes in the Mojave Desert, they fail to mate and produce offspring, a study has found.

Though scientists aren’t ready to draw conclusions, the finding raises concern that moving tortoises may diminish the genetic diversity of the species, which is listed as threatened with extinction.

At a cost of millions of dollars, desert tortoises have been repeatedly moved out of their home ranges when their habitats were needed for military base expansions, solar energy development and other projects. Just this spring, the military moved more than a thousand desert tortoises out of the Johnson Valley expansion area of the M

Battle lines drawn in Vancouver Aquarium debate
Chester, a false killer whale, and his companion, Helen, a Pacific white-sided dolphin, have their eyes on their trainers and the red tubs of fish on deck.

Helen pops her head out of the water and lets loose a chatter. With a flick of her trainer’s hand, Helen is airborne, her body curved in a perfect arc, five metres above the water.

Then it’s Chester’s turn. The false killer whale – a type of dolphin – leaps on command, landing his 225-kilogram bulk with a mighty splash.

Action plan to save Sunda Clouded Leopard
International and local scientists, governmental agencies as well as industry players are convening again to save another iconic and endemic species to Sabah, the Sunda clouded leopard, just four months after proposing recommendations towards the conservation of the proboscis monkey.

The Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) and Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) are organising a three-day workshop attended by subject matter experts. Recommendations will be proposed to protect the Sunda clouded leopard based on findings of a five-year extensive research on the endangered species conducted by DGFC and SWD.

A Sunda Clouded Leopard Action Plan for Sabah will then be drafted based on the proposed recommendations gleaned from the workshop.

DGFC director Dr Benoit Goossens said he hoped that the Sabah state government would adopt the Sunda Clouded Leopard Action Plan for implementation to save the species, which is threatened by habitat loss and forest fragmentation in Sabah.

“For the past 10 years, SWD, DGFC and collaborators from Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), University of Montana and Leibniz Institu

Byron's Lens: The secret in an orangutan's pee
Dr. William Wong is showing me down a hallway at the Children’s Nutrition Research Center at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “We call this the stable isotope laboratory,” he says. There are five isotope-ratio mass spectrometers on this floor. They can analyze blood, saliva, water, and, as it turns out, orangutan pee.

Captive elephants in Burma may be released to boost numbers
Hundreds of unemployed elephants in Burma, laid off from the once-booming timber trade, have emerged as potential saviours of the animal population.

One of the largest surviving wild elephant populations in Asia is being pushed to the brink as hunters feed demand for their hides in neighbouring China. Dozens of carcasses, stripped of their skins, have been found by villagers in recent months.

Campaigners have warned that hunters are increasingly targeting mothers and their calves, which will accelerate the slide in elephant numbers. In many cases, the poachers have used poisoned arrows to bring down

Skegness Aquarium octopus gives birth to 400 babies - but it's bittersweet
No one at the Skegness Aquarium knew whether Beanbag the Common Octopus was male or female until she laid some eggs.

Now around 400 young octopii, known as paralarvae, have hatched.

Staff at the aquarium say they are delighted to see the arrival so many young octopii.

Wildlife imports bring Sharjah safari park a step closer to opening
The Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA) has announced that it has imported 288 wild animals from South Africa into the emirate, bringing Sharjah’s vision for what could be the largest safari park project outside Africa one step closer to reality. The animals are being cared for by experts at the Seih Al Bardi Park (Elebriddi Wildlife Protected Area) and acclimatised in compounds, whilst trees are planted and park infrastructure is under construction.

Located in Al Dhaid in Sharjah emirate’s interior, phase one of Seih Al Bardi Park was officially opened as a conservation area in 2007, as part of Sharjah’s effort to protect natural ecosystems and biodiversity. The landscape of Al Bardi is typified by gravel plains with a high density of Acacia trees, providing a suitable habitat for different forms of wildlife and an ideal environment for many different native and imported species.

Thoughts of Behaviour: The Balance of Reinforcement
The Balance of Reinforcement
Life is about balance I mean when one part in your life to high the other parts wont have the same meaning anymore. We see this when friends of family pass away or even our animals. The balance will be gone for a little bit. Balance is important, I discovered that when having a great job working with my dream animals that when your private life is not superb that it doesn’t really matter. Because you won’t feel 100% happy anyway. The same for the opposite side. Your private life is amazing but your job isn’t working well you won’t be happy neither. In many parts of living our life there are moment where we should think about this balance. To be honest the hardest ones are relationships.

In training session, it happens easily that we forget to generalize behaviours we train. It is as important to train the animal on signal as of signal, just for you to know that the animal really understands your signal. For example, if its more reinforcing for an animal to go in a transport box then it is to stay out of it, the balance of reinforcement might be leaning towards the transport box more than not going into it. We maybe should ask o

Billy the Elephant belongs Right Where He is … in His Happy Home at the LA Zoo
THE BUTCHER SHOP … NO BONES ABOUT IT--A small, influential group of celebrities and animal activists have reinvigorated their failed 2009 campaign to move Billy the elephant out of the LA Zoo. On April 19, Councilmember Paul Koretz introduced a motion to “immediately cancel any current or future elephant breeding activities” and to move Billy to a “sanctuary environment.”

Zoo Miami’s ‘goodwill ambassador’ not allowed to represent county at international Havana conference
Ron Magill, the charismatic spokesman for Zoo Miami, is also its “goodwill ambassador.” Give him a platform and he’ll spread the gospel on animal conservation initiatives with eloquence and passion, usually with a creature or two hanging around his neck. Everywhere he goes he represents not only the zoo, but his employer — Miami-Dade County — with distinction.

For the Miami-Dade mayor, however, everywhere doesn’t include Cuba.

No matter how close a neighbor or how many shared ecosystems are involved or animal species need saving, when it comes to Cuba, it is politics first and foremost in Miami. And so, before he left for Europe on a trade mission and vacation, Mayor Carlos Gimenez declined to sign a travel request for Magill to represent Zoo Miami at the annual conference of the Association of Latin American Zoological Parks and Aquariums in Havana.

Some of the most respected professionals in the

World outrage at planned export of baby elephants from Namibia
Permission granted by the Namibian government to a game farm owned by a Swedish national to capture and export to Dubai five wild young elephants has raised a storm among conservation organisations worldwide.

In an open letter to Johan Hansen of the farm Eden Wildlife, the Humane Society International (HSI), co-signed by 35 other organisations, requested that he ‘immediately and permanently halt plans to capture and export five young live elephants….to Dubai Safari Park in the United Arab Emirates.’

Strong Comments From The Director Of The Dubai Safari Park Will Ease Animal Welfare Worries
The director of the new Dubai safari park (opening date TBC) has spoken out about the welfare of the animals which will soon call the reserve their home.

According to the director, the animals will not be used to perform stunts, large animals will be allowed to roam parts of the park and the only animals being brought the AED 1 billion park are ones in need of care, rehoming or rescuing, or ones that have been donated by other zoos.

'If we stopped poaching tomorrow, elephants would still be in big trouble'
It is the dead of night. The day’s red-dust heat has given way to a cooling breeze. A hundred frogs chirp urgently. Tim and his crew are preparing for another stealth raid. Their mission is highly dangerous and now there’s a new threat: armed men are following them.

This is the scene repeated nightly on the eastern fringes of Amboseli national park in Kenya, close to the border with Tanzania. Tim is an elephant who, along with a group of up to 12 other males, has developed a taste for the tomatoes and maize growing on local farms on the outskirts of the park. The armed men are park rangers who have been tasked with keeping him from the crops – and saving his life.

The nocturnal game of cat and elephant is just one example of a much bigger problem playing out across Africa and Asia. It is the sharp end of an existential conflict between people and wildlife for land, food and water. It is also a departure from the traditional story of elephant conservation, which presents the big threat to the world’s largest land animal as ivory poachers and the trinket-buyers in Chinese bazaars. The ivory trade has had a significant impact, for sure, but habitat destruction caused by human

Plan to Save World's Most Trafficked Mammal Ignites Debate
If during the past decade you’d wanted to see a scaly creature about the size of a house cat with a long skinny tongue for slurping up ants, California’s San Diego Zoo was the place to go in the U.S. Baba the pangolin arrived there in 2007 after wildlife officials intercepted him in an illegal shipment.

He survived in the zoo until last year, when he died after keepers noticed he was behaving abnormally, according to the San Diego Tribune. As it turns out, pangolins are hard to raise in captivity and often die prematurely.

Nevertheless, that hasn’t deterred six U.S. zoos and one nonprofit organization, Florida-based Pangolin Conservation, from quietly bringing in about 45 pangolins of their own from Africa during the past year. The institutions say they’re doing this to help save pangolins, which are doing very badly in the wild, and in the process they’ve ignited a debate over the role of zoos in helping save highly threatened species.

Zoos aren’t Victorian-era throwbacks: they’re important in saving species
The National Zoo and Aquarium in Canberra recently announced a new expansion that will double its size, with open range space for large animals like white rhinos and cheetahs.

As well as improving visitors’ experience, the expansion is touted as a way to improve the zoo’s breeding program for threatened animals. However, zoos have received plenty of criticism over their capacity to educate, conserve, or even keep animals alive.

But while zoos began as 19th-century menageries, they’ve come a long way since then. They’re responsible for saving 10 iconic species worldwide. Without captive breeding and reintroduction efforts, there might be no Californian Condor or Przewalski’s Horse – the only truly wild horse – left in the wild.

Australian zoos form part of a vital global network that keeps our most vulnerable species alive.

How cracking the sex-change code in bearded dragons could help them survive

Australian scientists say they have cracked the code that explains why reptiles change sex under the stress of extreme temperatures.

The proposed model could also help manage biodiversity as reptiles come under pressure from climate change.

Dutch vet saves VN elephants
Sipping juice in a small café in Hà Nội in early June, Willem Schaftenaar relaxes before his flight home to the Netherlands. Previously, he was busy in Bản Đôn village in Đắk Lắk provinces Buôn Đôn district working with officials of the provincial Elephant Conservation Centre (ECC) to save near-extinct elephants in Việt Nam.

On this trip to Đắk Lắk, he was accompanied by Vincent Werbrouck, CEO of Pairi Daiza Foundation, a privately owned zoo and botanical garden in Belgium, who is also looking to support elephants in Việt Nam.

Respect for elephants and love of Việt Nam brought them together.

This latest visit marks the fifth time Dr Schaftenaar has went to the Central Highlands, determined to save the near-extinct elephants.

Two years ago a veterinarian who was also one of Dr Schaftenaar’s students working at the the ECC told him about an injured elephant in Đôn village that the Centre’s officials were trying to save. Given the gravity of the s

Calls for crackdown as dangerous animals sold on UAE instagram accounts
Wildlife campaigners say more must be done to enforce laws regarding the sale of wild animals in the UAE, as Instagram accounts continue to be used to sell exotic species.

Baby baboons, poisonous slow loris and tigers are among the creatures available for sale on UAE-based pages.

Federal Law No 22 came into force this year and regulates the possession, trade and breeding of dangerous animals.

It states that only zoos, wildlife parks, circuses and breeding and research centres are allowed to keep wild or exotic animals.

But despite raids and seizures by enforcement officers in Sharjah last month, animal welfare campaigners said social media remains an open market for dealers.

In the comments section on open pages, bidders offer "3,000" and "4,500".

"How much for the monkey?", one user wrote.

"There aren’t the controls on social media for this kind of trading – to be able to do this online is ridiculous," said Tamer Khafaga, a conservation officer at Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve.

"It needs more education and tougher measurements."

Despite a desire by the authorities

WHY ANIMALS DO THE THING - Billy the Elephant
I’ve been following the story of Billy pretty closely. I’m glad you asked - it’s the sort of thing I think is really important to talk about, because people need to understand what’s going on behind the nicely framed stories about animal activism you hear in the media, but I’m never sure how much of that sort of animal industry politics followers are interested in reading.

The reason this specific instance is so important is because it’s a hell of a lot more complicated than ‘sanctuary vs zoo, which is better for the animals’. The decision to go after Billy - and only Billy, and only right now - looks to me like a really strategic political decision from the animal rights movement, and it falls in line with what I’ve been researching the history, evolution, and MO of the animal rights movement. As I’ve been learning more and more about how animal rights organizations and their partnered sanctuaries conquer and divide to achieve the change they want to see, a very specific pattern of action has started cropping up and this situation exemplifies how they’ve learned to use legislation, the legal system, and the good intentions of the general public to remove animals from zoos. This explanation is going to seem a little bit like jumping at shadows, but this method of petitioning cities to seize zoo animals as assets - and the really conveniently timed fallout that would result from their success - is textbook animal rights organization planning.

So here’s what you need to know - if Billy is sent to a sanctuary, the LA Zoo would lose their AZA accreditation. They’d likely then be subject to the new wild animal performance law that’s got major support in LA right now, because only

Breaking News: Jun Jun The Beluga Whale Destined For “Whale Sea Sanctuary” Has Passed Away In Activist “Care”
Earlier this week, the Ministry of Fisheries and Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority gave permission to move three beluga whales from the aquarium they called home in Shanghai to a “sanctuary” in Vestmannaeyjar.

According to WDC, the beluga whales were supposed to go through “beluga bootcamp,” where they were to go through months of mental and physical training to “be more like wild belugas again.” (Seriously?) However, a source tells Awesome Ocean that one of the belugas, Jun Jun, has died p

Inside The Tanks (Full Documentary)

Can we bring back the pheasant that was wiped out by the war in Vietnam?
Framed by mounds of white tuft, the ruddy faces of the Red-shanked Douc monkeys peer out from the forest canopies. In the distance, calls of White-cheeked Gibbons echo through the early morning stillness. Underneath, browsing in the shadows of the forest floor are myriad species of deer; among them forages one of the world’s rarest large mammals – the Saola, a bovine that lives in forests so wild and remote, that they were unknown to humans until researchers happened upon the remains of one during an expedition in 1992.

That is a measure of how deep into the wilderness we’ve had to come to get here. We’re in Khe Nuoc Trong, an evergreen-broadleaf forest situated in the Annamese lowlands, Vietnam. It feels like you couldn’t stretch your arms out to yawn without knocking three or four endangered species off their perch. The area is a jewel of biodiversity, but something’s missing. A very important part of the forest’s heritage, in fact. You could spend all morning listening ou

Haichang Ocean Park and Country Garden Holdings to develop marine theme parks resorts in China
Fox Business reports that the strategic cooperation agreement with developer Country Garden Holdings will include the development of marine theme parks as well as related commercial, residential and resorts in cities in China.

Haichang Ocean Park currently operates six ocean theme parks, one adventure theme park, and one water world in China. In addition there are two major projects under construction in Shanghai and Sanya.

Country Garden Holdings is ranked 44th in the 2017 list of the BrandZ™ Top 100 Most Valuable Chinese Brands.  Country Garden has been involved in urban modernization in over 400 cities and towns in China and more t

The last stronghold of the crane
It’s busy, busy, busy. 500 Grey-crowned cranes are pecking for grains in front of us in the recently harvested wheat field by the shores of Lake Ol Bolossat, stretched in the shadows of the Aberdares.

“The cranes are here all the time,” says George Ndung’u, founder of the Nyahururu Bird Club, Olbolossat Biodiversity Conservation Group and recently, the Crane Conservation Volunteers. “It is the largest flock we have,” says Ndung’u, who has been monitoring the bird for almost 20 years.

I can hear Kerryn Morrison from South Africa gasp. She is the Africa partnership manager for the International Crane Foundation and Endangered Wildlife Trust. It’s the largest flock she has seen in her two decades of re

Meet Japan’s $242 million baby panda
The birth of a giant panda cub at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoological Gardens is predicted to boost the city’s economy to the tune of $242 million.

Katsuhiro Miyamoto, Professor Emeritus of Theoretical Economics at Kansai University in Osaka prefecture, has compared the economic benefits of the birth with ‘a professional baseball team winning a title.’

He predicts the cub could attract in the region of 5,657,000 visitors to the zoo during this financial year. This would be an increase of 1.8 million from the previous year.

He has reached his conclusions by looking at data from 1972 when giant pandas were exhibited in Japan for the first time.

Alongside increased revenues from ticket sales and visitor spending in-house, the cub will also boost the income of employees at relevant facilities, says the professor.

The arrival of the tiny, naked cub has delighted the Japanese.

Proud parents, Fairy and Billy

Zoo's black rhino dad gives blood for unborn calf
Faru will have to wait until next year to celebrate his first Father's Day as dad to his second offspring. And yet, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s black rhino has already given a gift that could be invaluable to his unborn calf.

His mate, Seyia, is expected to give birth to their calf in early July. Just in case things don't go as planned, zoo staff members have been collecting Faru's blood for the past nine weeks. Hoxworth Blood Center, University of Cincinnati has been banking the plasma to use if Seyia can't care for her calf and it has to be hand-raised.

“The hope is that the calf will nurse and be raised by her mom, but some inexperienced moms aren't sure what to do with their offspring and humans have to step in to provide nourishment and warmth," said Christina Gorsuch, a curator of mammals at the zoo. (That's what happened with Fiona, the premature hippo that has been cared for by Cincinnati Zoo staff since her Jan. 24 birth.) "If that happens this time, we'll be able to give the calf the best start possible, with help from her dad.”

Plasma contains immunoglobulins that hel

Aussie researcher helps discover new species of rat
RATS are not known for winning popularity contests but a type newly discovered by Australian and international researchers has been awarded a place in the 2017 top 10 list of previously unknown species.

The omnivorous Slender Rat is unique among its strictly carnivorous relatives and was discovered on Sulawesi Island by Museums Victoria mammalogist Dr Kevin Rowe and his US and Indonesian team which was helped to a remote rainforest area by Rantepangko villagers.

Selected from a field of 18,000 new species of animals and plants discovered across the world in the past 12 months, the Slender Rat was included on the College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s Top 10 New Species for 2017 “not so much for its rattiness but for the evolutionary story it tells and the conservation message,” Dr Rowe said.

Scientists estimate less than a quarter of Earth’s flora and fauna species have been identified and, although thousands of new examples are found each year, thousands of others are becomi

Penguin-Centered Design Is A Real Thing
Design doesn’t just solve problems for people. It can also help save animals’ lives. Case in point: A team of zoologists has decided to build artificial nests for endangered African penguins. The nests, which are made of ceramic-like insulation, are designed to keep two baby chicks and one adult penguin cool in the hot African sun.

The number of African penguins has been dwindling for decades. There were once a million pairs of breeding birds, located primarily in South Africa and Namibia; now, there are only 25,000 pairs. This is mostly due to overfishing, climate change, and the harvesting of guano, or penguin poop. The latter has been especially detrimental: African penguins typically make their nests in heaps of dried guano that have been built up for decades, providing the right p

Have A Good Time, All Of The Time
At the very end of the glorious movie This Is Spinal Tap, the keyboardist Viv Savaged says, "Have a good time, all of the time.  That's my philosophy, Marty." 

That quote pops into my head frequently, especially when working with animals.  In fact, the other day at my forensics internship, some of the higher-ups stopped me to comment on my dolphin sleeve.  They asked what my inspiration was for it, and I told them that my former career was in marine mammal training.  Their response? “OH that must be such a fun job!”

I know that as zookeepers, we tend to be wary of how the general public sees us.  We do a job that appears to basically amount to what most people do on their weekends: hang out with their dogs, snuggle with their cats, send their parrots to attack their enemies, etc.  The point is, it looks like a lot of fun to do our job.  So much so, that we are often met with offensive lines of questioning dealing with our academic background (e.g. “Your job is not a real career”).  As a result, we have our own internal script regarding how professional our job is, the journey we took to get to where we are, AND the intense physical and emotional labor that

Artificial incubation helps hatch rock ptarmigan chicks
A Toyama zoo has succeeded in artificial incubation of two Japanese rock ptarmigan chicks, the first feat for the endangered bird in 19 years in Japan, the Environment Ministry said Sunday.

Japan thus made major progress toward the establishment of artificial breeding methods for the bird, whose scientific name is Lagopus muta japonica, that will cover the full breeding cycle from egg laying, incubation to growth, officials said.

Toyama Family Park Zoo in Toyama, commissioned to breed the bird, gave birth to the two babies late Saturday morning in special incubation equipment in which the temperature is kept at 37.6 C.

They are both 6.5 centimeters long, with their estimated weights put at 15.6 grams and 17.1 grams. They seem to be in good health, but close attention is necessary because rock ptarmigan chicks are particularly vulnerable to illness in their first two weeks, the officials said.

“Artificial breeding is considered a success only after babies grow,” said Yuji Ishihara, head of the zoo. “We have a lot of things we still don’t know, so we have even more difficult tasks ahead.”

The Toyama zoo breeds seven Japanese rock ptarmig

'We're sort of her mum': behind the scenes at Sydney's Taronga zoo
Lily and Blossom are about to be toilet trained at Taronga zoo. The two young sugar gliders are curled up together inside a wooden box within a staff bathroom while trainer Suzie Lemon is trying to coax them out with the promise of a sugary, sap-like treat. Lily eventually emerges and promptly pees all over the floor but Lemon doesn’t seem to mind. After all, they’re not here for that kind of toilet training.

“We’re training them to glide over to us on cue to demonstrate their natural gliding behaviour,” Lemon explains. “We needed an enclosed space, somewhere with four solid walls, because in future they’re going to be doing this for education purposes in the new learning centre.

“These two are both young so they’ve got to build their confidence and learn how to aim.”

Lemon raises her palms to form a wide landing pad and beckons Lily over. When the marsupial takes off it spreads its limbs to reveal wing-like membranes before landing on Lemon’s wrists.

“They do a bit of head-bobbing in or

350 animals in Darjeeling Zoo face shutdown heat
Over 350 zoo inmates of a specialised zoo located in Darjeeling, known for its conservation and breeding programmes of highly endangered animals, are facing the heat of the ongoing shutdown with food supplies fast drying up.

The Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park (PNHZP), popularly known as Darjeeling Zoo, is a specialized zoo known for its conservation and breeding programmes of Red Panda, Snow Leopards, Tibetan Wolf and highly endangered animal species of eastern Himalayas. It houses animals of 49 species.

But with the supplies drying up, officials of this largest high altitude zoo in the country, are apprehensive about how to arrange food for the animals if the indefinite shutdown continues for a few more days.

Zoo director Piar Chand said, on a daily basis the zoo requires nearly 100 kg of meat, 80 kg fodder, 50-60 kg fruits, 50 kg grams, wheat and flour.

"Actually we have stock of fruits, grams, wheat for the next few days. We have a ready source of fodder for herbivores as there are forests nearby. But if the shutdown continues for a few more days, then arranging for such huge quantity of meat and fruits would be a problem," Chand told PTI.

Chand said, "meat is being supplied by few locals but supply of chicken has completely stopped," .

While taking about alternative route to arrange food, Chand said," If the shutdown continues, then we will take the help of administration and political parties in the hills to arrange for supply of fresh food. We can't let the animals fast."

Chand said, with the shutdown on for the last five days the zoo revenue has also been hit.

Darjeeling zoo is also a member of

Artificial Insemination May Be Yangtze Giant Turtle’s Last Hope
Imagine that the human species has been decimated to one man and one woman. Their names are no longer relevant, as they can simply be referred to as “he” and “she.” The future of the entire species depends on their willingness — and ability — to mate and produce offspring.

This is what’s happening to the Yangtze giant softshell turtle, or Rafetus swinhoei. Scientists, the media, and even the turtles’ caregivers have long stopped calling 110-year-old Susu and 90-year-old Xiangxiang by their names, simply referring to them as “the male” and “the female.”

They are the last two Yangtze giant softshell turtles known to still live in China. Another one has been located in a lake in northern Vietnam, while a second turtle died last year. There’s a small chance that others might exist in the wild somewhere, though nobody knows for sure. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the species as “critically endangered,”

True altruism seen in chimpanzees, giving clues to evolution of human cooperation
Whether it’s giving to charity or helping a stranger with directions, we often assist others even when there’s no benefit to us or our family members. Signs of such true altruism have been spotted in some animals, but have been difficult to pin down in our closest evolutionary relatives. Now, in a pair of studies, researchers show that chimpanzees will give up a treat in order to help out an unrelated chimp, and that chimps in the wild go out on risky patrols in order to protect even nonkin at home. The work may give clues to how such cooperation—the foundation of human civilization—evolved in humans.

“Both studies provide powerful evidence for forms of cooperation in our closest relatives that have been difficult to demonstrate in other animals besides humans,” says Brian Hare, an evolutionary anthropologist at Duke University in Dur

Critically Endangered Bourret’s Box Turtles Hatch at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo
Keepers at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s Reptile Discovery Center are celebrating a conservation success five years in the making: a pair of Bourret’s box turtle hatchlings. These young are the first of their species to hatch both at the Zoo and as a part of the North American Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) for Bourret’s box turtle.

Ever since the turtles emerged from their shells June 12, keepers have closely monitored them to ensure they are eating and gaining weight. They appear to be healthy and thriving, weighing 25 grams each—about 1/52 the size of their mother, who weighs 1,300 grams. Staff have not yet verified the 10-day-old turtles’ sex, as they show no sexual dimorphism at this age. The young turtles, as well as the adult female and two adult males, will remain off-exhibit while under observation.

The Bourret’s box turtles’ parents arrived at the Zoo in 2012 following a SSP breeding recommendation. From October to March, adult Bourret’s box turtles undergo a period of brumation—a hibernation-like state

Another European first for Loro Parque in breeding programme
Loro Parque in Puerto de la Cruz has become the only zoological centre in Europe to reproduce the Lear’s Macaw.

In another magnificent success for its breeding programme, the Foundation has achieved a breakthrough in the production of the “Anodorhynchus leari”, an endangered species that lives in the north of Brazil.

Since 2006, when the Brazilian government first sent a pair of Lear Macaws for reproduction to Loro Parque, LPF has obtained 30 individuals born in Tenerife; nine individuals have been returned to Brazil already.

The acclimatisation of the parrots has been fundamental in order to achieve such a successful breeding. The imitation of their natural habitat, the good climate and the food from the licuri palm tree – the same they feed on in Brazil – have been the keys for such good results.

Lear macaws suffer illegal trade with the capture of its young, and when grown up, farmers chase after them to protect their corn. Their habitat is incr

Bandung Zoo Accuses Fundraiser Of Fraud
Indonesian zoos do not enjoy a sterling reputation for animal care. When foreigners try to intervene, officials become upset – especially when money is at stake.

An American environmentalist has raised over $41,000 and counting – in the hopes of improving conditions at Indonesian zoos and rescuing suffering animals. Officials at Bandung Zoo in West Java province think the money should go straight to the zoo itself.

In recent years, Bandung Zoo has been accused of failing to provide adequate care for its animals. Earlier this year, an old video of its sun bears, appearing emaciated and hungry, was uploaded on YouTube, prompting renewed calls for the zoo’s closure.

Rebecca Rodriguez, who describes herself as a “lifelong animal advocate, filmmaker and consultant,” on March 16 launched an online fundraising campaign on The page prominently features the YouTube video titled ‘Bandung Zoo: Starving sun bears and dirty cages #horrificzoo.’

Rodriguez’s goal is to raise US$75,000 to ‘help the animals of Indonesia.’ Specifically, she wanted to assemble a six-person team of experts to visit Indo

Ethical Considerations at the Zoo: The Pangolin Dilemma
The Pittsburgh Zoo has a rare wildlife treasure, but they aren’t sharing it with the public just yet.

The zoo is in possession of three wild-born pangolins, but the animals are not expected to be on public view for two years. In the meantime, they will be used for research. While conservationists argue that keeping them in captivity is unethical, zookeepers contend that knowing more about the animal and promoting research and awareness is the best way to save it from extinction.

The pangolin is among the world’s most endangered species, but very little is known about them. Pangolins are small, odd-looking mammals with furry bellies, scaly backs, and cone-shaped faces. When threatened, they curl into a little armored ball and emit a noxious acid, like a skunk. They’ve been around since the time of the dinosaurs, and they eat bugs using tongues that roll up in their abdomens and can be longer than their bodies. They look like little armored wa

Kansas City zoo chimp dies after falling from a tree during skirmish
A chimpanzee at the Kansas City Zoo has died after what the zoo called “an unfortunate accident.”

The zoo said Wednesday morning that one of the chimps passed away due to injuries sustained in a fall from a tree, during a brawl involving several chimps.

A skirmish broke out around 9 a.m. among 12 chimps inside the 3-acre habitat, which the zoo said is “often a part of chimpanzee society and is a means of maintaining the hierarchical structure within that society.”

The 31-year-old chimp, named Bahati, climbed a tree during the fight and fell when he grabbed a branch that broke, the zoo said. The zoo initially said the branch was dead, but later clarified that it was alive, but too small to support his weight.

A fully grown male chimpanzee can weigh

Why biodiversity loss is scarier than climate change
While the plight of tigers, sharks and rhinos may be sad, does it really matter to mankind if these species go extinct? Should we care if the only way to see these beasts is in a zoo or aquarium, or if they go the way of the Dodo?

Preserving these species is not only in the interests of zoologists and animal lovers, it is essential to safeguard the future of our own, says Marco Lambertini, director-general of environmental group World Wide Fund for Nat

Environmental educator and EarthEd contributing author Jacob Rodenburg shares what motivated him to write the “The Pathway to Stewardship” chapter in EarthEd: Rethinking Education on a Changing Planet.

I’m trying hard not to get discouraged. Being an environmental educator in today’s world feels like you are asked to stop a rushing river armed only with a teaspoon.

There are so many issues to be worried about—from climate change to habitat destruction, from oceans of plastic to endangered species, from the loss of biodiversity to melting glaciers. And the list goes on. The field itself has become ever more siloed and compartmentalized over time, leaving schools, parents, and outdoor programs with little unified guidance. How do we teach kids—in a hopeful and empowering way—about today’s formidable challenges? And how do we translate this increase in knowledge about environmental issues into action?

World's 1st Legal Rhino Horn Auction
As the demand for rhino horn has increased globally, a trend led by Asia, we have seen the growth of rhino being poached in South Africa escalate at alarming levels to match that demand. We are at a crossroad where we, as a nation, need to view alternative approaches to conserve our species.

Meet the Kuwaitis who live with pet cheetahs at home
In the basement of a building in Kuwait city, two 80cm-tall African cheetahs sluggishly play with a ball next to a table. Shahad al-Jaber, a 32-year-old Kuwaiti, smiles proudly. “They are my babies. I would prefer them to my children if I had any, I’m sure."
Followed by more than 15,000 fans on Instagram, Jaber bought both Mark and Shahad through an illicit network that smuggled them from Africa in April 2013 and February 2014, respectively, for a little more than $3000 each. While proudly showing off her cheetahs on Instagram, she claims she spends an average of $350 a month to feed and care for them.


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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