Tuesday, December 22, 2020

"Tabletop Drills – Practicing Your Zoo Emergency Preparedness Exercises within a Single Room"


"Tabletop Drills – Practicing Your Zoo Emergency Preparedness

 Exercises within a Single Room"

January 6, 2021, at 2:00 pm eastern


Please register in advance.  Registration is free.  Seating is limited.




Practicing for emergency events of all types within zoo and aquarium environments is not only smart preparation for all the many disasters we hear about regularly but also is a zoo association standard necessary for accreditation. While it is important to hold regular live-action practice drills, there are times when a live simulation drill may be too complex or logistically difficult, or too advanced for new or inexperienced staff for it to effect satisfactory lessons and experience. This presentation will describe a variety of “Tabletop Drills,” where your staff can congregate together and be led through an emergency event step by step with the staff describing what actions they would take as the event progresses. A tabletop drill can be formally scripted in advance by a leader with planned injections of complications to test the participants’ reactions. Or a tabletop drill can be set up by the leader with complications randomized by the rolls of specific numbered dice with the outcomes less predictable. Both methods stimulate thinking about potential emergency actions and help prepare your staff for live-action drills as well as real emergencies.


Presenter: Ken Kaemmerer, Curator of Mammals, Pittsburgh Zoo

Peter Dickinson
Independent International Zoo Consultant

Thursday, December 10, 2020

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and National Museums Scotland Contribute to UK’s First Zoological Biobank


The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and National Museums Scotland Contribute to UK’s First Zoological Biobank

Photo credit rzss.org.uk

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) and National Museums Scotland are playing a central role in the establishment of the UK’s first national zoological biobank with the launch of their biobank facilities. Located at the National Museums Collections Centre and Edinburgh Zoo, the infrastructure will improve storage and distribution of animal genetic material for conservation and research.


The national biobank is providing a hub for scientists across the UK, giving them access to tissue, cells and DNA from endangered species and other wildlife, which can be used in research and for conservation planning.

The Scottish zoological biobank hub is being developed as part of the CryoArks Biobank, funded by a £1 million grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). The project brings together Cardiff University, the Natural History Museum, National Museums Scotland, RZSS, University of Edinburgh and the University of Nottingham to expand and link collections across the UK.


The CryoArks initiative is led by Professor Mike Bruford of Cardiff University who said,

“CryoArks is making a step-change in the way that genetic material is curated and is making it available to more scientists.

“With the world facing unprecedented challenges for our wildlife and climate change, having access to this data will help us find solutions to protect our planet and its endangered species.”

As Biobank ‘hubs’, National Museums and RZSS will provide the expertise for a new level of sample storage and access to their samples by the establishment of ultra-low temperature freezer facilities, laboratory space, and making all samples available through an online searchable database. As a CryoArks partner, they offer on-site assistance in archiving sample material, and provide advice on embedding biobank sample collection during routine veterinary care and fieldwork.

Genetic data helps us understand a great deal about our planet, such as measuring shifts in biodiversity, discovering biological adaptations to climate and habitat change, and finding out why particular species have unusual characteristics. The samples held in the Biobank enable conservation researchers and scientists, now and in the future, to access genetic material such as DNA from a wide range of species, including those that are rare, endangered and extinct-in-the-wild, to help ensure their future survival.


Dr Andrew Kitchener, Principal Curator of Vertebrates, National Museums Scotland said

“This project is crucial in enabling researchers to engage with a vast resource of biological data samples which until now was difficult to access.

“We have a responsibility to future generations to ethically collect these biological samples, store them in appropriate conditions and make them available for research. These specimens are vital to our understanding of the natural world and our ability to map its changes and respond effectively to the demands of researchers working in conservation and ecology.”

National Museums Scotland has been collecting tissue samples from animals donated to the collection for more than 25 years and this legacy of several thousand samples has been added to the biobank, enabling quicker and easier access for scientists across the UK.

Dr Helen Senn, Head of Conservation and Science Programmes, RZSS said,

“Well managed sample collections are critical research tools which can be used to improve conservation outcomes for many threatened species. We are extremely grateful to the multitude of researchers and zoological institutions who are contributing samples that can be used by scientists for the benefit of wildlife around the world.”

Wildlife conservation charity RZSS also has a partnership with the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) and it is one of the four hubs, alongside those in Denmark, Belgium and Germany, of the EAZA Biobank. This is an initiative to increase collection, curation, storage and use of valuable genetic resources from animals held in EAZA institutions across Europe and the Middle East for the purposes of population management and conservation research. The ultimate goal is to biobank a sample from every living zoo animal so this data can be accessed for future conservation management and research.

10 December 2020

Peter Dickinson
Independent International Zoo Consultant

Cher Takes on Pata Zoo


Cher Takes on Pata Zoo

After her success in aiding with moving Kavaan the elephant from Islamabad zoo in Pakistan to a wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia* Cher has now set her sights on getting 'Bua Noi' the gorilla away from Pata Zoo in Bangkok. She has sent letters to the relevant Thai Government authorities.

I wish her the best of luck. WAZA failed, Jane Goodall failed, Gillian Anderson and several other celebrities have failed. Annually for at least the past ten years the worlds press have attacked Pata Zoo to no avail.



My last visit to Pata Zoo was in 2019. Nothing much had changed since my several previous visits. More run down than previously. Dirtier too. What really disturbed me was that they now had a Bonobo. This unfortunate animal appeared more disturbed than any of the other primates, and understandably so.

*If Bua Noi is relocated where would she go? I was disturbed to read that some in Cambodia are planning to breed with Kavaan. Cambodia (like Thailand) needs to stop their Orangutan Boxing matches.

Peter Dickinson
Independent International Zoo Consultant