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Zoo News Digest May-June 2015

Zoo News DIgest

May-June 2015



Armenia offers refuge for Europe’s last leopards

High on an Armenian hillside, Gor Hovhannisyan eases a camouflage-green box from its hiding place in the trees and opens the back to see what he has caught.

This time, only a bird and a rabbit triggered the camera trap’s motion sensors. But far bigger beasts also roam the Caucasus Wildlife Refuge: lynx, bears, wolves and at least one of Europe’s last remaining leopards.

Across a deep gorge speckled with thyme and wildflowers, Hovhannisyan points to the snowy ridge where a Caucasian leopard was last captured here on camera; behind him, far below, a lush plain of farmland and fruit trees stretches away to Mount Ararat, an ice-clad 5,000m volcano just over the border in Turkey.

The refuge is breaking new ground in Armenia and the region, by leasing a large area of outstanding beauty and biodiversity and ensuring that local people contribute to and benefit from its protection.

The challenge is considerable in a country where environmental awareness is low, large predators are seen as a threat to life and livestock, and the rule of law is too weak to control either small-scale trappers or wealthy hunters.

Geopolitics doesn’t help, either. Barely 25km south of the refuge is Azerbaijan, which officially is still at war with Armenia after an early-1990s conflict. Some 10km further lies Iran. The leopard’s territory spans all three countr

Mauled tiger temple abbot to remain in hospital 

The abbot of the province's renowned “Tiger Temple” is to be kept in hospital for observation and recuperation after he was mauled by one of the scores of animals that have made the monastery world famous. A...


Liberia Chimpanzees used by a U.S. Research Institute the New York Blood Center for developing and testing of Hepatitis B and C vaccines that generated over US$500 million have been abandoned to die from starvation.

 “The research carried out by the New York Blood Center using the Chimpanzees is reported to have contributed to the receipt by NYBC of more than US$500 million in royalties. But these animals are left to die from starvation in retirement”, said Dr. Fatorma Borlay, head of the Liberia Bio-medical Research Institute.

 The Chimps were used in research for the development of the Hepatitis B vaccine and also contributed to the validation of a sterilization method that eliminates transmission of Hepatitis B and C and HIV viruses through blood products. The Chimps are left with the underfunded Liberia Bio-medical Research Institute to take care of, a burden the institution is finding it difficult to handle.

 Dr. Borlay said the agreement between U.S Institution and the Government of Liberia provided that NYBC will provide care for the chimps in “retirement.” “Care has to be provided for these animals in retirement on the islands where they are safe from human predators and local people and animals which have lost their fear of people can be vicious”, he said.

 Dr. Borlay added that NYBC initially began implementing the agreement, adding that it has stopped its support to the chimps. “Because they were raised in captivity, the chimpanzees have to be fed by handlers whom they have come to know and trust and provided with other care at a cost of about $ 30,000 per month,” Dr. Borlay added.

 According to an American NGO Release and Restitute for Ch

Japanese association’s capitulation to intl pressure over dolphins inevitable

It must be considered an inevitable, though undesirable, choice for the sake of keeping aquariums and zoos, where people can closely observe rare species of creatures from around the world, going.

The Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA), in response to pressure from the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) not to procure dolphins caught by drive fishery, has decided to accept the demand to stay in the world body. WAZA welcomed JAZA’s decision.

In April, the world zoo and aquarium organization suspended JAZA’s membership on the grounds that Japanese aquariums and zoos were in violation of a code of ethics on acquiring dolphins. The world body also put JAZA on notice that it would face expulsion if it continued obtaining dolphins caught in drive fishery.

Drive fishery of dolphins is the traditional fishing method handed down in the town of Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture. The method is for catching dolphins by driving them into a cove by means of banging metal poles to direct the marine mammals toward fishing nets. The dolphin-capturing practice was depicted in a U.S. documentary film, “The Cove,” which was released six years ago, giving rise to an international im

Dolphin breeding not feasible, aquariums in Japan fear drop in numbers

Concern and relief greeted the decision by the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA) to change how domestic institutions procure dolphins, with aquariums fearing a decline in the number of their dolphins and zoo officials relieved they would still have access to animals from overseas.

The Japan association made its decision in order to remain in the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA). Many of JAZA's member aquariums have relied on drive fishery to procure dolphins.

Given the difficulty of breeding the animals, there is serious concern that the number of dolphins in their collections could drop. However, some zoo officials expressed relief that they would still be able to obtain animals, including rare species, from overseas through WAZA's network.

"I don't believe it's possible to stably secure dolphins through breeding alone," said an official at an aquarium in the Chubu region. "I'm afraid there will be significantly fewer dolphins at domestic institutions in the future."

Specialist staff and a dedicated pool built for the purpose are needed to breed the animals, and in some cases, baby dolphins can drown, according to sources associated with the aquariums.

One official said, "We're thinking of splitting off from JAZA and continuing to procure dolphins from drive fishery." The director of an aquarium in the Kinki region also expressed concern, saying, "JAZA could break down."

"Dolphins have long life spans, so they won't disappear anytime soon," an official at another aquarium in the Chubu region said. "I don't think there's any way but to collectively procure animals born in breeding facilities."

Toshinari Tanaka, director of the Sapporo Maruyama Zoo, expressed relief over the move. His zoo plans to obtain polar bears from overseas through WAZA's network.

"I'm worried that if JAZA breaks off fro

The efficacy of trading rhino horn debunked

A group of local and international experts converged in Cape Town on Tuesday to discuss the legal and illegal trade in endangered wildlife.

Jo Shaw, the manager of WWF-SA’s Rhino Programme, sketched an overview of the dire situation the species faces in South Africa, being slaughtered at a rate of about three animals per day. As a member of the committee tasked by government with investigating the feasibility of a trade in rhino horn, she could not comment publicly on the matter, but indicated that the committee has not formalised a decision yet.

Other participants were less circumspect with regards to their position: “When South Africa proposes to sell its rhino horns on the international market, it puts rhinos across the entire continent at risk,” says Dr Paula Kahumba, a Kenyan ecologist and the CEO of an NGO called WildlifeDirect.

“Most of Africa, Europe and America is horrified by South Africa’s support for a trade in rhino horn,” Kahumba said.

Kahumba believes that any legal trade will fuel its illegal counterpart by reducing the stigma associated with outlawed wild

Why do we fight so hard to save the giant panda?

A few years ago, I met a conservation student named Stewart who explained, at some length, why we should stop trying to save the giant panda. It wasn’t that he didn’t like pandas, he said, simply that too much money and effort had been spent on what was probably a lost cause, just because a conservation body had adopted the poor beast as its logo. I must confess that at first I was taken aback, but I also had to concede that pandas do themselves no favours when it comes to conservation (rarely has an animal seemed so reluctant to engage in sex), and, given the paucity of funding for other projects, it seems important to use what money there is wisely.

A few months later, quite coincidentally, I went to the opening of an exhibition where a display echoed Stewart’s argument, if more cautiously and rationally. Why do we spend so much on pandas, when the same sums could be much more effectively deployed elsewhere? What other, equally important species could have been saved from extinction at a fragment of the cost of the panda programme? The figures were compelling – and I cannot deny that, for a long time, I was persuaded.

Then, on a recent visit to the studio of the Berlin photographer Alexander von Reiswitz, I saw a picture that cha

Lone lion dies from hunger and heat

Due to the apathy and negligence of wildlife authorities, the lone lion of “lohi Bher” Safari park died on Thursday.

An employee of the park told Pakistan Today on the condition of anonymity that the main cause of lion’s death was extreme heat and provision of substandard meat. He further said that if timely measures are not taken to protect the lives of others animals their survival would also be at stake.

Deaths of zoo and park animals in Pakistan is becoming habitual due to the messed up environment and scorching heat. In 2012, due to similar conditions a female elephant (Saheli) died at the Margalla Zoo Islamabad. It was said that the main cause of her death was heat, lack of proper shade where elephants prefer to stand during the summer season, and lack of proper washing system or sending the elephants to fresh water pond.

When contacted for comments, Deputy director Anwar Aman told Pakistan Today scribe that an inquiry would be conducted to find out what had caused the lion’s death.

He said it would be unfair to jump to any co

St. Augustine Alligator Farm gets perfect score in accreditation

While not the biggest or the oldest, St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park is now the first park to receive a perfect score by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a group dedicated to animal conservation and proper care in public zoos and aquariums.

St. Augustine Alligator Farm is the first to meet all of AZA’s standards since the association was founded in 1986. The farm received AZA accreditation in 1989.

For a park to receive and keep AZA accreditation, it has to consistently meet the organization’s standards in animal care, veterinary programs, conservation, education, safety, physical facilities, guest services and quality of staff. While meeting these standards in the past, this is the first year that the park has met them without any room for errors.

Working toward accreditation with hundreds of zoos and aquariums around the world, this score ranks St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park at the top of accredited parks.

“We’re up against really major zoos — that’s including Disney’s A

Out of Africa? Texans offer sanctuary to endangered rhinos

In the Texas grassland, home to white-tailed deer and rattlesnakes, outdoorsman Charly Seale sees a vast sanctuary of open spaces that could be used to protect the wild African rhino from its biggest enemy - poachers in search of the animals' valuable horns.

Seale is part of an ambitious project organized by animal welfare groups in the United States and African countries to bring hundreds of orphaned baby southern white rhinos to the south Texas grasslands, whose climate and geography are similar to their native South African veld.

That is if governments will let them and the Texans can afford a transportation bill that could run tens of millions of dollars, all paid for by private donations.

"This is not for the faint of heart or for the faint of checkbook," said Seale, head of the Texas-based Exotic Wildlife Association's Second Ark Foundation, pointing out no public money will be sought for the effort, which is still in its early stages.

Rhino poaching hit a record in South Africa

Crane fights off two tigers after falling into their zoo enclosure

A red-crowned crane found itself squaring off against two tigers after falling into their pen at a zoo in China, with the clash watched and filmed by adults and children.

Hundreds of visitors to the Fuyang Wildlife Park witnessed the unbalanced battle on Saturday when the crane fell through a hole in the fence that surrounded the enclosure.

The four tigers in the pen all came to inspect the interloper, but only two were compelled to challenge it to fight, the Hangzhou news website reports.

Like a kung-fu showdown, it was tiger style versus crane style as the predators surrounded and lunged at the prey.

The crane managed to avoid the tigers' every attempt to strike as the animals circled around the enclosure throughout the fight.

The crane flapped its wings to swat away the tigers when they moved in too close for it flee.

"At first it seems a bit silly as t

Entebbe zoo named best in East and Central Africa

UGANDA Wildlife Education Center (UWEC) formerly known as Entebbe Zoo has been named as the best zoo in the East, Central and West African Region. The zoo has also been appointed a coordinator for all zoos and zquariums in the East, Central and West African region under the umbrella zoo organization, the Pan African Association of Zoos and Aquaria (PAAZA). According to the Executive Director Uganda Wildlife Education Center James Musinguzi, Entebbe Zoo will be required to establish and popularize the international zoo operation standards. “The selection of UWEC as the best zoo follows our excellent performance in the recently concluded international PAAZA Audit that was conducted by three renowne

Can the Iranian cheetah outrun extinction?

The Asiatic cheetah is a subspecies that once roamed across much of Asia. Now, only 50 adults remain in the wild, in Iran. The director of Fota Wildlife Park in Cork, Sean McKeown, is lending his expertise to help this rare and distinctive animal.

He has visited Iran to give advice on setting up a captive breeding programme, starting off with an adult male and female in a research facility in Tehran.

It might seem an unusual Irish expertise, but Fota knows cheetahs. The park has bred more than 200 and is the most successful breeder of cheetahs in Europe. Visitors can today see 11 individuals of the east African variety.

But Iranian cheetahs live in a vast arid landscape, nothing like the distinctive open grassland or woodland savannahs of Africa. In historical times Iran had lions and tigers and so is acutely aware of the importance of conserving the cheetah, says McKeown.

“Iranians are proud to be the only people who managed to conserve the Asiatic cheetah,” says Dr Luke Hunter, renowned cheetah expert and president of the cat conservation charity Panthera in the U

Major facelift in the offing for aging Manila Zoo

The 56-year old Manila Zoo is set to undergo a major renovation and facelift through a multi-million peso deal between the city government and two contending firms who pitched their proposals for a joint venture agreement on the improvement of one of the city’s most popular destinations.

A Singaporean recreation firm and a local group has taken interest in investing on the improvement of the 5.5 hectare zoo through a joint venture agreement led by City Mayor Joseph Estrada.

Although the deal is still being discussed and

Spotted: A 103-Year-Old Orca Thriving In The Wild Means Disaster For SeaWorld

A healthy and thriving 103-year-old orca has been spotted off the western coast of Canada, finally spelling disaster for SeaWorld. The Marine Park, despite an overwhelming amount of evidence, strongly declares that it does not mistreat its whales and that within captivity the animals live much longer and healthier lives. Thankfully, this false statement has finally been entirely blown out of the water.

Since the release of controversial documentary Blackfish, debates surrounding the capturing methods, treatment and ethical injustices carried out by SeaWorld have heated up. It is hoped that this new discovery will be enough to encourage people to completely boycott SeaW


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