Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Zoo News Digest 21st February 2018 (ZooNews 985)

Zoo News Digest 21st February 2018  (ZooNews 985)


Peter Dickinson


Dear Colleague,

A bit rushed for time to comment.

Lots of interest follows. 


Did You Know?
ZooNews Digest has over 73,000 Followers on Facebook( and over 73,000 likes) and has a weekly reach often exceeding over 350,000 people? That ZooNews Digest has subscribers in over 823 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,

Should we give up half of the Earth to wildlife?
The orangutan is one of our planet’s most distinctive and intelligent creatures. It has been observed using primitive tools, such as the branch of a tree, to hunt food, and is capable of complex social behaviour. Orangutans also played a special role in humanity’s own intellectual history when, in the 19th century, Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, co-developers of the theory of natural selection, used observations of them to hone their ideas about evolution.

But humanity has not repaid orangutans with kindness. The numbers of these distinctive, red-maned primates are now plummeting thanks to our destruction of their habitats and illegal hunting of the species. Last week, an international study revealed that its population in Borneo, the animal’s last main stronghold, now stands at between 70,000 and 100,000, less than half of what it was in 1995. “I expected to see a fairly steep decline, but I did not anticipate it would be this large,” said one of the study’s co-authors, Serge Wich of Liverpool John Moores University.

For good measure, conservationists say numbers are likely to fall by at least another 45,000 by 2050, thanks to the expansion of palm oil plantations, which are replacing their forest homes. On

The Political Chimp
As of January 2018, the symbolic Doomsday Clock reads two minutes to midnight. The current age of global instability and uncertainty has revived discussion of an age-old question: is war ingrained in human nature? Warfare has been studied for centuries, by everyone from historians of ancient Greece to primatologists. But something strange is happening to the way we consider the subject, especially with respect to the study of chimp-on-chimp violence. Conspecific killing among chimpanzees (i.e. when chimps kill one another) has become a particularly political and controversial topic, and contending arguments seem to reflect the ideological preferences and outlook of the researchers on either side of the debate. At issue are the implications data about primate warfare might have for our understanding of human violence.

A link between chimpanzee and human warfare has been stated outright by leading primatologists, who suggest that it demonstrates humans’ innate predisposition for violence. I first encountered this controversy during graduate school. Steven Pinker had just published The Be

Animal Trainers Gone Wild
For the past 34 years, Terrie Williams has been studying Weddell seals. Every few years, she heads to the Antarctic for 10 weeks at a time to study seal behavior. Her recent focus is on how the seals navigate under the thick ice; in particular, she’s looking for evidence that the animals rely on geomagnetic perception.

If she can prove that seals use Earth’s magnetic fields to find their way, like sea turtles, it will be the first time a marine mammal has been shown to do so. But, in the process, Williams has also begun to change scientists’ understanding of how to work with animals in the wild.

This year, she and the animal trainers who recently began to accompany her on her expeditions accomplished an important first. “We decided to try something pretty radical,” Williams says, “which was to do the entire expedition working with Weddell seals and never have to resort to se

Coldilocks, the oldest captive polar bear in the US, dies
The oldest captive polar bear in the nation has died.

The Philadelphia Zoo on Tuesday said that the 37-year-old bear, Coldilocks, was in declining health and was euthanized.

Zoo officials said Coldilocks had a variety of age-related medical issues, including problems with her kidneys and eyesight, but that visitors wouldn’t have been able to tell as the bear pounced playfully on toys, pulling them deep into her pool during early morning dips.

Zoos Worldwide Answer Call To Help Save Asian “Unicorn”
Global Wildlife Conservation Joins Zoos in Supporting Critical Saola Conservation Breeding Center

Although no zoo has ever cared for the antelope-like saola-and no biologist has ever seen one in the wild-zoos and affiliated organizations around the world have generously contributed or pledged more than $350,000 to support efforts that represent the last best hope to save the critically endangered species: a conservation breeding center. The fundraising campaign, which started Oct. 1 of 2017 and ends July 31, has so far generated donations from 22 zoos and affiliated organizations in North America and Europe.

World’s Only Non-Chinese-Owned Giant Pandas Reach Advanced Age in Mexico City
It’s 10 am and Xin Xin, now 27 years old and 102 kilograms (225 pounds), walks slowly down a corridor to begin her daily training routine.

She is one of two giant pandas at the Mexican capital’s Chapultepec Zoo, which is home to the only members of that species worldwide that are not owned by the Chinese government.

Away from the gaze of the zoo’s paying customers, Xin Xin undergoes a conditioning program every day under the supervision of her trainer, Ulises, and a zoo veterinarian, who offer her an apple – one of her favorite foods – provided she allows them to examine her with a stethoscope and brush her.

After Xin Xin’s routine is finished, Shuan Shuan, who is about to turn 30 and weighs 114 kilos, has her turn.

“It’s a conditioning program focused on allowing essential medical interventions,” the director of Mexico City’s zoos, Claudia Levy, told EFE.

She said that during the training routine the zoo’s team simulates the extraction of blood and X-rays. The idea is to get the bears accustomed to these procedures and ensure that thorough medical tests are stress-free.

Thanks to this daily routine, the pandas establish a bond of trust with the zoo employees and will not need to be anesthetized or coerced into undergoing medical exams when the time comes.

Even though Shuan Shuan is Xin Xin’s aunt, the two are in separate compounds because giant pandas are solitary animals and could harm one another if they lived together.

The care they receive has allowed these giant pandas – the oldest in the world outside of China, where that species

Rhinos Wanted – Dead or Alive
Major gaps between South African and Namibian legislation that regulates the endangered species trade allowed for the sale of at least 13 white rhino bulls from a South African game park to a Russian big game hunting outfit in Namibia. Nine of these rhinos were found to have died.

CITES Ignores Illegal Import of Wild Elephants by China
In the last two years, China has imported more than 80 live Asian elephants from across its border in Laos and almost 100 juvenile African elephants from Zimbabwe. They were all destined for zoos throughout China.

According to wildlife investigator and film-maker, Karl Ammann, last year Laotian Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith publicly declared the trade in live elephants illegal under national laws.

Professors Say Global Warming Isn’t Killing Frogs — Scientists Are
Kermit the Frog sang “It’s not that easy bein’ green” — and it’s apparently not that easy being a green of the warmist persuasion, either. Because while the recent decades’ decline in frog populations has been blamed on “global warming,” it turns out there’s another culprit, perhaps the most embarrassing one the warmists could imagine.

University of Utah professors Henry Harpending and Gregory Cochran provide some background at their blog “West Hunter,” writing, “Starting in late 80s, herpetologists began noticing that various kinds of frogs were declining and/or disappearing. There was & is a geographical pattern: Wiki says ‘Declines have been particularly intense in the western United States, Central America, South America, eastern Australia and Fiji.’”

Researchers were befuddled by this, say Harpending and Cochran, because many of the frog declines couldn’t be attributed to human impact (deforestation, mining, etc.), as they were in remote areas such as the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Costa Rica.

So, unsurprisingly, scientists

Tasmanian tiger just another marsupial in the pouch
Australia's ill-fated Tasmanian tiger looked like any other marsupial when born but assumed dog-like features by the time it left the mother's pouch, scientists said Wednesday in shedding new light on its puzzling evolution.

Using CT technology, they scanned all 13 juvenile specimens of the extinct carnivore found in collections around the world, developing the first 3D models of the tiger from birth to adulthood.

"These scans show in incredible detail how the Tasmanian tiger started its journey in life as a joey that looked very much like any other marsupial, with robust forearms so that it could climb into its mother's pouch," said Christy Hipsley, from Museums Victoria.

"But by the time it left the pouch around 12 weeks to start independent life, it looked more like a dog or wolf, with longer hind limbs than forelimbs."

Kangaroos, koalas, wombats and the Tasmanian devil are also marsupials.

The animal's resemblance to the dingo, a wild dog native to Australia, is one of the clearest examples of "convergent evolution" in mammals, which is when two unrelated species evolve to look very similar.

The Tasmanian tiger last shared a common ancestor with dogs and wolves around 160 million years ago.

Once ranging throughout Australia and N

Video: Man jumps into lion’s enclosure in Thiruvananthapuram zoo......
In a shocking incident, a man jumped into a lion's enclosure at the Thiruvananthapuram zoo on Wednesday.  He was immediately rescued by the staff of ...

Bear or farmer? Scientists find bears' eating habits are critical for maintaining vegetation
A new study looking into brown and black bears in Alaska's Tongass National Forest has found that the animals' occasional eating habits are extremely critical for maintaining vegetation in the region.

Bears thrive in the forest by feeding on Salmon, a fish which grows in the sea but migrates to freshwater streams to spawn. The animals wait for their food to show up but in the meantime, they gorge on berries or small fruits available nearby, according to an Associated Press report.

France to let wolf population grow despite farmers' fears
France is to allow the wolf population to grow from about 360 now to 500 by 2023, despite protests from farmers worried about their livestock.

A new plan announced by the government represents a rise of nearly 40% in the wolf population.

After being eradicated by hunters in the 1930s, the wolf made its way back into France from Italy in the 1990s.

Wolves are listed as a protected species by the Bern Convention that France has signed up to.


Putting primates on screen is fuelling the illegal pet trade
Why would animal rights organisation PETA praise a film in which a group of apes are brutally attacked by humans? The answer is that War for the Planet of the Apes, the most recent movie in the franchise, used no real primates in its filming.

Yet while computer generated imagery is now good enough to create realistic looking animals on screen, some movies still employ actual non-human primates. In the last few years, primate actors have been used in major Hollywood films such as The Hangover Part II (2011), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) and Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017).

Regardless of how these animals are treated on set, the reality is that they’re being placed in unnatural environments and made to act for other people’s amusement against their will. What’s more, there’s evidence that using real primates on screen actually encourages the illegal pet trade. It’s estimated that more than 3,000 great apes and hundreds of thousands of other primates are traded as pets and bush meat each year.

A recent study of films released between 1990 and 2013 found 70 movies in which primate actors appeared. Chimpanzees, capuchins and old-world

Nearly 100 Animals Left Behind at Abandoned Zoo in Reynosa
Authorities are figuring out what’s next after taking custody of dozens upon dozens of exotic species discovered at an abandoned zoo near Reynosa.

Officials say no one was at the Parque Recreativo y Ecológico Aventura Animal when they went to shut it down.

Among the species are an Arabian camel, macaw parrots, a black bear and at least 18 more types of species and around 100 animals in total.

The only people around were state police when they arrived to serve a search warrant after they say someone filed an anonymous complaint. The complaint alleged, “killing, mistreatment or cruelty to animals.”

Officials say they found the exhibits without proper food or water.

A baboon was found dead and a young tiger, unable to walk on his own.

Authorities say they didn’t just discover exotic species but also found bags of marijuana and cocaine.

They say the animals recovered at the zoo will be handed over to the Tamaulipas State Commission on Conservation and Financial Manag

Zoo and Wildlife Solutions Training Courses
Practical Implementation of the Zoo Licensing

For Local Authority Officers and Zoo Professionals
24th and 25th April 2018 at Blackpool Zoo
£200 for Two Days (£180 for BIAZA Members)

This training course will provide participants with a full understanding of zoo licensing. The course describes the law and what is required by licensed zoos, explains the licensing and enforcement process and provides in depth insight into what inspectors are looking for and how to prove your zoo complies with the requirements of the Secretary of Sates Standards of Modern Zoo Practice. This is a highly interactive course based on small group exercises and practical tasks in the zoo.


Dan Ashe: Zoos and Aquariums Adapt to Climate Change
In episode 59 of America Adapts, Doug Parsons talks with Dan Ashe, the President and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Previously, Dan was the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for 7 years under President Barack Obama.

Topics discussed in this episode:

What is the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and its role in conservation and adaptation;
How zoos can be ambassadors in deep red states in communicating climate change;
Dan’s tenure as Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service;
How state wildlife agencies have, nor have not, stepped up on climate change planning;
Dan’s climate legacy at the US Fish and Wildlife Service;
And a morale booster to current FWS employees on why what they do is so important!

The United States remains the biggest importer of trophy-hunted endangered animals in the world in spite of Donald Trump’s recent public comments overturning a decision by the US Department of Interior to allow elephant trophies into the United States.

In 2016 alone the US imported 3,249 or 60% of the animal trophies from just six African countries – Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. According to the trade database of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

One of the most popular big game mammals for trophy hunters to kill are elephants. Donald Trump has made specific reference to the horror of elephant trophy hunting before, yet hundreds of American hunters, including the President’s own sons, have on average imported around 200 elephant trophies annually. This excludes the approximate annual haul of 150 tusks and hundreds of feet, ears, teeth, skin pieces, and other elephant derivatives.

In countries like Zimbabwe and Tanzania,


A Zoo Without Borders: A Conversation with Beth Schaefer, General Curator at the Los Angeles Zoo
Since 2014, Beth Schaefer has served as General Curator of the Los Angeles Zoo, making her responsible for 1100 animals of over 250 species and their caretakers.  She also serves as co-chair of the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) Center's Animal Care and Welfare Advisory Group, which benefits Grueller's gorillas. Schaefer has previously worked at the Houston Zoo, Disney's Animal Kingdom, the Center for Great Apes, the Kansas City Zoo and the Charles Paddock Zoo. Following in the footsteps of the late Mike Dee (the zoo's longtime General Curator), she has brought her immense animal knowledge to the zoo and helped bring its animal care programs to the next level. Here is her story.

Confessions of a zoo exhibit designer
With a proud smile, Mr Cham Tud Yinn, 50, leads us around the Amazon Flooded Forest - the highlight exhibit of River Safari, which features manatees swimming among large tree trunks in a water tank.

Mr Cham is the director of exhibit design at Wildlife Reserves Singapore and has worked on projects in the Singapore Zoo and River Safari, including the Flooded Forest, the largest freshwater aquarium in the world and one of Mr Cham's favourites.

He said: "We wanted to mimic how trees in the Amazon become submerged when water level changes."

Although his work revolves around animals, Mr Cham rarely comes into contact with them. Instead, his job involves nitty-gritty details such as plumbing and filtration.

Using the Flooded Forest as an example, he said: "It is a big exhibit, and there is a lot to consider - the volume of water in the tank, how to filter the waste from the water such that it looks clean."

Mr Cham, who joined the zoo more than 22 ye

Nest of critically endangered Royal Turtle found in Cambodian river
Conservationists have found a nest of the critically endangered Royal Turtle with 16 eggs on a sandbar along Sre Ambel River in southwest Cambodia's Koh Kong province, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) said on Monday.

"This is the first nest of Royal Turtle found in 2018," the WCS said in a statement, adding that four local community rangers have been hired to guard it until the eggs hatch.

Listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as critically endangered, Southern River Terrapin (Batagur affinis), locally known as the Royal Turtle, is one of the world's 25 most endangered tortoises and freshwater turtles.

The Royal Turtle is named because in the past only the royal family could consume its eggs, the statement said, adding that it is designated as Cambodia's national reptile by a royal decree in March 2005.

In Hul, an official of Cambodia's Fisheries A


Throw them to the lions
 Edna Molewa is there to think slowly, act slowly and take decisions based on how she’s feeling that day.

She’s keen on selling our rhino horn stockpile, has granted emissions compliance exemptions to dozens of companies, including Eskom, and, in her previous portfolio, blamed wet coal for the electricity blackouts which, as we now know, was caused by the Guptas. My fear is that in Cyril’s rush to get rid of the rapacious termites, he will overlook bumbling imbeciles like Edna.

In terms of importance, the government ranks environmental affairs down there with sport and recreation. Edna seems to think it’s lame to protect stuff like animals and the climate. Take lions, for instance. I’ve never met Edna but from what I have read it seems unlikely she’s a cat person.

Members of the Arizona-based Safari Club International and Dallas Safari Club are also not cat people. They are not even animal people, unless by animal people you mean people who pay money to murder animal

Bugsologist - A Buggy Blog


Five dugongs wash up on Saadiyat beach in 'harsh blow' for the species
Five dugongs, including a pregnant mother with a fully-developed calf, have washed up on Saadiyat beach over the past few weeks in what may be the single biggest fatality of one of Abu Dhabi’s most vulnerable species, according to the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi.

The dugongs probably died by drowning after getting tangled in a illegal drift fishing net known as hiyali, according to the EAD, which has dispatched a team of experts to investigate the deaths and intensify monitoring in critical areas.

“This discovery is a harsh blow to one of Abu Dhabi’s most vulnerable species and it may be the biggest single die-off of dugongs recorded in a decade,” said Dr Shaikha Al Dhaheri, executive director of the terrestrial and marine biodiversity at EAD. “It once again affirms the vulnerability of these iconic species to human threats and the pressing need for fishermen to end irresponsible fishing practices.”

Abu Dhabi is home to the world’s second-largest population of dugongs, with about 3,000 found mostly in the waters around Bu Tinah Island, part of the Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve. Dugongs, their foraging habitats and their migratory routes in the UAE have been protected under Federal Law No 23 and No 24 since 1999. The UAE is also a signatory to the UN Convention on the Conservatio


The story of how the chiru was saved from the brink of extinction
At 15,000 feet, the early autumn winds had started to carry snow in their breath. On the road ahead was a convoy of cargo-laden trucks lumbering up the mountain pass. The colours were stark: a steel-grey road, brown mud tracks fast covering up with sleety snow, Chinese border guards in faded blue.

We turned our faces away from the unfriendly gust and took shelter under a stone column topped with a bronze figurine. I looked down at my boots dusted with snow and then up at the brass bovid looking down at me. This was why two of us were here: an odd couple from India, my colleague and renowned conservationist, the late Ashok Kumar, who was celebrating his 70th birthday, and I, about to embark on an expedition like none other.

Toy designers show keeping elephants amused not kids’ play
Art professors Richard M. and Laura S. Brown are combining arts and sciences to enrich the lives of two Asian elephants at a local zoo, and the couple is hoping their program goes national.

The Browns gave a presentation, “Toys for Elephants: Designing and Building Enrichment Objects for Elephants,” Tuesday afternoon in the Varis Lecture Hall at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in North Grafton. The couple shared their research as co-founders of the Handshouse Studio where the Toys For Elephants program is based.

In 2010, the Browns learned of two beloved 8,000-pound Asian elephants named Emily and Ruth living at the Buttonwood Zoo in New Bedford.

The couple learned about the elephants’ need for stimulation after talking with the zoo’s director and took on the challenge of enriching the elephants’ environment with limited funding, using art and design students.

Mr. Brown designed the “Toys For Elephants” program and introduced it at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston where he and his wife are faculty, in collaboration with the couple’s studio in Norwell.

The results were amazing – for Emily and Ruth, the students involved, and the community.

“Every zoo we’ve visited all over the country tells us they need more elephant enrichment,” Mr. Brown said. “We’re helping address the issue.”


Romeo the lonesome frog is feelin' the love
A campaign to raise $15,000 by Valentine's Day to fund a search for Romeo's Juliet before he croaks generated $25,000, an environmental group said.

Romeo is the last known frog of his kind. Given the normal life span of Sehuencas water frogs, he has only about five years left to live, giving urgency to his love quest.

Texas-based Global Wildlife Conservation teamed with dating website Match and the Bolivian Amphibian Initiative to raise money for Romeo's last shot at romance.

"People from around the globe showed their love this Valentine's Day for the world's loneliest amphibian," the environmental group said in a statement dated Friday.

"We are overwhelmed by the support from Match and all of the donors who generously let Romeo into their heart this week," said Arturo Munoz, founder of the Amphibian Initiative


Kamikaze sperm and four-headed penises – the hidden ways animals win the mating game
We all know that individuals fight over potential love interests. Just think of Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) and Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) scuffling – rather impotently – over Bridget Jones in a fountain. But you might be surprised to hear that the fierce rivalry continues behind the scenes – in the form of sperm competition. This is when the sperm of two or more males compete inside the reproductive tract of a female, to fertilise the eggs, something that is widespread in the animal kingdom.

It is generally assumed that the sperm in a female's reproductive tract around the time of fertilisation will belong to one male. But DNA fingerprinting has revealed that even "monogamous" bird species that form exclusive pair bonds are not as exclusive as was once thought.

In fact, extra-pair young (those fathered by another male) are found in around 90% of bird species, and extra-pair copulations (matings with a


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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
+971 50 4787 122 | | Skype: peter.dickinson48

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Zoo News Digest 17th February 2018 (ZooNews 984)

Zoo News Digest 17th February 2018  (ZooNews 984)

Happy New Year

Peter Dickinson


Dear Colleague,

The other day there was yet another Peta petition posting for the removal of Maali the elephant from Manila Zoo. They had been quiet for quite some time and yet here they were again like a thorn in the foot which you can't quite remove completely. I am not a fan of Manila Zoo but there are much worse places in Manila and in the Philippines as a whole. As to 'Maali' though I was not concerned. This elephant, though she could benefit from a larger enriched enclosure and companion animals joining her there is better staying in Manila where she is much loved and cared for. Then just a few days after the Peta petition I learned that John Chua had died of cancer. John loved Maali and Maali loved John. For years he had been defending her and protecting her from the likes of Peta. He even left his hospital bed especially to visit her. Maali is going to miss him. So my surprise at the new Peta petition disappeared….these ignorant animal rights anarchists do not change their tactics…always putting the boot in when people are down and hurting. RIP John, you are much loved and missed by many.

White Tigers, White Lions. Why is it that some zoos cannot get it through their heads that they are not doing Tigers or Lions any sort of favour by keeping and breeding these anomalies. They are so inbred that they are anti-conservation. Although I can sort of see the point in exhibiting them they should not be bred. I have pointed this out to many zoos over the years which announce the arrival of these animals with great fanfare. Those zoos which deigned to reply have always said they had no intention of breeding them and yet every one of them has (accidentally). As to rarity….no they are not. Beautiful they may be they are as common as muck. A little over 10 years ago I was asked to manage a collection of 200 white tigers. Heaven knows how many there are now just in that one place.

Lots of interest follows. 


Did You Know?
ZooNews Digest has over 73,000 Followers on Facebook( and over 73,000 likes) and has a weekly reach often exceeding over 350,000 people? That ZooNews Digest has subscribers in over 823 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,

Conservation and Government Partnerships: A Conversation with Rich Block, CEO of the Santa Barbara Zoo
The Santa Barbara Zoo is one of the finest small zoos in the nation located on the Pacific Ocean. In the last decade, it has become renowned as a leader in the conservation of several California species including the Channel Island fox and the California condor.  Rich Block has served as the zoo’s CEO since 1998. Prior to coming to the Santa Barbara Zoo, Block worked at a number of other zoos, worked at the World Wildlife Fund for several years and served as Executive Director of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. Here is his story.

Facial attraction: Red-fronted lemurs recognize photos of their own species
Wild red-fronted lemurs (Eulemur rufrifrons) appear to be able to recognize individuals belonging to the same species (conspecifics) from photographs, a study published in the open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology suggests.

Researchers at the German Primate Center found that red-fronted lemurs spent significantly more time looking at pictures of conspecifics than at pictures of other, closely related species (heterospecifics).

Dr Hanitriniaina Rakotonirina, the corresponding author said: "We were surprised to find that the animals appear to be able to differentiate among closely related sister species. For example, males of the rufous brown lemur (Eulemur rufus) and the red-fronted lemur (Eulemur rufifrons) are difficult to distinguish by the human eye. However, we found that lemurs seem to be able to do it."

The time lemurs spent looking at pictures correlated with genetic difference; the more genetically different individuals were (which corresponded to how different they looked), the less time lemurs would spend looking at their pictures. Females showed a more pronounced response than males. This may indicate that female red-fronted lemurs perceive and respond to differences in fur patterns and coloration to recognize viable mates from their own spec

In Defense of Biodiversity: Why Protecting Species from Extinction Matters
A few years ago, I helped lead a ship-based expedition along south Alaska during which several scientists and noted artists documented and made art from the voluminous plastic trash that washes ashore even there. At Katmai National Park, we packed off several tons of trash from as distant as South Asia. But what made Katmai most memorable was: huge brown bears. Mothers and cubs were out on the flats digging clams. Others were snoozing on dunes. Others were patrolling.

During a rest, several of us were sitting on an enormous drift-log, watching one mother who’d been clamming with three cubs. As the tide flooded the flat, we watched in disbelief as she brought her cubs up to where we were sitting — and stepped up on the log we were on. There was no aggression, no tension; she was relaxed. We gave her some room as she paused on the log, and then she took her cubs past us into a sedge meadow. Because she was so calm, I felt no fear. I felt the gift.

In this protected refuge, bears could affo

Chiang Mai zoo puts white tiger cubs on display
The Chiang Mai Night Safari on Tuesday introduced its new additions of three white tiger cubs ahead of Chinese New Year celebrations.

The three-month-old cubs were two males named Fufu, or wealth, and Facai, good luck, plus one female, Ping-an, peace, acting zoo director Netnapa Sutthithamdamrong said.

Barrow MP hails victory as new independent zoo inspectorate to be launched
BARROW MP and zoo campaigner John Woodcock hailed the introduction of a new zoo inspectorate as 'a huge victory for safer zoos'.

The Animal Welfare Plan, launched today by Cumbrian Labour MP and shadow Environment secretary Sue Hayman, would introduce a new independent zoo inspectorate to raise standards of animal welfare and improve the quality of licensing and inspections in zoos.

The announcement comes following catastrophes in zoos across the country, resulting in abuses of welfare and deaths of hundreds of animals in their care. One of the most stark examples was that of South Lakes Safari Zoo, whose failings were revealed when the data on the numbers and causes of fatalities and illnesses in that zoo were published, and the zoo’s lic

Russia’s Oldest Polar Bear in Captivity Dies at 38
Russia’s oldest polar bear has died at the age of 38, a zoo in Perm has announced.

Polar bear Amderma was captured in the Yamal-Nenets autonomous region in 1989 and her carers estimate she was born in 1980. After brief stays in zoos in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kazan, she finally found sanctuary in Perm.

The death occurred on Feb. 7, but was not reported by the zoo until this week. "She lived there happily for 21 years, giving birth to five healthy cubs," the zoo’s press service said in an online statement.

Dublin Zoo announces arrival of Baby elephant
Dublin Zoo is celebrating the birth of an Asian elephant calf.

Proud mum, Anak, gave birth to the healthy male calf on Saturday, February 10 after a 22-month gestation period.

Yes, 22 months!

The new arrival is Anak’s second calf and the seventh elephant calf born at Dublin Zoo in less than four years.

“We are delighted to welcome our new arrival to Dublin Zoo and happy to report the calf is healthy, strong and was standing within minutes of his birth,” said Gerry Creighton, Operations Manager at Dublin Zoo.

“It is fascinating to watch the younger females interact with the calf, as they are working together to protect him. Witnessing the sights and sounds of an elephant birth, is important to inexperienced females in th

Pachyderms on the pitch
The 2018 King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament is set to kick off from March 8 to 11 on the banks of Chao Phraya River, next to Anantara Riverside Bangkok, with a full range of fun elephant festivities for the whole family.

Now in its 16th edition, the festival has become one of the biggest charitable events in Southeast Asia with approximately US$1.5 million (Bt50 million) raised to date, which has gone to various charities that benefits the elephants of Thailand. These include housing for the mahouts and families, shelters for the elephants and a mobile blood centrifuge and elephant ambulance for the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre (TECC).Funds from this year’s event will be donated to various projects including the Zoological Parks Organisation of Thailand, which supports veterinary and educational projects to improve the year-round lives of elephants and mahouts in the Surin Province. The donations have also funded workshops for mahouts and vets on how to keep elephants happy as well as a conservation education tri

Exposed: Inside the Mind of a Lion Murderer
Why would anyone be interested in killing a lion? Even if it was for free, which it is not.  As a psychologist this is what I try to understand.

In 2014, after visiting South Africa, I wrote an article titled “Lion Canned Hunting, the person behind the ‘Hunter’”. This was before the infamous “Cecile the Lion” incident which sparked the world and exposed the brutal and pitiful practice of canned hunting. At the time, the psychopathic industry of canned hunting was unknown to most people. On the first of July 2015, Cecil the emblematic lion in Zimbabwe, is killed by an American dentist and exposed this barbaric kind of hunting to the world. Hearing of this industry for the first time, people were shocked and disgusted that this existed and was even legal. I decided to look back since my article was written and see how things have evolved and analyse the persona who indulges in such practices.

Creating A Guest-Friendly, Engaging Zoo: A Conversation with Randy Wisthoff, CEO/Executive Director of the Kansas City Zoo
 Randy Wisthoff has been a household name in the zoo business since he served as Associate Director at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo from 1987 to 2003. During this time, he served as right hand man to director Lee Simmons as he turned the zoo into a world-famous institution with many cutting edge exhibits that were best of its kind. In 2003, Wisthoff became CEO/Executive Director of the Kansas City Zoo, a large institution that had just been privatized in order to realize its potential and operate more efficiently. He has made the zoo much more guest friendly, added several popular animals and engaging experiences and led the zoo to having more than one million guests. Here is his story.

Unseen killers are wildlife's worst enemies
Unquestionably, construction tycoon Premchai Karnasuta is the man of the moment. His name is on everyone's lips, after he and three of his entourage were arrested and charged with poaching in Unesco's...

First elephant born at Woburn Safari Park beats the odds to survive Ebola-like virus
A three-year-old Asian elephant at Woburn Safari Park has beaten the odds to recover from an aggressive disease which is fatal in 80% of recorded cases. Similar to the Ebola virus in humans, elephant endotheliotrophic herpes virus (EEHV) can seriously weaken the circulatory system in juvenile elephants leading to rapid deterioration.

Look to penguins to track Antarctic changes
Penguins preserve records of Antarctic environmental change. The birds’ feathers and eggshells contain the chemical fingerprints of variations in diet, food web structure and even climate, researchers reported February 12 at the American Geophysical Union’s 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting.

The Antarctic environment has changed dramatically in recent decades. Overfishing has led to a decline in krill, small swimming crustaceans that are a key food source for birds, whales, fish and penguins in the Southern Ocean. Climate change is altering wind directions, creating open water regions in the sea ice that become hot spots for life.

These changes have cascading effects on food webs and on the cycling of nutrients. “Penguins are excellent bioarchives of this change,” says Kelton McMahon, an oceanic ecogeochemist at the University of Rhode Island  in Kingston.

Penguins are at the heart of the Antarctic food web, and their tissues are known to capture details about what they’ve eaten. Different food sources contain different proportions of carbon and nitrogen isotopes, forms of the elements with different num

Six white lions introduced to Taman Safari on Imlek
Visitors of wildlife park Taman Safari Indonesia (TSI) in Bogor had the opportunity to observe six white lions brought in from Canada at the end of January.

The white lions were introduced for the first time to the public during an education program held during Chinese New Year, locally known as Imlek, at the park’s baby zoo on Friday.

Taman Safari Indonesia director Jansen Manansang said the six white lions – four females and two males – were brought to Indonesia from Canada on Jan. 28.

White lions were rare, he said, and it was predicted that there were only around 100 of them left in the world.

Jansen further said that the spe

White Lion Breeding Is Not Conservation


Association of Zoos and Aquariums and U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance Join Forces
Today, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance (USWTA) announced their joining of forces in a united effort to fight the global epidemic in wildlife trafficking. Effective immediately, Sara Walker former Executive Director or the USWTA, will join the AZA staff in Silver Spring, Maryland and the USWTA is now a program of the AZA.

“Wildlife trafficking is a global epidemic, and is driving some of the world’s most beloved animals to the brink of extinction,” said Dan Ashe, President and CEO of AZA. “AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are world leaders in saving animals from extinction, and this strategic alignment with travel, media, and consumer products business leaders, as well as conservation NGOs, will create and sustain powerful momentum.”

Pioneer of pheromone studies Ratan Lal Brahmachary no more
Ratan Lal Brahmachary, distinguished biochemist and a pioneer of tiger pheromone studies in India, died in the wee hours this morning (13 February 2018) in a nursing home in Kolkata, India. He was 86.
Widely known for his research in pheromones, the biochemical messengers in living organisms, Brahmachary made significant contributions in tiger behavioural studies researching the animal for over 50 years.

Interestingly, he was an astrophysicist by training and a student of eminent Indian theoretical physicist Satyendra Nath Bose. Brahmachary shifted streams to study pheromones at the Indian Statistical Institute under its founder Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis. He studied many species of wildlife, notably big cats, and undertook research trips to his favourite continent Africa fourteen times.

An ardent admirer of entomologist Gopal Chandra Bhattacharya, Brahmachary studied ethology in the Amazon basin in South Americ

Tributes paid following death of Zoo’s ex-birdkeeper Shep Mallet
Shep Mallet, whose real name was John, was a former curator of birds at the wildlife park, where he worked for around 35 years.

He was a colourful character in the history of the Zoo and was known for his jokes and pranks – and for always wearing his wellies.

Dr Lee Durrell, honorary director of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, paid tribute to Mr Mallett, who was born in Southampton to Jersey parents. He died on 9 February.

Dr Durrell said: ‘Shep was a great character in the annals of the Zoo and Trust, perhaps most famously for working with Gerry on a breeding programme for the rare white-eared pheasant in the 1960s, before most zoos were doing such things.

‘He was also known for his jokes and pranks, which everyone fell for. With his white hair and beard in later years, visitors often mistook Shep for Gerry, and he would lead them around the Zoo, chatting gaily about this and that animal, as if he were Gerry. Everyone went away happy.’

Writing on Facebook, former colleague Chris Haines said: ‘Shep was very enjoyable to work with. He was a great fount

Expressions of interest - Operation, Management and Development of Belfast Zoo
Closing date: 12 noon on Friday 16 March 2018.

To obtain a copy of the prospectus and questionnaire email

Our world and our nation are undergoing rapid social change, which I believe is at the root of our current, unsettling and disruptive politics. Think how our collective societal views have changed, and continue changing, on things like gay marriage, LGBTQ equality, marijuana legalization, and in our professional orbit, animal rights, protection, and welfare. Change is disruptive, and that is reflected in today’s social dialogue and politics—coarse, angry, and sometimes a bit scary.

The comforting news is that our overall course of change is positive.

Nearly 150,000 Bornean Orangutans Lost Since 1999, Cutting Population By Half
Earlier this month, an orangutan was found brutally shot to death in Borneo. In January, one was found decapitated and floating in a river. In 2017, oil plantation workers were accused of killing and eating one of the island's orangutans.

These stories are examples of small, incremental intentional killings of the island's endangered species. But according to a new study, published in the journal Cell Biology, such losses are adding up—contributing to the overall, long-term decline of a fragile species.

The comprehensive study pulled from data collected by 38 different research organizations. When Maria Voigt, the study's lead co-author and a researcher from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research, crunched the numbers, she found just under 150,000 Borneo orangutans were lost between 1999 and 2015—roughly half the population.

While many experienced habitat loss, the study found the primates were disappearing largely from forested areas, l

Wildlife crime: Pangolin trade still flourishing despite ban
Pangolins are small mammals that only move around at night. Hardly a zoo has been able to keep one alive. And yet, they sit above the elephant and rhino as the most illegally trafficked animal in the world.

Pangolins are amazing: With shiny scales and pointy heads, they look like miniature dinosaurs; baby pangolins ride around on their mothers’ tails; they slurp ants with 25cm-long tongues; and they can curl up into an armoured ball that foxes any predator – except humans. Being so elusive, not much more is known about them.

Pangolin researchers meeting in January 2017 in Singapore concluded that increased demand from China for pangolins has led to "great declines" in populations across Cambodia, Viet Nam, and Laos.

“Pangolins have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, but growing human populations and greater wealth across China have increased demand,” says the Worldwatch Institute. “Pangolin fetuses, sca

The Paradox Of The Platypus
Ever since I was a young child I have been fascinated by the animal kingdom, especially its more exotic members. When people asked me what I wanted to do when I grow up, I always replied I wanted to have a zoo. The response would be laughter; having a zoo is no job for a nice Jewish boy. Then I decided to become a rabbi, which was met with even greater disapproval; being a rabbi, I was told, is certainly no job for a nice Jewish boy.

But then I started to look into what the Torah says about the animal kingdom. To my delight, I discovered a wealth of fascinating material, and for the next twenty years I studied, wrote, and taught about it. In addition to rabbinic ordination, I co


 The Living Museum: A Conversation with Dave Zucconi, Retired Director of the Tulsa Zoo
 During his 27-year tenure as Director of the Tulsa Zoo, Dave Zucconi transformed the institution into not just a modern zoo but also an accredited museum. He came up with the vision for the LaFortune North American Living Museum, a groundbreaking exhibit that incorporated animal habitats with museum-quality interpretation. Zucconi served as President of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and as Chair of its Accreditation Commission. He wrapped up his career in zoos by serving as Director of the El Paso Zoo for three years. Here is his story.


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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
+971 50 4787 122 | | Skype: peter.dickinson48