Saturday, April 30, 2011

Zoo News Digest 25th - 30th April 2011 (Zoo News 745)

Zoo News Digest 25th - 30th April 2011 (Zoo News 745)

Peter Dickinson

Dear Colleague,

I feel a bit like I have been kicked in the face by a donkey over these past couple of days. Some sort of bug, which I am determined to beat.

Just a note on the article about South Lakes Wild Animal Park in the last Zoo News Digest... typical of the newspaper.. They had an extra 70,000 visitors in 2010.... not just 70,000. A total for the year 2010 of 320,000. An exceptional year .

In Zoo News Digest 12th - 15th April 2011 (Zoo News 741) I remarked about the senseless and stupidity in passing a bill to make it illegal to make secret videos and recordings on farms. I was thinking of it in a zoo context and how Anne the Elephant would still have been stuck in the circus being abused if a similar law had been applied. Look down the links today to "Calf bashing video raises stakes on MN bill". Such a simple heading belies the reality that these calves were being bludgeoned to death with pick axe's and hammers...and they call it euthanasia!

I see that Chiang Mai Night Safari has had an increase in revenue. Pleased to hear it. The real problem with this collection is that very few people know that it is there. Apart from one large but easily missable poster in Chiang Mai nobody is going to know it is there. In my last visit to Chiang Mai I thought the place must have closed down. Apart from that one poster there were no leaflets, no adverts, nothing to make visitors to the area aware it was there. It was impossible to miss the fact that Tiger Kingdom was there. Tiger Kingdom advertising is excellent and swamps everything else. There are leaflets everywhere. The Tuk Tuks are advertising it all the time. Chiang Mai Night Safari needs to follow suit.

Meanwhile down the road apiece. As expected the Polar Bears to Chiang Mai Zoo is causing a bit of a debate. See the letter further down. Here it states "The zoo needs to clarify if it is indeed following international standards to ensure optimal welfare for the polar bears."...once again we have this 'International Standards' making an appearance. It keeps cropping up everywhere. There are NO international standards for zoos. I truly wish there were and that all zoos embraced them.

You know it is true but one of the wisest pieces of advice you could give or be given today is never to say anything anywhere on the internet be it in an email or...especially on Facebook if you are not prepared to say it to someones face. Nom de plumes are all very well and they have their place but they can be the tool of cowards too.

I reckon 'Paul the Octopus' was a good idea. It was a very clever 'one off' and it generated a lot of publicity and interested. Of course the Octopus, clever as they may be, DID NOT predict a thing. So please let us let this whole stupid prediction thing die a death. The last thing we need is a two headed five legged tortoise being brought into the mystical arena.

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Please feel free to use the comment section at the end of this Zoo News Digest.

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Director hopes zoo can be saved
A significant increase in revenues earned by Chiang Mai Night Safari during the past year should help it survive an attempt to close the money-losing venture, says Sarawut Srisakura, the zoo's newly appointed director.
Mr Sarawut said he was ready to defend the controversial night zoo before a panel appointed by the Office of the Public Sector Development Commission (OPSDC) to study its future. The panel, formed by the Samak Sundaravej government in 2008, will make a decision early next year on whether to shutter the operation or overhaul its administration.
Chiang Mai Night Safari was launched in 2006 with a budget of 2 billion baht during the tenure of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra . Located on an area of more than 800 rai in Doi Suthep-Pui National Park about 12km from downtown Chiang Mai, the zoo aimed to be the region's biggest night wildlife centre despite protests from local activists.
Over the years, the night zoo has been criticised for the poor conditions provided for animals and reports of wildlife deaths. But the zoo claimed the rate of animal deaths has been cut by 20%. Moreover, the number of animals has doubled to more than 1,800 over five years.
The government provides the Night Safari with a 110-million-baht operating subsidy annually. The zoo has suffered losses during the past five years - but management claims the operation is self-sustaining.
Mr Sarawut said he was confident that an almost 50% increase in the zoo's revenues from the fiscal year 2010 to 2011 would convince the panel that its management plan is sound enough to warrant continued operations.
"We see no reason to close it," Mr Sarawut said. "We are the biggest money maker in the Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration [a public organisation to which the

MoEF says trapping and shifting leopards to Bondla zoo is ineffective
Trapping and shifting leopards from human habitations to the Bondla zoo may have been followed like an ideal solution to man-animal conflicts in Goa, but the Union ministry of environment and forests has termed it ineffective.
"The capture and translocation of problem leopards has been a common practice in various parts of the country. However, such measures did not alleviate the intensity of conflict in the affected areas," the ministry said in a statement.
While releasing the guidelines for the first time, on the basis of previous efforts at mitigation of the problem in high-conflict states like Maharashtra, the ministry has suggested a three-pronged strategy to deal with the situation. "These guidelines, the first of its kind from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, are based on consultations with a host of scientists and experts who have worked on the issue, and various scientific studies and reports," the statement explains.
Citing recent studies, the ministry has stated that most leopards, like other large carnivores, do not attack humans, but conflicts arise when they target domestic animals and livestock, which results in economic losses to local communities. The conflict reaches a point of severity when the leopards start preying on children and enter homes at night.
A forest official said several instances of leopards entering habitated areas have been reported in Sarzora and Dramapur area in the recent past. "Many Dhangar families rear goats but they keep them in the open as they have no stables and they are preyed upon by leopards," the source said.
But trapping them for translocation is not a solution to the problem. "It has been rightly pointed out that leopards are territorial animals. If one is removed, it may create a vacuum and three other animals may try at the same time to fill it up," assistant conservator

A hellhole called Alipore zoo
The city zoo, which Union environment and forest minister Jairam Ramesh has dubbed “overcrowded”, flouts several conditions laid down in a central notification to ensure proper upkeep of animals.
Zoo director Raju Das begs to differ but a comparison between the Centre’s prescription and the reality lays bare how cramped the Alipore facility is.
The 2009 notification of the environment and forest ministry states that a “large” zoo must have 75 hectares for 750 animals of 75 species, or 0.1 hectare for every animal on an average.
The Alipore zoo, in contrast, has only 18 hectares for as many as 1,300 animals of 130 species. The space for each inmate — 0.013 hectare — is at least 10 times less than the norm.
As for large mammals, the Central Zoo Authority prescribes around 1,000sq m for a pair of tigers and lions and 2,000sq m for a pair of rhinos and hippos. Going by the benchmark, the 22 animals of the four species the Alipore zoo has should get around 14,000sq m of enclosure space. The actual allotment is a lot less.
Moving on to the “qualitative” aspects, the ministry norms state that the animals should be kept “in naturalistic settings” and the zoo authorities must ensure that the “animals are not unduly disturbed”.
“Each animal enclosure shall have appropriate shelters, perches, withdrawal areas, pools, drinking water points and such other facilities which can provide the animals a chance to display the wide range of their natural behaviour as well as protect them from extremes of climate,” the ministry notification states.
The settings for the animals at the city zoo are anything but “naturalistic”, the enclosures bereft of most of the facilities that could make the inmates feel at home.
Union minister Ramesh’s suggestion to shift some of the larger animals to give them, and the rest, some breathing space is unlikely to be implemented following problems over land acquisition.
Director Das, who denied while talking to Metro recently that the zoo was overcrowded, said: “The Central Zoo Authority has asked us to decongest the zoo and shift some animals to a satellite facility. The relocation, however, will be difficult as the government had faced problems acquiring land in Bhagawanpur

Gotsoma Safaris

Bungled Shark Tagging Leads to Infighting
Photographs showing a raw festering wound on a shark that was hooked and released by researchers at the Farallon Islands in late 2009 have surfaced, igniting questions about a controversial tagging process and setting the shark research community aflame with accusations and counterattacks.
The images depict “Junior,” a great white shark that San Diego marine biologist Michael Domeier fitted with a “SPOT” tag and released on Oct. 29, 2009. During the procedure, which involved bringing the shark aboard a floating platform, the shark was accidentally hooked in the throat. Researchers performed an impromptu surgery using bolt clippers inserted through one of its gill slits to cut the hook, part of which was left in the animal’s throat when the scientists let it go. They also bolted a Smart Position or Temperature Transmitting (SPOT) satellite tag to the shark’s dorsal fin.
Junior was caught, tagged, and released within the boundaries of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, a federal zone where white shark protections include a prohibition on approaching within 164 feet of one of the animals. Though multiple scientists warned that Domeier’s hands-on approach to tagging great whites could injure such large, heavy fish, federal and state officials jointly green-lighted the project.
Questions immediately arose about Junior’s health following Domeier’s tagging operation. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) officials who oversaw Domeier’s permit assuaged concerns that the shark might have been seriously wounded.
A year later, Junior was not faring so well. Recently surfaced images, which were captured in October 2010 and leaked by an unknown source, show a gaunt animal wearing a SPOT tag in its fin and bearing a large exposed wound on the right side of its face. Multiple shark experts are blaming Domeier for Junior’s condition.
Just what caused the shark’s injury is not clear, however. Though Junior was hooked in the esophagus, his current wound is located just outside the right rear corner of his jaw.
When contacted for comment, Domeier, a marine biologist with more than 15 years of field experience, referred this reporter to the website of his nonprofit organization, Marine Conservation Science Institute, where he posted a statement in March saying the injury “was clearly inflicted by another white shark.” Such events are commonplace among great white sharks and, according to Domeier, can result in temporary weight loss of the injured animal. Domeier’s website also states that Junior has swum thousands of miles since the October 2010 photographs and was detected halfway between Hawaii and the mainland on March 23, 2011.
Many of Domeier’s critics support more traditional shark-tagging methods by which a hand-held lance is used to affix a transmitter to the flank of a free-swimming shark.
Sean Van Sommeran, founder of the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation in Santa Cruz, has opposed Domeier’s SPOT-tagging research since he began applying it to great whites several years ago in Mexican waters. In an email to the Weekly, Van Sommeran called Domeier’s methods “a huge leap backwards (overboard) for shark research conservation.”
And several critics are skeptical of Domeier’s explanation of Junior’s wounds. A source close to the photographers who saw Junior last October suspects the cable between the baited hook and the research vessel dislocated Junior’s jaw when the scientists winched the shark toward their boat.
Chris Hartzell, vice-president of the Monterey Audubon Society and an underwater photographer, also doubts another shark caused Junior’s injury. Hartzell believes the wound

Sea of shrinking sharks
DIVERS' logs in Sabah are beginning to show fewer sharks. "In 1996/97 when I first came here, we did a lot of surveys to see what the issues and problems were and what we could do about them," says marine biologist Steve Oakley.
"In December last year and January this year, a group did a lot of dives around Sabah. We have taken their information as well as information from dive resorts around the coasts and have come up with a picture of how many sharks have been lost."
According to Oakley, who set up the Green Connection Aquarium in Kota Kinabalu, a staggering 98% of the sharks that had been recorded from 1996 have been lost.
A quick Google search revealed that Malaysia is ranked among the top 10 countries in the world that contribute to the depletion of sharks.
Both the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) have determined that sharks need protection. Many countries including the US (Hawaii) have imposed a ban on shark fishing.
Over the past few years, the campaign has picked


Buddy's Pizza delivers for Detroit Zoo animals
Detroit Zoo animals will receive an extraordinary treat on Wednesday, April 27, 2011, when Buddy’s Pizza delivers specially created “enrichment pizzas”. Prepared in collaboration with the Zoo’s animal welfare staff, the pies will be topped with such culinary delights as fish, peanut butter, bones, bugs and worms.
The special delivery kick's off a multi-year agreement between the Detroit Zoological Society and Buddy’s Pizza recognizing the restaurant group as “Proud Pizza Partner of the Detroit Zoo”.
Detroit Zoo visitors are invited to watch the animals devour their pizzas at the following times:
9:30 a.m. – polar bears (tundra) – giant pizza with fish and peanut butter.
10 a.m. – snow monkeys – personal pan pizzas with cereal, honey,

National Zoo hosts Easter Monday tradition for black families, dating back to 1890s
The National Zoo is hosting an Easter Monday event for African-American families that dates back almost as far as the White House Easter Egg Roll.
The free gathering Monday runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It includes an Easter egg hunt, games and a visit from the "Easter panda." There will be gospel performances, a Caribbean and reggae band and other performers.
The zoo exhibits will include 56 different talks with animal keepers and demonstrations and feedings of the cheetahs, gorillas, elephants and other animals.
The zoo has been hosting the Easter Monday event since


This giant python was not handed to Perhilitan
As report in the local Chinese papers, this 26-feet long python was not handed to Malaysia animal welfare and protection authorities, Perhilitan. Python is a protected wildlife and permit is needed to keep and breed the snake.
This giant python can swallow an adult man in the wild.
Anyway, I have alerted Perhilitan about this incident

Edinburgh Zoo holds crisis meeting over suspensions
Edinburgh Zoo chiefs are to hold a crisis meeting with members over the suspension of two senior executives.
More than 20 members have demanded an extraordinary general meeting, which will be held on Thursday 12 May at 1930 BST, in the zoo's education centre.
Fears have been mounting that management upheaval will put the lucrative deal to bring two pandas from China to the zoo at risk.
However the zoo has said the £6m deal was

Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program Recognized For Propagation Achievements
The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research has received the 2011 Plume Award for long-term avian propagation programs for its work with critically endangered Hawaiian birds. The award was given in March by the Avian Scientific Advisory Group (ASAG) during a session at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) conference.
The Zoo's Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program (HEBCP) is a species recovery effort in collaboration with the State of Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The program uses captive breeding and reintroduction to prevent extinction and promote species recovery through the reestablishment or augmentation of existing bird populations. Its restoration activities provide a strategy to preserve options while habitat is secured and the plummeting populations of wild birds are managed and stabilized. The HEBCP manages two captive breeding facilities: the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center (on the Big Island of Hawaii) and the Maui Bird Conservation Center.
"Our awards committee was overwhelmed with the amazing projects submitted for the Plume awards this year," said Steve Sarro, director of animal programs at the National Aviary and coordinator of the ASAG Plume Award judging committee. "We felt the efforts being made to save Hawaii's birds, and the attention to repairing the ecosystems

Walkers protest ban move at zoo
The Sanjay Gandhi Biological park here was witness to an unpleasant scene on Tuesday morning as the strollers protested the proposed ban on walking at the park. A huge crowd gathered at the main entrance of the zoo shouting slogans against the government and the zoo authorities.
Balram Singh, a 65-year-old regular at the zoo, said, "We have been coming here since ages. This decision would be the worst that the present government can take." The government, it seems, wanted only the elite to come here, and bar the commoners, said a protester, adding "we will take up the matter with the CM and appeal against Modiji`s decision."
"There is no need to panic. The whole process of introduction of passes will take

Zoo helps to save endangered species
A team of biologists and students spent the better part of a recent Friday tagging 150 endangered frogs before they were released into the wild.
For over a decade the Greater Vancouver Zoo has been involved with the recovery project of the Oregon Spotted Frog, since this species was declared endangered in 1999.
The biologists marked the frogs for identification and tracking purposes, and then released the sub-adults back into the wild.
The frogs were once abundant in the Pacific Northwest, ranging from southwestern B.C. to the northern tip of California. The Oregon Spotted Frog population in B.C. is estimated to be less than 350 breeding individuals in 2010, and is now restricted to three scattered wetland locations in the Fraser River Lowlands.
Environment Canada biologist Rene McKibbin said the frogs were “common everywhere in the 1960s” but development and habitat changes have drastically reduced their numbers.
However, “They have started

It doesn't say Volunteer in the blurb so I reckon it's okay. Take a look at:
This is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a part of a real Rhino Game Capture on a Reserve in South Africa. These opportunities are rare and extremely exciting!


Twin polar bear cubs find a mother in breeders
Twin polar bear cubs were introduced to the cameras on Monday at a wildlife park in northeast China's Liaoning Province.
The bear cubs, a male and a female, were rejected by their mother just hours after they were delivered and have been hand reared by staff at the Dalian Laohutan Ocean Park for the past three months.
The cubs' parents were gifts from Finland to China in 2001.
Four hours after the cubs were delivered, their mother stopped nursing them and left them on the cement floor.
Experts at the park decided to remove the cubs and rear them by hand.
In the wild, a mother bear will pick the stronger baby to feed, and leave the other to test its luck.
Breeders at the park's Pole Aquarium candidly expressed their love for the bear cubs.
"At the time of emergency treatment, the baby bear's heartbeat stopped. I sat there and burst into tears. We three breeders all cried. While crying, I felt that

Rare African elephant euthanized
Offiacls at the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk said an elderly female elephant that had been suffering from several debilitating ailments has been euthanized.
Officials who've been watching the deteriorating neurologic function, trunk coordination and muscle mass of Monica, the 38-year-old African elephant, decided to euthanize her 7 p.m. Tuesday, The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot reported Wednesday.
"It was a heart-wrenching decision, but her quality of life changed significantly this week, and we didn't want her to suffer," Greg Bockheim, executive director of the Virginia Zoo, said in a release. "Monica lost interest in socializing with staff and other elephants, and experienced further deterioration of both her mental and physical

Interesting....but you are not going to like it.
Dogs Decoded

Dogs Decoded (3/3) by xSilverPhinx

Road-building plans threaten Indonesian tigers
Indonesia is preparing to greenlight the construction of several highways through a park that has one of the world's few viable populations of wild tigers, conservationists warned Thursday.
The move would be especially alarming, they said, because it would come just months after the government signed a deal in Russia promising to do everything possible to save the iconic big cats from extinction.
There are about 3,500 tigers left in the wild worldwide. The Kerinci Seblat National Park, which spans four provinces on Sumatra island, is home to an estimated 190 of them — more than in China, Vietnam, Nepal, Laos and Cambodia combined.
"We need to do everything possible to stop this," said Mahendra Shrestha of Save the Tigers in Washington D.C. "It would be disastrous to one of the core tiger habitats in Asia."
The plans for four roads through the park would open up previously inaccessible land to villagers and illegal loggers, divide breeding grounds and movement corridors, and destroy vulnerable ecosystems.
Shrestha said it makes a "mockery" of the agreement signed by 13 countries that still have wild tigers to preserve and enhance critical habitats as part of efforts to double populations by 2002.
The 1.4-million hectare Kerinci Seblat park, which is divided by the Barisan mountain range and fringed by oil palm plantations as far as the eye can see, also is home to critically endangered Sumatran rhinoceros, elephants, clouded leopards, sun bears

Two-headed tortoise takes on tipster role
Following in the 'footsteps' of Paul the oracle octopus, a rare two-headed tortoise has embarked on a new career in predicting results at the upcoming ice hockey World Championship in Slovakia.
Magdalena the African spurred tortoise will try to replicate the success of Paul, who rose to fame by correctly predicting the outcome of eight successive matches at last year's soccer World Cup in South Africa.
Magdalena's first attempt was in line with bookmakers, predicting hosts Slovakia would beat outsiders Slovenia in the championship's opening match Friday.
Born in the northern Slovak town of Zilina in March with the genetic defect of having two heads, Magdalena makes the picks by mov

Clarifying the various Human Species

The Gharial - Our river guardian - A factsheet prepared by the Ministry of Environment and Forests
This factsheet on the Gharial is prepared by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF). The Gharial is a river crocodile endemic to the Indian sub-continent. It was found in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma and Bhutan, but is now extinct in these countries. Today, it is seen in a few places in Nepal. In India the major population of Gharials is found in the Girwa and Chambal rivers. It faces many threats to its survival which include fishing, linking of rivers, large irrigation canals etc. This brochure is an attempt to provide information on this specie's. There are also suggestions as to the direction the efforts for the protection of the Gharial should take.
The Gharial is touted to be the most unique of crocodiles because it has evolved into a river inhabiting fish eater. The reason this crocodile is called Gharial is because of the bulbous ‘ghara’ on the tip of the male snout. In Hindu mythology, it is the vehicle of the goddess Ganga and of the water god Varuna. These animals nest between March and May. The females lay 60 eggs and these hatch in 90 days.
The Gharial is listed in the IUCN Red List of endangered

Are Dolphins Too Smart for Captivity?
In 1998, a team of researchers marked the foreheads, backs, and flippers of a pair of show dolphins with triangles and circles, then placed a mirror in their tank. The two dolphins swam to it and immediately began checking out their new tattoos, which were on areas of their bodies they couldn't normally see, thereby demonstrating that they could recognize their own reflections—a test of self-awareness that only chimpanzees and humans had passed at the time. The finding was a breakthrough in dolphin research and a milestone in the field of animal cognition. But it also sowed an uncomfortable seed in the minds of some researchers: If dolphins are as self-aware as people, how can we keep them locked up in concrete pens? Some researchers have since launched a crusade to free all dolphins from captivity. But they

Unnatural selection: what is killing America's mammals?
Death becomes all living things.
But the manner in which they die can tell us a lot about how they lived, and the pressures of life they faced.
It can also help reveal what forces are at work in shaping the ecology and future of different species.
So if I was to ask you what is the single largest killer of animals, what would you answer?
Other animals would be a good guess, as would disease, or maybe old age.
But for the large mammals of North America – the answer is different, and to me, quite shocking.
This week I’ve just learnt a startling statistic – the biggest killer of large and medium sized mammals across North America is…
Humans kill more deer, antelope, raccoons, skunks, porcupines, bobcats and coyotes, among others, than any other cause, including predation, starvation, weather, disease and natural causes including age, accident or developmental defects.
What’s more, humans kill more large mammals in North America than all other causes put together.
It’s obviously impossible to monitor how each mammal on the continent lives and dies.
So how can such significant a claim be made?
The statistics come from a piece of science just completed by Christopher Collins and Roland Kays from the New York

Calf bashing video raises stakes on MN bill
Last week a video from an undercover investigation by Mercy for Animals publicized on the internet and in news stories across the country showed workers at a Texas dairy cow facility bludgeoning calves to death with hammers and pick axes. The owner of the E6 Cattle company in Hart, Tex, this week explained that the calves were being euthanized because they had suffered frostbite. Still, the U. S. Department of Agriculture and the National Milk Producers Federation said such animal cruelty is unacceptable.
Why does that matter here in Minnesota?
Because Minnesota is one of four states to considering legislation that would make it illegal to make audio or video recordings at an animal facility without permission. It's an industry-led backlash against undercover videos like these made by animal rights groups that have exposed cases of alleged mistreatment. A similar video

New UA Center to Help Wild Cats Worldwide
Dedicated to studying and protecting the world's wild cats, the UA Wild Cat Research and Conservation Center is the latest addition to the UA's School of Natural Resources and the Environment, which is part of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Of the 36 species of wild cats that roam the jungles, deserts, mountains and everything in between, 23 (or subspecies of them) are listed as vulnerable, threatened or endangered.
Understanding and conserving wild cats, while promoting vibrant human-wildlife communities, is the mission of the UA Wild Cat Research and Conservation Center.
"Wild cats are cool and beautiful, but more importantly, they are absolutely critical to the functioning of the Earth's ecosystems. Cats are top predators, even the small ones. They keep everything in balance," said Lisa Haynes, who founded the center with several colleagues, including Melanie Culver, a world

Big animals aid humane society
Participants can meet tigers, apes, elephant
For the third year in a row, some big pets at an area animal preserve will assist in a fundraiser for helping smaller, homeless pets in Myrtle Beach.
Myrtle Beach Safari will play host Sunday to the third annual T.I.G.E.R.S. (The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species) Event for the Grand Strand Humane Society.
Sandy Brown, executive director of the humane society, said guests will have up-close access and interaction with large animals such as tiger cubs, apes and Bubbles the African elephant, all at the preserve.
Changes made for the 2011 fundraiser include welcoming children ages 12 and older, and discounting the ticket price - two adults pay $200 - "in the hopes that more people can enjoy the event," said Brown. She said space might be available for 160 participants.
The tour includes "the experience of holding a tiger or lion cub," Brown said, and having photos taken of such encounters.
"Everybody gets really excited about that," she said.
Seeing a tiger show in "theater-style seating" through large windows

You can read part of this below and by clicking on the link you can read all the interviews.

Saving The Cats
Far East Russia is home to both the Amur tiger and the Amur leopard. While the tigers population has somewhat held for a while, the leopards has fallen to under 40 and is critically endangered. Dale Miquelle the Director of WCS Russia was kind enough to answer these questions:
What are the most recent wild population numbers for the Amur Tigers?
(DM)Last count was 2005 - 430-502 animals was the estimate.
What is an aspect of Amur tiger conservation that is unique to this
species of feline rather that in trying to save a lion for example?
Because productivity of the land is so low compared to other places where tigers live, prey densities are naturally low, and consequently, each tiger needs much more land than, say, your average Bengal tiger. Average adult Siberian female home ranges are at least 400 km2, vs about 20 km for Bengal females. Hence to save a population of tigers of any given size requires about 20 times more land in Russia, than India, for instance.
What has been the most recent road block in tiger conservation, and do you honestly feel the recent Tiger Summit will help with this?
Poaching of tigers, prey and their habitat are the biggest issues, and these issues can only be solved at the national level. Getting national-level commitment to tiger conservation is therefore key, and hence the Summit has a great potential to increase focus of national governments on tiger conservation.
Is there a magic number on Amur tigers that would result of you all
saying: ok, we did our job close shop they will be fine, or will we
always need to be involved in their conservation?
Unfortunately, no such magic number exists. As long as humans are continuing to exploit and convert land and natural resources, there will be continuous threats to tigers and all species. We can only hope to transfer responsibility for conservation to the next generation, and do our best to minimize losses and acquire gains whenever possible.
Why did you personally get involved to save an animal that you may
never or very seldom see in the wild, and is also an animal that could
kill humans?
Tigers are an iconic species. If we cannot save tigers from extinction, we need to ask whether we can save our selves. So, in a very real sense, you can say, if we save tigers, perhaps we get to keep the planet.
Most cats have to deal with human encroachment and how we will
deal with the (taboo subject it seems) global population rising so
quickly and our usage of natural resources, do the Amur tigers even in
their remote location have to factor this in?
Russia has the lowest population density of any country where tigers currently exist, so population density per se is not the threat it is in other countries. But in nearby China, recovery of tigers will be hampered by the high densities of villages here.
Is there any current legislation pending that may hurt or benefit the
tigers that the average person should know about? Is there anything the average American can learn from other countries in regards to tiger or feline conservation?
Russia has a system of protected areas called zapovedniks, which do not allow entry by anyone except forest guards and the occasional researcher. Such a system is unheard in most western countries. But creating lands that are truly free of human impact is a lesson worth considering by any country.
The recent ratified Federal Tiger Conservation Program and the associated Action Plan lay out details of what ne

Aqua Marine Fukushima Aquarium: 7 weeks after the disaster
Over the last 50 years the Vancouver Aquarium has developed enduring international ties with some of Japan’s greatest aquariums. Building upon a foundation of common fascination for our aquatic world our relationships have grown from formal agreements to strong friendships. Our geographical position on the Pacific coast has allowed us to travel back and forth frequently, sharing our expertise and discoveries on everything from jellies to coelacanths, and exhibit technology to conservation programming.
The Vancouver Aquarium was devastated by the news of the recent earthquake and tsunami that has caused such terrible destruction in Japan. It is our understanding that all visitors and staff at the various aquariums during the event survived the ordeal and fortunately most of the large aquariums in Japan were shaken but not severely damaged. However this was not the case for all of them. The Fukushima Aquarium, with whom we have a very close working relationship sharing both programs and strategy, was hit directly by the tsunami causing damage and total failure of its life support systems. A few surviving animals were transferred to other facilities but many perished. Compounding the recovery has been the loss of fresh water and electricity supplies and the spectre of radiation contamination as the nuclear power plants are just 55 km away and suffering failure.
To help provide some support to our impacted colleagues at Fukushima, the Aquarium dedicated $1 from every general admission from March 18th to 25th. During this period we were able to raise $18,295. To provide moral support, and to see the extent of the damage and recovery progress to date, staff from the Vancouver Aquarium - Clint Wright, SVP& GM and Takuji Oyama, Senior aquarist – took a day trip to the Fukushima Aquarium last weekend to meet with the director Yoshitake Abe. Following

Zoo not for polar bears
Re: ''Activists, zoo polarised over enclosure'' (BP, Apr 24). ACRES urges Chiang Mai Zoo to reconsider its decision to house polar bears as its new attraction. Studies have shown that polar bears are poor candidates for captivity, and Thailand's tropical climate is totally unsuitable for polar bears!
The zoo's arguments for having polar bears are fundamentally flawed.
The zoo states that ''the project is part of an attempt to save the species from extinction, as their natural habitat is threatened by climate change''.
Polar bears are indeed threatened by climate change and their habitat is disappearing fast. Any efforts to save polar bears from extinction, however, should be focused on protecting their habitat, fighting climate change and reducing our carbon emissions.
Chiang Mai Zoo needs to clarify how spending 200,000 baht on electricity bills for the upcoming polar bear enclosure _ thereby contributing to climate change _ will help save polar bears. Is this not contradictory to the zoo's message with regard to urging its visitors to cut their carbon emissions?
The zoo states, ''We have done everything to follow the Association of Zoo and Aquarium's guidelines, especially on natural habitats.'' The zoo needs to clarify if it is indeed following international standards to ensure optimal welfare for the polar bears.
ACRES understands that the enclosure being built in Chiang Mai Zoo measures 135 square metres with a pool area of 23 square metres. This is a far cry from the minimum enclosure size of 500 square metres and a minimum pool area 70 square metres as recommended by the Association of Zoo and Aquarium

'Tiger Valley' to open at end of year
Nature lovers can watch tigers roaming in their natural habitat when the Pahang government opens its Tiger Valley' at the Klau Forest Reserve in Temerloh at the end of the year.
State Tourism, Arts and Heritage Committee chairman Datuk Shafiq Fauzan Sharif said the project would be an open-zoo concept using facilities that were already available "with some new twists for added value."
The state government received RM3.2mil from the Tourism Ministry to roll out the project under the 10th Malaysia Plan.
"Although it is based on an open-zoo concept, there is still a need for it to be fenced.
"But it will be huge enough for the wild animals to roam freely. It will be back to nature for the animals as that is where they are supposed to be, not living in a cages,'' Shafiq told The Star yesterday.
He added that the "Tiger Valley" would have facilities for visitors to watch the animals from a safe distance, such as a viewing tower and specially-built walkways.
Shafiq said the Wildlife and National Parks Department

REGION: Complaint lodged in endangered frog case
An environmental group has filed notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to develop a recovery plan for the Southern California mountain yellow-legged frog, now in its ninth year on the federal endangered species list.
About 200 adult frogs remain in the San Bernardino, San Jacinto and San Gabriel mountains, where they were once numerous.
Scientists with the San Diego Zoo and U.S. Geological Survey have worked aggressively in the past few years to breed the frogs in a laboratory and return them to the wild in hopes of increasing the population.
Lack of a recovery plan -- a road map of steps required under the Endangered Species Act to save a plant or animal from extinction -- has made the work more difficult, said Adam Backlin, a USGS ecologist working on the frog breeding project.
"A plan is developed and agreed on by people with varying degrees of expertise. Once it's in place, there's a greater comfort level to take action. Without it, there are questions about whether what you want to do makes sense," he said.
Jane Hendron, spokeswoman for Fish and Wildlife's Carlsbad office, said she could not comment on pending litigation.
But she said her agency has been working with its partners, including the zoo, USGS, U.S. Forest Service and California Fish and Game to improve prospects for the frog through captive breeding, by limiting recreation that harms habitat and by clearing non-native trout from streams.
The agency, however, has a limited budget and time, and first must meet court-ordered deadlines brought by numerous lawsuits over endangered species listings before it can move on to developing

Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo and KidZania host conservation initiatives on Earth Day 2011
Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo and KidZania at The Dubai Mall marked the global Earth Day on April 22, 2011 to raise awareness on the need to take concrete action on climate change. A box for recycling mobile phones was placed at the entrance of Underwater Zoo encouraging visitors to recycle their phones, while KidZania, the first of its kind edutainment concept in the entire region, joined hands with DEWA to celebrate Earth Day. As a key marketing partner, DEWA is hosting an Earth Day special event until April 28.
Gordon White, General Manager at Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo, managed by Emaar Retail LLC, said, "We are committed to undertaking tangible initiatives that help make a difference and promote the sustainable development initiatives in the UAE. We tailored several activities to mark Earth Day, which helped strengthen public awareness on the key environmental challenges faced by humanity today and inspire our visitors to become active partners in climate change initiatives."
To involve the little ones in the Earth Day celebrations, presentations on

Juvenile Male Markhor Briefly Escapes at Zoo
A juvenile male markhor briefly escaped Wednesday morning at the zoo at Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure west of Salina.
According to Rolling Hills, their Emergency Response Team had an opportunity to use their skills when the markhor, a member of the big horned wild goat family, escaped his enclosure.
According to the facility, as is often the case, the wild goat immediately wanted back in to the enclosure where his twin sister waited.
The zoo's emergency response team was called to action and the incident was treated as a "code red" to provide

Giant panda wildlife training improved
Giant pandas raised at the Wolong Nature Reserve in southwest China's Sichuan Province will have greater opportunities to get back to nature this year.
One of the reserve's pandas, a giant panda named Cao Cao, was moved to a larger, more challenging training area with her cub in February of this year. Their wildlife training program began last August.
"This means giant pandas bred in captivity will be able to experience more of the 'real' wilderness environment," said Huang Yan, a panda expert with the Giant Panda Protection and Research Center in Wolong.
The new training area is located 3,000 meters above sea level, higher than the previous training area. Pandas in the new training area are required to forage for food themselves, as the research center will suspend food supplies after the pandas are moved, according to Huang.
"This does not mean that they are being abandoned," Huang

Is it too late to save the polar bear?
It’s sad but true that life is getting harder for polar bears due to global warming.
Polar bears live within the Arctic Circle and feed primarily on ringed seals. The bears’ feeding strategy involves swimming from the mainland to and between offshore ice floes, poaching seals as they come up to breathe at holes in the ice.
But climate change is heating up the atmosphere and substantial amounts of offshore sea ice are melting. The result is that bears must swim farther and farther out to sea in search of ice floes; some expend all of their energy in doing so and end up drowning. Scientists first noticed this deadly phenomenon in 2004 when they noticed four drowned polar bears in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska’s North Slope.
More recently, researchers from the United States Geological Survey fitted several Alaskan polar bears with tracking collars to find out the extent of their travels and document how much trouble they are having hunting in a warmer Arctic. One of

Major ivory seizures in Thailand, China and Viet Nam
Three significant ivory seizures this April provide further insight into the markets being targeted by organized crime syndicates smuggling elephant ivory from Africa to Asia.
Chinese media yesterday reported one of the largest ivory seizures in recent years—a staggering 707 tusks, 32 ivory bracelets and a rhino horn—found during a routine inspection of a large truck at a toll station on a highway in Guangxi, China, just a few kilometers from the border with Viet Nam.
The seizure comes hot on the heels of 247 tusks seized by Customs in Thailand concealed in a consignment of frozen fish from Kenya on 1st April, while yesterday, media in Viet Nam reported police had confiscated another 122 ivory tusks from a warehouse in Mong Cai, a port in north-east Viet Nam, right on the border with China.
“The enforcement authorities in all these cases are

Horn of Africa - Part 1

Horn of Africa - Part 2


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Journal of Threatened Taxa
April 2011 - Vol. 3 - No. 4
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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Natural Encounters - Contemporary Animal Training and Management

Natural Encounters, Inc Presents The Workshop Series:

"Contemporary Animal Training and Management"

Designed for Professional Zoo Keepers, Trainers, and Wildlife Educators

Want to learn skills that will help you reach your full training potential and improve the lives of animals in your care? Then this is the workshop for you! In this comprehensive 5-day workshop, attendees will learn the core scientific principles of behavior change and the technology to train operant behaviors efficiently and humanely. With extensive classroom instruction and hands-on training experiences, participants will get the information and practice needed to go beyond cookbook approaches and facilitate behaviorally healthy animals and design educational programs that connect humans to the natural world.

In this workshop, the lectures will be presented at our unique education center by world-renowned animal trainer Steve Martin and Dr. Susan Friedman, psychology professor at Utah State University. After each lecture, the learning objectives are put into action as our attendees break into small groups of 4 to work with various animal species while receiving one-on-one guidance from one of our world-class animal trainers. Students who complete this workshop will be better able to,

1. Meet even the most complex training challenges

2. Provide more enriching animal environments

3. Design educational programs that inspire the next generation of keepers, trainers and conservationists.

When: December 3-8, 2011 or January 28-February 2, 2012

Where: Natural Encounters Training Facility in Winter Haven, FL

Tuition: $1500 per person - We are pleased to offer a $100 discount for graduates of Susan Friedman's LLP or LLA courses, as well as a $100 per person discount for multiple attendees from the same institution.

Accommodations: Holiday Inn Express-Rate of $89.00/night(double occupancy).

Icebreaker: December 3 or January 28

Banquet Celebration: December 8 or February 2

For Registration and more information please see our website call (407) 938-0847, or email us at


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Tuesday, April 26, 2011


World Penguin Day
25th April 2011

Today is World Penguin Day! Those of you who like Penguins (and everyone should) will be aware that the Penguins have two special days in the annual calendar of events. The other is 'Penguin Awareness Day' which takes place on the 20th January each year.

Today though is World Penguin Day and attention needs to be drawn to the other creatures with whom we share our planet and the problems which they are facing. We are not alone with our difficulties and we are all linked in some way.

Penguins have been having a rough time of it too as Zoo News Digest has pointed out by covering various Penguin disaster stories over the years. The most recent of these is the oil spill in the South Atlantic which has put the penguin population into peril on the island of Tristan da Cunha. Today would be a good time to raise money to help those dedicated people involved in the rescuing, cleaning, feeding, caring and release of these birds.

Tristan da Cunha islanders rescue rockhopper penguins threatened by oil slick

Sanccob helps oil-soaked penguins


For regular updated Zoo News, Views, Reviews and Vacancies please visit
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Monday, April 25, 2011

Dysfunctional Zoos and What to Do

The following important article has been republished with the permission of the author from ZOO'S PRINT MAGAZINE Volume XXVI, Number 4 April 2011

Dysfunctional Zoos and What to Do


This paper proposes the term “dysfunctional zoos” to describe a type of captive wild animal facility that does not function adequately (or at all)for even the most essential canons of zoos, e.g., education, conservation or research. While no one knows precisely the exact number of zoos, or if you will, captive wild animal facilities
permitting public viewing, globally, an educated guesstimate might suggest that easily more than 50-75% of such facilities that are known could be defined or described as dysfunctional.

WAZA has adopted a very practical and positive approach to the diversity of zoos in the world by welcoming Regional and National Zoo Associations as WAZA Association Members under certain conditions. WAZA and its member zoos work with the associations in a way that serves longrange goals for the improvement of captive animal facilities that do not function as what is currently called zoos. WAZA accepted the need for action on behalf of institutions then described as sub-standard zoos but
renamed by WAZA as Zoos needing Improvement for the sake of cultural sensitivity. The author suggests that even the best zoo in the world could use some improvement or other; just as no perfect human being exists on Earth, there is no perfect zoo, thus the term “zoos needing improvement” is embarrassingly inappropriate.

In 2003, at the Annual WAZA Conference held in San Jose, Costa Rica, there were multiple concerns raised about substandard zoos. Two presentations were given on this topic, one, entitled The Other Zoo World1 by this writer and colleagues calling attention to the proliferation of substandard zoos which probably far outnumbered the professional zoos. The paper also called for a subcommittee to be set up by WAZA that would formulate a plan for addressing the issue. A second paper on substandard zoo was presented and in addition, much discussion occurred on the state of the host zoo of the conference and what could be done generally. Subsequently, in early 2006
a Drafting Committee was convened by WAZA the members of which produced a Resolution on needy institutions that was adopted by the WAZA membership in the annual conference held in Leipzig, Germany. The resolution declared: we as a community of organized zoos and aquariums have a moral, ethical and professional responsibility to engage with needy institutions in order to help them improve their standards, achieve conservation goals, and benefit the animals they hold.2

The following year, 2007, the Drafting Committee generated a WAZA tool kit for addressing the issue of needy zoos, or zoos needing improvement. The tool kit consisted of a set of minimum standards by which these zoos could be inspected and assessed for appropriate assistance, which could be undertaken by proficient zoos according to their interest and resources. The tool kit also included a complaint procedure for use by the regional and national associations or by member zoos. These tools were made available within the year and met with enthusiasm by the membership which officially approved them at the 62nd (2007) WAZA conference3. Since then
some individual zoos as well as zoo associations have undertaken projects assisting zoos that needed help, sometimes in localities where the assisting zoo was also running a field project. Other zoos have provided various kinds of help to needy zoos via the regional or national associations such as AZA, EAZA, PAAZAB, SAZARC, EARAZA, etc. In fact, several years before, AZA and EAZA addressed the issue of substandard zoos in their country or region, assessed them and made attempts to assist, often in serious, protracted and expensive exercises.

In the long term, however, the totality of the enterprise has not been very effective in addressing and correcting the issue, primarily due to the sheer enormity of the problem, the speed at which zoos are increasing and the rate and scope of recidivism. There are hundreds, even thousands of dysfunctional zoos in the world, many yet to be documented. These zoos need very drastic improvements in the most elementary and fundamental aspects, such as animal welfare, which covers the entire range of care of captive animal. Many of these stablishments are spurious, without long-range plans, sustainability, trained and interested staff, an/or other characteristics that define a healthy, functional zoo.

Terminology of bad zoos
Dysfunctional zoos is a more accurate descriptor for what have been referred to as substandard, needing improvement or needy zoos. Although the latter terms are not wrong as such, neither do they convey a realistic picture. Dysfunctional zoos might be defined succinctly as: animal collections open to the public which don’t function as conservation facilities, rather just the opposite. One might even be so bold as to say that dysfunctional zoos not only do not function as conservation facilities, but as purveyors of decline and extinction.

This term is more appropriate also because it does not imply that such zoos are troubled with just a few poor enclosures or merely ignorant and untrained owners and staff. Dysfunctional implies ill health (physical and/or mental) or a variety of deep-seated and elemental problems that prevent the institution(s) from improving without fundamental changes, or all encompassing transformation, at the governance and ground level, including, but not limited to closure and re-distribution of the animals.

The major difference might be said to be that good zoos are busy with conservation actions . . . research, breeding, field projects, education, marketing, etc. and dysfunctional zoos are busy generating species decline!

How do zoos generate species decline, and even extinction! They do it through such bad habits as were summarized in the previously cited presentation, The Other Zoo World by Walker et al in 2003.

• Waste of wild animal resources both animal and financial.
• Over breeding and release of surplus animals without monitoring which promotes disease, fighting and injury, overpopulation,over-grazing, etc.
• Creating wrong attitudes in visiting public
• Projecting a bad image of zoos worldwide with poor animal welfare practices
• Acquiring animals from certain unscrupulous animal dealers, other dysfunctional zoos, and local trappers and traders (wild).

This list was expanded and published in 2007 in the WAZA Guidelines for Improving Standards in Zoos, 2007 and again several times since by the author in other published documents.

Stating categorically that dysfunctional zoos cause extinctions may seem an extreme claim, however, the sheer number of non-organised zoos in the world reflects a
gigantic number of wild animals in captivity without purpose or responsible management. It is not beyond reason to assume that certain species’ numbers have been severely reduced by captures for zoos, deaths through mismanagement, etc. One zoo known by the author admitted to having caught six wild Pallas’ Cats (Felis manul)
in the last few years, not all together as a breeding effort but one at a time. When an individual died zoo authorities ordered another captured. Pallas’ Cat is a relatively rare and highly delicate species: zoos that obtain them without a systematic plan and expertise in their care are most probably driving them to extinction in their country or

Another example in a very different scenario involves herd animals or large herbivores that are surplus stock as they are easily bred and populations are not controlled except by wrong releases! This happens in a great many zoos in South Asia. When released in a forested area without sufficient study of the carrying capacity and appropriateness
of the habitat, they can lay waste the entire vegetation of the area, thus leading to extinctions of endemic and indigenous niche-oriented organisms. Disease from the
once captive animals may also infect resident animals as testing usually includes only TB.4

There are countless scenarios of this type. This example is difficult to prove, as no department or organisation wants to admit to this having happened, or perhaps has not even noticed!

How many Zoos
The number of facilities that are called zoos has been estimated at as many as 10,000 worldwide. The source of that estimate is vague, but if you consider that there are
about 1000 roughly documented zoos that are in some way related to WAZA either members as such or members of member regional and national associations and/or wannabe members then it is not difficult to imagine a few more thousand off the grid. This many dysfunctional zoos is too many for our small world and its biodiversity due to impacts mentioned above.

The number of zoos in the world is moot, because no single agency or authority knows for certain how many captive wild animal facilities exist in their country, unless they have a rigorous registration system. For example, in 1982, years before the establishment of the Central Zoo Authority in India, the Department of Environment, Government of India brought out a booklet which listed zoos and botanic gardens
of the country as a total of 44.5 Suspecting the accuracy of this number, the writer conducted a very simple survey consisting of a stamped postal card sent to all state forest, wildlife and animal husbandry departments, offices and ministries; all environmental, conservation and animal welfare oriented non-governmental organizations; and a variety of individuals and state officials of the states.

Returned postcards yielded a list of 122 zoos, safari parks, deer parks, mini-zoos, etc. in various states in India.6 Two years later, in 1989 S. K. Patnaik, Director and L. N. Acharyo, Veterinary Surgeon of Nandankanan Biological Park published a Directory of 49 Indian Zoos, having conducted a survey through the forest departments and colleagues and including a great deal of information on each facility.7 Combined, these lists got the attention of the Ministry of Environment who began to discuss a zoo policy
that, some months or years later, morphed into legislation, and a good thing that was! The Zoo Act was passed in 19918, and in 19929, when the Ministry of Environment
announced that all operating zoos of any size had to register with CZA, there many more facilities! In 1994, ZOOS’ PRINT magazine published a list of 312 existing zoos and another 13 registered to be established, a total of 342 then10.

In fact a primary objective of the Act was to limit or regulate the mushroom growth of zoos by introducing a legal process which included obtaining permission from the government, having a sustainable economic base and authorities. By the time seemingly all zoos had registered the list had mushroomed indeed to 450! 11. In formulating their legislation, the Government of India did a very clever thing. The drafting committee contrived to define “zoo” in such a way that it would include almost any wild animal facility, even travelling menageries. As much of the impetus to have zoo legislation in the first place was animal welfare and the miserable conditions of many spurious animal facilities as well as the habit of wild captures, it was important to be able to control all of them with legislation. The term “stationary institution” is bedrock to the definition of zoos in other countries but that did not fit India’s situations.

South Asian Zoos - India
South Asia till date includes 8 countries, (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) of which all but Maldives has at least one zoo and one with more than 200. India, for example, now has 200-plus zoos which is many
times the number of zoos of any other country and even of all the other countries’ zoos put together. In area India is far larger, so that number of zoos fits the country. Of these, 25% are standard but different sized zoos called Large, Medium and Small according to several different values, and 75% are mini-zoos and deer parks. CZA inspected the zoos, gave them each a list of undesirable constructions or practices, and provided funds and time to improve before conferring recognition or refusal. CZA closed over 200 additional zoos that were deemed hopeless for want of finance and a sufficiently interested patron over the years. In comparison there are about 30-50 known zoos throughout the rest of South Asia. This number includes other captive wild animal centers which are open to the public for viewing, such as the Takin Centre (Budorcas
taxicolor) of Bhutan, a rescue and conservation breeding facility, as well as spurious facilities known to be operating.

The vague number and the fact that no numbers have been assigned to countries reflects a certain variation in facts which changes every year or two! India was the first country in whole Asia to pass effective zoo legislation. As mentioned earlier Sri Lanka had passed a National Zoological Gardens Act 1982,12 but it was primarily an administrative tool. In 1991 the Government of India via the Ministry of Environment and Forest passed the Indian Zoo Act as an amendment to the Wildlife (Protection) Act. (op. cit.) The Zoo Act first featured broad regulatory legislation that also provided for setting up an autonomous Central Zoo Authority (CZA) to implement the Act. A year later (1992) after formation of CZA, detailed Norms and Standards were added as an additional amendment to the Zoo Act, which, itself was an amendment to the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1975. Every year or two, additional amendments and corrections have been included in the Act, which reflects the evolution in thinking and experience of CZA and its member zoos, and to an extent, some global zoo trends. This flexibility to change ineffective or un-implementable laws and replace them with improved legislation is very good as generally the time- frame for amendments is far shorter than the initial cumbersome and painful act of passing legislation. It provides a fix for standards proven to be inadequate, for whatever reason, and a methodology for integrating ongoing changes taking place both in and outside the country addressing zoo animal welfare, wildlife biology, conservation education, etc.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India does not have absolute power or oversight over all those zoos. CZA staff is not large, and these 200 zoos are operated by a range of state, municipal, private, and non-governmental organizations and institutions. They can all get out of tune quite easily for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless, it can be said quite accurately that India has, by adopting very strong zoo legislation backed up with a well-funded CZA as well as much hope and good will, has
significantly improved more zoos than any other effort in the history of zoos, and also closed more zoos! Even the backslider zoos which become complacent after having been inspected and recognized, do not slide back nearly so far as they were originally. Backsliding may occur temporarily when a new director or veterinarian is transferred to the zoo as per India’s draconian administrative system, and in any case, all zoos are
re-inspected every three years by CZA. Other South Asian Zoos Another promising example is Nepal, which claimed only one zoo, the Central Zoo, located in Lalithpur,
Kathmandu. Casual information indicated to this author that there may be more zoos, so R. Marimuthu, Education Officer of Zoo Outreach Organisation, visiting Nepal for purpose of conducting a training workshop, was deputed do a survey.

The result of this effort was a list and short description of 14 facilities published in ZOOS’ PRINT Magazine.13 The Government of Nepal responded immediately, sending a team from Central Zoo to survey the facilities, of which 10 were categorized as zoos.14 Some months later the Government of Nepal set up a team to formulate legislation using, among other references, the CZA Norms and Standards, and it is currently moving through the various, tedious steps at a reasonable pace.15 Prospects for passage of zoo legislation in Nepal are very good. There is a proposal for the Central Zoo to function as a sort of coordinating institutions for all the rest of the zoos in Nepal which is very sensible.

In South Asia, Bangladesh and Pakistan are now more or less actively working on zoo legislation to cover the wild animal facilities open to public in their country. Pakistan is working provincially as some provinces do not have zoos or are not interested, and has a good number of wildlife regulations which could be tapped for certain zoo issues. Sri Lanka is aware of the need for norms and standards to strengthen their existing National Zoological Gardens Act, the primary purpose of which was perhaps to confirm the National Zoo as a Department to set up more zoos; it also includes a few simple rules for visitors. The new and powerful Ministry of Economic Development, that was recently made responsible for the Department of Zoos, has taken a decision to seriously upgrade all existing facilities and establish several new zoos in different areas of the country. It is hoped that strict legislation including high standards will precede this plan.

Bhutan and Afghanistan have only one known or acknowledged wild animal facility at present. Afghanistan has a single zoo in Kabul which was opened August 17th, 1967,16 but for all practical purposes was destroyed during the bombings a few years ago. Now, as the nation’s capital gets back on its feet the zoo is being rebuilt and improved by the Municipal Corporation. Even suggestions are afoot for expansion into adjoining area as well as another zoo just outside the city.

Afghanistan National Assembly approved an Environmental Law published in Official Gazette No. 912, 25 January 2007.17 The document has been unofficially translated from Dari and Pashto to English and carries many provisions, which, for the
present, might be interpreted in such a way as to protect species and provide amenities such as education and training.

In the past, Bhutan has listed a both Mini Zoo and a Gharial Breeding Centre that are now not listed, but there is a Takin Centre (Budorcas taxicolor) in need of improvement, as public visitation is permitted. This centre is located just on the outskirts of Bhutan’s capital, Thimpu, and is one of the few nature-oriented attractions near the city. Since Bhutan has a short history of creating mini-zoos and permitting public in breeding centres, some form of legislation to direct or regulate these practices is required. There are big holes (some for photography) in the rusty fencing around the Centre. If not for the essential goodness of virtually all Bhutanese people, surely some
unfortunate event might have taken place.

South Asian Zoo Association for Regional Cooperation SAZARCThe South Asian Zoo Association for Regional Cooperation SAZARC was founded in 2000 for the purpose of creating a link between zoos in the different South Asia countries as well as a kind of affiliation with global zoos and, most of all, to encourage them to get zoo legislation along the lines of the Indian Zoo Act. SAZARC meets every year in a different South Asian country 100% funded by Western Zoos. Every so often SAZARC substitutes a small group with each from a different South Asian country to attend a conference in one of the South East Asian countries.

In all the South Asian countries the model of the Central Zoo Authority Zoo Act, Recognition of Zoos Rules, Norms and Standards (1991, 1992 and amendments thereafter) is an influence. In three SAZARC conferences, in 2002 (Dhaka,
Bangladesh), 2008 (Ahmedabad, India) and 2009 (Dehiwala, Sri Lanka) zoo legislation was the major training theme with CZA legislation as an example. In the first instant, Bangladesh, host of the conference, convened a working group and drafted standards for their country using the CZA model. Subsequently, the transfer system worked its black magic in Bangladesh resulting in this important topic being dropped because new officials did not know about it. After a few years, Bangladesh zoo legislation was taken up and followed and is now in the Law Ministry being assessed. It still has a long road to travel and many obstacles but there is some hope that it will go through in the correct format.

At the Ahmedabad SAZARC conference, Resource Person Brij Kishor Gupta, an official from CZA gave several excellent presentations about Indian zoo legislation, including how it had evolved and was being implemented, as well as its pitfalls. Very good work in groups was done there. In Sri Lanka, in 2009, Dr. Miranda Stevenson, Director, BIAZA (formerly an experienced zoo keeper, curator and director), Dr. Kris Vehrs, (Director, AZA and an attorney holding the post of legislative council to AZA for over two decades), and Mike Jordan, formerly Curator, Chester Zoo, now Conservation Advisor, National Zoological Gardens, South Africa presented information on zoo animal welfare and legislation and sat with countries in working groups to assist them in working on these topics. In these conferences, working groups for all the countries were set up to take legislation and animal welfare forward with Indian participants advising.

It is worth a mention that at the 10th Annual SAZARC Conference recently held in Nepal, the theme of Emergency Protocols was linked to 21st Century Crises of Climate
Change, Emerging Diseases and Terrorism. In the past year, CZA had taken up the topic of emergency response and required their zoos to create one appropriate for their
zoo contained within their Management Plan, without which their recognition might suffer. CZA also commissioned a Disaster Management Plan, a manual18 compiled from a variety of sources by former Director, Kanpur Zoo. CZA Member Secretary permitted SAZARC to use their document and donated 20 copies to the conference. Again CZA got there first with disaster response as, until this past year, no zoo in South Asia and probably even in all Asia had a systematic response plan in print. In the conference all countries formed their own working groups but combining Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bhutan as the latter two countries had only one attendee. Non-Indian countries used the CZA model plan, which covered everything aside from the 21st
century crises, which Indian participants were requested to cover. Participants were requested to submit the idea to their governing body, which, hopefully, would be influenced to set up an official committee to formulate a detailed plan that fits each country respectively.

Getting down to business
So, what business is it of WAZA and WAZA member zoos, which work hard to effectively promote and protect wildlife conservation using their institutions in different ways, to worry about the other zoos. Increasingly more WAZA zoos are busy contributing to conservation by supporting field projects, training, education, etc. However, here is a view that while many WAZA zoos are hard at work on conservation, dysfunctional or even some semi-functional zoos may be cancelling this good work animal for animal. Many WAZA zoo personnel have indicated it is “a good thing but not a priority” to help dysfunctional zoos improve. If you look at this situation honestly, however, it may be more of a priority than anyone currently thinks. Because these zoos
are off the grid, no one really has a clear idea of their impact. Its like climate change … hard to convince people because they do not want to believe all those bad things are
or might be true. No one in the established zoo world wants to compare the good done by well-meaning zoos and the damage done by indifferent or otherwise non-productive facilities, each group for their own reasons.

Dysfunctional zoos occur in almost all countries. Surprisingly the United States, for example, which has perhaps the most outstanding zoos, has a shocking number of dysfunctional animal holding facilities (anti-AZA institutions, mini-zoos, rescue centres, orphanages, etc.) that are considered zoos by their visiting public, if they allow. Some years ago, AZA conducted a study and came up with a figure in the low thousands.

Down to the whyThe why requires a book, not an article, as reasons vary between and even among countries and regions. The focus of this particular discussion however is overwhelmingly on zoos in formerly colonized continental areas, such as the former Indian subcontinent, now officially South Asia. The whys for zoos in South Asian countries as well as several other continental areas have a large number of things in common, many of which seem to be colonial leftovers! In addition to lack of exposure to avant-garde zoos and decades experienced and knowledgeable zoo personnel, a few, only three, of the most destructive of these are summarized here:

• Out-dated administrative systems with cumbersome bureaucratic features which actually hinder progress, but particularly with respect to complex institutions, such as

• Dramatically hierarchical departments, services, ministries, in which senior-most officials are so much revered or feared that often they cannot be approached with the facts of a situation.

• A draconian system of transfer of mid and senior level officials from seemingly related departments to zoos where they spend six months (or less) to a very few years
getting some orientation, and then being transferring back to their parent department instead of to another zoo, where they could use their experience and enhance their skills.

There is almost total blindness to the dramatic negative impacts on institutional quality this system produces. It is institutional blindness because there seems to be no
solution possible, particularly in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. This system seems to be more prevalent in forest, wildlife and animal husbandry services than in Municipal or city bureaucracies that have their own problems. To be fair to CZA, a couple of years after establishment, CZA investigated how this system might be changed in India and learned that in order to toss the transfer system, even in one department or discipline, 50% of the states of India have to agree! Almost impossible to get even two Indian individuals to agree so 50% of states is pretty much out of the question. The parent ministry or department would not like to approve because they would almost certainly lose some senior posts if the zoos were declared a separate service. Naturally individual officers and their families would not be happy with this state of affaires.

The outdated administrative structure is tragic, because the countries which laid this on its colonies have moved on with more streamlined and sensible administrative systems,
while their offspring, their former colonies, remain the same as centuries ago. The hierarchical nature of these systems is close to military, particularly in certain departments connected with forests and wildlife. It prevents honest and healthy exchange of information and ideas and produces a sort of psychological disease, akin to Dr. Wilhelm Reich’s emotional plague, which, instead of being passed from
generation to generation in families, it is passed from superior to subordinate with similar dynamics.

The transfer system is the most destructive of these examples. In the transfer system, there seems virtually no forethought of which individuals might make the best zoo
directors or curators. All personnel are considered equally qualified for the job since they are either foresters or veterinarians. Transfers are not based on merit, although an
officer held in some esteem can be transferred to a particular city or town on his request because the schools are good and he has school-going kids, or some other personal reason. Also in some places transfers are considered a punishment post. In India some of the negative impacts have lessened since legislation and CZA were established, as they have brought much needed prestige as well as money and more flexibility to zoos.

The transfers transpire are not from zoo to zoo but from zoo to an only mildly related disciplines (such as eucalypus or coffee plantations, administration, etc. in the parent
department). Parent departments may be forest or animal husbandry, environment, municipality, sometimes wildlife conservation or economic development. One thing in common – the decision makers for the zoos are rarely from zoos.

In South Asian zoos as a whole, this system translates into a shifting, drifting zoo non-community where genuine expertise rarely develops before another transfer takes place, even in India, despite the amazing input of the Central Zoo Authority.

The strength of the destructiveness often lies with the hierarchical system Ministers, Secretaries and other very prestigious officials who often relate naïve or counter-productive suggestions for zoos. Knowledgeable zoo personnel are afraid to correct their seniors. The press loves it when a very senior official makes a suggestion for the zoo – it is as if he or she conferred eternal life for everyone. In fact, many of the problems of zoos of this region starts with senior officials and politicians who do not understand the subtle problems, requirements or current ideology of the world’s zoos and of the established and organized contemporary zoo community. Trying the education is difficult because it is not a priority and as soon as or even before one gets a Minister or Secretary sufficiently trained up, its time for them to go.

Is there a fix ?Using the resources of WAZA, members with sufficient experience in zoos and exposure to low-income countries could make a difference by taking interest and engage the governments of these countries at different levels. Such help and the encouragement of strong principles in managing zoos could help South Asian and other countries zoos to come out of their problems. The prestige value of WAZA is immense in the global zoo community, with virtually all the mainstream zoos aware of the global association and arguably influenced by it. The mainstream zoos possibly could play a significant role also in ferreting out the dysfunctional zoos and determining their future either with training and help or making a case for closure.

Much of the difficulty in improving zoos globally is the cultural dissonance existing between so-called developed and developing countries. For example, the WAZA Drafting Committee created a Zoo Assessment Tool, a form that ostensibly listed the minimum acceptable standards, for the purpose of evaluating substandard, or as they euphemistically came to be called zoos needing improvement.
This tool and a set of guidelines for improving zoos were approved by WAZA membership in the 67th Annual conference in 2007. At a certain regional conference, which shall remain anonymous for reasons that will become obvious, the topic of zoo legislation was the theme and the Assessment Tool handed out as an aid to discussion. Participants of the conference snapped it up and innocently adopted it as their accepted, instead of minimum, standard. This was allowed to stand for the time being by the association director in view of the fact that the larger percentage of even the region’s best zoos would have to work for some time to meet these minimum criteria. Also this fact itself makes a strong statement in confirmation of the diversity of norms of the zoos of the world.

Why everyone in WAZA should care about thisDysfunctional zoos bring a bad name to the greater zoo community. It is perhaps the responsibility of all of us to do what we can to either improve or help remove these destructive facilities. Lobbying for zoo/wild animal facility legislation that includes standards, a procedure for registration, inspection, recognition and derecognition
and protocol for closure of hopeless and non-compliant institutions is one way to help, although it can be soul-destroying as per the writer’s personal experience of
last quarter century. Verily, the process proceeds at a snail’s pace. Investing funds in one-off individual zoo improvements can be risky unless the investing zoo or organisation is committed for its. One CAN if committed, make things happen, but much patience is required. Serious backsliding is almost certainly inevitable unless there is strong legislation, an implementing authority and effective penalties in place.

Thirty five years in the other zoo world has convinced the writer that without strong legislation and its components, there may be no way to improve or close dysfunctional zoos on a permanent basis. There are thousands of facilities …it is a job for all of us. WAZA has developed a series of documents to help with this task. Tackling governments and lobbying for legislation is a slow and painful process but worth the investment long term.


1 Walker, S., Morgan, D. and Matamoros, Y. (2003). The “Other” zoo world – bad zoos and their impact: What is to be done. Presented at the 58th conference of the World Association of Zoos and Aquaria WAZA, Costa Rica, November 2003.

2 WAZA (2006). WAZA resolution on Improving Standards in Zoos. Adopted at the 61st Annual Conference, Leipzig, Germany, August 2006.

3 WAZA (2009). WAZA resolutions 1946-2009. A complete listing of the WAZA resolutions adopted by the annual conferences. (Resolution 62.2). WAZA Executive Office, Berne, Switzerland. October 2009.

4 Walker, S. (Pers. obs.) unpublished.

5 Anon (1982). List of National Parks, Sanctuaries, Botanical Gardens and Zoological Gardens in India, Department of Environment, Ministry of Agriculture, New Delhi, 1982.

6 Walker, S. (1987). How many zoos? Zoos’ Print 2(4-5): 7-10.

7 Patnaik, S.K. and Acharjyo, L.N. (1989). Directory of Indian Zoos. Nandankanan Biological Park, Bhubaneswar, Orissa.

8 Anon (1991). Indian Wildlife Amendments: the zoo act, Gazette of India, October 1991.

9 CZA (2009). Recognition of Zoo Rules, 1992 (with up to date Amendments), pp. 230-283. In: Zoos in India. Legislation, Policy, Guidelines, and Strategies.

10 Walker, S. (1994). Historical Listing of Indian Zoos according to CZA Registration Forms. ZOOS’ PRINT 9(11): 29-34.

11 Walker, S. (Pers. comm.) unpublished

12 Anon (1982). National Zoological Gardens Act, No. 41 of 1982. Government of Sri Lanka.

13 Marimuthu, R. & Walker, S. (2007). Report on Animal Facilities. Zoos’ Print 22
(4): 1-7.

14 Walker, S. and Marimuthu, R. (2009). Changing zoos in a whole country – Nepal a case study. Zoos’ Print 24(2): 5-7.

15 Walker, S. (Pers. obs.) unpublished.

16 Nogge, G. (1972). Kabul Zoo: the show window of Afghan Fauna, Outdoorsman Monthly, 3.

17 Anon (2007). Environment Law, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Official Gazette No. 912, dated 25 January 2007, as approved by National Assembly.

18 Hemanth Kumar, R. (2009). Model Disaster Management Plan for Zoological
Parks in India, Kanpur Zoological Park, Kanpur, UP, 112pp.

by Sally Walker


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