Monday, July 23, 2018

Zoo News Digest 23rd July 2018 (ZooNews 1002)

Zoo News Digest 23rd July 2018  (ZooNews 1002)


Peter Dickinson


Dear Colleague,

Seven Tonnes of African Pangolin scales! SEVEN tonnes!!! How many animals died to provide that sort of quantity? It is quite mind boggling. Then there is the fact that in spite of it being a huge amount that someone somewhere else will be getting quantities past customs in smaller amounts....but it all mounts up. I first wrote 'Pangolins in Peril' back in 2009 because the situation was terrible and it continues to worsen.

Disgusted to learn of the Tiger Trade having a toe hold in Europe. It already has a good grip in South Africa. Some of the Orangutans that have ended up in the Middle East were apparently captive bred in Russia...but I don't believe it for a second in the same way that I don't believe Emperor Penguins were bred in Spain.

Delighted to see the WAZA has spoken out on the Congo/China animal deal.

Every so often I am taken to task on Facebook or in private messages for some of the posts I put out. The gyst of the complaints are that the posts have nothing to do with zoos. There is some truth in this because the posts may be about animals in the wild and threats they may be facing or successes they are enjoying. To me, as a zoo professional such news is important and it allows me to add up to date information in conversations with guests and staff. As to the zoo news it would be extremely boring if I covered every, lets say Giraffe or Chimpanzee birth.....through I appreciate these are important for the zoos concerned. Then there the endless playing with pumpkins or  "the zoo wants your help to name the baby......whatever" or the animals in the zoo are too hot or too cold and this is what the zoo is doing. There is nothing wrong with these stories because they get the zoo into the newspapers but it really isn't zoo news. My interests are wide and so I will continue to pick and choose though stories who give most appeal, disgust, interest or humor.

 "good zoos will not gain the credibility of their critics until they condemn the bad zoos wherever they are." Peter Dickinson

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Did You Know?
ZooNews Digest has over 78,000 Followers on Facebook( and over 78,000 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,

The ark, the algorithm and our conservation conundrum
How did a stinky, ugly plant become a higher priority for protection than the iconic Kauri tree? In part one of a two-part series, Charlie Mitchell examines how an official ranking of our endangered species came to be.

The little plant by the lake appears to be dying.

Orange bubbles cling along its stem like pustules, and it looks dry, wilted, like a figure slowly decomposing.

It's a jarring presence in the high country, not far from the Powerade-blue lakes that feature heavily in the country's branding.

You likely wouldn't notice the small herb, flattened against the dry earth, in such a vast landscape. What betrays the plant, brings it to your attention, is the smell for which it was named. The New Zealand fish-guts plant smells even worse than it looks.

Delaija Wildlife Management Centre complete: Musanada
The Abu Dhabi General Services Company, Musanada, has completed the AED20.58 million construction and maintenance project of the facilities at the Delaija Wildlife Management Centre, for the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, EAD. The project stretches over a gross area of 520,000 square metres.

Commenting on the announcement, Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, EAD Secretary-General, said, "Managed by EAD, the Delaija Wildlife Management Centre is a unique facility and the first of its kind in the region in terms of its design and size. EAD seeks to use this centre to provide facilities for breeding and protecting endangered wild animals by maintaining sustainable groups through breeding and reintroduction programs in their natural habitat."

"Through this centre that hosts approximately 6,300 animals belonging to four different species, EAD breeds and manages specific endangered groups such as the Arabian Oryx, sand gazelle, mountain gazelle and scimitar-horned Oryx by improving genetic diversity to ensure their sustainability," added Al Mubarak. "Researchers at EAD implement management and breeding plans in a properly scientific and systematic way, in order to form a world herd to be included as part of the local reintroduction programs inside and outside nature reserves as well as the other international programs at the regional level, to help bring animals back to their habitats to live normally after ensuring that all necessary safeguards are in place."

Al Mubarak expressed her hoped that the Delaija Centre would evolve to an outstanding breeding facility comprising a veterinary hospital, an educational centre for raising awareness of the importance of endangered wild animals, "as these are closely linked to our culture and history, which is fully worth being maintained for future generations."

For his part, Suwaidan Rashed Al Dhaheri, Musanada’s Acting CEO, said, "Musanada is engaged in delivery of these projects as part of its efforts to realise Abu Dhabi Vision, striking balance between growth and conservation of the enviro

The Media's Disservice to India's Wildlife That Only It Can Fix
The tragic consequences of revealing information is there for all to see. The most obvious example would be revealing the identity of a victim of a crime. In a recent instance of callous disregard for privacy, the Delhi high court fined 11 media houses Rs 10 lakh each for revealing the identity of the Kathua rape victim. The bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C. Hari Shankar noted that “We have to set our own limits” on freedom of expression. Another area of reportage where discernment is required is the current practice of monetarily valuing illegally traded wildlife or wildlife products in news articles. This practice could have far reaching unintentional and destructive consequences for India’s incredible natural heritage.

Wild animals like tigers, leopards, elephants, macaques, langurs, geckos, star tortoises, snakes and countless others are routinely snared or trapped; then butchered or kept alive in hideous conditions to meet the demand from the clandestine wildlife trade. The volume is staggering. For example, about 450 species of birds have been documented in the birds trade by Rajat Bhargava, a scientist at the Bombay Natural History Society. Plants and trees (e.g., red sandalwood, commonly known as red sanders) are also traded illegally. Live animals, skins, bones, other animal body parts, shells, logs of trees and plants are some of the “products” in this trade. Occasionally, enforcement agencies apprehend the traders involved and seize the products. Coverage of such seizures in news reports should take cognisance of the fact that these are often animals and plants threatened with extinction, not merely commodities that can be reported solely in terms of their monetary value.

A cursory internet search will reveal that

Want to know how to ‘handle’ snakes? Just leave them alone
It was around 2am when an urgent ring of the doorbell woke me up. It was one of the watchmen of our society, there was a snake and they wondered if I could ‘deal with it’. I couldn’t deal with it—I am not trained to ‘handle’ snakes, but what I could do was convince the small, but frenzied, crowd that the creature didn’t need any handling at all. It was a common rat snake, as harmless as a sparrow in your garden. A word of caution: Harmless doesn’t mean you pick or poke this (or any) snake. Even the non-venomous variety can deliver a nasty, if not fatal, bite if ‘handled’ or disturbed. I pleaded the crowd to back away, giving the snake room to vanish.

Later, when things had calmed down, we chatted. I understood the fear, but it’s extremely important to not panic when you sight a snake, or for that matter any wild creature. Some of the watchmen, who have rural roots, nodded. As is ev

WAZA Statement on Possible Wildlife Exports from DRC to China
The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) remains opposed to a controversial proposal to export gorillas, bonobos, okapis and other endangered wildlife from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Chinese zoos as global conservation experts gather this week for the 30th CITES Animals Committee Meeting in Geneva.

WAZA was among 16 signatories to a letter sent to the CITES Secretariat that expressed concern over a possible agreement between DR Congo's environment minister and a Chinese company that called for the export of over 60 rare animals.

"WAZA and its member institutions and associations are committed to conservation," said Doug Cress, Chief Executive Officer of WAZA. "At no time and in no way would WAZA support taking these iconic, and in some cases, critically endangered species from the wild. The excellent captive breeding programmes that zoos and aquariums have managed for decades make transactions such as this unnecessary."

The DR Congo - China proposal wil

Taiwan, aka. “Pangolin Island”
In an unlikely story of chance, hard work, shifting local taste and relative international ignorance, Taiwan, just 180 km away from two of the world’s biggest consumers of pangolin scales and meat—has what might be the planet’s highest concentration of the world’s most-trafficked mammal.

Once called a “cuddly cross between an anteater and an artichoke,” the animals curl into a ball when threatened. They are considered a delicacy in China and Vietnam, partly on the theory that blood and body parts are good for virility. They are also used in traditional medicine to treat asthma, cancer and reproductive problems, without any particular science to back up the theory. The environmental website Animaticus estimates that anywhere between 105,410 and210,820 pangolins have been taken from the wild in Asia and Africa since 2011

 So how did the animals thrive in Taiwan? I recently asked Kurtis Jai-Chyi Pei, a professor in the Institute of Wildlife Conservati

Many songbirds in Southeast Asia are now on the list of threatened bird species, having been decimated largely due to incessant capture for trade. Liberec Zoo in the north of the Czech Republic is coordinating an EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria) conservation campaign involving some 200 European zoos which are striving to save these species from extinction. I spoke to the zoo’s spokeswoman Barbara Tesařová and began by asking her to explain why so many songbirds in Southeast Asia are threatened.

New SeaQuest aquarium fails 2 animal welfare inspections
The new SeaQuest Interactive Aquarium in the Littleton area is touted as an “interactive experience” for kids to learn more about mammals, reptiles, fish and birds.

But complaints of unsanitary, unsafe conditions at its new Southwest Plaza Mall location prompted the FOX31 Problem Solvers to go undercover to reveal the behind-the-scenes truth.

SeaQuest is a petting zoo of sorts which opened only about one month ago.

Endangered Species Act stripped of key provisions in Trump administration proposal
The Trump administration unveiled a proposal Thursday that would strip the Endangered Species Act of key provisions, a move that conservationists say would weaken a law enacted 45 years ago to keep plant and animal species in decline from going extinct.

The proposal, announced jointly by the Interior and Commerce departments, which are charged with protecting endangered wildlife, would end the practice of extending similar protections to species regardless of whether they are listed as endangered or threatened. If the proposal is approved, likely by year’s end, protections for threatened plants and animals would be made on a case-by-case basis.

In another rollback of a key provision, the administration wants the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to strike language that guides officials to ignore economic impacts when determ in July 2018
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Hello ZooLex Friend,
We have worked for your enjoyment!



"Gorilla Rainforest" at the Royal Melbourne Zoological Gardens has been 
operating for almost 20 years by now and thereby become a classic. The 
planting was worth the major effort as the vegetation has been very lush 
until today.

The submission of this presentation was started short after opening of 
the exhibit and just recently finished. This is an example how we keep 
track of submissions and patiently push for sending us missing details 
to complete exhibit presentations in the usual quality. We trust that 
you will help us finish your pending submissions for ZooLex.


Thanks to Alex Fernandez Santos and Eduardo Díaz García we are able to 
offer the Spanish translation of the previously published presentation 
of "Congo - Gorilla Island" at Gaiapark Zoo in the Netherlands.


We keep working on ZooLex ...

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How many hippos are too many? Proposed cull raises questions
The hippo — really? That’s the common response when tour guides in Africa tantalize travelers with this question: “What’s the most dangerous animal on the continent?” Lion? Rhino? Elephant? No, no, no. Eventually, the tour guide delivers the answer with a twinkle in their eye: the hippo, yes, that water-loving, one-tonne mammalian oddity. Despite their hefty and somnolent appearance, hippos are fast and aggressive — a dangerous mix — and may kill several hundred people a year (of course the most dangerous animal in Africa is not really the hippo at all, it’s the mosquito — but no one likes a know-it-all).

Despite being one of the most unusual animals on the planet — their closest relatives are whales and dolphins — hippos don’t get a lot of love. They tend to be overshadowed by t

For more than two years, police and customs officials in the Czech Republic have been gathering material in an effort to crack down on the illegal trade in rare animal breeds, including tigers. The organised group gained financial profit through making traditional Chinese medicine products from the slain animals.

At a press conference on Wednesday Robert Šlachta from the Customs Directorate uncovered more details about the case:

“The tiger we discovered was shot in the eye and in the neck, so that the skin would stay intact and could be sold on the black market. According to our information, the cooking of the tiger meat took five to twelve days and all parts of the animal, including the pelts, teeth or claws, were intended for commercial purposes.”

According to the website, the sites raided by the police included Sapa, a large Vietnamese market place on the southern outskirts of Prague, and a zoo park in Doksy in north Bohemia, run by well-known circus owner Ludvík Berousek.

Mr.Berousek, who is one of the three people arrested in the case, is accused of breeding tigers and supplying their bodies to a taxidermist, who processed them and made products for sale on the black market.

Also detained was a Vietnamese national, who is suspected of organising the criminal activity and ensuring the sale of these products in the Sapa market and elsewhere.

The investigation was carried out i

Pangolins removed from textbooks as TCM ingredient
A primary school science book and a related reference book for teachers will no longer mention pangolins as being a pharmaceutical component, after a group questioned the propagation of the belief's impact on animal conservation efforts.

The China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation drew attention to the question in a letter to the book's distributor, and the publisher subsequently responded with its own letter to the foundation saying the passages would be removed.

The science book for the first semester of Grade 6 published by Educational Science Publishing House mentioned pangolin parts as an effective ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine, the publishing house noted in its reply to the foundation.

"It is inappropriate to list the species as such because pangolins are under national protection," it said. "After careful chec

Hundreds of Crocodiles Slaughtered in Retaliation for Attack on a Villager in Indonesia
A mob of angry villagers has killed hundreds of protected crocodiles in Indonesia’s far-eastern province of West Papua in what appears to be a retaliatory attack after a person was killed by one of the reptiles.

Police and officials say they were unable to stop the massacre and may press charges against attackers, the BBC reports. Killing a protected species in Indonesia is a crime punishable by fine or imprisonment.

A local villager was reportedly killed early Friday while collecting vegetables on the premises of a crocodile farm’s breeding sanctuary.

“An employee heard someone screaming for help, quickly went there and saw a crocodile attacking someone,” said the head of Indonesia’s Natural Resources Conservation Agency in West P

Two tigers and a lion escaped from their enclosure in a private zoo Biopark Štít in the eastern Bohemian municipality of Klamoš on Monday morning. A police spokesperson said a special task force, including a helicopter unit, was working to secure the area until the animals could be sedated. Biopark Štít is a private facility that breeds breeding animals threatened with extinction.

Tick bite possibly to blame for pygmy hippo's death at OKC Zoo
The Oklahoma City Zoo is investigating whether a tick bite led to the death of a pygmy hippopotamus that only arrived at the zoo last December.

Francesca, the 26-year-old pygmy hippo, was found dead in her enclosure on July 4 after more than a week of intensive treatment and progressively worse health. Health records obtained by FOX 25 show Francesca began to show weight loss on May 30, but major health issues did not begin to present themselves until nearly a month later.

Initially the zoo believed the cause of death

After a 400-Year Absence, A Rare Ibis Returns to European Skies
With its black body and wide wings, the bird flying along Austria’s Salzach Valley on a mild summer day looks, at first glance, a lot like a crow. But when it lands in a nearby meadow, it quickly becomes clear that this is a very different animal.

The bird’s iridescent feathers give it an almost magical appearance. Its long, curved beak enables it to hunt for small animals, and its naked head, with feathers that point straight into the air, Mohawk-style, make it look like no other bird in Europe.

This particular bird even has a name: Liethe. It is a waldrapp, or northern bald ibis, a species that is critically endangered in the wild. In former centuries, the species occurred widely in northern and eastern Africa, Asia Minor, Arabia, and parts of Europe. The ancient Egyptians revered th

Elephants with a purpose
In the uMkhuze section of iSimangaliso Wetland Park, part of the Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area, elephants are flourishing. Following the reintroduction of the species into the game reserve during the 1990s, the numbers rapidly grew to a healthy 139 strong elephant population today. In a world where more than 30,000 elephants are lost to poaching each year, this is a true management success story for conservation partner Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife, but one that, unfortunately, now has also started to present its own challenges. This is because uMkhuze, one of South Africa’s oldest game parks (est. 1912), only offers a range of 43,000 ha with a finite carrying capacity for these gentle giants.

Only 150 kilometres to the west of uMkhuze, Ezemvelo’s Ithala Game Reserve struggles with the same challenge of effectively maintaining their blossoming elephant population within the reserve’s approximately 30,000 ha protected area.

“There are various ways in which an overpopulation of elephants can be managed. This includes culling, contraceptives, as well as translocations. In both uMkhuze and Ithala, contraceptive plans have already been put into action. This will, however, take time to sign

This Snail Goes Through Metamorphosis. Then It Never Has to Eat Again.
In the ocean off the coast of Antarctica, a snail lives around scorching hydrothermal vents. Its name is Gigantopelta chessoia. From the outside, it looks like any other shelled slug. But on the inside, something strange is happening, scientists report in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, like no metamorphosis ever observed in any other animal on the planet.

“We’re calling it crypto-metamorphosis,” said Chong Chen, a deep sea biologist at Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology who uncovered this hidden transition that is unlike the external body changes most other animals undergo during metamorphosis.

Once the snail reaches a certain body length, its digestive system stops growing. Its teeth, stomach and intestine make way for an expanding esophageal gland. The organ gets so big, it takes up most of the snail’s body, and basically becomes a ne

Studies downplay threat that dams pose to primates in Guinea and Indonesia, critics say
A pair of proposed hydroelectric dams that will encroach on the habitats of critically endangered primates—in Guinea and Indonesia—are receiving fierce criticism from conservation groups, who fault what they call inadequate scientific review of the harmful effects of these big infrastructure projects.

The government of Guinea was finalizing plans last week for the construction of a 294-megawatt hydroelectric dam in the country’s Moyen Bafing National Park, which wildlife experts say could lead to the loss of up to 1500 critically endangered western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus), a subspecies whose population has fallen by more than 80% over the past 20 years. Guinea created the national park only this year as a refuge for an estimated 4000 chimpanzees.

A dam planned for Sumatra in Indo

Be Black and White in Your Variation
A couple months ago I went to Israel with one of my friends. We had to do a workshop for Jerusalem Zoo where they invited many other keepers from other parks. The outcome was great 36 people in total from about 7 different parks. As preparation for this symposium we had to make 8 different presentations. From an introduction about ourselves to a talk about communication etc. One of the presentations I had to make was about motivation and reinforcement techniques

I thought im making a route through the consequences skinner came up with to the motivation subjects used today that fit in skinners diagrams with a connecting workshop. I showed my presentation to my friend and he had a couple questions. To mention that his background isn’t the same as mine so for him looking at such a presentation might be a learning curve already. Anyway we get to a slide what says Variation is the key, be black and white in your variation, I could see question marks in his eyes. He asked me right away “Peter what do you mean? Isn’t that a bit controversial?” I replied with yes, it is and that’s the goal. I want to make p

The case for introducing rhinos to Australia
Rhinos in Australia might seem like an insane proposition – after all, we’ve had historically bad luck with introduced species. But on reflection it’s not quite as crazy as it sounds.

There are five species of rhinoceros in the world: two in Africa and three in Asia.

The world of all five species is being rapidly destroyed and shredded, their savanna and forest habitats sliced apart by clearings, fences, roads, and other obstructions.

Only Two Known Mammals Like Spicy Food
Can you eat as many chili peppers as a Chinese tree shrew? Probably not. A recent study found that these tree shrews are the only mammal aside from humans known to deliberately seek out spicy foods.

Researchers in China found a mutation in the species’ ion channel receptor, TRPV1, that makes it less sensitive to capsaicin, the “hot” chemical in chili peppers.

This is the channel that acts as a pain receptor on the tongues and throats of mammals, alerting the brain when it comes in contact with harmful heat. (Read the history of spicy peppers in human cuisine.)

But thanks to the genetic mutation, tre

Dodgy skeleton traders and lion slaughterhouses exposed in damning report
After a document was leaked in North West, the government this week finally made public its decision to almost double the lion skeleton export quota to 1,500. By chance, this coincided with the release of an explosive report, The Extinction Business, about the lion bone trade by the EMS Foundation and Ban Animal Trading.

South Africa is already the largest exporter of lion bones to mainly Vietnam, Lao PDR and Thailand, countries which are at the nexus of the illegal wildlife trade. The bones are mainly used for fake tiger bone wine, which is a bogus health drink. 2

In a letter announcing the quota, the DEA says the decision is based on findings from a survey (in year one of a three-year scientific research process) by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). The survey – Interim Report 1: South African Lion Bone Trade – mentions only the 800 quota. One of the study’s key researchers seemed startled by the 1,500 claim:

“The wording of that quota letter … is a bit unclear concerning our involvement. All decisions were made by the Scientific Authority and DEA and we provided no input on what the quota should, or should not, be. We correctly excluded ourselves from this proce

The heat is on – and that's great news for rare Siamese crocodiles
As temperatures soar to record levels across much of the world, many people are complaining that it's hot enough to fry an egg outdoors. Thirty-degree heat may be too much for some, but for others it's just the ticket. Crocodile conservationists in Cambodia have been assiduously checking their own thermometers for the past few weeks, to ensure that it's hot enough to hatch an egg indoors – several clutches of eggs, to be precise. And their devotion as surrogate parents has just reaped spectacular rewards in the shape of 65 Siamese crocodile hatchlings.

The birth of these crocodiles – at a captive-breeding facility in Phnom Penh managed by Fauna & Flora International (FFI) in partnership with the Cambodian Forestry Administration – is a momentous event for one of the world's rarest reptiles. Given that the wild population is estimated at a mere 250 mature individuals, this represents a dramatic increase in numbers, and offers a vital lifeline for a species that is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Siamese crocodiles have disappeared fr

Seven tonnes of scales from endangered pangolin seized from cargo shipment in Hong Kong bound for mainland China
More than seven tonnes of scales believed to have come from endangered pangolins were found hidden in a shipping container that arrived in Hong Kong from Africa, bound for mainland China, customs officers said on Friday.
The 7,100kg haul – the second-biggest seizure of its kind in a decade – had an estimated market value of HK$3.55 million (US$450,000), according to the Customs and Excise Department.

It was seized on Friday when officers opened the 40 foot container for inspection at the Tsing Yi customs cargo examination compound.

Its manifest claimed it contained more than 880 bags of plastic raw materials.

Four brown bears will be rescued from life of misery in Japan - and sent to zoo in Doncaster
Four rare bears are to be rescued from a life of misery in a run-down museum in Japan – and moved to Doncaster.

Award-winning Yorkshire Wildlife Park is at the centre of a project to rehome the four Ussuri brown bears who live in tiny metal cages all year round – even when it snows in the depths of winter.

Staff from the UK zoo will travel across the world to bring them 5,400 miles to their new home.

The park, at Branton, near Doncaster, was chosen because of its global reputation for animal welfare and conservation of at-risk species and for its support for rehoming animals.

Ussuri brown bears are currently classed on

Skeletons in the closet
Civil Service, Trader of Bones and Nemesis of Big Cats Everywhere.

Well done on your decision to allow fifteen hundred lion skeletons to be shipped out of the country over the next twelve months. That’ll teach them. They became insufferable after finding out that we call them the king of the jungle and their attitude has only worsened over the years.

You can’t go to the Kruger Park these days without coming across flocks of lions copulating openly on the roads. This is a terrible thing for our children to see. And if they’re not shagging they’re trying to bite a tou


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About me
After more than 50 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' (many more before that) 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 storyteller, 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