2001 Briefs - July - September

Plan to Shut Smithsonian's Laboratory Is Reversed

July 1, 2001 www.nytimes.com

WASHINGTON, June 30 — The Senate Appropriations Committee has voted to keep open the Center for Materials Research and Education, a Smithsonian Institution center that analyzes and researches the conservation of art, artifacts and scientific specimens, pending a review by a science advisory commission. Lawrence M. Small, the Smithsonian's secretary, had recommended that the center be closed, arguing that it duplicates research that other institutions provide. The museum's Board of Regents had accepted Mr. Small's recommendation.

Nature, Machinery Help Cranes

July 2, 2001 www.nytimes.com

A fake whooping crane offering mealworms and held by a white-robed trainer in an ultra-light aircraft is being used by trainers at the Fish and Wildlife Service's Patuxent Wildlife Research Center to flight train a flock of 10 whoopers bread in captivity. Hopefully this delicate blend of nature and machinery will help the tallest bird in North America complete an anxious journey back from the brink of extinction.The fledglings will be trucked at week's end to the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin to learn the rest of the skills they will need for a 1,250-mile odyssey in the fall. Officials are looking to the flock to pursue several ultra-lights and a Cessna 182 plane on a migration route from Wisconsin to the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in central Florida. A similar exercise in 1994 with Canadian geese inspired the movie ``Fly Away Home'' two years later.

Up to 1,400 whooping cranes existed in North America in the 1860s, according to biologists. But hunting and loss of habitat from development reduced the population to about 20 by 1941, according to the government.International treaties, the creation of reserves in Canada and the United States and an endangered species recovery program begun in 1967 have helped the population to rebound to about 400 birds now. About half of them make up the only existing migratory flock, which breed in Canada and winter in Texas.The latest effort is aimed at re-establishing another migratory flock that will summer in Wisconsin and winter in Florida. Biologists hope they'll make the return trip to Wisconsin on their own -- once they wean themselves off disguised trainers, puppets and aircraft. On the Net:

Patuxent site: http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/cranes.htm

Fish and Wildlife: http://www.bringbackthecranes.org/index.html

Operation Migration: http://www.operationmigration.org

San Diego Eucalyptuses in trouble

July 2, 2001 www.uniontrib.com

Roughly 40 percent of the eucalyptuses in San Diego County are red gums suffering from a plague of lerp psyllid, the Australian vampire pest. Daniel Simpson, the San Diego Zoo's arborist, calls the infestation "a major environmental event" that will lead to "clear-cutting a standing forest." (Scripps Ranch and Tierrasanta will be especially hard hit.) Last summer, the hopeful news was that a predatory Australian wasp was being bred at a UC Berkeley lab. But it appears the lerp psyllid killers will not breed in time to save my tree or thousands of others. The message on the Berkeley Web site preaches patience: "If you want to save your trees, it would be a mistake at this time to cut any red gums unless you are absolutely sure that they are dead. Many of the worst-looking trees have the chance to recover."

Pandas get acquainted with new home; Possibly pregnant Bai Yun kept behind

July 2, 2001 www.uniontrib.com

Two of the San Diego Zoo's three giant pandas were moved over the weekend to a revamped panda enclosure that is four times the size of the former one. Adult male Shi Shi and juvenile female Hua Mei moved Saturday to their permanent quarters, while adult female Bai Yun remained nearby in the temporary accommodations all three have occupied for nine months, because of a possible pregnancy.

The new panda enclosure is a $4 million gift to the zoo from John Moores, majority owner of the San Diego Padres. At 52,000 square feet, it has more space for the pandas, more room for the people who study and care for them, and offers a better experience for zoo visitors. Officially known as the Pacific Bell Giant Panda Research Station, it is designed for the study of all aspects of panda reproduction -- mating behavior, endocrinology, scent markings and vocalization. It can accommodate up to six of the endangered animals, and cements the zoo's belief that there are more pandas in its future. Under the terms of the 12-year loan agreement that brought Shi Shi and Bai Yun to San Diego in 1996, the zoo pays China $1 million a year for the pair. The birth of each new cub, starting with Hua Mei, costs the zoo $100,000 a month for the first six months. The money goes to panda conservation and research in China. Seven pandas are in the United States right now. Zoos in Atlanta and Washington, D.C., each have young breeding pairs.

Zoo architect, David Rice, explained that visitors will watch the bears from a two-tiered walkway that gives those in back an unobstructed view over the heads of the people in front. Also, the birthing den now opens directly into the viewing area. That will allow any future youngsters to make an earlier debut than Hua Mei, born in August 1999 but not seen by the public until early the next year. "The old exhibit had a steep moat, and the new exhibit is much flatter (safer for curious cubs).The public viewing areas are scheduled to reopen Wednesday.There will be more than just the pandas to see at the new exhibit. Interpretive panels explain what zoo researchers have learned about the animals' reproductive behavior. Children can enter a birthing den -- it is a tight squeeze for adults and a mother panda -- and adventurous visitors may sniff samples of the animals' scent markings. "It sort of smells like a wet diaper," Rice said. In addition to the two viewing areas, the enclosure has two new hillside exercise yards and eight indoor panda bedrooms with adjoining outdoor sun rooms. A two-story research building houses offices, laboratories and conference rooms upstairs, and a kitchen and nursery downstairs. The facility also has space for keepers and observers to monitor panda behavior from the more than 30 video cameras located around the enclosure, including the five in the secluded birthing and cubbing dens. The enclosure has six exercise yards, an increase of four. Unlike the secluded ones at the old exhibit, the two hillside exercise spaces will, from a distance, offer glimpses of pandas much as they might appear in their native China. The zoo will spend the next year methodically eliminating the hillside's eucalyptus trees, which are a staple for the zoo's koalas but potentially harmful to the pandas. It then will plant bamboo and some trees to provide a natural cover, but the pandas will have to do some climbing to enjoy it. "We hope the pandas will get a little more exercise there," Lindburg said.

Bai Yun was artificially inseminated three times in April, but with so much still to be learned about the inscrutable pandas' reproduction, zoo officials may not know she is expecting until just before she gives birth, which is what happened the last time. If Bai Yun is pregnant, birth would likely occur about the third week in August. But if hormone levels indicate pregnancy any earlier, Lindburg said, it is possible that the enclosure, along with the area surrounding it, would close before and after birth to reduce noise and stress on the animals. Panda research at the zoo is largely underwritten by Pacific Bell to the tune of $4.7 million. That includes money already given to the zoo since 1998 and PacBell's commitments through 2005, said zoo spokeswoman Christina Simmons. The original $1.3 million panda facility, built in 1994, is 13,000 square feet. The new enclosure is the zoo's largest construction project since the $6 million Tiger River exhibit opened in 1987.

Most mammal species found in Peruvian Amazon

July 03, 2001 www.enn.com

A remote area of rainforest in northeastern Peru defined by three large rivers appears to harbor more species of mammals than anywhere else on Earth. Michael Valqui, a doctoral student in the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences' wildlife ecology and conservation department, began studying the region defined by the Ucayali, Amazon and Yavari rivers in 1994. Since then, he has confirmed the presence of 86 mammal species, excluding bats. Valqui's findings come on the heels of publication of a mammals list for the same region by researchers John Harder, associate professor of evolution, ecology and organismal biology at Ohio State University, and zoologist David Fleck. Their list contains 84 mammal species in the same roughly 400 by 100 mile region just 62 miles south of Valqui's site. The University of Florida and Ohio State research sites are both composed entirely of lowland tropical rainforest. Some spectacular species are found here, such as the endangered giant otter, which can reach six feet in length and weigh 60 pounds. Valqui also includes several opossums smaller than a human hand, two extremely rare species of wild dogs and two species of slow-moving sloths.

Shunned by Mother, Tiger Gets a Human Surrogate

July 3, 2001 www.nytimes.com

JACKSON TOWNSHIP, N.J., June 29 — Rocky Jr., a Siberian tiger, was born on April 6 at the Six Flags Great Adventure park to a mother who had already successfully raised two sets of twins, but for unexplained reasons she abandoned him. She may have thought the three-and-a-half-pound cub was

too little or too weak to survive. Single cubs generally weigh around four pounds at birth. Karen Yuchinski, a veterinary technician who is the education coordinator for the park became the baby tiger's surrogate mother feeding him every 4 hours. "It was a constant struggle at first, because he was allergic to the milk I tried to bottle-feed him," she said. "It gave him diarrhea and he became weak. We finally hit on a combination of liquefied meat and baby formula." Rocky, who is now 12 weeks old and weighs 25 pounds. He might eventually grow to 14 feet long, weigh 650 pounds and live to 23. Siberian tigers do very well in captivity but not as well in the wild: there are believed to be only 200 to 300 not in captivity. Because there are private breeders of Siberian tigers, it is not easy to determine how many live in captivity.

As the resident exotic-animal expert at the 350-acre park, Ms. Yuchinski is in charge of the health of nearly 1,200 animals from 58 species, several of which are considered endangered, Among the park's other animals is a baby white-tailed gnu, a member of a species that is extinct in the wild. Other occupants, like the African elephant and the white rhinoceros, exist here and in other zoos and parks, but

are endangered or threatened in the wild. The park's successful breeding program with the white rhinoceros has led to a research program in conjunction with the San Diego Zoo.

Q&A: Doomed Bamboo

July 3, 2001 www.nytimes.com

Q. Is it true that all bamboo in the world dies off at the same time every hundred years or so?

A. No, but certain species among the hundreds or thousands of known bamboos die off en masse after

their single episode of flowering. More seriously, a mass die-off of a bamboo species in the phenomenon called gregarious flowering can endanger a species, like the giant panda, that finds its usual food source, Gelidocalamus fangianus, gone from a wide area. However, flowering bamboos (and not all species are known to flower) vary widely in their cycles; the fixed periods range from a year to a few years or even more than a century. Not all species are so weakened by flowering that they die.

Columbus Zoo Kangaroos, wallaby still fighting disease

July 3, 2001 www.dispatch.com

The fate of the Kangaroo Walkabout exhibit at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium rests with four kangaroos and a wallaby that continue to fight a disease that has killed eight animals. "After we know how many animals are going to make it, we'll talk about reopening the exhibit,'' said zoo spokeswoman Patty Peters. The exhibit closed 11 days ago, after nine kangaroos and four wallabies began showing symptoms of toxoplasmosis, a disease that is usually fatal to the animals. Of the 13 that were ill, five kangaroos and three wallabies have died. The animals ate hay contaminated with feces from stray cats living in the feeding barn. Three kangaroos remaining at the zoo have not shown signs of the illness. They're being watched carefully, though they're not on any type of preventive drugs. The Kangaroo Walkabout exhibit, which opened in 1997, was supposed to be temporary but was kept open because of its popularity.

KC Zoo officials closely monitor elephant's pregnancy

July 3, 2001 www.kcstar.com

Chief Staff Veterinarian Kirk Suedmeyer is hoping for the first birth of an elephant in the 91-year history of the Kansas City Zoo. Officials say theirs is the first zoo anywhere able to capture images of a fetus throughout an elephant pregnancy with regular abdominal ultrasounds. Suedmeyer intends to publish a paper on the technique, which will be an important tool in the conservation of the endangered

species. "For decades we just sat here and took from discoveries at the St. Louis Zoo or the San Diego Zoo," Suedmeyer said. "Now we can contribute to the field." Kansas City's baby elephant is due sometime in August or September, one year after the zoo produced a healthy baby rhinoceros. Elephant gestation is 22 months. The zoo's elephant staff has conditioned Lady to permit the ultrasound procedure every week for the last 10 months. That record, along with regular blood tests and hormone analyses, has allowed them to keep a close watch on the pregnancy. Lady is 32 years old and, if the birth is successful, is believed to be the oldest first-time mother among captive African elephants in the world. The father is Dale, a 23-year-old bull in residence at the zoo. He was the father last year of the world's first birth of an African elephant by artificial insemination. That baby was born at the Indianapolis Zoo and is doing well, said Kansas City Zoo Curator Conrad Schmitt.

 

Koko, gorilla who uses sign language, celebrates 30th birthday

July 4, 2001 www.contracostatimes.com

SAN FRANCISCO -- Koko, the signing gorilla, will wear lipstick, eat tofu burgers and gobble low-fat cake this Fourth of July as she celebrates her 30th birthday. Born in the San Francisco Zoo in 1971, Hanabi-Ko, Japanese for "fireworks child," became famous after learning to sign more than 1,000 words. Kevin Connelly, development director at the Gorilla Foundation in Woodside said a baby is the one gift Koko has said she would like most. Koko and her male companion, Ndume, 19, have been together for eight years. He came to the foundation on loan from the Cincinnati Zoo after Koko selected him from a video of available zoo gorillas. (Thee oldest female to give birth in captivity was 37. The oldest gorilla in captivity lived to be 54.) Koko and Ndume are expected to move to Maui within the next 18 months where they will live on 70 acres of donated land.

The bushmeat trade

July 4, 2001 www.guardian.co.uk

Cameroonians, like virtually all the people of the great Congo basin, consider chimps and gorillas fair game. For thousands of years they have eaten them and anything else in the forest, subsisting in a harsh but abundant environment. Now that environment is changing, lightning-fast. Logging companies are opening up the forest and hunters are following them in. Spears and liana nets have been replaced by shotguns and steel snares. Forest dwellers who once hunted to eat sell bushmeat by the tonne to traders from the cities of Yaounde and Douala. Hunting has become an industry, the rainforest a killing ground.

A large silverback earns the hunter about £25.

Cameroon's government allows three tonnes of meat to arrive at the capital's four bushmeat markets every day, mostly by train. On the station steps, traders jostle every morning for the pick of the day's ape, elephant, panther, buffalo, monkey, warthog, pangolin, antelope, porcupine, snake, bat, cane rat. It is illegal to trade any bushmeat in Cameroon; and during the current six-month off-season, it is illegal to hunt at all.

A hundred years ago, there were an estimated 2m chimps in the vast central African rainforest, stretching from Sierra Leone to Tanzania. There are now at most 200,000, living in patches of forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Republic of Congo, Gabon and Cameroon. Estimates for the bonobo, or pygmy chimp, whose isolated habitat is on the front line of DRC's convoluted war, vary between 50,000 and 100,000. In the same forests, there are at most 100,000 western lowland gorillas, while on the DRC-Rwanda-Uganda border there are a few hundred of Dian Fossey's mountain gorillas. And nearby there is an almost extinct population of eastern lowland gorillas, whose national park home has been devastated in the past two years by mining for coltan (colombo tantalite), a mineral used as a hardening agent for metals in hi-tech industries. This was in short supply last year, leading to a worldwide shortage of Sony PlayStation 2 video games.

Almost all of Africa's rainforest, home to these last great apes, is earmarked for logging. It amounts to less than 20% of the original forest belt; and yet, it remains the world's second biggest tropical forest. Cameroon and Gabon will soon be logged out - as little as 5% of Cameroon's primary forest is still standing. So as the DRC begins to reopen, the loggers will move there to finish the job. Most are European: three French firms - Coron, Bollore and Thanny - control more than 30% of Cameroon's logging. But Asian firms are increasingly entering the bidding - fresh from flattening south-east Asia and pushing the orangutan to the brink. And with non-European companies there is no discussion of wildlife management. Goodall predicts that at the present rate great apes will be practically extinct in 10-15 years. "Though in logged areas it seems more likely to be five years," she says. According to one estimate, 800 gorillas are killed each year in only the south-eastern corner of Cameroon.

Zoo helps with dormouse recovery

5th July 2001 www.bbc.co.uk

The Common Dormouse sleeps from October to April, rolled in a ball, likes woodland but doesn’t cross roads. Loss of forest and hedgerow habitat in the UK has reduced their numbers to fewer than 500,000. The Paignton Zoo’s breeding program is part of a national project to help save the threatened species. Having started with just one breeding pair, saved from building project on the Channel Tunnel in 1998, 20 pairs have been bred. This week, four pairs were released at a site in Cambridgeshire. The project is headed by English Nature and also involves other conservation groups such as the People's Trust for Endangered Species.

Wood products to have arsenic label

July 05, 2001

WASHINGTON — Consumer warning labels will start appearing this fall on nearly all the treated lumber in the United States, warning about an arsenic-laced preservative being used to protect the wood from decay and insect damage. The labels are part of an Environmental Protection Agency program

announced this week that is designed to let people know about the presence of chromated copper arsenate (CCA), a powerful pesticide used in the lumber. By early fall, EPA-required labeling is to be included on all pieces of CCA-treated lumber. Critics say millions of American consumers might think CCA-treated wood is safe just because it remains on store shelves. In 1986, the EPA banned most inorganic arsenic pesticides but allowed the use of CCA to continue in pressure-treated wood as a "restricted use" pesticide. Manufacturers agreed to voluntarily distribute consumer "fact sheets" about its use. Switzerland, Vietnam, and Indonesia have banned CCA-treated wood. Japan, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand have either limited its use or proposed restrictions.

Caribou's Plight Intersects Oil Debate

July 5, 2001 www.latimes.com

ARCTIC NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, Late winter snows have forced thousands of caribou to calve along the arduous inland migration route, many miles from the safety of the coastal plain. That has set the stage for one of the worst years in the history of the Porcupine caribou herd. Early estimates are that up to 15,000 of this year's calves will fall victim to predators, starvation or fatigue. Caribou have been seen calving on the other side of the roiling Porcupine, forcing those just a few hours old to cross its treacherous, icy waters. "It's one of the worst years we've ever seen in the 30 years we've been looking at the herd in detail," biologist Ken Whitten said. "The calf survival rate is way below normal, and probably not enough to sustain the herd."

The movements of these caribou through the tundra of northern Alaska have become the subject of intense global interest, thanks to the Bush administration's proposal to expand North Slope oil operations into the heart of the calving area on the grassy shelf between the mountains of the Brooks Range and the Beaufort Sea. What has unfolded since June 1 is a sobering lesson in Arctic biology: Thousands of newborn caribou have died, scientists agree, because their mothers gave birth before reaching the coastal plain. A similar scenario occurred with unusually late snows last year, when an estimated 15,000 calves. A similar scenario could when they're kept off the coastal plain by industrial development.

 

The first official U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service surveys last week showed that 80% of the herd's 70,000 cows had calved but that only 51% had calves still alive by the end of June. That is only slightly better than last year, when 44% had calves that made it through June, and well below the traditional average of about 62%. The herd has been declining over the past 10 years.

Caribou, which fossil records show have lived in the Alaskan Arctic for at least a million years, are a crucial food source for the grizzly bears, black bears, wolves and eagles that roam the tundra. As they die, their carcasses provide food for wolverines, foxes and ravens. Their excrement feeds plants that produce the nitrogen that nurtures other plants. A species of fly lives nowhere but in the caribou's nose. The Eskimos on the coastal plain and the Gwich'in Indians of the Brooks Range have hunted the caribou for all of recorded time.

Study: Seals use whiskers to track prey

July 5, 2001 www.cnn.com

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Because a harbor seal's whiskers have between 1,000 and 1,600 nerve fibers per hair, they are possibly the most sensitive whiskers in the animal kingdom, said researcher Guido Dehnhardt of Germany's Ruhr-Universitat Bochum. Nick and Henry, two harbor seals from the Cologne Zoo in Germany, were able to track a water disturbance even in very clouded conditions and when the object that disrupted the water is long gone, at distances that could range up to 591 feet (180 meters).

Dolphins use a sort of sonar called echolocation to find their prey, pinpointing locations by measuring how long it takes a sound wave to bounce off an undersea object. But researchers had been unable to find evidence that pinnipeds, the group that includes seals, had anything similar. The study, published in the current issue of the journal Science tells how a blindfolded Henry -- after being trained to follow a miniature submarine without any sensory restrictions -- was put in murky water with headphones on to mask sound. Then, after turning off the motor, researchers removed the headphones and released the seal so it could try and find the little sub. Not only did Henry track the sub 256 out of 326 times, he actually followed the exact path it had tracked 80 percent of the time. Nick, in clear water, showed similar results. The seals were able to track the submarine from as far away as 131 feet (40 meters). The sub's water disturbance trail lasts 30 seconds but fish leave trails that can last three to five minutes, the time it takes a goldfish to swim 164 feet (50 meters), Dehnhardt said. When their whiskers were covered with a stocking mask, the seals failed to find the sub.

Ecological research center and aquarium in Northern New York

July 6, 2001 www.enn.com

Construction is poised to begin on a multimillion-dollar ecological research center and tourist attraction on the St. Lawrence Seaway at Massena, N.Y. The New York Power Authority (NYPA) trustees last week authorized a $20 million agreement that paves the way for the construction and operation of the St. Lawrence Aquarium and Great Rivers Center in Massena. The facility will combine environmental science with an educational and recreational attraction. It is expected to establish new ecological

research opportunities, create new jobs, and attract 60,000 tourists each year. The belugas of the St. Lawrence Seaway have become sterile, and some scientists believe they are on the verge of extinction. Pollutants from industrial facilities, agricultural runoff, and domestic use found in the water and in river sediments affect all wildlife along the Seaway: gulls, cormorants, fish, and land mammals such as mink. The new facility will allow in-depth study of these conditions. To secure the $20 million, the St. Lawrence Aquarium & Ecological Center has three years to establish an endowment fund large enough to cover $700,000 or two-thirds of its annual operating budget, whichever is greater. The center must obtain rights to the Robinson Bay site to permit construction, and it must obtain approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to use the site.

South African Leopards Hunted Down by Dog Teams

July 4 dailynews.yahoo.com

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's endangered leopards are being killed by hunters using trained packs of dogs to help track down their prey, the country's top animal welfare body said on Wednesday. The National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) urged the government to stop or at least regulate commercial safari operators that have allowed teams of up to 40 dogs to root out leopards who by nature are shy, nocturnal animals. Dog packs were being hired by foreign and local hunters to track the scent of the leopard before chasing the exhausted animal, which usually finds temporary refuge in a high tree. Hunters would then follow their dogs and shoot the leopard in the tree at close range. It's a growing problem particularly in the Northern Province and Eastern Cape.

Mating Dances Go On and On

July 10, 2001 www.nytimes.com

¶Any time a pair of great-crested grebes reunites after a separation, they perform an aquatic version of the tango. As one bird dives and swims toward the other, its partner arches its back and fluffs itself up, until the diver bursts through the water right next to it wings extended, body erect. The two part, plunge back under and re- emerge with weeds clutched like roses in their beaks. Pressing their breasts together, they rise up and begin trampling their feet on the water, heads turning back and forth.

¶For the siamang gibbons of Indonesia, duets are sung for 15 minutes every other day, barking, booming and screaming in such precise sequences that it often takes newlyweds many months to learn to make beautiful music together.

¶Porcupine pairs copulates every day, 365 days a year, whether it's breeding season or not.

A recent review article in the journal Animal Behaviour "Display in Monogamous Pairs," by Carl-Adam Wachtmeister of the University of Stockholm describes some of the spectacular and often vigorous performances that a broad array of birds, mammals, fish and insects engage in long after they have secured a partner. The displays may be visual, sonic or sensual, or some artful exploitation of all body systems at once.

Birds are especially prone to these exhibitions because the vast majority breed in socially monogamous pairs. In at least 200 bird species, males and females sing tightly scripted duets throughout their relationship. Many others dance, dive in synchrony or mount each other in a Kama Sutra suite of positions even when the male's testes have shut down for the season and conception is impossible.

And while pair-bonding is much less common among mammals, where it does occur, it is likely to be accompanied by a spectrum of marital rituals. Mated tree shrews, for example, regularly lick each other's faces and necks in a very specific fashion, with the recipient of the lick keeping its head at a 45-degree angle and its eyes half-closed. Not until the recipient's chin and nape have been exactingly groomed does it allow the licker to plop down on top of it so the two can take a nap.

Far from being less flamboyant or stereotyped than courtship displays, said Dr. Wachtmeister, post-pair-formation behaviors often are comparatively more elaborate and time-consuming, and therefore should be placed within a theoretical framework that can account for their evolution and maintenance. As Dr. Wachtmeister sees it, traditional explanations of displays among coupled animals have been either too hazy and generic — "strengthening the pair bond" — or they have not been supported by evidence. He proposes that many of the displays are a form of manipulation, a way of subtly persuading one's partner to take on a greater share of family burdens and chores. By this theory, there is always a question of who is going to tend to the nest, defend against predators, forage for the next meal. Displays, he said, might be one way in which the partners exhort each other to pay attention, snap out of torpor and help out around the house. And the more the animals rely on display to elicit help or effort from a partner, said Dr. Wachtmeister, the more extreme and conspicuous those displays are likely to become over time. Other scientists said they appreciated Dr. Wachtmeister's effort to highlight nature's panoply of postpairing displays, but not all of them agreed with his interpretation of their purpose.

A Tree Project Helps the Genes of Champions Live On

July 10, 2001

When Europeans first came to North America, one of the largest primeval forests in the world covered

much of the continent. But only about 3 percent of America's native old-growth forest remains, and many of the trees they hold are those that were not big enough to attract a logger's eye. The result is a generation of trees that barely resemble the native forests that once blanketed the country. That makes some scientists suspect that the surviving forests have lost much of their genetic quality. When the loggers swept through, these scientists say, only poor specimens were left to reproduce. Tree enthusiasts are searching out the largest tree of each species and taking cuttings of new growth to make copies — genetic clones — of the giants. With tissue culture and grafting, they have replicated 52 of the 827 living giants and are planting the offspring in what they call "archival living libraries." More than 20,000 offspring have been planted. The work is part of the Champion Tree Project, which began in 1996 with financial help from the National Tree Trust, a nonprofit group in Washington.

State and federal agencies and private organizations have been keeping track of the largest trees in

each state for some time. The largest effort is the National Register of Big Trees, run by American

Forests, a 125-year-old nonprofit group based in Washington. But the Champion Tree Project takes

things a step further by perpetuating the largest trees. The supertrees' genetic legacy is being preserved in five main tree libraries in different climates. The repositories are at Arlington National Cemetery; the gardens of George Washington's Virginia home, Mount Vernon; the Florida Botanical Gardens, near Tampa; the Oregon Botanical Gardens, in Salem; and the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, in Michigan. Eventually the Champion Tree Project hopes to replicate enough exemplary trees for a nationwide reforestation project. The offspring of the native trees, should they prove genetically superior, could be especially valuable in urban settings, where the average tree lives just 7 to 10 years. But experts point out that things like soil conditions, moisture and other environmental factors can also affect the success of the trees.

A related program is run by American Forests, which replicates and sells historic trees from famous

properties like President Dwight D. Eisenhower's home in Abilene, Kan., and Elvis Presley's home,

Graceland, in Memphis. Officials of American Forests say they are peeved that the Champion Tree

Project is using its list to raise money. "They basically reinvented our program," said Dr. Deborah

Gangloff, the American Forests executive director.The Champion Tree Project bases its search on the National Register of Big Trees, which American Forests has kept since 1940, when foresters grew alarmed at the number of trees being rapidly cut because of demand for wood in the war years. The list was established and updated by a cadre of dedicated tree hunters. All states have at least one champion tree, though Florida has the most, 170. The champions range in age from 300 to 3,500 years old.

The United States Forest Service supports the Champion Tree Project for environmental reasons. It points to a 1999 Forest Service study showing that in California's San Joaquin Valley, for example, a single large London plane tree in a front yard saved $29 in summer air-conditioning costs, absorbed 10 pounds of air pollutants annually, intercepted 750 gallons of rainfall in the crown, cleaned 330 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air and added 1 percent to the sale price of the house.

Invasive Species - Alien versus predator

July 12, 2001 Nature p 116

The annual cost to ecosystems by invasive species in the U.S. has been estimated at $137 billion.

Dealing with the problem exotics by importing more exotics to feed on them has had mixed results. About one-third of species introduced to control exotic weeds have been judged a success. There have also been some incredible disasters. The key to safety in biological control is target specificity. The best targets are those that have no close relatives in the area they have invaded, and the best control agents are those that eat one thing only.

Cloning May Be Key in Animal Copies

July 13, 2001 www.ap.org

The birth of the sheep Dolly in Scotland in 1996 - the first mammal cloned from an adult - was a landmark, turning the stuff of science fiction into a four-legged reality. Dolly offered a new way of reproducing and genetically modifying animals, a technology some say could ultimately save thousands of lives and generate billions of dollars. Critics, however, say cloning is fraught with too many unknowns and possible hazards. A recent study in the journal "Science" reported that scientists doing cloning experiments found that even apparently normal animals develop disorders later in life.Those reservations haven't stopped research.

Scientists already are cloning elite cows and bulls - those that produce the most milk or most tender beef.They're copying pigs for organ and tissue transplants and goats, cows and sheep to genetically alter to carry drugs or vaccines in their milk.They're duplicating disease-resistant farm animals. And coming soon, they predict - cats and dogs. Chuck Long, general manager of Genetic Savings & Clone, a Texas-based biotechnology company has clients worldwide who have banked cells in hopes of copying

their animals.

Pigs, cattle, goats, sheep and mice already have been cloned. And a team of scientists at Texas A&M University is working on``Missyplicity,'' a $3.7 million project to copy a 14-year-old dog, financed by the pooch's wealthy owners. Cloning also is being used to make transgenic animals - those altered with extra genetic material to enhance a trait - to serve as drug ``factories,'' producing human proteins in their milk to fight diseases such as diabetes and hepatitis. The industry, dubbed ``pharming,'' is expected to be lucrative. Take Factor VIII, for instance, a blood-clotting protein used to treat hemophilia.

Infigen Inc., a biotechnology firm has cloned Mandy, a champion cow. The unborn clone (due this September) recently fetched $82,000 at the auction. The Minnesota Zoo’s Gene, a cloned bull, holds court with cloned heifers, Carbon and Copy, all produced by Infigen. But while a clone is a genetic duplicate - making it very likely that a copy of a great milk-producing cow, for example, will be one, too - there's no guarantee. How that animal is raised plays a critical role.

Proponents say cloning could someday be an enormous benefit to everyone from farmers to people with genetic diseases.``This technology is really an incredibly powerful tool for good,'' says Kevin Wells, a former U.S. Agriculture Department scientist who worked on animal cloning for the agency.

But opponents argue cloning is a way of playing God, that it allows scientists to produce animals they know could be abnormal and poses the danger of shrinking the genetic pool.The recent study in the journal Science found that genes used in cloning often don't work properly, causing abnormalities in

mice - a finding that bolsters the argument against human cloning. Also, most cloned embryos die early during gestation. Those that survive frequently have health problems such as enlarged hearts, underdeveloped lungs or immune deficiencies. Some animals have been obese.

``All of those great promises about saving mankind - first of all, I don't believe it and I don't believe it's right,'' said Kathy Guillermo of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. ``We oppose using animals as test tubes with tails.'' Mass copying animals also could make breeds more vulnerable to disease, which could then wipe out an entire population, says Jane Rissler, a biotechnology expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

For now, cloning is very inefficient. Some scientists say the kinks will eventually be ironed out, but it took 277 attempts before Dolly was produced. It took 95 for Millie, a heifer at the University of Tennessee that died in June of a bacterial infection. ``If a drug for headaches worked only 2 percent of the time, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) wouldn't approve it,'' says Wells, now at PPL Therapeutics, which financed the production of Dolly. Low success means high costs: about $25,000 to $50,000 to clone an animal, and up to $150,000 if there are genetic modifications, Wells says.``The procedures are way too expensive and way too unreliable as a standard breeding tool,'' says George Seidel, a professor of physiology at Colorado State University who believes cloning is being oversold.

Bishop, Infigen's president, predicts that within five years, farmers will be thumbing through catalogs displaying elite animals whose embryos are for sale. Some researchers say cloning could save farmers billions of dollars if disease-resistant animals are copied - which could eliminate the need for antibiotics.

Texas A&M has produced ``Bull 86 Squared'' from the cells of his long-deceased Angus donor, ``Bull 86,'' who was naturally resistant to brucellosis, tuberculosis and salmonellosis, all serious diseases.

How soon cloning becomes commercial depends partly on the federal government. Biotech companies have been asked to keep cloned livestock out of the food chain until the National Academy of Sciences finishes a study of the safety of the technology.The FDA will use those results - due next year - to decide whether cloned animals will require government approval before

they are sold for food in the United States.

Larry Coleman, a Montana rancher, had Infigen clone First Down, his prize-winning bull that consistently ranked at the top of the Limousin breed. Without First Down, Coleman says, ``we feel we could not have survived the last five years in the cattle industry.'' When an accident in 1996 left the bull unable to produce any more semen, cloning seemed a way to carry on his legacy. Two black copies at Infigen's farm hold enormous financial promise - semen that could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

 

Endangered Species Coalition Leader Blasts Manatee Plan

July 13, 2001 www.enn.com

The Florida manatee recovery plan published by FWS in the Federal Register on July 10 suggested that by the year 2003, manatee status could be downgraded to "threatened," and then the popular marine mammals could be removed from the list entirely in subsequent years. Brock Evans, executive director of the national Endangered Species Coalition which represents over 430 scientific, environmental, religious and sporting organizations throughout the U.S., questioned the validity of the science used to project this de-listing plan and called on the scientific community outside the government to review the plan.The plan is being issued eight months late under a settlement reached in January on a landmark lawsuit for manatee protection, Eighteen environmental and animal protection organizations are plaintiffs in that suit. Evans pointed out that manatee deaths from boat injuries have been increasing and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has reneged on a promise to force counties to adopt manatee protection plans.

Zoo keepers give cub on-the-job training on how to be a tiger

July 15, 2001 www.uniontrib.com

 

Petra, a 9-month-old Indochinese tiger cub from Cincinnati, has spent four weeks at the San Diego Zoo learning how to be a tiger. Now she is ready to meet the public, perhaps as early as tomorrow. She will go on view with another cub, Dua, who has been showing her the ropes. Dua, one of three cubs born at the San Diego Zoo last October, knows all about being a tiger. Rejected at birth by their mother, Dua and his sister, Satu, and brother, Tiga, were hand-raised at the zoo nursery before being returned to the Tiger River enclosure. But having one another for company meant the San Diego cubs never experienced a tiger identity crisis. Petra, however, had never seen another tiger before coming to San Diego, much less sniffed one. Also hand-raised, she had been rejected by her mother after her two littermates died 36 hours after the three were born. All four cubs will likely move on from Tiger River eventually. The three cubs born to Danai two years ago are now at the Dallas Zoo, and all five tiger subspecies, including the Indochinese, are listed as endangered.

Scripps Researchers Unveil the First Comprehensive Wildfire Forecast for the Western U.S.

July 16, 2001

Scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, have constructed the first comprehensive forecast for wildfires in the western United States. Important to this forecast development was the assembly of more than 20 years’ worth of fire information recorded by the U.S.Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the National Park Service. The basis for the unique forecast is its statistical consideration of past seasons’ moisture deficit or excess beyond the weather conditions at the time of the fire season. Rather than relying on forecasts of the summer weather during the fire season, the main feature of the new wildfire forecast is a calculation of the amount of vegetation available to burn during the fire season, also called the fire "fuel" availability. See the California Applications Program web site at http://meteora.ucsd.edu/cap

Smithsonian Plans Science Commission

July 16, 2001 www.ap.org

WASHINGTON (AP) - Seeking to recover a reputation battered by proposals to cut back research programs, the Smithsonian Institution announced the members of a new 18-member commission to review its science efforts and recommend directions for the future.``The mandate is completely broad, any aspect of Smithsonian science is fair game for the commission,'' said commission Chairman Jeremy A. Sabloff of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.In addition to its museums and the National Zoo, the Smithsonian also operates several research centers including:

-Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Edgewater, Md.

-Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama.

-National Zoo Conservation and Research Center, Front Royal, Va.

-Smithsonian Astrophysical Laboratory, Cambridge, Mass.

-Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education, Suitland, Md.

-Smithsonian Marine Station, Fort Pierce, Fla.

USDA Adopts Rule on Import and Interstate Movement of the leopard tortoise

July 16, 2001 www.aphis.usda.gov

WASHINGTON, July 16, 2001--The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced today that it is adopting as a final rule two modified interim rules concerning the importation and interstate movement of the leopard tortoise, African spurred tortoise, and Bell's hingeback tortoise. The final rule amends the previous interim rules by allowing the interstate movement of these tortoises if an accredited veterinarian signs either a health certificate or a certificate of veterinary inspection stating that the tortoises have been examined by that veterinarian and found to be free of exotic ticks. The final rule also affirms USDA's prohibition on the importation of these types of land tortoises.

This action is necessary to enable the export, interstate commerce, health care, and adoption of these types of tortoises while providing protection against the spread of exotic ticks known to be vectors of heartwater disease. This action will also relieve an unnecessary burden on federal veterinarians. We estimate that each health certificate or certificate of veterinary inspection will cost $25 to $50 for the first tortoise, plus $2 to $5 for each additional tortoise in the shipment. The goal of the certification is to prevent the spread of exotic ticks known to be vectors of heartwater disease. The health certificate or certificate of veterinary inspection will also help ensure the acceptability of these animals in international markets.

Heartwater disease is an acute, infectious disease of ruminants, such as cattle, sheep, goats, white-tailed deer, and antelope. This disease has a 60 percent or greater mortality rate in livestock and a 90 percent or greater mortality rate in white-tailed deer. Notice of this action is scheduled to be published in the July 17 Federal Register and becomes effective upon publication. APHIS documents published in the Federal Register and related information, including the names of organizations and individuals who have commented on APHIS dockets, are available on the Internet at http:///ppd/rad/webrepor.html. For more information, contact David Wilson, senior staff entomologist, emergency programs, veterinary services, APHIS, 4700 River Road, Unit 41, Riverdale, Md. 20737, (301) 734-8073.

 

A Marker for Mad Cow Disease May Be Found in Urine

July 17, 2001 www.nytimes.com

Dr. Ruth Gabizon, a scientist in the department of neurology at Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem has reported finding a unique substance in the urine of people and animals afflicted with various forms of the malady. The substance — a small, never-before- seen protein molecule — may be a clear marker for mad cow disease and related ailments, a group of illnesses called prion diseases. Its presence in urine could lead to a simple test for mad cow disease and its human form, called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The only definitive test now is a brain biopsy, which is rarely done; most cases are verified only after death. Because the protein is found in urine well before symptoms appear, the test could identify people who have been infected but do not know it and prevent them from donating blood. Moreover, the test could be used to screen live animals for mad cow disease; current tests can be carried out only on dead animals. The Journal of Biological Chemistry published an electronic version of her research paper on June 21 and will publish the printed version in September.

Gamestock 2001: Zoo Tycoon

gamespot.com

Following the success of management games like Hasbro's Roller Coaster Tycoon, Microsoft is touting its upcoming zoo management strategy game, Zoo Tycoon. Players assume the role of a zoo manager, and they must oversee all aspects of the animal park, including construction of new habitats and the maintenance of a wide variety of creatures. The goal of the game is to build the ultimate zoo. The game features more than 100 types of animals, habitats, and building materials. Tycoon is primarily intended to be played in an open-ended manner, and it doesn't lock the player into tightly scripted scenarios. A player builds habitats by selecting different types of enclosures such as metal fences, placing different animals in the enclosures, and choosing the most suitable terrain and flora types for your species.

Zoo Tycoon's graphics are colorful, and the game looks quite good overall. The animals have convincing animations, and the visitors can have humorous animations, especially when escaping animals scare them. Zoo Tycoon is scheduled for release this fall.

 

Mexican police rescued Siberian tiger cub from the trunk of a car

July 18, 2001 www.cnn.com

Mexico City - As federal police questioned the driver, they heard a growl from the trunk and, on opening it, found the 13 to 15 pound (6-7 kg) tiger cub inside a plastic carrying case. Mexico's security ministry said the discovery was made on Sunday on a highway in the central state of San Luis Potosi. The speeding car had U.S. license plates and the suspect was identified as Eduardo del Refugio. He showed police a certificate from an animal nursery in the State of Mexico as his license for transporting the tiger. But police believed the document had been altered and called in Mexico's environmental protection watchdog agency which confirmed the document was bogus. The tiger cub is being cared for in an animal shelter. Del Refugio has been detained and could face between six months and six years in prison for allegedly trafficking endangered species, the security ministry said. The Siberian tiger is under threat from poachers and only about 200 remain in the wild. As an endangered species, there are strict international bans on smuggling and trading tigers.

Condor Program Continues After Setback

July 18, 2001 ABCNEWS.com

When an endangered California condor was born in the wild this summer, for the first time in 17 years, it was cause for much celebration. But then scientists found the chick dead on a cliff only days after it hatched, apparently from an attack by an adult condor who may have thought the baby bird was an intruder. Even though the chick lived only a few days, scientists say the event was a milestone in the effort to save the rare bird. The birth had followed a delicate egg swap, replacing an egg laid in the wild with a fake egg, and then again with an egg bred in captivity that was ready to hatch."The entire California condor program is a series of successes and levels that we're trying to obtain," says Wallace. "And the one that we've been waiting for of course, is to have a chick hatched in the wild."

An unusual social display by gorillas

July 19, 2001 Nature p 294 (Parnell / Wildlife Conservation Society and Buchanan-Smith)

124 western lowland gorillas were observed over 32 months at the 12.9 hectare ‘Mbeli Bai." in open, swampy clearings (bais) in the forest. Gorillas were visible for 27% of the time. 90 splash displays, representing 57 independent bouts of social interaction were produced by 19 individuals. 10 display styles were seen (3 were used in 75% of all displays). 67% were produced in an agonistic context, 17.5% were made in play and 5% were directed toward other species. In 10.5 % context was not evident. Silverbacks displayed most frequently (68% and almost exclusively in an agonisitic context.

The only other record of splash display comes from western lowland gorillas at Maya Bai, 180 km from Mbeli (F.Magliocca, personal communication). Manipulating water for communication has not been described in any other wild primate species and with the possible exception of elephants may be unique among terrestrial mammals.

Wolves Stop at Zoo on Way to Wilderness

July 19, 2001 www.washingtonpost.com

The National Zoo has made a home for three Mexican gray wolves, part of an animal conservation effort by the United States and Mexico to reintroduce the highly endangered wolf subspecies into the wild.

The wolves, which have distinctive howls and quick movements, "are amazing animals," said Marshall Jones, acting director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a participant in a species survival plan for wolves started in 1993 by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.

The three male wolves, Cheveya, Lakota and Tika, will stay in their enclosure until they can be released into a wilderness area in Arizona, New Mexico or central Mexico. The Mexican gray wolf is the rarest and most genetically distinct subspecies of wolf in North America. Human encroachment and habitat destruction have contributed to the animal's near extinction, and until the reintroduction began in 1998, the wolf had not been seen in the wild in the United States since 1970 and Mexico since 1980.There are about 200 Mexican gray wolves living today, and nearly all of them were born and raised in captivity. The species survival plan is trying to increase the captive population to 240 wolves in zoos and breeding facilities. The National Zoo, one of 42 institutions participating in the recovery effort, is holding the wolves for "pre-release conditioning." These particular wolves, which come from the Wild Canid Survival and Research Center in Eureka, Mo., may be released soon into the wild, but the zoo hopes eventually to have a breeding pair that would stay longer. The approximately 35 wolves reintroduced into a mountainous wilderness area on the Arizona-New Mexico border have radio collars to track their whereabouts. Recovery program officials would like to reestablish a wild population of at least 100.

The National Zoo is also participating in recovery efforts for the black-footed ferret and two bird species from Guam, the Guam rail and the Micronesian kingfisher.

Green anaconda gives birth at Pittsburgh Zoo

07/20/2001 www.triblive.com

22 anacondas - a large semiaquatic snake generally found in tropical South America - were born Thursday at the Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium in Highland Park. It is the first time in at least two years that anacondas have been born in captivity anywhere in North America, said Jen Roupe, director of public and media relations at the zoo, citing records from the American Aquarium and Zoo Association. And it is the first time in more than 10 years that the mighty reptiles have been born at the Pittsburgh Zoo. In the wild there have been reports of anacondas having around 100 babies at a time but this is normal for an anaconda in captivity, she said. Most species of snakes lay eggs that are hatched, but a few - such as the anaconda and other members of the boa family, as well as rattlesnakes - have live offspring. Although anacondas, one of the largest snakes in the world, can grow to a length of 30 feet, the new mother is about 13 feet long. The average anaconda is about 15 feet long. The mother began bearing her young about 3 p.m., zoo officials said.

Orca’s Little Killer Expected Any Time

July 21, 2001 www.uniontrib.com

Kasatka is the first marine mammal in history to become pregnant by artificial insemination. The breakthrough will allow SeaWorld to improve the genetic diversity of its captive killer whale population, and insemination can perhaps be used to help endangered marine mammals, Reidarson said. Kasatka was inseminated about 17 months ago using the sperm of a cetacean from SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla., by Dr. Todd Robeck with Reidarson assisting. Robeck also was involved in the artificial insemination of two bottlenose dolphins at the Ocean Park aquarium in Hong Kong. Although the dolphins became pregnant after the San Diego killer whale, they've already given birth because their gestation period is shorter. SeaWorld has no plans to impregnate another killer whale, Reidarson said. "We're at a capacity where we feel comfortable here with 10 killer whales," he said, counting Kasatka's baby as the 10th. Trainers are taking the whale's temperature twice a day because a drop in temperature often signals the onset of labor. To ensure that mother and child have enough bonding time, SeaWorld has imposed a media blackout on the birth, which will be witnessed only by SeaWorld personnel.

Theme Parks Find Long Distance Dollars Dwindle in U.S. Slowdown

July 21, 2001 www.uniontrib.com

With the economic slowdown forcing families across the nation to shelve vacation plans, theme parks and attractions are relying more on local visitors. Enticements include steep discounts. Legoland, for example, cut adult ticket prices from $39 to $25 for Southern California residents. Last year, Legoland offered the same discount beginning in July. This year, the program kicked off in May. Other theme parks -- most notably Disney's new $1.4 billion California Adventure -- also slashed prices in hopes of getting local dollars to replace the millions they're not getting from long-distance tourists.

But industrywide, the thrill is gone for some theme park operators. During the most recent quarter, ended June 30, the weakening economy caused a 7 percent to 8 percent decrease in attendance at Walt Disney World's four theme parks in Orlando, Fla., and a 5 percent to 6 percent decrease in attendance at Disneyland in Anaheim, according to Merrill Lynch analysts. Ohio-based Cedar Fair, which owns six regional amusement parks, including Knott's Berry Farm in Los Angeles and Knott's Soak City U.S.A. in Chula Vista, has seen a 4 percent drop in attendance, excluding results from two newly acquired parks.

SeaWorld rolled out an aggressive discount program early this year -- and it paid off, spokesman Bob Tucker said. From January through April, people who bought an adult admission ticket got a Fun Card, which allows unlimited free return visits for the rest of the year. SeaWorld is on track to set a record with 4 million visitors this year -- although that may be hard to sustain next year. The San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park have not offered special discounts. Attendance is steady as against last year, said Christina Simmons, public relations manager.

The most surprising discount occurred at Disney's California Adventure, which has struggled to meet its attendance targets of 7 million people in its first year, or about 19,000 a day. Though Disney executives told analysts they would never discount, the company last month reduced adult ticket prices from $43 to $33 for Southern California residents and allows one child in free with each adult ticket. The offer expires in September. "I've heard there has been some improvement in attendance as a result of the discount, and also as a result of the Main Street Electrical Parade," said analyst David Miller of Sutro & Co. in Los Angeles. Disney revived the popular show at California Adventure recently. Disney also plans to open a "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" attraction this fall.

Miller added that California Adventure may not have been priced right, given the economic slowdown. At $43, it cost the same as Disneyland, he said, yet it's one-third the size and has less than half the number of rides. For theme parks, luring locals makes sense, analysts say. Theme park-goers spend nearly as much on meals and souvenirs inside the park as they do on admission. "It's all about volume," said SeaWorld's Tucker. "The more people you get through the turnstiles, the greater the opportunity for in-

park revenue."

China Plans to Return South China Tigers to Nature

July 21, 2001 english.peopledaily.com.cn

The South China tiger, also named Chinese tiger or Xiamen tiger, remains on the top of the list of 10 most endangered species in the world. China has launched a 146 million yuan (about 1.8 million U.S. dollar) project to protect the tiger from becoming extinct. Qiu Yunxing, director of the Meihuashan Nature Reserve Administration, said a 460 hectare park in east China's Fujian Province will completed by 2005 for the rare animal to get used to life in the wild. With virgin forests, man-made lakes containing spring water, meadows and other vegetation, the park borders the 20,000 hectare subtropical Meihuashan Nature Reserve in Longyan City of Fujian.

By June, 2000, there were only 62 South China tigers living in captivity in China. The population of wild South China tigers totaled about 4,000 in China half a century ago, but it dwindled to 200 to 250 in the early 1980s. Experts at home and abroad said the South China tiger may become extinct in China after 2010 due to low fertility and inbreeding. A breeding research center has been set up on a farm near Gutian township in Longyan with six South China tigers introduced from other parts the country. It is hoped that offspring can be acclimated to life in the wild. In a national program on wildlife protection issued last year, the State Forestry Administration encourages provincial authorities in southern China, including Fujian, Guangxi and Jiangxi, to try to increase the South China tiger population in the wild and in captivity.

 

Former BR zoo director George Felton dies at 74

7/23/01 www.theadvocate.com

George Felton, director of the Greater Baton Rouge Zoo for nearly 30 years, died Sunday afternoon at his Zachary home. He was 74. Felton came to Baton Rouge in 1966 from Texarkana, Texas, where he was zoo director. He was hired before the Baton Rouge zoo was constructed and stayed until 1995, when his health forced him to retire.Felton also was a member of the American Association of Zoological Parks

and Aquariums for more than 30 years and served as president from 1985-86.

The Price of Whaling

July 23-27, 2001 www.panda.org

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) is meeting from 23 to 27 July, 2001 in London, and will be taking decisions that will affect the future of whales all over the world. Although there is an indefinite moratorium on whaling in place, Japan and Norway are both still whaling by exploiting loopholes in the IWC rules. Over 1,000 whales a year are being caught without any international controls in place. Japan has now expanded its whaling to include sperm and Bryde's whales as well as minkes, and Norway has announced it is re-opening international trade in whalemeat. Japan and Norway are the only two countries that still have whaling industries and want to continue whaling. However, when the IWC takes binding decisions, for example on declaring new sanctuary areas where all whaling will be permanently forbidden, its rules say there must be at least a three-quarters majority. This means that, out of an active membership of about 36 nations, just 9 votes is enough to block any action. Since 1992 Japan has made no secret of targeting states, mostly small developing nations, to join the IWC and vote with Japan - they call this their "vote consolidation operation". Most of these countries have received development aid from Japan, and the clear link between this aid and their votes in the IWC has been openly acknowledged. By 2000, Japan's aid had persuaded at least eight countries to join the IWC and vote solidly with the whalers.

Fears of livestock disease prompts United States to curb tortoise travel.

24 July 2001 www.nature.com

Some pet tortoises in the United States must now carry passports to cross state lines. The documents certify that they are free of ticks. Finalized last week by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the rule is designed to protect the United States from a deadly livestock disease native to Africa. The new rules do not affect the animals commonly kept as pets, instead applying to three species of African tortoise popular with reptile fanciers: the leopard tortoise (Geochelone pardalis), the African spurred tortoise (Geochelone sulcata) and Bell's hingeback tortoise (Kinixys belliana), all highly prized by tortoise enthusiasts. Importation and movement of the animals has been banned since March 2000, when shipments from Africa were found to be carrying a tick (Amblyomma sp.) that spreads the disease heartwater.

Heartwater, caused by a parasitic microbe (Cowdria ruminantium), kills ruminants - cows, sheep, goats and deer. It makes the membrane surrounding the heart fill with fluid. African livestock, in which heartwater is widespread, have some resistance to the disease. If it broke out in the United States, however, 80 per cent of US cattle could be killed, the USDA estimates. Heartwater has never been seen in the Americas. Most of the United States is probably too cold for the tropical ticks, but some southern states could be warm enough for them to survive.

The examination and subsequent permit to travel will cost $25-50 per tortoise, with a discount for bulk transport. Despite the increased cost and inconvenience, "there wasn't a whole lot of opposition," from the reptile industry, says Fife. Most people who move African tortoises around the country are commercial breeders who have a stable, tick-free tortoise turnover, he says. The import ban will stay in place indefinitely, As well as possibly benefiting business by removing cheap, imported animals from the market, the ban may help tortoises in Africa, where numbers are declining as a result of the pet trade.

Seattle adopts Kyoto limits, scolds Bush

July 24, 2001 www.enn.com

SEATTLE — Seattle officials Monday said the city would meet greenhouse gas reduction targets in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and blasted President Bush for pulling out of the international treaty. "We are sending a message to the federal administration that it is time to act, just like the rest of the world," Mayor Paul Schell told a press conference. Seattle pledged to beat the Kyoto goal to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 7 percent from 1990 levels and try to cut three times that much. Largely through conservation and purchases of wind power, Seattle will meet rising local electricity demand without spewing more greenhouse gases over the next decade and will offset its entire emission load by

planting trees, reducing road traffic and recycling industrial waste and heat. The mitigation would cost city-owned utility Seattle City Light about $3 million a year, a tiny fraction of the half billion-dollar annual budget, officials said, rejecting Bush's assertion that the Kyoto treaty would wreck local economies.

Researchers forecast rapid, irreversible climate warming

July 24, 2001 www.enn.com

There's a nine out of ten chance that global average temperatures will rise between three and nine degrees Fahrenheit over the coming century, with a four to seven degree increase most likely, according to a new probability analysis by scientists in the United States and England. The most likely projected increase is five times greater than the one degree temperature rise observed over the past century.

The study appears in the July 20 issue of the journal "Science." Global climate change is linked to the accumulation in the atmosphere of six gases that trap the Sun's ray's close to the Earth's surface. These gases are emitted by the burning of coal, oil and gas.

International negotiations are currently underway in Bonn, Germany to finalize the rules implementing the Kyoto Protocol, a supplement to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, that would limit the emission of these gases by 38 industrialized nations. The United States signed the Kyoto Protocol under the Clinton administration, but President George W. Bush announced in March that the United States would not ratify the treaty. This move caused a crisis in the international approach to the agreement since the United States emits 25 percent of the world's heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

 

Raper and Wigley, 2 authors of the paper, claim that If greenhouse gases are not limited and global warming does occur, it would be almost impossible to reverse. They write: "The climate's inertia would lead to only a slow response and guarantee that future warming would still be large."

 

Two abused, abandoned dolphins rescued in Guatemala

July 25, 2001 www.enn.com

Working as a rescuer with the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), Richard O'Barry former trainer of television's famous dolphin Flipper, supervised the move of bottlenose dolphins

Ariel and Turbo to Guatemala's Manavique Point last week. He and a rehabilitation team now aim to restore the abused dolphins to the wild ocean, a process expected to take about two months. The dolphins were kept in a filthy makeshift pool on a hillside near Antigua City, Guatemala, as part of a traveling dolphin spectacle known as Mundo Marino, based in Venezuela. They were abandoned by their

trainers earlier this month after questions about permit violations at the facility arose. The WSPA says that the trainers left with most of the water filtration equipment, making rescue difficult and the death of the starving dolphins almost inevitable. The rescued animals are now in a special sea to start a period of rehabilitation before their eventual return to the sea. The rescue itself was organized by WSPA's Latin American team of Gerardo Huertas, Juan Carlos Murillo, and O'Barry.

Another Mountain Gorilla Killed in the Virungas

July 25, 2001 allafrica.com

African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) has received word from International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP) Director Dr.Annette Lanjouw that another endangered mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) has lost its life, caught in the crossfire in the Virungas. During the past two months, there has been an increase in fighting between the military of the rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda with militia groups in eastern DRC. Much of the fighting is taking place in the forested Virunga volcanoes, home of the mountain gorillas. Only 350 gorillas can be found in the Virunga Volcanoes, and these endangered animals are coming under increased threat from the fighting.

Rugendo, the dominant male silverback of one of the groups on the Congolese side of the border, was shot dead during clashes between the military and Interahamwe militia groups on July 15, 2001. The Interahamwe were the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, where up to a million people were killed. The loss of Rugendo is a double tragedy as he was the first gorilla seen in the wild, leading his own family as a young silverback. He had been habituated since 1986 and has, over the years, allowed hundreds of tourists to visit him and approach his family. He had learned to trust people and to accept their presence near his small family. Last week, he found himself too close to the fighting.

The Virunga region is home for one of the two remaining populations of the endangered mountain gorillas; the other population resides in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Together, these groups represent a world population of mountain gorillas of just over 650 individuals. The IGCP, active in Rwanda since 1979 and throughout the Virunga region since 1991, is a joint initiative of the African Wildlife Foundation, Fauna and Flora International and the World Wildlife Fund.

San Diego Bans "Killer Algae" Caulerpa taxifolia

July 25, 2001 www.enn.com

SAN DIEGO —On Monday, July 23, 2001, the City of San Diego unanimously voted to approve an Ordinance that bans the sale, trade, and possession of Caulerpa taxifolia, the so-called "killer algae".

Caulerpa taxifolia is a saltwater aquarium plant native to the Caribbean. It is used in home aquariums, but when released into the ocean or a lagoon the effects are devastating. This is the same seaweed that has blanketed the Mediterranean floor. When introduced to a non-native area, it displaces native algae and has an extremely negative impact on the coastal ecosystem--invertebrates, fish, marine mammals, and sea birds are adversely affected. It has been referred to as "laying astro-turf on the ocean floor".

Last June it invaded Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad (San Diego County) and cost almost a million dollars to eradicate. Although its importation into the United States has banned for several years, until now it was still legal to sell, trade, and possess the algae within each state. San Diego was the first area of the U.S. infested with the destructive seaweed (it has since invaded Huntington Beach as well). A CA State Assembly bill (AB 1334) is currently pending that would also ban the seaweed. For more information see www.projectpacific.org.

Climate change a new threat for the most endangered seal in the world

July 25, 2001 www.enn.com

GLAND, SWITZERLAND — WWF, the conservation organization, today said that global warming poses a new threat to the ringed seals of Lake Saimaa, in Finland, which with only 250 individuals left in the wild, is the most endangered seal species in the world. Saimaa ringed seals normally give birth to their cubs in a den built of snow. The den protects the animals against cold weather and predators. In addition, scientists say that without the den, mothers' suckling ability may be disrupted. In previous years, there used to be plenty of snow at Lake Simaa in February, when cubs are born. However, this year, the weather was much more unpredictable and warmer. There was less snow and, as a result, the seals faced difficulties building their dens. Jari Luukkonen, Conservation Director of WWF Finland, said "We have worked for over 20 years to save this species, and we actually have found ways to tackle many of the problems. But climate change is a new threat, jeopardizing all that we have achieved so far." This is a prime example of why WWF is calling on governments to swiftly ratify the Kyoto Protocol, following Monday's landmark agreement at the Bonn Climate Summit.

The Saimaa ringed seal (Phoca hispida saimensis) is a subspecies of the ringed seal, the most northerly seal species. The other subspecies include the Ladoga seal (Phoca hispida ladogensis), the Baltic ringed seal (Phoca hispida botnica) and the Arctic ringed seal (Phoca hispida hispida). The connection between the lakes of Eastern Finland and the present Baltic Sea was cut off at the end of the last Ice Age some 8'000 years ago. The Saimaa ringed seal has adapted itself well to the environment of Lake Saimaa. The only threats to its survival have been human activities.

Arctic ecosystems trampled and tracked

July 26, 2001 www.enn.com

Bruce Forbes senior scientist in environmental science and policy at the Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, is researching the impacts of tourism on subarctic and alpine tundra and forest tundra in Alaska, Canada, Russia, and Finland. The Arctic, defined as lands poleward of the treeline, has large

populations of wild caribou and domesticated reindeer and provides critical nesting habitat for immense numbers of shore and water birds. Arctic ecosystems are at risk from mining, military activities, heavy reindeer grazing, and even from recreational activities such as camping, hiking, and off-road vehicle use. He found that even an event as insignificant as the single pass of a heavy-tracked vehicle can drain an Arctic meadow. The scientists' findings appear in the August issue of the journal Conservation Biology.

Has Rare Lion of Africa's Cape Eluded Extinction?

July 26, 2001 www.nationalgeographic.com

For 30 years, South African John Spence searched for descendants of the Cape lion, which was thought to be extinct in the region since the 1850s. His search ended a year ago when he received pictures of a magnificent black-maned lion at the Novosibrisk Zoo in Central Siberia. With its jet black mane, wide face, sturdy legs, and large size, the lion—called Simon—looked exactly like a living reproduction of the animals that Spence had seen only in paintings After contacting the zoo in Siberia, Spence arranged to take Simon's cubs, Rustislav and Olga (named after the Novosibrisk Zoo curator and his wife) back with him to Africa. They are the first Cape lion look-alikes to inhabit the Cape shores in a century and a half.

The two lions now live in their own pen in the Tygerberg Zoo. They spend their days sleeping in the sun on their own specially made platform. Spence thinks the warmth of Africa is probably a welcome change for the animals, which were accustomed to Siberian winter temperatures that drop to minus 40 degrees Celsius. The cubs are already much larger than the full-grown lions in other parts of the zoo. They also bear the unmistakable markings of a juvenile Cape lion. "They've got a large number of spots on them, which will obviously fade as they get older, but they were really spotted when we brought them home…and black behind the ears," Spence explained. He hopes to eventually use Rustislav and Olga to replenish the Cape lion stock. He also may build them a larger lion reserve, closer to Table Mountain, where their ancestors once roamed.

 

Victory for pregnant zookeeper who refused to feed the tigers

JULY 26 2001 www.thetimes.co.uk

A ZOOKEEPER who was ordered to feed tigers despite being three months pregnant was awarded £30,000 by an employment tribunal yesterday. Lara Kitson, 23, said that David Gill, owner of the South Lakes Wild Animal Park, Cumbria, told her that if she could no longer do the job, she was no use to him and then suggested that "an intelligent young lady" like her should consider whether to have the baby at all. At the wildlife park, where visitors are encouraged to treat their tour as a "safari", feeding the tigers at 2.30pm is a daily attraction. The raw meat is placed at the top of a 16ft pole forcing the tigers to climb up and retrieve it. Miss Kitson, told the tribunal that she had been happy to climb a ladder to deposit the meat until her pregnancy turned it into an unacceptable risk. Such a manoeuvre put her at risk from a miscarriage if she fell and, her doctor said, put her baby’s life in danger from toxoplasmosis, a disease which can be caught from raw meat or cat droppings. Miss Kitson left the post last July and claimed constructive dismissal. Seven moths ago she had a healthy baby.

 

Yellow-billed cuckoo in trouble in Western US

July 27, 2001 www.planetark.org

DENVER - The yellow-billed cuckoo, a robin-sized songbird, is losing habitat along streams so fast in the Western United States that it should be listed under the Endangered Species Act, but there is not enough money to protect it, a federal agency said this week. "Few breeding populations of the cuckoo are found in the West, and these populations are in decline as a result of destruction of their streamside habitat," said Steve Thompson, acting manager of California/Nevada operations for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Other higher-priority species that have already been listed must be taken care of first with current funds. The yellow-billed cuckoo, which eats caterpillars and sometimes small frogs and breeds in willow and cottonwood forests along rivers and streams, has lost its habitat to agriculture, dams, riverbank protection and overgrazing. The bird is still relatively common east of the Rocky Mountains, but the Western population is considered distinct. The service will review the bird’s status.

UPDATE - Deadly West Nile virus spreading in US - CDC

July 27, 2001 www.planetark.org

ATLANTA - West Nile virus, the mosquito-borne illness that has killed at least eight people since surfacing in the northeastern United States two years ago, is spreading and could soon jump to other parts of the country, federal health experts said yesterday. A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the virus was turning up at levels double those found in bird populations last year. No longer confined to northeastern states, infected birds have recently been found in Georgia and Florida. There is nothing to prohibit the virus from spreading into the Midwest either in birds or mosquitoes, depending on factors such as weather and bird migration patterns. New Jersey and Maryland were the two states with the highest numbers of infected birds in the first half of 2001

 

 

Health Officials Euthanize Tiger Late Pleas, Appeals Continue To End

July 27, 2001 www.channel4000.com

AUSTIN, Minn. -- Despite last-minute pleas and appeals, health officials euthanized the Siberian tiger that bit a girl at a private animal refuge. The 2-year-old tiger reportedly broke through his enclosure Sunday at the private animal refuge south of Rochester and bit into the shoulder of a 7-year-old girl who was at the refuge with her mother taking fund-raising pictures. The 400-pound tiger reportedly let go of the girl on command. She was airlifted to the Mayo Clinic in nearby Rochester and treated for puncture wounds to her shoulder, which reportedly became infected earlier this week. The wounds opened the possibility of rabies and although the girl could be treated for rabies, her parents don't want her to undergo the procedure. According to health officials, the only way to determine if the animal has rabies is with a brain biopsy, which requires destroying the animal. Wednesday, a Mower County judge reluctantly ordered the tiger killed. Ken Kraft, who owns B.E.A.R.C.A.T. Hollow where the attack occurred, handed over the animal to health officials Friday morning.

Zoo holds party for 'pet detectives' One of two marsupials stolen in December may have just given birth

July 28, 2001 www.sfgate.com

The San Francisco Zoo celebrated International Save the Koala Day yesterday by recognizing the 18 San Francisco police officers who helped in the speedy recovery of Pat and daughter Leanne, two koalas who were stolen from the zoo on Dec. 27 and found a day later. The zoo presented the officers with plaques, pins and ties and also declared Police Appreciation Days for today and tomorrow.

While the recovery of the animals has been slow, zoo officials are heartened that Pat shows signs of having given birth two days ago. "It's a good sign. They do not breed unless they're in peak condition, " koala keeper Nancy Rumsey said. Rumsey will conduct a "pouch check" today to confirm that 15-year-old Pat has indeed given birth. If so, it will be the third time for her -- and the first since 1994. Newborn koalas are about the size of a dime and move directly into the pouch after birth.

The animals lost about 10 percent of their weight during the ordeal. Pat, who is a geriatric koala with badly worn teeth, was also apparently physically abused, Rumsey said, and had difficulty walking afterward. She added that the koalas have become extremely shy and are now visibly anxious around large groups of people.

Akron Zoo's aging Sumatran tiger dies

July 28, 2001 www.wkyc.com

(Akron-AP) -- The Akron Zoo's 20-year-old Sumatran tiger has died of kidney failure and a deteriorating spine. The Sumatran tiger, named Bea, was believed to be among the oldest in captivity worldwide. Her death yesterday leaves the U-S with 54 Sumatran tigers in captivity. Worldwide, there are 235 in zoos and about 400 in the wild. Sumatran tigers generally live 18 years to 20 years in captivity. Bea was sent to Akron from the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Zoo three years ago.

Lisa's Nearing Delivery of 200-Pound Calf

July 30, 2001 www.latimes.com

Lisa the elephant is a little cranky, but her zookeepers say that's to be expected. The Oakland Zoo's African elephant, 22 months pregnant, is carrying a 200-pound calf. She's due to deliver it within a month. The zoo's elephant program has been hit with a series of tragedies over the past decade. Smokey, the father of Lisa's calf, died in March of unknown causes. Lisa and another elephant named Donna both lost their babies to a salmonella infection in 1998. Lisa's first baby died 11 months after birth in 1996 after contracting the elephant herpes virus.

Hidden Cameras Capture World of the Rare and Wild

JUL 31, 2001 www.nytimes.com

Starting in the early 1900's, biologists began experimenting with cameras triggered by trip wires and,

later, photoelectric cells to photograph tigers, bats, birds and other wildlife. Over the last 15 years, equipment has become far more sophisticated, rugged and easy to use, allowing biologists to record the passage of particular species at particular times of day and to train local residents to take over day-to-day work, retrieving film and reloading cameras. That gives biologists a new vantage point for studying animals and stretches their resources. It is particularly useful in tropical forests, where dense greenery means scientists hardly ever see their quarry, said Dr. Ronald L. Tilson, the conservation director of the Minnesota Zoo and an expert on tigers. During camera-trap surveys for tigers in southeastern Sumatra several years ago, his team unexpectedly gleaned pictures of the Sumatran rhino, one of the world's rarest mammals. The equipment of choice is a set of infrared sensors and specialized weatherproof cameras sold under the brand name Trailmaster. Scientists now dominate the market for the cameras, which generally cost $400 to $650, said the product's inventor, Bill Goodson, who is based in Lenexa, Kan. The next step, will be figuring out how to use cameras that can store long sequences of still or video images digitally and can transmit the data. That would eliminate the need for researchers to hike into the forest frequently to change film.

In Myanmar, formerly Burma, biologists and trained local workers are conducting the first survey of

wildlife in some of the world's most remote forests as part of a government effort to decide where to

place new preserves and parks. The hazards there range from rebels to one of the most drug-resistant strains of malaria on earth, said Dr. Anthony J. Lynam, a biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, a private group based at the Bronx Zoo. And in tiger studies in India and Indonesia, the cameras are allowing scientists to track not just general population shifts but also the movements of individuals, identified through patterns of stripes on their faces. Camera traps are increasingly being used as a statistical sampling tool, with several dozen devices set out in a grid around a large preserve. Over time, scientists can develop a clear picture of the movements of predators and prey.

Dyke collapses on Flood Workers in Poland

July 31, 2001 www.cnn.com

About 25 people have been killed by weeks of floods and violent storms in Poland this month, including 12 since the situation worsened last week. Thousands have also been forced from their homes. The situation in Kamien last night was very serious -- it was one of the most dangerous in recorded history

There had been fears that Warsaw zoo might have to be evacuated but zoo director Maciej Rembyszewski said its animals -- including a cheetah with five newborn cubs -- were safe.

 

For Female Lions, Democracy Rules

JUL 31, 2001 www.nytimes.com

Dr. Craig Packer, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Minnesota has just published the results of a 36-year study of about 560 female lions in Tanzania in the journal "Science". It shows that female African lions who hunt together and kill together also appear to take a noncompetitive approach to mating and taking care of cubs. None of the females reproduced much more or less than the others. In some years, only one or two females managed to raise a litter of cubs but over time, all the females had the opportunity to breed. They do not establish a hierarchy that lets some breed more than others. This egalitarianism is highly unusual in animals that live in social groups. It contrasts greatly with the mating behavior of other mammalian predators — and with the behavior of male lions. A dominant lion usually sires most of the offspring, a finding that has been confirmed by researchers using DNA testing.

Because the members of all other species of cat — including the tiger, the lion’s closest relative, live alone, researchers had no feline comparison for social behavior. With other social carnivorous mammals such as wild dogs, wolves, mongooses and meerkats, a dominant reproductive female is attended by subordinates. In hyena clans, many females breed, but the top female is the most prolific. A hierarchy of reproductive success has been observed even in female chimpanzees. The researchers said female lions, which also hunt together, avoid another behavior practiced by females of some other species: they do not kill the offspring of other females. Female lions leave the pride to give birth, returning after the cubs are several weeks old. All pride members then join together to raise and defend the young.

Fund eases clash over elephants

07/30/2001 www.chinadaily.net

New efforts have been made by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), in conjunction with local governments and residents, to protect the wild Asian elephants in Simao Region, Southwest China's Yunnan Province. In 1996, five wild elephants began to settle down in the mountainous regions of Simao. However, since then, serious conflicts between elephants and villagers have occurred. The elephants are believed to be from the Xishuangbanna tropical rain forestry regions, only 70 km away from Simao, where most of China's wild elephants - less than 300 - are living now. These mammals, protected by the State, have killed and injured villagers, as well as eaten and destroyed crops, such as rice and fruits planted by poverty-stricken farmers in this mountainous area of 35 square km. Official statistics show the annual loss caused by the elephants has reached 3 million yuan (US$361,000). The death-toll by the elephants has reached five, and they have injured more than 10 people who did not keep a safe distance when trying to get them off their farmland. Due to this heightening conflict, IFAW has become involved. More than 142,000 yuan (US$ 17,000) will be donated by the Fund this month to the Asian Elephant Project, launched by the Fund in July 2000. The money has become a loan foundation, operated by beneficiary groups made up of the villagers who could loan money from the foundation to help themselves develop economy. Although the destruction by the elephants continues, farmers' tolerance and environmental awareness in the pilot sites have been greatly enhanced through the smooth operation of the project. Zhang Li, programme official of the Fund said more effective work, such as establishing a natural reserve for elephants in the region, should also be done.

 

Singapore zoo ponders elephant's fate

July 31, 2001 www.enn.com

SINGAPORE — The fate of a 24-year-old adult bull elephant hangs in the balance in Singapore as zoo officials decide what action to take after the animal gored its trainer of 18 years last week. The elephant, Chawang, was out on his daily evening walk around the Night Safari park last Friday when he suddenly turned and grabbed one of three handlers, Gopal Krishnan, with his trunk. When Krishnan fell to the ground, the four-tonne elephant thrust his tusk into the man's chest, puncturing a lung and breaking a few ribs. Krishnan, 45, who had been his keeper and trainer for eighteen years was pulled to safety. The elephant’s fate has not yet been decided.

National Park Service Plan Offers New Direction

August 01, 2001 www.enn.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. — "Rethinking the National Parks for the 21st Century," a report released today by the National Park System Advisory Board, sets far-reaching management goals for the Park Service

intended to yield greater protection for wildlife and historic sites and better services for park visitors. A recent opinion poll indicates public support for the new goals and provides strong encouragement for the Bush Administration to further refine and improve its important national parks agenda. 76 percent of Americans believe protecting plants, animals, and historical artifacts is of highest priority. Thomas Kiernan, NPCA president says the report calls for the creation of protected corridors between parks in order to keep wildlife populations from becoming isolated, stronger protection of marine resources, such as the coral reefs, and for heightened protection of biological diversity within parks. Press releases can

be found on NPCA's Web site at www.eparks.org/media_center.

Suit seeks Sierra protection for spotted owl

August 01, 2001 www.enn.com

SAN FRANCISCO — Opening another front in the bitter battle over western timberlands, a coalition of environmental groups filed suit Tuesday, charging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with failing to

protect the spotted owl in California's Sierra Mountains. The suitseeks to force federal officials to determine whether the spotted owl and the Pacific fisher, a weasel, should be listed under the Endangered Species Act — a move that could sharply reduce logging on millions of acres in the Sierra

Nevada. "Populations of both the California spotted owl and the Pacific fisher are declining and face a serious risk of extinction," Noah Greenwald, a conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity, said "Old growth forests in the Sierra Nevada have been reduced by 60 to 85 percent as a result of logging on Forest Service and private timberlands. Species like the California spotted owl and fisher, which depend on intact, old-growth ecosystems, are at great risk." The California spotted owl is closely related to the northern spotted owl, the endangered species at the center of more than a decade of struggle between environmentalists and timber interests in the Pacific Northwest.

Big Brother is watching You can't fool zoo keepers when it comes to aping the apes

August 1, 2001 www.uniontrib.com

 

It's a zoo keeper's worst nightmare: The roles are inexplicably reversed, and the inmates -- or in this case, the primates -- are running the asylum. Could it really happen? To find out, we asked three primate keepers at the San Diego Zoo to attend a preview screening of "Planet of the Apes" (which opened Friday, grossing nearly $70 million over the weekend). "Apes" is a remake of the 1968 science-fiction flick and stars Mark Wahlberg as the pilot who crashes onto a planet where monkey business is the order of the day.

The makeup is definitely simian, the costumes -- chimp, gorilla and orangutan -- are suitably shaggy, and the actors even went to "ape school" for enlightenment on "every primate activity -- walking, weapons handling, even eating," attests the 20th Century Fox PR package. To three zoo keepers who are with apes every working day, what jarred, they said, were the little things on screen that missed the mark. Also disturbing were the implausible plot devices essential to making the plot plausible -- talking apes, an army of apes armed with what look like spears, and apes able to leap tall buildings at a single bound. "We'd have to redesign our enclosures at the zoo if orangs and gorillas could jump that well," the San Diego Zoo's Fernando Covarrubias said of the celluloid apes, whose Olympic-caliber superleaps defied both the law of gravity and what apes can actually accomplish when they have to go somewhere in a hurry.

The actors, or at least their coaches, keeper Sue Averill noted, "obviously spent some time watching apes," and while they got some things right, especially the animals' upper-body motion, all that leaping was noticeably, and decidedly, make-believe. "Those spring-loaded apes just don't compute," she said. Keeper Sara Canchola agreed that "Apes' " apes have more resilience than real apes. "The things that are not quite true are glaring," she said. As for talking apes, well, fuhgeddaboutit. Real apes scream, pound their chests and even use a rudimentary form of sign language to communicate with each other. But memorize a script, and then recite the lines in English? Anatomically impossible, the three said.

But if you can buy into apes that talk, why not apes with spears? "Apes throw underhand, and to throw a spear you have to throw overhand," Covarrubias noted. In the film apes' favor, however, are those firebombs they pitch in true softball fashion; the way they jump up and down and pound their enemies; and the way they avoid taking a dip at all costs. "Apes are afraid of water," Averill said. The "Apes" apes click in other ways, too, the zoo keepers thought. "I really liked the general (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, as the faithful gorilla Krull) -- his movement when he walked, his full, dominant, aggressive body

language," Canchola said. And speaking of the film's gorillas, "They are men in costume, but they got as

close (to the real thing) as they could, They not only walked the walk, but "did a good job swinging back and forth." The orangutan makeup drew praise, but some of the humans in chimpface didn't quite make it. "Too pink. They were infants' faces," Averill said of the she-chimps.

Canchola thought the chief he-chimp was out of character. "There's no way an excitable chimp is going to order a bunch of gorillas around," he said. But while the chimps may not be at the top of the primate pecking order in the jungle, they sometimes have a leg up on the humans at the zoo, keepers and visitors included, Covarrubias noted. Like the little female bonobo, or pygmy chimp, who two weeks ago

requested, with perfectly understandable -- at least to the keepers watching her performance -- hand gestures, that a visitor toss his bag of Chee-tos over the wall and into the enclosure. He didn't have a clue as to what she was "talking" about, he said. The gorillas, presumably, would have passed the Chee-tos. At least on the planet of the apes. And speaking of chimps having a leg up, how well did mounted chimps sit with the keepers?

"If a chimp were to mount a horse, they did a good job. They didn't jump on, like Zorro," Canchola said. "But if you're going to believe a spaceship going through a time warp, I guess you can't start picking on things."

Gamestock 2001: Zoo Tycoon

gamespot.com

Following the success of management games like Hasbro's Roller Coaster Tycoon, Microsoft is touting its upcoming zoo management strategy game, Zoo Tycoon. Players assume the role of a zoo manager, and they must oversee all aspects of the animal park, including construction of new habitats and the maintenance of a wide variety of creatures. The goal of the game is to build the ultimate zoo. The game features more than 100 types of animals, habitats, and building materials. Tycoon is primarily intended to be played in an open-ended manner, and it doesn't lock the player into tightly scripted scenarios. A player builds habitats by selecting different types of enclosures such as metal fences, placing different animals in the enclosures, and choosing the most suitable terrain and flora types for your species.

Zoo Tycoon's graphics are colorful, and the game looks quite good overall. The animals have convincing animations, and the visitors can have humorous animations, especially when escaping animals scare them. Zoo Tycoon is scheduled for release this fall.

Zoo Gears Up For Re-Evaluation

7/11/01 www.kark.com

The status of the Little Rock Zoo depends heavily on what three inspectors got out of a two-day visit. "We look at everything from guest services, animal care is probably most important, exhibitry, what kind of impression the public has when they come here." In 1998, the Little Rock Zoo lost it's national accreditation. The three inspectors will make their recommendation to a twelve-member accreditation commission, which will decide the zoo's status in September.

Alien versus predator

July 12, 2001 Nature p 116

The annual cost to ecosystems by invasive species in the U.S. has been estimated at $137 billion.

Dealing with the problem exotics by importing more exotics to feed on them has had mixed results. About one-third of species introduced to control exotic weeds have been judged a success. There have also been some incredible disasters. The key to safety in biological control is target specificity. The best targets are those that have no close relatives in the area they have invaded, and the best control agents are those that eat one thing only.

 

Aquarium rises from depths of UnderWater World

July 12, 2001 www.sfgate.com

The aquarium formerly known as UnderWater World becomes Aquarium of the Bay at Pier 39 this week.. Nearly $2 million has gone into the ailing attraction. The new focus is San Francisco Bay. They hope to attract as many as 4,000 visitors on peak days, up from the trickle of less than 1,000 that visited UnderWater World. UnderWater World opened in 1996 at a cost of $38 million. Almost from the beginning the place suffered poor visitor turnout and complaints that its signature 360-foot-long see-through acrylic tunnel affording views of fish was a bore. It took only 20 minutes to see just about everything the aquarium had to offer, and this after a steep $12.95 adult admission price. The original aquarium had 100 species and about 3,000 fish, including anchovies, said general manager John Frawley. Aquarium of the Bay has 273 species and more than 60,000 fish, counting the Muni-bus-size silver school of anchovies. In every part of the aquarium, there are now interpretive naturalists mingling with visitors, greeting folks and answering questions. Attractions include: A Discover the Bay section providing an overview of the size and scope of the bay, and introducing major species as far out to sea as the Farallon Islands. Under the Bay is the next component. Visitors amble through the acrylic tunnel giving a submarine view of bay life. Touch the Bay deals with the coastal waters. There are pools where visitors can touch live bat rays, leopard sharks and other species. Save the Bay, a guide to

a guide to environmental organizations and projects, and the inevitable gift shop.

Zoo baby beats the odds / Mom has had surgeries for abdominal ills

July 13, 2001

Lindsey, a 2-week-old bonobo, born June 27, is the first bonobo born in Cincinnati since 1995. She was born to 20-year-old Lisa, who had two major abdominal surgeries in 1996. Because of scar tissue, veterinarians and zookeepers weren't certain Lisa could carry a pregnancy to a full nine-month term.

Lisa had given birth twice before at the zoo prior to becoming ill in 1995. Veterinarians and surgeons from Children's Hospital Medical Center performed an exploratory laparotomy — a surgical procedure that examined her abdomen. She was diagnosed with bilateral tubo-ovarian abscesses, which affected both the ovaries and oviducts. Two weeks later she was diagnosed with peritonitis, an infection of the abdomen that required further surgery. Veterinarians considered performing a hysterectomy, which would have removed Lisa's ovaries and uterus and left her sterile. But they decided against it, in part, because of how valuable Lisa is as a breeder for an endangered species. "If you only have 100 in the in captivity (10,000 in the wild), one is very important," Dr. Mark Campbell, head veterinarian, said.

The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens captive breeding program is regarded as one of the nation’s most successful. The tradition dates back to 1878 when Cincinnati was the site of the first California sea lion born in captivity. Other successes include the U.S. record for lowland gorilla births (47), second only to London’s Howlett’s zoo with 53. The U.S. record for black rhino births (18). The first elephant conceived and born in Ohio in 1998. First zoo in 112 years to successfully breed a sumatran rhino. Emi the rhino is due this fall. Four white lions of Timbavati born April 1, 2001 (29 left in the world). First test-tube gorilla born 1995. First sand cat born in captivity, 1963. First caracal born in the western hemisphere, 1963. First crowned guenon born in captivity, 1964.

Cincinnati has one of the largest bonobo exhibits in the country, along with zoos in Columbus, Milwaukee and San Diego, Dr. Campbell said.

 

Cloning May Be Key in Animal Copies

July 13, 2001 www.ap.org

The birth of the sheep Dolly in Scotland in 1996 - the first mammal cloned from an adult - was a landmark, turning the stuff of science fiction into a four-legged reality. Dolly offered a new way of reproducing and genetically modifying animals, a technology some say could ultimately save thousands of lives and generate billions of dollars. Critics, however, say cloning is fraught with too many unknowns and possible hazards. A recent study in the journal "Science" reported that scientists doing cloning experiments found that even apparently normal animals develop disorders later in life.Those reservations haven't stopped research.

Scientists already are cloning elite cows and bulls - those that produce the most milk or most tender beef.They're copying pigs for organ and tissue transplants and goats, cows and sheep to genetically alter to carry drugs or vaccines in their milk.They're duplicating disease-resistant farm animals. And coming soon, they predict - cats and dogs. Chuck Long, general manager of Genetic Savings & Clone, a Texas-based biotechnology company has clients worldwide who have banked cells in hopes of copying

their animals.

Pigs, cattle, goats, sheep and mice already have been cloned. And a team of scientists at Texas A&M University is working on``Missyplicity,'' a $3.7 million project to copy a 14-year-old dog, financed by the pooch's wealthy owners. Cloning also is being used to make transgenic animals - those altered with extra genetic material to enhance a trait - to serve as drug ``factories,'' producing human proteins in their milk to fight diseases such as diabetes and hepatitis. The industry, dubbed ``pharming,'' is expected to be lucrative. Take Factor VIII, for instance, a blood-clotting protein used to treat hemophilia.

Infigen Inc., a biotechnology firm has cloned Mandy, a champion cow. The unborn clone (due this September) recently fetched $82,000 at the auction. The Minnesota Zoo’s Gene, a cloned bull, holds court with cloned heifers, Carbon and Copy, all produced by Infigen. But while a clone is a genetic duplicate - making it very likely that a copy of a great milk-producing cow, for example, will be one, too - there's no guarantee. How that animal is raised plays a critical role.

Proponents say cloning could someday be an enormous benefit to everyone from farmers to people with genetic diseases.``This technology is really an incredibly powerful tool for good,'' says Kevin Wells, a former U.S. Agriculture Department scientist who worked on animal cloning for the agency.

But opponents argue cloning is a way of playing God, that it allows scientists to produce animals they know could be abnormal and poses the danger of shrinking the genetic pool.The recent study in the journal Science found that genes used in cloning often don't work properly, causing abnormalities in

mice - a finding that bolsters the argument against human cloning. Also, most cloned embryos die early during gestation. Those that survive frequently have health problems such as enlarged hearts, underdeveloped lungs or immune deficiencies. Some animals have been obese.

``All of those great promises about saving mankind - first of all, I don't believe it and I don't believe it's right,'' said Kathy Guillermo of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. ``We oppose using animals as test tubes with tails.'' Mass copying animals also could make breeds more vulnerable to disease, which could then wipe out an entire population, says Jane Rissler, a biotechnology expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

For now, cloning is very inefficient. Some scientists say the kinks will eventually be ironed out, but it took 277 attempts before Dolly was produced. It took 95 for Millie, a heifer at the University of Tennessee that died in June of a bacterial infection. ``If a drug for headaches worked only 2 percent of the time, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) wouldn't approve it,'' says Wells, now at PPL Therapeutics, which financed the production of Dolly. Low success means high costs: about $25,000 to $50,000 to clone an animal, and up to $150,000 if there are genetic modifications, Wells says.``The procedures are way too expensive and way too unreliable as a standard breeding tool,'' says George Seidel, a professor of physiology at Colorado State University who believes cloning is being oversold.

Bishop, Infigen's president, predicts that within five years, farmers will be thumbing through catalogs displaying elite animals whose embryos are for sale. Some researchers say cloning could save farmers billions of dollars if disease-resistant animals are copied - which could eliminate the need for antibiotics.

Texas A&M has produced ``Bull 86 Squared'' from the cells of his long-deceased Angus donor, ``Bull 86,'' who was naturally resistant to brucellosis, tuberculosis and salmonellosis, all serious diseases.

How soon cloning becomes commercial depends partly on the federal government. Biotech companies have been asked to keep cloned livestock out of the food chain until the National Academy of Sciences finishes a study of the safety of the technology.The FDA will use those results - due next year - to decide whether cloned animals will require government approval before

they are sold for food in the United States.

Larry Coleman, a Montana rancher, had Infigen clone First Down, his prize-winning bull that consistently ranked at the top of the Limousin breed. Without First Down, Coleman says, ``we feel we could not have survived the last five years in the cattle industry.'' When an accident in 1996 left the bull unable to produce any more semen, cloning seemed a way to carry on his legacy. Two black copies at Infigen's farm hold enormous financial promise - semen that could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Smithsonian Plans Science Commission

July 16, 2001 www.ap.org

WASHINGTON (AP) - Seeking to recover a reputation battered by proposals to cut back research programs, the Smithsonian Institution announced the members of a new 18-member commission to review its science efforts and recommend directions for the future.``The mandate is completely broad, any aspect of Smithsonian science is fair game for the commission,'' said commission Chairman Jeremy A. Sabloff of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.In addition to its museums and the National Zoo, the Smithsonian also operates several research centers including:

-Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Edgewater, Md.

-Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama.

-National Zoo Conservation and Research Center, Front Royal, Va.

-Smithsonian Astrophysical Laboratory, Cambridge, Mass.

-Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education, Suitland, Md.

-Smithsonian Marine Station, Fort Pierce, Fla.

 

Mexican police rescued an endangered Siberian tiger cub from the trunk of a car

July 18, 2001 www.cnn.com

Mexico City - As federal police questioned the driver, they heard a growl from the trunk and, on opening it, found the 13 to 15 pound (6-7 kg) tiger cub inside a plastic carrying case. Mexico's security ministry said the discovery was made on Sunday on a highway in the central state of San Luis Potosi. The speeding car had U.S. license plates and the suspect was identified as Eduardo del Refugio. He showed police a certificate from an animal nursery in the State of Mexico as his license for transporting the tiger. But police believed the document had been altered and called in Mexico's environmental protection watchdog agency which confirmed the document was bogus. The tiger cub is being cared for in an animal shelter. Del Refugio has been detained and could face between six months and six years in prison for allegedly trafficking endangered species, the security ministry said. The Siberian tiger is under threat from poachers and only about 200 remain in the wild. As an endangered species, there are strict international bans on smuggling and trading tigers.

Condor Program Continues After Setback

July 18, 2001 ABCNEWS.com

When an endangered California condor was born in the wild this summer, for the first time in 17 years, it was cause for much celebration. But then scientists found the chick dead on a cliff only days after it hatched, apparently from an attack by an adult condor who may have thought the baby bird was an intruder. Even though the chick lived only a few days, scientists say the event was a milestone in the effort to save the rare bird. The birth had followed a delicate egg swap, replacing an egg laid in the wild with a fake egg, and then again with an egg bred in captivity that was ready to hatch."The entire California condor program is a series of successes and levels that we're trying to obtain," says Wallace. "And the one that we've been waiting for of course, is to have a chick hatched in the wild."

An unusual social display by gorillas

July 19, 2001 Nature p 294 (Parnell / Wildlife Conservation Society and Buchanan-Smith)

124 western lowland gorillas were observed over 32 months at the 12.9 hectare ‘Mbeli Bai." in open, swampy clearings (bais) in the forest. Gorillas were visible for 27% of the time. 90 splash displays, representing 57 independent bouts of social interaction were produced by 19 individuals. 10 display styles were seen (3 were used in 75% of all displays). 67% were produced in an agonistic context, 17.5% were made in play and 5% were directed toward other species. In 10.5 % context was not evident. Silverbacks displayed most frequently (68% and almost exclusively in an agonisitic context.

The only other record of splash display comes from western lowland gorillas at Maya Bai, 180 km from Mbeli (F.Magliocca, personal communication). Manipulating water for communication has not been described in any other wild primate species and with the possible exception of elephants may be unique among terrestrial mammals.

Wolves Stop at Zoo on Way to Wilderness

July 19, 2001 www.washingtonpost.com

The National Zoo has made a home for three Mexican gray wolves, part of an animal conservation effort by the United States and Mexico to reintroduce the highly endangered wolf subspecies into the wild.

The wolves, which have distinctive howls and quick movements, "are amazing animals," said Marshall Jones, acting director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a participant in a species survival plan for wolves started in 1993 by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.

The three male wolves, Cheveya, Lakota and Tika, will stay in their enclosure until they can be released into a wilderness area in Arizona, New Mexico or central Mexico. The Mexican gray wolf is the rarest and most genetically distinct subspecies of wolf in North America. Human encroachment and habitat destruction have contributed to the animal's near extinction, and until the reintroduction began in 1998, the wolf had not been seen in the wild in the United States since 1970 and Mexico since 1980.There are about 200 Mexican gray wolves living today, and nearly all of them were born and raised in captivity. The species survival plan is trying to increase the captive population to 240 wolves in zoos and breeding facilities. The National Zoo, one of 42 institutions participating in the recovery effort, is holding the wolves for "pre-release conditioning." These particular wolves, which come from the Wild Canid Survival and Research Center in Eureka, Mo., may be released soon into the wild, but the zoo hopes eventually to have a breeding pair that would stay longer. The approximately 35 wolves reintroduced into a mountainous wilderness area on the Arizona-New Mexico border have radio collars to track their whereabouts. Recovery program officials would like to reestablish a wild population of at least 100.

The National Zoo is also participating in recovery efforts for the black-footed ferret and two bird species from Guam, the Guam rail and the Micronesian kingfisher.

Green anaconda gives birth at Pittsburgh Zoo

07/20/2001 www.triblive.com

22 anacondas - a large semiaquatic snake generally found in tropical South America - were born Thursday at the Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium in Highland Park. It is the first time in at least two years that anacondas have been born in captivity anywhere in North America, said Jen Roupe, director of public and media relations at the zoo, citing records from the American Aquarium and Zoo Association. And it is the first time in more than 10 years that the mighty reptiles have been born at the Pittsburgh Zoo. In the wild there have been reports of anacondas having around 100 babies at a time but this is normal for an anaconda in captivity, she said. Most species of snakes lay eggs that are hatched, but a few - such as the anaconda and other members of the boa family, as well as rattlesnakes - have live offspring. Although anacondas, one of the largest snakes in the world, can grow to a length of 30 feet, the new mother is about 13 feet long. The average anaconda is about 15 feet long. The mother began bearing her young about 3 p.m., zoo officials said.

Orca’s Little Killer Expected Any Time

July 21, 2001 www.uniontrib.com

Kasatka is the first marine mammal in history to become pregnant by artificial insemination. The breakthrough will allow SeaWorld to improve the genetic diversity of its captive killer whale population, and insemination can perhaps be used to help endangered marine mammals, Reidarson said. Kasatka was inseminated about 17 months ago using the sperm of a cetacean from SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla., by Dr. Todd Robeck with Reidarson assisting. Robeck also was involved in the artificial insemination of two bottlenose dolphins at the Ocean Park aquarium in Hong Kong. Although the dolphins became pregnant after the San Diego killer whale, they've already given birth because their gestation period is shorter. SeaWorld has no plans to impregnate another killer whale, Reidarson said. "We're at a capacity where we feel comfortable here with 10 killer whales," he said, counting Kasatka's baby as the 10th. Trainers are taking the whale's temperature twice a day because a drop in temperature often signals the onset of labor. To ensure that mother and child have enough bonding time, SeaWorld has imposed a media blackout on the birth, which will be witnessed only by SeaWorld personnel.

Theme Parks Find Long Distance Dollars Dwindle in U.S. Slowdown

July 21, 2001 www.uniontrib.com

With the economic slowdown forcing families across the nation to shelve vacation plans, theme parks and attractions are relying more on local visitors. Enticements include steep discounts. Legoland, for example, cut adult ticket prices from $39 to $25 for Southern California residents. Last year, Legoland offered the same discount beginning in July. This year, the program kicked off in May. Other theme parks -- most notably Disney's new $1.4 billion California Adventure -- also slashed prices in hopes of getting local dollars to replace the millions they're not getting from long-distance tourists.

But industrywide, the thrill is gone for some theme park operators. During the most recent quarter, ended June 30, the weakening economy caused a 7 percent to 8 percent decrease in attendance at Walt Disney World's four theme parks in Orlando, Fla., and a 5 percent to 6 percent decrease in attendance at Disneyland in Anaheim, according to Merrill Lynch analysts. Ohio-based Cedar Fair, which owns six regional amusement parks, including Knott's Berry Farm in Los Angeles and Knott's Soak City U.S.A. in Chula Vista, has seen a 4 percent drop in attendance, excluding results from two newly acquired parks.

SeaWorld rolled out an aggressive discount program early this year -- and it paid off, spokesman Bob Tucker said. From January through April, people who bought an adult admission ticket got a Fun Card, which allows unlimited free return visits for the rest of the year. SeaWorld is on track to set a record with 4 million visitors this year -- although that may be hard to sustain next year. The San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park have not offered special discounts. Attendance is steady as against last year, said Christina Simmons, public relations manager.

The most surprising discount occurred at Disney's California Adventure, which has struggled to meet its attendance targets of 7 million people in its first year, or about 19,000 a day. Though Disney executives told analysts they would never discount, the company last month reduced adult ticket prices from $43 to $33 for Southern California residents and allows one child in free with each adult ticket. The offer expires in September. "I've heard there has been some improvement in attendance as a result of the discount, and also as a result of the Main Street Electrical Parade," said analyst David Miller of Sutro & Co. in Los Angeles. Disney revived the popular show at California Adventure recently. Disney also plans to open a "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" attraction this fall.

Miller added that California Adventure may not have been priced right, given the economic slowdown. At $43, it cost the same as Disneyland, he said, yet it's one-third the size and has less than half the number of rides. For theme parks, luring locals makes sense, analysts say. Theme park-goers spend nearly as much on meals and souvenirs inside the park as they do on admission. "It's all about volume," said SeaWorld's Tucker. "The more people you get through the turnstiles, the greater the opportunity for in-

park revenue."

China Plans to Return South China Tigers to Nature

July 21, 2001 english.peopledaily.com.cn

The South China tiger, also named Chinese tiger or Xiamen tiger, remains on the top of the list of 10 most endangered species in the world. China has launched a 146 million yuan (about 1.8 million U.S. dollar) project to protect the tiger from becoming extinct. Qiu Yunxing, director of the Meihuashan Nature Reserve Administration, said a 460 hectare park in east China's Fujian Province will completed by 2005 for the rare animal to get used to life in the wild. With virgin forests, man-made lakes containing spring water, meadows and other vegetation, the park borders the 20,000 hectare subtropical Meihuashan Nature Reserve in Longyan City of Fujian.

By June, 2000, there were only 62 South China tigers living in captivity in China. The population of wild South China tigers totaled about 4,000 in China half a century ago, but it dwindled to 200 to 250 in the early 1980s. Experts at home and abroad said the South China tiger may become extinct in China after 2010 due to low fertility and inbreeding. A breeding research center has been set up on a farm near Gutian township in Longyan with six South China tigers introduced from other parts the country. It is hoped that offspring can be acclimated to life in the wild. In a national program on wildlife protection issued last year, the State Forestry Administration encourages provincial authorities in southern China, including Fujian, Guangxi and Jiangxi, to try to increase the South China tiger population in the wild and in captivity.

 

Former BR zoo director George Felton dies at 74

7/23/01 www.theadvocate.com

George Felton, director of the Greater Baton Rouge Zoo for nearly 30 years, died Sunday afternoon at his Zachary home. He was 74. Felton came to Baton Rouge in 1966 from Texarkana, Texas, where he was zoo director. He was hired before the Baton Rouge zoo was constructed and stayed until 1995, when his health forced him to retire.Felton also was a member of the American Association of Zoological Parks

and Aquariums for more than 30 years and served as president from 1985-86.

The Price of Whaling

July 23-27, 2001 www.panda.org

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) is meeting from 23 to 27 July, 2001 in London, and will be taking decisions that will affect the future of whales all over the world. Although there is an indefinite moratorium on whaling in place, Japan and Norway are both still whaling by exploiting loopholes in the IWC rules. Over 1,000 whales a year are being caught without any international controls in place. Japan has now expanded its whaling to include sperm and Bryde's whales as well as minkes, and Norway has announced it is re-opening international trade in whalemeat. Japan and Norway are the only two countries that still have whaling industries and want to continue whaling. However, when the IWC takes binding decisions, for example on declaring new sanctuary areas where all whaling will be permanently forbidden, its rules say there must be at least a three-quarters majority. This means that, out of an active membership of about 36 nations, just 9 votes is enough to block any action. Since 1992 Japan has made no secret of targeting states, mostly small developing nations, to join the IWC and vote with Japan - they call this their "vote consolidation operation". Most of these countries have received development aid from Japan, and the clear link between this aid and their votes in the IWC has been openly acknowledged. By 2000, Japan's aid had persuaded at least eight countries to join the IWC and vote solidly with the whalers.

Fears of livestock disease prompts United States to curb tortoise travel.

24 July 2001 www.nature.com

Some pet tortoises in the United States must now carry passports to cross state lines. The documents certify that they are free of ticks. Finalized last week by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the rule is designed to protect the United States from a deadly livestock disease native to Africa. The new rules do not affect the animals commonly kept as pets, instead applying to three species of African tortoise popular with reptile fanciers: the leopard tortoise (Geochelone pardalis), the African spurred tortoise (Geochelone sulcata) and Bell's hingeback tortoise (Kinixys belliana), all highly prized by tortoise enthusiasts. Importation and movement of the animals has been banned since March 2000, when shipments from Africa were found to be carrying a tick (Amblyomma sp.) that spreads the disease heartwater.

Heartwater, caused by a parasitic microbe (Cowdria ruminantium), kills ruminants - cows, sheep, goats and deer. It makes the membrane surrounding the heart fill with fluid. African livestock, in which heartwater is widespread, have some resistance to the disease. If it broke out in the United States, however, 80 per cent of US cattle could be killed, the USDA estimates. Heartwater has never been seen in the Americas. Most of the United States is probably too cold for the tropical ticks, but some southern states could be warm enough for them to survive.

The examination and subsequent permit to travel will cost $25-50 per tortoise, with a discount for bulk transport. Despite the increased cost and inconvenience, "there wasn't a whole lot of opposition," from the reptile industry, says Fife. Most people who move African tortoises around the country are commercial breeders who have a stable, tick-free tortoise turnover, he says. The import ban will stay in place indefinitely, As well as possibly benefiting business by removing cheap, imported animals from the market, the ban may help tortoises in Africa, where numbers are declining as a result of the pet trade.

Seattle adopts Kyoto limits, scolds Bush

July 24, 2001 www.enn.com

SEATTLE — Seattle officials Monday said the city would meet greenhouse gas reduction targets in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and blasted President Bush for pulling out of the international treaty. "We are sending a message to the federal administration that it is time to act, just like the rest of the world," Mayor Paul Schell told a press conference. Seattle pledged to beat the Kyoto goal to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 7 percent from 1990 levels and try to cut three times that much. Largely through conservation and purchases of wind power, Seattle will meet rising local electricity demand without spewing more greenhouse gases over the next decade and will offset its entire emission load by

planting trees, reducing road traffic and recycling industrial waste and heat. The mitigation would cost city-owned utility Seattle City Light about $3 million a year, a tiny fraction of the half billion-dollar annual budget, officials said, rejecting Bush's assertion that the Kyoto treaty would wreck local economies.

Researchers forecast rapid, irreversible climate warming

July 24, 2001 www.enn.com

There's a nine out of ten chance that global average temperatures will rise between three and nine degrees Fahrenheit over the coming century, with a four to seven degree increase most likely, according to a new probability analysis by scientists in the United States and England. The most likely projected increase is five times greater than the one degree temperature rise observed over the past century.

The study appears in the July 20 issue of the journal "Science." Global climate change is linked to the accumulation in the atmosphere of six gases that trap the Sun's ray's close to the Earth's surface. These gases are emitted by the burning of coal, oil and gas.

International negotiations are currently underway in Bonn, Germany to finalize the rules implementing the Kyoto Protocol, a supplement to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, that would limit the emission of these gases by 38 industrialized nations. The United States signed the Kyoto Protocol under the Clinton administration, but President George W. Bush announced in March that the United States would not ratify the treaty. This move caused a crisis in the international approach to the agreement since the United States emits 25 percent of the world's heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

 

Raper and Wigley, 2 authors of the paper, claim that If greenhouse gases are not limited and global warming does occur, it would be almost impossible to reverse. They write: "The climate's inertia would lead to only a slow response and guarantee that future warming would still be large."

 

Two abused, abandoned dolphins rescued in Guatemala

July 25, 2001 www.enn.com

Working as a rescuer with the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), Richard O'Barry former trainer of television's famous dolphin Flipper, supervised the move of bottlenose dolphins

Ariel and Turbo to Guatemala's Manavique Point last week. He and a rehabilitation team now aim to restore the abused dolphins to the wild ocean, a process expected to take about two months. The dolphins were kept in a filthy makeshift pool on a hillside near Antigua City, Guatemala, as part of a traveling dolphin spectacle known as Mundo Marino, based in Venezuela. They were abandoned by their

trainers earlier this month after questions about permit violations at the facility arose. The WSPA says that the trainers left with most of the water filtration equipment, making rescue difficult and the death of the starving dolphins almost inevitable. The rescued animals are now in a special sea to start a period of rehabilitation before their eventual return to the sea. The rescue itself was organized by WSPA's Latin American team of Gerardo Huertas, Juan Carlos Murillo, and O'Barry.

Another Mountain Gorilla Killed in the Virungas

July 25, 2001 allafrica.com

African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) has received word from International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP) Director Dr.Annette Lanjouw that another endangered mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) has lost its life, caught in the crossfire in the Virungas. During the past two months, there has been an increase in fighting between the military of the rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda with militia groups in eastern DRC. Much of the fighting is taking place in the forested Virunga volcanoes, home of the mountain gorillas. Only 350 gorillas can be found in the Virunga Volcanoes, and these endangered animals are coming under increased threat from the fighting.

Rugendo, the dominant male silverback of one of the groups on the Congolese side of the border, was shot dead during clashes between the military and Interahamwe militia groups on July 15, 2001. The Interahamwe were the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, where up to a million people were killed. The loss of Rugendo is a double tragedy as he was the first gorilla seen in the wild, leading his own family as a young silverback. He had been habituated since 1986 and has, over the years, allowed hundreds of tourists to visit him and approach his family. He had learned to trust people and to accept their presence near his small family. Last week, he found himself too close to the fighting.

The Virunga region is home for one of the two remaining populations of the endangered mountain gorillas; the other population resides in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Together, these groups represent a world population of mountain gorillas of just over 650 individuals. The IGCP, active in Rwanda since 1979 and throughout the Virunga region since 1991, is a joint initiative of the African Wildlife Foundation, Fauna and Flora International and the World Wildlife Fund.

San Diego Bans "Killer Algae" Caulerpa taxifolia

July 25, 2001 www.enn.com

SAN DIEGO —On Monday, July 23, 2001, the City of San Diego unanimously voted to approve an Ordinance that bans the sale, trade, and possession of Caulerpa taxifolia, the so-called "killer algae".

Caulerpa taxifolia is a saltwater aquarium plant native to the Caribbean. It is used in home aquariums, but when released into the ocean or a lagoon the effects are devastating. This is the same seaweed that has blanketed the Mediterranean floor. When introduced to a non-native area, it displaces native algae and has an extremely negative impact on the coastal ecosystem--invertebrates, fish, marine mammals, and sea birds are adversely affected. It has been referred to as "laying astro-turf on the ocean floor".

Last June it invaded Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad (San Diego County) and cost almost a million dollars to eradicate. Although its importation into the United States has banned for several years, until now it was still legal to sell, trade, and possess the algae within each state. San Diego was the first area of the U.S. infested with the destructive seaweed (it has since invaded Huntington Beach as well). A CA State Assembly bill (AB 1334) is currently pending that would also ban the seaweed. For more information see www.projectpacific.org.

Climate change a new threat for the most endangered seal in the world

July 25, 2001 www.enn.com

GLAND, SWITZERLAND — WWF, the conservation organization, today said that global warming poses a new threat to the ringed seals of Lake Saimaa, in Finland, which with only 250 individuals left in the wild, is the most endangered seal species in the world. Saimaa ringed seals normally give birth to their cubs in a den built of snow. The den protects the animals against cold weather and predators. In addition, scientists say that without the den, mothers' suckling ability may be disrupted. In previous years, there used to be plenty of snow at Lake Simaa in February, when cubs are born. However, this year, the weather was much more unpredictable and warmer. There was less snow and, as a result, the seals faced difficulties building their dens. Jari Luukkonen, Conservation Director of WWF Finland, said "We have worked for over 20 years to save this species, and we actually have found ways to tackle many of the problems. But climate change is a new threat, jeopardizing all that we have achieved so far." This is a prime example of why WWF is calling on governments to swiftly ratify the Kyoto Protocol, following Monday's landmark agreement at the Bonn Climate Summit.

The Saimaa ringed seal (Phoca hispida saimensis) is a subspecies of the ringed seal, the most northerly seal species. The other subspecies include the Ladoga seal (Phoca hispida ladogensis), the Baltic ringed seal (Phoca hispida botnica) and the Arctic ringed seal (Phoca hispida hispida). The connection between the lakes of Eastern Finland and the present Baltic Sea was cut off at the end of the last Ice Age some 8'000 years ago. The Saimaa ringed seal has adapted itself well to the environment of Lake Saimaa. The only threats to its survival have been human activities.

Arctic ecosystems trampled and tracked

July 26, 2001 www.enn.com

Bruce Forbes senior scientist in environmental science and policy at the Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, is researching the impacts of tourism on subarctic and alpine tundra and forest tundra in Alaska, Canada, Russia, and Finland. The Arctic, defined as lands poleward of the treeline, has large

populations of wild caribou and domesticated reindeer and provides critical nesting habitat for immense numbers of shore and water birds. Arctic ecosystems are at risk from mining, military activities, heavy reindeer grazing, and even from recreational activities such as camping, hiking, and off-road vehicle use. He found that even an event as insignificant as the single pass of a heavy-tracked vehicle can drain an Arctic meadow. The scientists' findings appear in the August issue of the journal Conservation Biology.

Has Rare Lion of Africa's Cape Eluded Extinction?

July 26, 2001 www.nationalgeographic.com

For 30 years, South African John Spence searched for descendants of the Cape lion, which was thought to be extinct in the region since the 1850s. His search ended a year ago when he received pictures of a magnificent black-maned lion at the Novosibrisk Zoo in Central Siberia. With its jet black mane, wide face, sturdy legs, and large size, the lion—called Simon—looked exactly like a living reproduction of the animals that Spence had seen only in paintings After contacting the zoo in Siberia, Spence arranged to take Simon's cubs, Rustislav and Olga (named after the Novosibrisk Zoo curator and his wife) back with him to Africa. They are the first Cape lion look-alikes to inhabit the Cape shores in a century and a half.

The two lions now live in their own pen in the Tygerberg Zoo. They spend their days sleeping in the sun on their own specially made platform. Spence thinks the warmth of Africa is probably a welcome change for the animals, which were accustomed to Siberian winter temperatures that drop to minus 40 degrees Celsius. The cubs are already much larger than the full-grown lions in other parts of the zoo. They also bear the unmistakable markings of a juvenile Cape lion. "They've got a large number of spots on them, which will obviously fade as they get older, but they were really spotted when we brought them home…and black behind the ears," Spence explained. He hopes to eventually use Rustislav and Olga to replenish the Cape lion stock. He also may build them a larger lion reserve, closer to Table Mountain, where their ancestors once roamed.

 

Victory for pregnant zookeeper who refused to feed the tigers

JULY 26 2001 www.thetimes.co.uk

A ZOOKEEPER who was ordered to feed tigers despite being three months pregnant was awarded £30,000 by an employment tribunal yesterday. Lara Kitson, 23, said that David Gill, owner of the South Lakes Wild Animal Park, Cumbria, told her that if she could no longer do the job, she was no use to him and then suggested that "an intelligent young lady" like her should consider whether to have the baby at all. At the wildlife park, where visitors are encouraged to treat their tour as a "safari", feeding the tigers at 2.30pm is a daily attraction. The raw meat is placed at the top of a 16ft pole forcing the tigers to climb up and retrieve it. Miss Kitson, told the tribunal that she had been happy to climb a ladder to deposit the meat until her pregnancy turned it into an unacceptable risk. Such a manoeuvre put her at risk from a miscarriage if she fell and, her doctor said, put her baby’s life in danger from toxoplasmosis, a disease which can be caught from raw meat or cat droppings. Miss Kitson left the post last July and claimed constructive dismissal. Seven moths ago she had a healthy baby.

 

Yellow-billed cuckoo in trouble in Western US

July 27, 2001 www.planetark.org

DENVER - The yellow-billed cuckoo, a robin-sized songbird, is losing habitat along streams so fast in the Western United States that it should be listed under the Endangered Species Act, but there is not enough money to protect it, a federal agency said this week. "Few breeding populations of the cuckoo are found in the West, and these populations are in decline as a result of destruction of their streamside habitat," said Steve Thompson, acting manager of California/Nevada operations for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Other higher-priority species that have already been listed must be taken care of first with current funds. The yellow-billed cuckoo, which eats caterpillars and sometimes small frogs and breeds in willow and cottonwood forests along rivers and streams, has lost its habitat to agriculture, dams, riverbank protection and overgrazing. The bird is still relatively common east of the Rocky Mountains, but the Western population is considered distinct. The service will review the bird’s status.

UPDATE - Deadly West Nile virus spreading in US - CDC

July 27, 2001 www.planetark.org

ATLANTA - West Nile virus, the mosquito-borne illness that has killed at least eight people since surfacing in the northeastern United States two years ago, is spreading and could soon jump to other parts of the country, federal health experts said yesterday. A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the virus was turning up at levels double those found in bird populations last year. No longer confined to northeastern states, infected birds have recently been found in Georgia and Florida. There is nothing to prohibit the virus from spreading into the Midwest either in birds or mosquitoes, depending on factors such as weather and bird migration patterns. New Jersey and Maryland were the two states with the highest numbers of infected birds in the first half of 2001

 

 

Health Officials Euthanize Tiger Late Pleas, Appeals Continue To End

July 27, 2001 www.channel4000.com

AUSTIN, Minn. -- Despite last-minute pleas and appeals, health officials euthanized the Siberian tiger that bit a girl at a private animal refuge. The 2-year-old tiger reportedly broke through his enclosure Sunday at the private animal refuge south of Rochester and bit into the shoulder of a 7-year-old girl who was at the refuge with her mother taking fund-raising pictures. The 400-pound tiger reportedly let go of the girl on command. She was airlifted to the Mayo Clinic in nearby Rochester and treated for puncture wounds to her shoulder, which reportedly became infected earlier this week. The wounds opened the possibility of rabies and although the girl could be treated for rabies, her parents don't want her to undergo the procedure. According to health officials, the only way to determine if the animal has rabies is with a brain biopsy, which requires destroying the animal. Wednesday, a Mower County judge reluctantly ordered the tiger killed. Ken Kraft, who owns B.E.A.R.C.A.T. Hollow where the attack occurred, handed over the animal to health officials Friday morning.

Zoo holds party for 'pet detectives' One of two marsupials stolen in December may have just given birth

July 28, 2001 www.sfgate.com

The San Francisco Zoo celebrated International Save the Koala Day yesterday by recognizing the 18 San Francisco police officers who helped in the speedy recovery of Pat and daughter Leanne, two koalas who were stolen from the zoo on Dec. 27 and found a day later. The zoo presented the officers with plaques, pins and ties and also declared Police Appreciation Days for today and tomorrow.

While the recovery of the animals has been slow, zoo officials are heartened that Pat shows signs of having given birth two days ago. "It's a good sign. They do not breed unless they're in peak condition, " koala keeper Nancy Rumsey said. Rumsey will conduct a "pouch check" today to confirm that 15-year-old Pat has indeed given birth. If so, it will be the third time for her -- and the first since 1994. Newborn koalas are about the size of a dime and move directly into the pouch after birth.

The animals lost about 10 percent of their weight during the ordeal. Pat, who is a geriatric koala with badly worn teeth, was also apparently physically abused, Rumsey said, and had difficulty walking afterward. She added that the koalas have become extremely shy and are now visibly anxious around large groups of people.

Akron Zoo's aging Sumatran tiger dies

July 28, 2001 www.wkyc.com

(Akron-AP) -- The Akron Zoo's 20-year-old Sumatran tiger has died of kidney failure and a deteriorating spine. The Sumatran tiger, named Bea, was believed to be among the oldest in captivity worldwide. Her death yesterday leaves the U-S with 54 Sumatran tigers in captivity. Worldwide, there are 235 in zoos and about 400 in the wild. Sumatran tigers generally live 18 years to 20 years in captivity. Bea was sent to Akron from the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Zoo three years ago.

Lisa's Nearing Delivery of 200-Pound Calf

July 30, 2001 www.latimes.com

Lisa the elephant is a little cranky, but her zookeepers say that's to be expected. The Oakland Zoo's African elephant, 22 months pregnant, is carrying a 200-pound calf. She's due to deliver it within a month. The zoo's elephant program has been hit with a series of tragedies over the past decade. Smokey, the father of Lisa's calf, died in March of unknown causes. Lisa and another elephant named Donna both lost their babies to a salmonella infection in 1998. Lisa's first baby died 11 months after birth in 1996 after contracting the elephant herpes virus.

Hidden Cameras Capture World of the Rare and Wild

JUL 31, 2001 www.nytimes.com

Starting in the early 1900's, biologists began experimenting with cameras triggered by trip wires and,

later, photoelectric cells to photograph tigers, bats, birds and other wildlife. Over the last 15 years, equipment has become far more sophisticated, rugged and easy to use, allowing biologists to record the passage of particular species at particular times of day and to train local residents to take over day-to-day work, retrieving film and reloading cameras. That gives biologists a new vantage point for studying animals and stretches their resources. It is particularly useful in tropical forests, where dense greenery means scientists hardly ever see their quarry, said Dr. Ronald L. Tilson, the conservation director of the Minnesota Zoo and an expert on tigers. During camera-trap surveys for tigers in southeastern Sumatra several years ago, his team unexpectedly gleaned pictures of the Sumatran rhino, one of the world's rarest mammals. The equipment of choice is a set of infrared sensors and specialized weatherproof cameras sold under the brand name Trailmaster. Scientists now dominate the market for the cameras, which generally cost $400 to $650, said the product's inventor, Bill Goodson, who is based in Lenexa, Kan. The next step, will be figuring out how to use cameras that can store long sequences of still or video images digitally and can transmit the data. That would eliminate the need for researchers to hike into the forest frequently to change film.

In Myanmar, formerly Burma, biologists and trained local workers are conducting the first survey of

wildlife in some of the world's most remote forests as part of a government effort to decide where to

place new preserves and parks. The hazards there range from rebels to one of the most drug-resistant strains of malaria on earth, said Dr. Anthony J. Lynam, a biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, a private group based at the Bronx Zoo. And in tiger studies in India and Indonesia, the cameras are allowing scientists to track not just general population shifts but also the movements of individuals, identified through patterns of stripes on their faces. Camera traps are increasingly being used as a statistical sampling tool, with several dozen devices set out in a grid around a large preserve. Over time, scientists can develop a clear picture of the movements of predators and prey.

Dyke collapses on Flood Workers in Poland

July 31, 2001 www.cnn.com

About 25 people have been killed by weeks of floods and violent storms in Poland this month, including 12 since the situation worsened last week. Thousands have also been forced from their homes. The situation in Kamien last night was very serious -- it was one of the most dangerous in recorded history

There had been fears that Warsaw zoo might have to be evacuated but zoo director Maciej Rembyszewski said its animals -- including a cheetah with five newborn cubs -- were safe.

 

 

For Female Lions, Democracy Rules

JUL 31, 2001 www.nytimes.com

Dr. Craig Packer, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Minnesota has just published the results of a 36-year study of about 560 female lions in Tanzania in the journal "Science". It shows that female African lions who hunt together and kill together also appear to take a noncompetitive approach to mating and taking care of cubs. None of the females reproduced much more or less than the others. In some years, only one or two females managed to raise a litter of cubs but over time, all the females had the opportunity to breed. They do not establish a hierarchy that lets some breed more than others. This egalitarianism is highly unusual in animals that live in social groups. It contrasts greatly with the mating behavior of other mammalian predators — and with the behavior of male lions. A dominant lion usually sires most of the offspring, a finding that has been confirmed by researchers using DNA testing.

Because the members of all other species of cat — including the tiger, the lion’s closest relative, live alone, researchers had no feline comparison for social behavior. With other social carnivorous mammals such as wild dogs, wolves, mongooses and meerkats, a dominant reproductive female is attended by subordinates. In hyena clans, many females breed, but the top female is the most prolific. A hierarchy of reproductive success has been observed even in female chimpanzees. The researchers said female lions, which also hunt together, avoid another behavior practiced by females of some other species: they do not kill the offspring of other females. Female lions leave the pride to give birth, returning after the cubs are several weeks old. All pride members then join together to raise and defend the young.

Fund eases clash over elephants

07/30/2001 www.chinadaily.net

New efforts have been made by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), in conjunction with local governments and residents, to protect the wild Asian elephants in Simao Region, Southwest China's Yunnan Province. In 1996, five wild elephants began to settle down in the mountainous regions of Simao. However, since then, serious conflicts between elephants and villagers have occurred. The elephants are believed to be from the Xishuangbanna tropical rain forestry regions, only 70 km away from Simao, where most of China's wild elephants - less than 300 - are living now. These mammals, protected by the State, have killed and injured villagers, as well as eaten and destroyed crops, such as rice and fruits planted by poverty-stricken farmers in this mountainous area of 35 square km. Official statistics show the annual loss caused by the elephants has reached 3 million yuan (US$361,000). The death-toll by the elephants has reached five, and they have injured more than 10 people who did not keep a safe distance when trying to get them off their farmland. Due to this heightening conflict, IFAW has become involved. More than 142,000 yuan (US$ 17,000) will be donated by the Fund this month to the Asian Elephant Project, launched by the Fund in July 2000. The money has become a loan foundation, operated by beneficiary groups made up of the villagers who could loan money from the foundation to help themselves develop economy. Although the destruction by the elephants continues, farmers' tolerance and environmental awareness in the pilot sites have been greatly enhanced through the smooth operation of the project. Zhang Li, programme official of the Fund said more effective work, such as establishing a natural reserve for elephants in the region, should also be done.

 

Singapore zoo ponders elephant's fate

July 31, 2001 www.enn.com

SINGAPORE — The fate of a 24-year-old adult bull elephant hangs in the balance in Singapore as zoo officials decide what action to take after the animal gored its trainer of 18 years last week. The elephant, Chawang, was out on his daily evening walk around the Night Safari park last Friday when he suddenly turned and grabbed one of three handlers, Gopal Krishnan, with his trunk. When Krishnan fell to the ground, the four-tonne elephant thrust his tusk into the man's chest, puncturing a lung and breaking a few ribs. Krishnan, 45, who had been his keeper and trainer for eighteen years was pulled to safety. The elephant’s fate has not yet been decided.

National Park Service Plan Offers New Direction

August 01, 2001 www.enn.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. — "Rethinking the National Parks for the 21st Century," a report released today by the National Park System Advisory Board, sets far-reaching management goals for the Park Service

intended to yield greater protection for wildlife and historic sites and better services for park visitors. A recent opinion poll indicates public support for the new goals and provides strong encouragement for the Bush Administration to further refine and improve its important national parks agenda. 76 percent of Americans believe protecting plants, animals, and historical artifacts is of highest priority. Thomas Kiernan, NPCA president says the report calls for the creation of protected corridors between parks in order to keep wildlife populations from becoming isolated, stronger protection of marine resources, such as the coral reefs, and for heightened protection of biological diversity within parks. Press releases can

be found on NPCA's Web site at www.eparks.org/media_center.

Suit seeks Sierra protection for spotted owl

August 01, 2001 www.enn.com

SAN FRANCISCO — Opening another front in the bitter battle over western timberlands, a coalition of environmental groups filed suit Tuesday, charging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with failing to

protect the spotted owl in California's Sierra Mountains. The suitseeks to force federal officials to determine whether the spotted owl and the Pacific fisher, a weasel, should be listed under the Endangered Species Act — a move that could sharply reduce logging on millions of acres in the Sierra

Nevada. "Populations of both the California spotted owl and the Pacific fisher are declining and face a serious risk of extinction," Noah Greenwald, a conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity, said "Old growth forests in the Sierra Nevada have been reduced by 60 to 85 percent as a result of logging on Forest Service and private timberlands. Species like the California spotted owl and fisher, which depend on intact, old-growth ecosystems, are at great risk." The California spotted owl is closely related to the northern spotted owl, the endangered species at the center of more than a decade of struggle between environmentalists and timber interests in the Pacific Northwest.

Big Brother is watching You can't fool zoo keepers when it comes to aping the apes

August 1, 2001 www.uniontrib.com

 

It's a zoo keeper's worst nightmare: The roles are inexplicably reversed, and the inmates -- or in this case, the primates -- are running the asylum. Could it really happen? To find out, we asked three primate keepers at the San Diego Zoo to attend a preview screening of "Planet of the Apes" (which opened Friday, grossing nearly $70 million over the weekend). "Apes" is a remake of the 1968 science-fiction flick and stars Mark Wahlberg as the pilot who crashes onto a planet where monkey business is the order of the day.

The makeup is definitely simian, the costumes -- chimp, gorilla and orangutan -- are suitably shaggy, and the actors even went to "ape school" for enlightenment on "every primate activity -- walking, weapons handling, even eating," attests the 20th Century Fox PR package. To three zoo keepers who are with apes every working day, what jarred, they said, were the little things on screen that missed the mark. Also disturbing were the implausible plot devices essential to making the plot plausible -- talking apes, an army of apes armed with what look like spears, and apes able to leap tall buildings at a single bound. "We'd have to redesign our enclosures at the zoo if orangs and gorillas could jump that well," the San Diego Zoo's Fernando Covarrubias said of the celluloid apes, whose Olympic-caliber superleaps defied both the law of gravity and what apes can actually accomplish when they have to go somewhere in a hurry.

The actors, or at least their coaches, keeper Sue Averill noted, "obviously spent some time watching apes," and while they got some things right, especially the animals' upper-body motion, all that leaping was noticeably, and decidedly, make-believe. "Those spring-loaded apes just don't compute," she said. Keeper Sara Canchola agreed that "Apes' " apes have more resilience than real apes. "The things that are not quite true are glaring," she said. As for talking apes, well, fuhgeddaboutit. Real apes scream, pound their chests and even use a rudimentary form of sign language to communicate with each other. But memorize a script, and then recite the lines in English? Anatomically impossible, the three said.

But if you can buy into apes that talk, why not apes with spears? "Apes throw underhand, and to throw a spear you have to throw overhand," Covarrubias noted. In the film apes' favor, however, are those firebombs they pitch in true softball fashion; the way they jump up and down and pound their enemies; and the way they avoid taking a dip at all costs. "Apes are afraid of water," Averill said. The "Apes" apes click in other ways, too, the zoo keepers thought. "I really liked the general (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, as the faithful gorilla Krull) -- his movement when he walked, his full, dominant, aggressive body

language," Canchola said. And speaking of the film's gorillas, "They are men in costume, but they got as

close (to the real thing) as they could, They not only walked the walk, but "did a good job swinging back and forth." The orangutan makeup drew praise, but some of the humans in chimpface didn't quite make it. "Too pink. They were infants' faces," Averill said of the she-chimps.

Canchola thought the chief he-chimp was out of character. "There's no way an excitable chimp is going to order a bunch of gorillas around," he said. But while the chimps may not be at the top of the primate pecking order in the jungle, they sometimes have a leg up on the humans at the zoo, keepers and visitors included, Covarrubias noted. Like the little female bonobo, or pygmy chimp, who two weeks ago

requested, with perfectly understandable -- at least to the keepers watching her performance -- hand gestures, that a visitor toss his bag of Chee-tos over the wall and into the enclosure. He didn't have a clue as to what she was "talking" about, he said. The gorillas, presumably, would have passed the Chee-tos. At least on the planet of the apes. And speaking of chimps having a leg up, how well did mounted chimps sit with the keepers?

"If a chimp were to mount a horse, they did a good job. They didn't jump on, like Zorro," Canchola said. "But if you're going to believe a spaceship going through a time warp, I guess you can't start picking on things."

Galapagos takes aim at alien invaders

July 27, 2001 www.sciencemag.org

3,000 giant tortoises on Isabela island are endangered because of the invasion of a few goats in the early 1980s. There number has mushroomed to 100,000 and early next year a SWAT team of up to 100 sharpshooters plans to correct the problem to save the Galapagos’ largest remaining population of giant tortoises. Feral goats, imported cats, rats, pigs, fire ants weeds and many other invasives are all threats to the extraordinary diversity of birds and reptiles that inspired Darwin’s theory of natural selection. With funds from the U.N. and World Bank-run Global Environment Facility and $19 million from other sources scientists and managers at the Galapagos’ Charles Darwin Research Station will carry out one of the most ambitious plans against invasive species ever devised.

The Pandas’ Habitat at Wolong Nature Reserve

July 27, 2001 www.sciencemag.org

Using analysis of remote sensing data from China’s Wolong Nature Reserve, Jianguo Liu and colleagues demonstrated serious panda habitat degradation inside the reserve since its creation in 1975. But Wolong has not been managed for habitat conservation. Management of the reserve has in some respects been less rigorous than in surrounding areas. China’s one-child policy does not apply to most of the reserve’s residents, resource use is virtually unrestricted, and tourism has been heavily promoted. People in the reserve tdo not benefit from the energy alternatives available in surrounding areas and therefore rely on timber for fuel. Finally, most of the "exceptional financial and technical support" provided to Wolong has been invested in captive breeding programs and a research station to support these programs, rather than on habitat protection. Refocusing funding toward management aimed at protecting habitat should be successful. Between 1974 and 1989 the habitat occupied by giant pandas shrank by 50% in Sichuan Province. Had the Nature Reserve not been established in 1975 far more forest and thus pandas, would have been lost. Since 1993 the Chinese government has more than doubled the number of giant panda reserves bringing half of the giant panda habitat under protection, and since the Chinese government implemented a logging ban in 1998, satellite data show that native vegetation is recovering in parts of Wolong.

Historical Overfishing and the Recent Collapse of Coastal Ecosystems

July 27, 2001 www.sciencemag.org

Ecological extinction caused by overfishing precedes all other pervasive human disturbance to coastal ecosystems. Historical abundances of large consumer species were fantastically large in comparison with recent observations. Paleoecological, archeological and historical data show that time lags of decades to centuries occurred between the onset of overfishing and consequent changes in ecological communities, because unfished species of similar trophic level assumed the ecological roles of overfished species until they too were overfished or died of epidemic diseases related to overcorwding. Retrospective data help to clarify underlying causes of ecological change and emonstrate achievable goals for restoration and management of coastal ecosystems

Ecological Forecasts: An Emerging Imperative

July 27, 2001 www.sciencemag.org

Ecological forecasting is the process of predicting the state of ecosystems, ecosystem services, and natural capital, with fully specified uncertainties and is contingent on explicit scenarios for climate, land use, human population, technologies, and economic activity. Availability of new data sets, together with progress in computation and statistics, will increase our ability to forecast ecosystem change. Interdisciplinary linkages are necessary because of the climate and societal controls on ecosystems, the feedbacks involving social change, and the decision-making relevance of forecasts.

An auditory illusion in tamarin monkeys

August 2001 Nature Neuroscience 4, 783

In a noisy environment the brain often has to construct perceptions based on limited sensory information. Our auditory system can often understand the meaning of a word even if a phoneme within the word is masked with noise (referred to as amodal completion). Most of the work investigating amodal completion has focused on humans, but in the August issue of Nature Neuroscience, Miller et al experiment with the sterotyped calling behaviour of cotton-top tamarin monkeys to show that this primate amodally completes biologically meaningful acoustic stimuli. This provides evidence that the neural mechanism mediating this aspect of auditory perception is shared among primates and perhaps other taxonomic groups.

How Many Species Revisited

August 3, 2001 www.sciencemag.org Vol 293 p 763

From Biol. J. Linn Soc V73, 279 (2001)– Large uncertainties have surrounded the total number of species of eukaryotic organisms on earth (includes animals, plants, fungi but not algae and bacteria). Recent estimates have ranged from as few as 3 million to over 30 million. Increasingly, estimates are homing in on lower values. In a study by Dolphin and Quicke, 2 models are used to extrapolate the total number of species from the described number for the wasp family (Braconidae). Both models produced similar estimates, indicating that the total number of species is likely to be 2.1 to 3.4 times the number of species so far described. Extended to insects as a whole, 3.4 million species would be an upper estimate.

World population set to peak at 9 billion

August 03, 2001 www.enn.com

LONDON — The world's population will probably peak at about 9 billion around 2070 before it starts to decline, scientists predicted this week. Demographers at a think tank in Austria calculated that by the turn of the century, the number of people on the planet will have dropped down to 8.4 billion people. They also predict the population will be older, with up to 40 percent aged over 60 by 2100. These predictions were reported in the journal "Nature" but should not signal the end of population concerns, because populations will still be increasing in some of the world's poorest areas. "Some of the most vulnerable regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia, will still see very significant population growth. Population aging will be the dominant population issue of this century because the decline in fertility together with further increasing life expectancy in most parts of the world except Africa will result in a significant change in the age structure.

Wolf Lawsuit Underscores Wildlife-Livestock Debate in West

August 03, 2001 www.enn.com

HAILEY, IDAHO — A lawsuit was filed Thursday by Western Watersheds Project and the Idaho Conservation League against the U.S. Forest Service for its failure to protect gray wolves. Recent killing by federal authorities of wolves from the White Hawk pack in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, part of the Sawtooth National Forest near Sun Valley, Idaho were at issue. Thirty-seven wolves have been killed, legally and illegally, in central Idaho since their reintroduction to the state in 1995 and 1996. For more information, contact Jon Marvel, Western Watersheds Project, 208-788-2290, or William Eddie, Land and Water Fund of the Rockies, 208-342-7024.

Drilling "2,000 Acres" in the Arctic Refuge--The Facts

August 03, 2001 www.enn.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Wednesday night the U.S. House of Representatives approved a proposal that would allow large-scale, non-contiguous oil-drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge under the guise of limited development. The following information was issued by the Sierra Club:

The truth of Rep. John Sununu (R-NH) " 2,000 acre" Proposal

· Opens the entire 1.5 million acres to potential oil drilling.

· Hides pipelines. Under Rep. Sununu's proposal, the full length of an oil pipeline wouldn't count toward the 2,000 acres -- only the base of the stanchions holding up the pipeline. That's like discounting the size of the Golden Gate Bridge, and only counting the pilings holding the roadway.

· May not include roads. Because ambiguous language in Rep. Sununu's proposal, roads may not count toward the 2,000 acres, despite the oil industry's need to build a network of permanent or ice roads connecting their drilling wells, pumping stations, waste pits, gravel mines, pipelines, refineries and other industrial complexes.

· Deceives people about the size. The oil industry claims 2,000 acres is the size of "an airport"-- but that creates the false impression the acres would be contiguous.

· "New Jersey Turnpike" is a more honest example than an airport. The entire New Jersey Turnpike -- 12 lanes wide for much of its 95-mile length -- sits on just 1700 acres. But even the Jersey Turnpike is a flawed example, because under Rep. Sununu's plan, roads may not count toward the 2,000 acres.

· Is not like Prudhoe Bay. According to the United States Geological Survey, oil under the Coastal Plain is not concentrated in one large reservoir such as that at Prudhoe Bay but is rather spread around in numerous small deposits. (And even though the oil at Prudhoe Bay is concentrated locally, this complex just west of the Arctic Refuge sprawls across 1,000 square miles.)

· The Arctic Refuge is 19 million acres, but it's just the Coastal Plain that the oil industry wants to drill and that biologists view as crucial wildlife habitat. The Coastal Plain is just 1.5 million acres, the size of Delaware. Web site: http://www.sierraclub.org

Bird botulism death rate slowing

Aug 2, 2001 www.uniontrib.com

SALTON SEA -- The earliest outbreak of avian botulism on record has killed nearly 100 endangered

brown pelicans at the Salton Sea, but biologists said yesterday that birds appear to be dying at a slower

rate than in previous years. Slightly cooler weather and a more aggressive response to the disease may be reducing the deaths of pelicans at the Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge in the Southern California desert, said federal biologists. Triple-digit temperatures encourage massive algae growths that deprive the water of oxygen, triggering the botulism pathogen in fish that are then eaten by pelicans.

Villagers kill tiger in India's West Bengal state

August 2, 2001 www.planetark.com

CALCUTTA, India - A group of villagers killed a tiger in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, but police said it was not clear if the animal was slain out of fear or poached for its skin and bones. Officials said three villagers were injured in the incident in the remote Pakhiralaya village on Monday in the protected mangrove forests of the Sunderbans, some 130 km (80 miles) south of state capital, Calcutta. West Bengal has a tiger population of around 300 tigers of which 80 percent live in the riverine Sunderbans region. India's tiger population has fallen to about 3,500 from 4,300 just 11 years ago. Conservationists estimate the country is losing about 200 to 300 tigers a year to poaching and development projects.

Cambodian villagers hunt rare cranes for food

August 3, 2001 www.planetark.org

PHNOM PENH - Cambodian wildlife authorities said yesterday they had issued a warning to villagers in remote northwestern Cambodia who killed and ate 20 rare Sarus Cranes - one of the country's most endangered bird species. The cranes were killed last month by villagers in Banteay Meanchey province, 300 km (186 miles) northwest of Phnom Penh, said Sun Hean, a wildlife department official. A 180-strong colony of the red-headed Eastern Sarus Cranes was discovered in Cambodia in 1997. Fewer than 1,500 are still thought to exist in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. Also known as the "Dancing Crane", the birds were once common in Cambodia and feature in reliefs at the 9th-13th century Angkor temple complex in the north of the country.

Few Clues to Deadly Trend at Mariner’s Point

August 5, 2001 www.uniontrib.com

Least terns, maybe nine inches from bill to tail, have staged a big comeback. In 1970, the entire least tern population was a scant 600 pair. Today, there are 4,000 pair, and many nest in Mission Bay. In 1998, the five acres on Mariner's Point produced more fledglings than any other California site.This "natural" environment is fenced off from humans and other predators. In spring and summer, monitors mark nest sites with tongue depressors. Roof tiles are scattered across the sand, providing shelter.

This spring, the least tern preserve at the point's tip had 280 nests. Each with one or two eggs.

By simple multiplication, this should have equaled hundreds of chicks. "We only counted 50 fledglings," said Robin Stribley, a biologist and senior planner in the city's Department of Park and Recreation. "That's abysmal." Of course, each generation of terns suffers casualties. Eggs and babies are gobbled up by gulls, picked off by peregrines, eaten alive by ants and rats. Some are lost to disease. This year, though, the chicks in Mission Bay's three active nurseries -- Mariner's Point, north Fiesta Island

and Government Island -- perished in epidemic numbers. The corpses were shipped to UC Davis, where the lab reported various causes of death, from gout to stress-induced lesions. Nearly all the chicks were notably underweight. One theory: a local food shortage. Perhaps there were enough fish, but they weren't visible. Plagued by sewage spills and urban runoff, Mission Bay is less than crystal clear. But these are only educated guesses. In truth, we know little about these birds, who annually nest here before winging somewhere in South America.

Legacy of Nature: San Dieguito River Park

August 5, 2001 www.uniontrib.com

The San Dieguito River originates on Volcan Mountain, several miles north of Julian and travels 55 miles to the pacific between Del Mar and Solana Beach. In spite of the rapid urbanization of San Dieto, the River Valley as yet remains largely undeveloped. The San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy was established in 1986 and is an all-volunteer, grass roots effort to preserve the River Park. 50,000 acres are in public ownership today, with a planning goal of up to 80,000 acres. Hiking, running, biking and horseback riding, birdwatching, picnicking, hisoric and cultural exploration (350 archaeological sites reflecting 9,000 years of Native American occupation) kayaking and fishing. There are more species of plants than the state of Alaska and more than 215 bird species have been identified at Lake Hodges alone. Additional information is available at www.sdrp.org.

Zoo Boise makes plans to become bigger, better Safety changes, new director renew optimism

August 6, 2001 www.idahostatesman.com

Zoo Boise has a new boss, a renewed drive for national recognition and sweeping plans for expanded exhibits, more animals and community outreach. A recently adopted 10-year master plan, which calls for extensive renovations and additional animals such as giraffes, lions and a white rhino, would separate the zoo into displays based on Asia, Africa and the Americas. A new aviary and petting zoo are also part of the $13 million plan, which was created this year by zoo and city staffers. Add in the new $1.7 million small-animal kingdom exhibit, and the zoo could look much different in a decade. The expansion will depend on long-term fund-raising efforts by Friends of Zoo Boise, but officials feel good about their chances. Steve Burns, is the new superintendent of Zoo Boise and the man in charge of ushering in a new vision for the zoo. "Last year’s tiger incident made us learn a lot more safety." The tiger attack occurred at Feast for the Beast 2000, which left Friends of Zoo Boise board member Jan Gold hospitalized and led to the firing of former Zoo Manager David Wayne. When Wayne asked Gold and a group of her friends if she wanted to watch the "boys" enjoy a late-night feeding, she didn't know the cage door had been inadvertently left open and she would have a 600-pound cat on her shoulders biting her head minutes later. Gold, the last in line of the fleeing tour group, was able to get out alive when off-duty Boise Police Sgt. Rich Schnebly, who was also on the tour, managed to fire off several rounds, scaring the tiger back into the cage but hitting Gold in the leg. Now, a year later, Gold has partially recovered from her injuries but still has trouble walking because of the bullet wound. The tiger is still living at the zoo. Wayne, who worked at the zoo for 24 years, is out of a job with the city after being fired by Boise Mayor Brent Coles.

The new master plan is not feasible without accreditation from the American Zoological and Aquarium Association, which facilitates the transfer of animals between zoos. Zoo Boise is not accredited, and thus has a hard time adding animals. The many safety improvements made in the wake of the tiger attack were needed for accreditation, said Jim Dumont, superintendent of recreation for the city of Boise and Wayne's boss at the time of the attack. Being accredited would make Zoo Boise part of a nationwide fraternity, meeting standards of animal care and professionalism set by the association for its 196 member facilities. It would mean Zoo Boise is maintained to the same industry standards as, say, the San Diego Zoo. Getting accreditation is essential, Burns said. "They look at something like 156 different things during the process. The changes are part of that."

Among the Zoo’s new safety improvements: Cage doors and locks are now more clearly marked for the big cat exhibits -- the tigers and leopards. The cages now have mirrors, flags and other devices that let handlers know exactly where the cats are at all times. New cables and locking devices also have been installed. Security and disaster plans have been beefed up. Animal trainers have been taught how to use bean bag ammunition and fire extinguishers in the unlikely case of an animal breakout. A barbed-wire crown has been installed along the outside fence and security guards will be hired to extend security coverage when the zoo is closed (from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m.) seven nights a week. The poisonous-snake exhibit has been removed. Trainers now wear protective clothing when feeding the primates and cleaning their cages. All of the improvements follow specific recommendations in two safety audits.

Cameroon's 'protected' forest is a meal ticket for elephant poachers

August 7, 2001 www.guardian.co.uk

Unesco describes Dja, a world heritage site in Cameroon, as "one of the largest and best protected humid forests in Africa". The site, about the size of Wales, covers 5m hectares of central Africa's rapidly shrinking rainforest, encompassing small, dark-green hills and vast swamps. It shelters threatened species such as elephant, gorilla, chimpanzee and forest buffalo, but it also harbours 100 permanent hunting camps supplying bushmeat to 128 villages on its perimeter.

This is disputed by a report from the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). It claims that "Hunters operate almost unimpeded in the Dja reserve. A recent study found that 13 tonnes of bushmeat passed through one village bordering the reserve in two months. Most of it was bound for Yaoundé, where bushmeat is considered a delicacy. Dja's biodiversity is staggering, though it is best known for itgs exceptionally high density of elephants and great apes. Unesco recognised the site in 1987 and since then has contributed £180,000 to Dja, chiefly to train the meagre park staff. But it has no representative in Cameroon, and no one from the WHC has visited Dja for more than three years.

There are few economic incentives to protect Dja's wildlife. According to Prosper Seme, chief of Dja's EU-funded "eco-guards", only five to 10 foreign tourists visit the reserve every month, and one Cameroonian every three months. The 50 eco-guards, who are responsible for law enforcement in and around Dja, have not been a success. Until very recently they had no power to search logging trucks for illegal meat, or to make arrests. And any meat they confiscate - including that of protected species - must be auctioned off for the state coffers. One of the world's most corrupt countries, Cameroon is said to be unable to address the bushmeat trade because of the widespread involvement of local officials.

 

Africa's Sea Turtles Threatened, says UNEP

August 07, 2001 www.enn.com

NAIROBI — Urgent international efforts are needed to conserve West Africa's sea turtles, with studies showing that the region holds some of the world's most important feeding and nesting sites, many of them under threat. The call is being made by officials with the Secretariat for the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) which has commissioned the first-ever comprehensive report on sea turtles on the Atlantic coast of Africa. The international treaty body, which is linked to the United Nations

Environment Programme (UNEP), is charged with conserving the world's migratory animals.

Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of UNEP, says: "In the Western Atlantic and Pacific Ocean, populations of sea turtles have been falling dramatically in recent years. This makes these findings in Western Africa doubly significant given its now undoubted status as a globally important region for sea turtle species." The report points out that the long beaches of southern Gabon hold the largest number of

Leatherback turtles in the world, ahead even of those of French Guiana in South America. A newly discovered population of Loggerheads, which may be the largest in the Atlantic, has also been discovered on Boa Vista, part of the Cape Verde group of islands.

Meanwhile, Mauritania, with significant areas of sea grass beds, is considered to have the most important feeding grounds for Green turtles in West Africa. Olive Ridley turtles, whose numbers

are in sharp decline in South America, can be found nesting from Guinea-Bissau all the way to Angola, the new report says.

This report, Biogeography and Conservation of Marine Turtles of the Atlantic Coast of Africa, has been written and compiled by Jacques Fretey, an internationally renowned sea turtle researcher and expert of the French Committee of IUCN-The World Conservation Union. It provides a comprehensive review of the status and known nesting sites of the Loggerhead (Caretta caretta), Green (Chelonia mydas), Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Kemp's or Atlantic Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii) and Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) turtles in every range State from Morocco to South Africa while underlining the real threats to the survival of the species surveyed.

Traditional subsistence use of sea turtles is permitted, but large numbers are being systematically slaughtered for meat and their eggs sold for food, beyond what is sustainable. Considerable numbers are dying after becoming entangled in fishing nets. Others are being killed for their shell, which is carved into ornaments or used for making tourist trinkets. Indeed there appears to be a trade in turtle shell both within and between some countries in the region, often in defiance of international trade laws on endangered species. This phenomenon is not just limited to Africa. Marine turtles are highly migratory species. Satellite tracking and other evidence shows us that sea turtles found along the African Atlantic coast have come to feed or breed from as far away as South and North America. Additional information on the Convention on Migratory Species can also be found at http://www.wcmc.org.uk/cms/ or from Information Officer, Jim Sniffen at 212-963-8210

More Than Just a Nuisance, the Mosquito Is a Virtuoso of Disease

AUG 07, 2001

In August 1999 the news came out that a native mosquito, Culex pipiens, the so-called common house mosquito, had acquired an exotic virus that could cause a fatal brain infection, West Nile encephalitis. The virus, named for its discovery in 1937 in Uganda, had never before been seen on this side of the Atlantic. Epidemiologists worry it is but the first of many exotic viruses that could use local mosquito species as an incubator and transport system for infecting countless people in the United States.

Dr. Spielman, a Harvard professor and an expert on mosquito-borne illness has written a new book entitled Mosquito: A Natural History of Our Most Persistent and Deadly Foe."There are other viruses out there — Rift Valley fever virus, Japanese B encephalitis virus, among them— that could be imported, and there's an enormous number of viruses here now that could bridge from animals to humans via the mosquito." The 2,500 known species of mosquitoes (150 of them in the United States) cover the gamut of ecological niches and bite at all times of the day and night. Some, like Aedes aegypti, a transmitter of

deadly dengue fever in Puerto Rico, reside in or near people's homes, making mass eradication by

community-wide spraying a virtual impossibility. Aedes mcintoshi, a vector of Rift Valley fever virus,

which has caused huge outbreaks in the Middle East, can survive in its egg stage for decades in a

dessicated desert, hatching when it rains.

In the New York area, the West Nile virus has been isolated from thousands of birds, both wild and

zoo-dwelling, as well as from horses, cats, bats, chipmunks, skunks, squirrels, domestic rabbits and

raccoons. It has spread along the East Coast from Maine to Florida, and as far west as Ohio.

Experts predict it will take a few summers at most for this viral import to invade most developed areas

in the United States. In its first appearance in New York in August and September 1999, about 60 patients, with an average age of 71, were hospitalized with a documented West Nile infection. Most had signs of encephalitis, and seven died. There were 21 cases, with two deaths, in the nation in 2000. This year, two human cases have been reported, both in Florida. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta reports that for every one person with an obvious West Nile infection, four others have a subclinical illness that goes undetected. The virus multiplies in and often kills birds, the so-called amplifying hosts, and multiplies further in mosquitoes that take blood from birds.

Do mosquitoes have a saving grace? Not according to Dr. Spielman, who said he knew of no species

of plant or animal that was completely dependent upon the mosquito for survival. True, nectar-feeding

male and female mosquitoes help to pollinate some flowers, and mosquito larvae and adults are fare for

fish, frogs, bats, birds, dragonflies and other insects. But all would survive if suddenly every mosquito

were to disappear from the face of the earth.

Celebrating Vanished Birds, Comical or Exquisite

AUG 07, 2001 www.nytimes.com

From what was once a grand spectacle of millions, by some counts billions, of birds darkening the skies over North America, the wild hordes of passenger pigeons came down to this: one bird named Martha, the last of her species. Martha finally breathed her last on Sept. 1, 1914, at a zoo. In the 1930's, the loss of the wild and well-watched Mr. H. H., for heath hen — marked the end of this prairie chicken

subspecies on Martha's Vineyard. And sometime in February 1918, a bird known as Incas, the last documented Carolina parakeet, also died. The pictures and histories of species lost in just the last several hundred years have been collected in a newly revised book that is in itself an ode to the remarkable record on birds, the obsessively researched and beautifully illustrated Extinct Birds by Errol Fuller, an artist (Cornell University Press).

The elephant bird, may well have been done in by its sheer obviousness. Ten feet tall and weighing half a ton, these flightless, bipedal behemoths — worthy of their superlative Latin name, Aepyornis maximus clomped about the island of Madagascar, probably as recently as the 1600's, the elephant birds laid eggs that rivaled in size any egg ever known. Intact fossil specimens are occasionally found even today. Over a foot across, these eggs could have held 7 ostrich eggs, 180 chicken eggs or 12,000 hummingbird eggs.

Some parrots, parakeets and macaw species, spectacularly plumed and sometimes intelligent enough

to provide chatty company for humans, have vanished, collected for use as pets or as fashion

accessories. Carolina parakeets, for example, were sought not just for their colorful feathers; their

small corpses were used whole by milliners to adorn women's hats.

The great auk, a black-and-white wonder of a bird that stood two and a half feet tall, was easily caught out of the water and was desired both for feathers and food. Its grand teardrop-shaped eggs, the color of aging parchment, measured just under half a foot in length and were the rage of collectors in the 1800's.

Perhaps the most famous among the dead is the dodo, It couldn’t fly (never a good thing when one has to escape humans or the carnivores that inevitably accompany them, like cats and dogs), and the dodo lived on Mauritius, a remote oceanic island — a recipe for disaster when hungry seafarers were looking for an easily procured, even if barely palatable,piece of meat.

Archaeological studies by Dr. David Steadman, a curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History,

and his colleagues have shown an even broader scale of devastation. In the last two millenniums of human colonization of the islands of the Pacific, some 2,000 species disappeared, nearly 20 percent of all the world's birds. On the Hawaiian islands alone, 60 bird species found nowhere else became extinct, their disappearances coinciding with the appearance of humans, marked in the fossil record by, among other things, the advent of trash heaps. But even looking back 2,000 years can seem myopic when one ponders the fact that many evolutionary biologists consider birds to be the only living members of the otherwise extinct dinosaur group.

A study of the threatened species of the world by an organization known as BirdLife International has estimated that one in eight bird species is at risk of extinction over the next century. Another fascinating and detailed accounting of Martha, Incas and others is Hope Is the Thing With Feathers by Christopher Cokinos, a poet, just issued in paperback by Warner Books.

But in the past 20 years, more new bird species have been discovered than have become extinct. Even

better, some species consigned to the ranks of the extinct have turned up again.For example, Jerdon's courser, a bird resembling a killdeer, had not been seen in India for 80 years was spotted in the 1980's and a bird from the Philippines known as the four-colored flowerpecker assumed to be extinct, on its island of Cebu has been found in a patch of forest.

Bjorn Lomborg: A Chipper Environmentalist

AUG 07, 2001 www.nytimes.com

The news from environmental organizations is almost always bleak. So it is a surprise to meet someone who calls himself an environmentalist but who asserts that things are getting better, that the rate of human population growth is past its peak, that agriculture is sustainable and pollution is ebbing, that forests are not disappearing, that there is no wholesale destruction of plant and animal species and that even global warming is not as serious as commonly portrayed. The author of this thesis is Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, a 36-year- old political scientist and professor of statistics at the University of Aarhus in Denmark. Dr. Lomborg arrived at this position, much to his own astonishment. In February 1997, Dr. Lomborg read an interview in Wired magazine with Dr.Julian L. Simon, a University of Maryland economist who argued in several books that population was unlikely to outrun natural resources. (Dr. Simon, died in 1998, and is more widely known for his solution to the airline overbooking problem (having airlines pay passengers to take a later flight) and for a 1980 bet with Dr. Paul Ehrlich, that any five metals chosen by Dr. Ehrlich would be cheaper in 1990; Dr. Ehrlich lost on all five.)

Dr. Lomborg felt sure that Dr. Simon's arguments were "simple American right-wing propaganda,"

and he tried to debunk Dr. Simon's contentions, using statistics drawn from reports of the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the International Panel on Climate Change and other gatherers of official facts. After 3 months he found that most of the important things Simon had claimed were actually correct." Dr. Lomborg has presented his findings in "The Skeptical Environmentalist," a book to be published in September by Cambridge University Press. The primary targets of the book, a substantial work of analysis with almost 3,000 footnotes, are statements made by environmental organizations like the Worldwatch Institute, the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace. He refers to the persistently gloomy fare from these groups as the Litany, a collection of statements that he argues are exaggerations or outright myths. Dr. Lomborg also chides journalists, saying they uncritically spread the Litany, and he accuses the public of an unfounded readiness to believe the worst.

To understand the world as it is, Dr. Lomborg says, it is necessary to look at long-term global trends

that tell more of the whole story than short-term trends and are less easy to manipulate.In his book, Dr. Lomborg cites figures from the United States Census Bureau, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the European Environment Agency to show that the rate of world population growth has actually been dropping sharply since 1964; the level of international debt decreased slightly from 1984 to 1999; the price of oil, adjusted for inflation, is half what it was in the early 1980's; and the sulfur emissions that generate acid rain (which has turned out to do little if any damage to forests, though some to lakes) have been cut substantially since 1984.

Dr. Lomborg also takes issue with some global warming predictions. In assessing how waste gases

could warm the world's climate, he says, there are four wild cards that affect the climate change

models. One is the multiplier effect of carbon dioxide — as it heats the atmosphere a little, the air can hold more water, and that heats the atmosphere a lot more. How much more is in question, but Dr.

Lomborg cites satellite and weather balloon data that seem to weaken the case for a strong multiplier

effect. The other three wild cards, Dr. Lomborg says, are the role of clouds, the effect of aerosols and the

effect of the sunspot cycle on earth's climate. Dr. Lomborg believes that when it comes to computer models of climate change, the International Panel on Climate Change deals all four wild cards in a way that exaggerates the effect of greenhouse gases. This means, in his view, that the actual warming will be at the cooler end of the panel's predicted range. He contends that the internationally agreed Kyoto targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions will impose vast costs for little result. A more effective approach, according to Dr. Lomborg, would be to increase research on alternative sources of energy, like solar and fusion.

Dr. Lomborg believes that forest loss has been less serious than is often described — The often quoted figure that 40,000 species are lost every year comes from a 1979 article by Dr. Norman Myers, an ecologist at Oxford University. But this figure, Dr. Lomborg says, was not based on any evidence, just on Dr. Myers's conjecture that one million species might be lost from 1975 to 2000, which works out to be 40,000 species a year. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which maintains the Red Book of endangered species, concluded in 1992 that the extinction figures for mammals and birds were "very small" and that the total extinction rate, assuming 30 million species, was probably 2,300 species a year. Dr. Myers confirmed in an interview that the figure of 40,000 extinctions a year had come from his

estimate. He said that it was an illustration used to make his argument clear and that he gave figures

only "when I am speaking to a political leader or policy maker who says that in order to sell his message, he absolutely must have some number." The International Union for the Conservation of Nature's estimate was too low, Dr. Myers said, because it considered a species extinct only after none of its members had been sighted for 50 years. "All I am trying to do is to demonstrate that we are in the opening phase of a mass extinction," he said.

Task force recommends zoo be run by nonprofit entity

Aug. 9, 2001, HoustonChronicle.com

The city should create a private nonprofit organization to take over the management and operation of the Houston Zoological Gardens to improve fund raising, according to a task force convened by Mayor Lee Brown. The group's report, to be released at a news conference this morning, recommends that the city create a local government corporation to contract with a nonprofit Houston Zoo Inc. to manage the zoo.

The report recommends that the city retain ownership of the zoo's land and facilities, but lease them to the local government corporation. The corporation would be responsible for the zoo's budget, admission prices, programs and overall operations, and would direct Houston Zoo Inc. in its management. The task force recommends that the transfer to private management be finished by January 2002.

The zoo's budget for the fiscal year that ended June 30 was $17 million, $8.5 million of which came from the city. The remainder came from its membership, concessions, gift shop revenues and donations.

As envisioned by the task force, the city would continue to fund the zoo at current levels, keeping up with inflation, and provide utilities. The task force also suggests the city help pay for the transfer of operations and deferred maintenance to Houston Zoo Inc. The total "transition fund" needed for the transfer is estimated at $10 million over three years, the report says. The private sector would be responsible for all other zoo funding. "The end result of this public-private funding model will be that the city receives a substantially better zoo without incurring the drastically greater funding required to obtain it,"

The group also says the city should consider matching private donations in future fund-raisers to pay for capital improvements. The task force audit concluded that the zoo will need to spend $6.7 million in the three years for deferred repairs. In a letter to City Council members that was attached to the report Thursday, Brown called the report the "first step toward developing our zoo into a first-rate family destination for the city of Houston." But he also called the task force's recommendations a starting point, requiring feedback from the public, zoo employees and city officials. "This sounds like `Gimme, gimme, gimme and leave me alone,' " Councilman Carroll Robinson said after a preliminary review of the report. "Why should the city give up absolute control and keep funding the zoo when there's no guarantee the private sector will come up with the money to correct the supposed shortcomings this report points out?

It was unclear what effect the privatization would have on the $156 million zoo master plan, which was finished in February 2000. Under that plan, the zoo would be broken into nine geographic zones referred to as "hot spots of biodiversity." Each zone would include indigenous animals, plants and cultures, using "immersion habitats," mixed-species exhibits and classroom space. Implementation of the master plan, commissioned by the Houston Zoological Society, is expected to take 20 years, assuming the needed private money is available. The task force estimated the zoo will need to raise as much as $125 million over the next decade to begin implementation of the plan.

 

Stolen Florida sea turtle eggs hatch in Ohio home

August 9, 2001 www.cnn.com

SARASOTA, Florida (AP) -- A tourist from Ohio took 27 sea turtle eggs from a storm-swept Florida beach, then called a zoo for help when they hatched unexpectedly. Martha Bowling, a former science teacher, told officials at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium that storms unearthed the eggs near Fort Lauderdale about three weeks ago. Bowling, 55, said she knew sea turtles are threatened and that federal laws prohibit touching them but she figured the eggs were not viable. She had left the eggs in a plastic bag in a sand and water mixture. Days later, as they hatched, four sea turtles died. Zoo workers were feeding the 23 survivors with bits of s hrimp and scallions. If the hatchlings do well, they will be returned to a Florida beach. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating. The federal penalty for interfering with even one egg is a year in jail and a $100,000 fine.

China Opens First Zoo with Cohabiting Beasts

August 9, 2001 english.peopledaily.com.cn

China's first zoo where various animals are kept together in the same enclosure opened Wedsesday. Covering an area of 240 hectares, the zoo in the southern suburbs of Beijing hosts over 200 kinds of rare animals, numbering over 10,000 in total. Zoo-keeper Du Xuefeng said, "Only a few of zoos in the world have put natural enemies such as wolves and porcupines, bears and deer in the same open area. Fighting between predators and their prey may present a strong visual impact to visitors. However, we try to avoid intense fights by controlling the frequencies and the exact amounts of feeding. Their mutual hostility maintained, the beasts can fight at a moderate intensity to keep fit. Wolves and porcupines, bears and deer have been living together for two months in the open area. Although the animals have not lived peacefully, no casualties have occurred." With a total investment of 250 million yuan, the zoo has opened dozens of exhibition zones for visitors either in cars or on foot. In addition to daily activities such as animal feedings and performances, the zoo workers are engaged in researches on animal protection and genes.

Zoo Intruder Barges in, but Gorillas Go to Lunch

AUG 09, 2001 www.nytimes.com

A man with a history of mental illness leapt into the gorilla enclosure at the Bronx Zoo yesterday, saying he wanted to "be one with the monkeys." A zookeeper distracted the nine gorillas in the enclosure with the promise of food, and the man, Peter Vatiqi, 32, of Morris Park, the Bronx, was subdued by police officers and taken to St. Barnabas Hospital for psychiatric observation. The incident began at about 11 a.m., the police said, when Mr. Vatiqi took off his clothes outside the Congo Gorilla Forest. He then scaled a waist-high barrier, clambered over some shrubbery and crossed a 12-foot moat. Witnesses notified a zookeeper, who opened a metal door to an area where the animals are fed. The gorillas, apparently assuming it was time for a meal, entered the feeding area and the zookeeper closed the door behind them, keeping the animals away from Mr. Vatiqi, the authorities said. "As far as the zookeeper could tell, the gorillas didn't even know he was in there," said Patrick Milliman, a zoo spokesman.

Conservationists beat wrestlers over WWF Web name

August 10, 2001 www.cnn.com

LONDON, England (AP) -- The World Wildlife Fund, best known for its efforts to protect the giant panda and other endangered animal species, won a judgment Friday against the World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc. over the use of the initials WWF. The decision curtails the ability of the wrestling group to promote itself, and will force it to abandon its Web address. The Stamford, Connecticut-based company said it would appeal. Justice Robin Jacob ruled that the wrestling group had breached a 1994 agreement between the two sides that limited its use of the initials.

While policy-makers squabble, Amazon vanishes

August 10, 2001 www.cnn.com

Brazil launched full-scale development in the Amazon basin in the 1940s, during the rule of President Getulio Vargas. The process metamorphosed over the decades into programs with different names but the same overall purpose: In the 1950s, it was the "economic valorization" of the Amazon; in the 1970s, the theme was "colonization and agrarian reform," along with gigantic road projects such as the Trans-Amazon Highway. The Brazilian government, aided by various countries including the United States, believed that establishing cattle ranches in the Amazon would help generate revenue at a time of high global beef prices. Subsidies from SUDAM -- the Superintendency for the Development of Amazonia initially offered up to 50 percent tax exemptions for such projects. Eventually these subsidies jumped to 100 percent. At the same time, the government encouraged hundreds of thousands of people to move to the Amazon. The settlers were given land at a minimal price, or even for free, as long as they proved they were using it for "productive purposes." This led to a slash-and-burn process of deforestation. The land thus cleared yields crops of generally low quality for two to three years. By then, the soil is depleted of nutrients, and the land is often abandoned altogether.

Part of the problem is that the people who make the policies affecting the Amazon are so far removed from the area. They've never even visited it, nor do they want to. But in Brazil's financial center of Sao Paulo, a group of high-powered businessmen, members of the FIESP/CIESP -- leading industrialists in Sao Paulo state and key advisers to the government of President Fernando Henrique Cardoso -- strongly defend Brazil's Amazon development policy. Many of them, especially those who've settled in the Amazon basin, genuinely believe that "outsiders" -- especially those from the United States -- want to take over the region. Environmental groups such as Greenpeace are viewed with deep suspicion, as are many of the U.S. scientists and researchers trying to record the hundreds, if not thousands, of bird and animal species that are disappearing from the rapidly shrinking forest.

In order to curtail logging and traditional slash-and- burn farming, environmentalists realize they must help those who've settled in the region find alternative ways to make a living. The government may be coming to the same realization, as it too tries to scale back some of its subsidies in these cash-strapped times. Having encouraged people for decades to populate the Amazon basin, the problem now is how to enable them to earn a living without destroying the very place itself. The tragic thing about development in the Amazon is that the benefits are so marginal. And every half-hour an area the size of 210 football fields is lost.

Panda baby boom in China

August 12, 2001 www.cnn.com

SHANGHAI, China -- T hirteen pandas in China's southwestern province of Sichuan are likely to give birth in the next few months, the official Xinhua news agency has reported. "According to our experience, 50 percent of them could be twins, and so there may be 13 to 20 new members in the panda family soon," Xinhua quoted Zhang Anju, director of the Giant Panda Breeding Technology Committee of China as saying on Sunday. Nine pregnant pandas kept in captivity in Chengdu, provincial capital of Sichuan, have been moved into a new, air-conditioned delivery room.

Researchers from Michigan State University, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the China-based Center for Giant Panda Research and Conservation recently examined satellite photos the 500,000-acre Wolong Nature Preserve, taken from 1965 to 1997. From 1975 to 1995, the human population in the preserve increased 70 percent, a rise that outstrips population increases in some areas lying outside the preserve in China's Sichuan province. The population rise has led to more trees being cut down for fuel, farming and road work.

Saving man's distant cousin

August 13, 2001 news.bbc.co.uk

In the past year, the hunters of Krokosua Hills have hung up their bows, guns and snares and become guardians of Ghana's remaining patches of primeval forests. They will soon be joined by a group of European zoos and conservationists, who hope to save two highly endangered primates. The West African Primate Conservation Action (WAPCA) wants to ensure the survival of the Diana Roloway monkey (Cercopithecus diana roloway) and the white-naped mangabey (Cercocebus atys lunulatus). These two species could be down to their last few hundred individuals. They are now found only in the much depleted Upper Guinean Forest straddling Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire, a cornucopia of unique bird, plant and mammal species and one of the world's top biodiversity hotspots.

In these same forests, another monkey, the boisterous and brightly coloured Miss Waldron's red colobus, was declared extinct by American anthropologist John Oates in December, the first ape or monkey to meet that fate for 200 years.

Close to 90% of the original forest which once covered most of West Africa has been wiped out. Only 180,900 square kilometres remain - and its future is uncertain, with scientists predicting that 70% of this could be lost by 2040. Heidelberg Zoo is spearheading the new drive to conserve man's distant West African cousins. Other institutions supporting WAPCA are Landau, Mulhouse, Barcelona, Munster and Doue La Fontaine zoos, the Zoological Society for the Conservation of Species and Populations and Conservation des Especes et des Populations Animales. WAPCA wants to provide viable alternatives to local people by employing them as wardens and guides and educating them about the economic potential, as tourist attractions, of the primates. This community-based approach is already yielding benefits in former hunting areas like Ankasa Forest Reserve and Krokosua Hills.

Jersey zoo saves two species on Montserrat

13 August 2001 news.independent.co.uk

New volcanic eruptions are occurring on the tiny Caribbean island, Montserrat. Only 5,000 people remain on the island, a UK dependency. Most of the population was evacuated after its 1995-97 volcanic eruption. Two of the most endangered species there have been evacuated to the Jersey zoo: the Montserrat oriole Icterus oberi, ( As few as 300 pairs may remain on the island, its only natural habitat), and the "mountain chicken" – not a bird but a massive frog, Leptodactylus fallax. Eight of the thrush-sized orioles and nine frogs have been bred in captivity for the first time. The orioles' numbers have risen to 14 and 120 frogs have been produced, viewed as a bigger "scientific breakthrough" because they breed in burrows and little was known of their requirements.

Researchers Turn Back the Clock on Origin of Land Plants

AUG 14, 2001 www.nytimes.com

When plants emerged from the sea and took up life on land they paved the way for animals and other organisms to follow. Biologists have long set the date for that event somewhere around 450 million years ago, but a new study in the current issue of the journal Science suggests that plants escaped the oceans at least 700 million years ago, a radically earlier date. The team of researchers, composed largely of undergraduates at Penn State, was led by Dr. Blair Hedges, a molecular evolutionist. The study has already garnered great interest as well as disbelief. So far, the fossil record has not been obliging — the oldest fossils of land plants are around 450 million years old. One problem with the new date, researchers say, is that it means land plants would have existed on earth for 250 million years without ever leaving a fossil that scientists have been able to unearth. Dr. Brent Mishler, a plant evolutionary biologist at the University of California at Berkeley claims the methods of analysis used in the paper are outdated.

Researchers often estimate the ages of groups using what are called molecular clocks, as was done in

the new study. The logic of molecular clocks is simple: when two groups split apart from each other

— for example, when the human lineage split off from the chimpanzee lineage — the two groups begin

to accumulate differences in their DNA and proteins. The longer the two groups are separated, the

more differences they will accumulate between them. If researchers know when two groups split, perhaps by using fossil evidence, they can then count how many differences accumulated in the groups' DNA over that number of years. By knowing how many differences accumulate, for example, every million years, researchers have calibrated their molecular clock. In their study, Dr. Hedges and colleagues analyzed more than 100 previously published protein sequences to examine the differences accumulated over time between a number of fungi and plants. Plants are widely thought to have made the leap to land accompanied by fungi. Using a protein clock, the researchers estimated that the necessary fungi were around more than a billion years ago, setting the scene for the evolution of land plants arising at least 700 million years ago.

The broadest implication of the new study was the suggestion by the authors that these early land

plants might be responsible for one of the most famous of evolutionary events, the so-called Cambrian

explosion about 530 million years ago. In the past, some researchers had suggested that what touched

off that rapid evolution of animal life forms was an increase in atmospheric oxygen. The authors on the

new work suggest that land plants predated that major event and may well have been the source of

that crucial oxygen.

Federal Court Decision a Victory for Birds and Salmon

August 14, 2001 www.enn.com

On August 8th, 2001, a Federal Judge in Seattle issued an order prohibiting the Army Corps of

Engineers from further destroying any Caspian Tern or cormorant habitat or hazing any more

birds in the Columbia River estuary on the OR/WA border, until completion of a comprehensive

Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). In her order, Judge Rothstein also found that the FWS erred in granting a permit under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act for taking (killing) birds without such an EIS. The Corps, pushed by National Marine Fisheries Service and state fishery agencies, continued to extirpate birds from the world's largest Caspian Tern colony. Their reasoning was that Tern predation of salmonids was causing declines in the fishery and impeding recovery of listed salmon species. Noting that there was no sound science on which to base this link, conservationists emphasized the need to concentrate on proven causes of wild salmon declines - hydro-electric dams, hatchery practices, habitat loss, polution and over-fishing. Finally, American Bird Conservancy, Seattle Audubon, National Audubon Society, and Defenders of Wildlife were driven to legal action to protect the Terns.

Joan Embery's Animal Act

Aug 11, 2001 www.uniontrib.com

 

Twenty years after she and Carol the Asian elephant performed daily for visitors at the San Diego Wild Animal Park, Embery is back on stage -- this time with a pack of four-legged co-stars and talking about the need to protect endangered species and conserve animals and their habitats.

The Friday night shows started in July and will continue through Aug. 31. The 40-minute shows are at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.Embery makes working with a giant anteater named Javier look effortless. She jokes and tells stories about African safaris and televised chats with Johnny Carson. She seems genuinely happy when Spider Man, a black and white lemur, grooms her long blond hair. She

smiles widely as she explains that while Javier looks cute and relatively cuddly, he can disembowel a

jaguar with his claws. Embery's personal story is one that has been told often. An animal lover as a child, the San Diego native had her sights set on a career as a veterinarian when she landed a job at the Children's Zoo in 1968. The following year, she took over as zoo ambassador. Since then it's been nonstop touring and talking about the critters she loves. Over her 30-plus years as ambassador, Embery, 52, has made more than 100 "Tonight Show" appearances. She has done spots on "Good Morning America" and "Entertainment Tonight," and has hosted two television shows.

 

She annually makes dozens of trips around the world to zoos and animal parks to promote the San Diego Zoo and its conservation programs. She also has managed to find time to write four books and maintain a healthy career training and showing horses.

 

The 40 minute show takes place in an African tent camp, decorated with artifacts and antique treasures Embery has purchased on her travels, and a script that changes slightly each week. One can never predict which story she might tell, or if Trundle the aardvark will be in the mood to mug for guests. "I never know what's going to happen," says Embery, who spends a half-hour reviewing notes before the first of the night's shows. "But I think it has a nice ambience. When the sun sets and the moon comes, it's really beautiful out here."

 

Before the show, staff members walk through the audience with small animals for petting. Afterward,

Embery has been known to spend more than an hour answering questions and imparting advice.

The show gets high praise from audiences, who gush that Embery is knowledgeable, entertaining and down-to-earth.

 

Gorillas

Aug 14, 2001 www.uniontrib.com Barbara J Feldman, computer consultant

The International Society of Cryptozoology http://www.izoo.org/isc/discoveries.htm

Gorillas are the largest of the apes and have no natural enemies except man. They make their home in the rain forests of Africa, near the equator The scientific community did not discover gorillas until 1847.

Congo Gorilla Forest http://www.congogorillaforest.com/

The Congo Gorilla Forest exhibit at the Bronx Zoo is a "61(1)2- acre African rain forest environment that explains what a rain forest is, how it works, which animals make it their home, why it is threatened, and how people can help save Elementary schoolkids will like the Congo Game, a Shockwave version of a traditional "move-around-the-board" game for two to four players.

Discovery Channel Gorilla Cam http://dsc.discovery.com/cams/gorillavid.html?ct3b3a2617

This cam is focused on six western lowland gorillas that live at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston

Koko.org Gorilla Foundation http://www.koko.org/

In 1971, Francine "Penny" Patterson began teaching Koko, a newborn lowland gorilla, American Sign Language. Koko has a vocabulary of 1,000 words. The GorillaFoundation of Woodside has a dual mission of interspecies communication and gorilla preservation.

Gorillas Online http://www.selu.com/bio/gorilla/

For middle and high school students, Gorillas Online offers a rich resource on gorilla natural history, taxonomy and genetics. Everyone, however, will enjoy the gorilla photos, paintings and illustrations

National Geographic http://www.nationalgeographic.com/kids/creature--feature/0007/ gorillas.html

Mountain gorillas are endangered. "Fewer than 650 remain in the wild. The life span of a mountain gorillain the wild is about 40 years; in captivity, up to 50 years." Best clicks are the audio clip of gorilla vocalizations.

 

Zoo’s Primate Exhibit and Research Lab

August 17, 2001 Science vol 293 p1247

Two comparative psychologists from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Michael Tomasello and Josep Call) have begun studies on chimpanzee cognitive development and social skills at the new 13,552 sq meter Wolfgang Kohler Primate Research Center at the Leipzig Zoo. 15 chimps are housed on a 4000 sq meter island separate from the others to enable troop formation. Their studies may resolve an ongoing controversy sparked in the early 1980's when Sue Savage Rumbaugh and colleagues at Georgia State University reported that chimps demonstrate skills such as language, math skills and self- awareness. Their mixed results have left many experts uncertain of the degree to which primates are capable of humanlike functions.

 

Panda probably not pregnant

Aug 17, 2001 www.uniontrib.com

The San Diego Zoo plans to cancel a round-the-clock birth watch on giant panda Bai Yun. Zoo staff has been monitoring the 10-year-old female on a 24-hour basis since the end of June, when she began to exhibit all the signs of a possible pregnancy. But false pregnancies, at least in captivity, are common in pandas, and in the last two weeks the odds of the secluded Bai Yun having a cub dropped almost to zero. By early yesterday the consensus was that if there was no birth in the next 24 hours, there would likely be none at all.

"We're not elated when a program fails to produce a highly desired result, but we've learned a lot about false pregnancy and expanded our understanding of what is going on," Lindburg said.The zoo had much better luck in 1999, he said. That's when sperm from Shi Shi, the zoo's male panda, was successfully implanted in Bai Yun, resulting in the birth of Hua Mei, who will be 2 on Tuesday. A similar attempt to artificially inseminate Bai Yun in 1998 was unsuccessful, but then, as now, she exhibited signs of pregnancy, including loss of appetite and nest building.

Artificial insemination is a "fall-back position" at best, Lindburg said. But with Shi Shi, never in robusthealth and getting on in years, it was their only option, although panda reproduction is not the primary goal of the zoo's research program."We've only seen the female side of courtship," Lindburg noted, but that could change by next April, when Bai Yun is expected to be fertile again and there could be another suitor on hand.His name is Gao Gao, an 11-year-old male panda that Chinese officials have indicated a willingness to send to San Diego. Zoo officials have yet to see him, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would have to issue a permit before the transfer could happen.

If Gao Gao is to mate with Bai Yun next spring, he would have to arrive in San Diego by early January at the latest, Lindburg said. That would allow just enough time, following the mandatory 30-day quarantine, for Gao Gao to adjust to his new surroundings.At this point, however, there have not even been any discussions with Chinese officials about the specifics of bringing Gao Gao to San Diego. Under the terms of the 12-year loan agreement that brought Bai Yun and Shi Shi here in 1996, the animals remain the property of China. The Zoological Society of San Diego pays China $1 million annually for the pair, and the money goes for panda conservation. The zoological society is also required to pay the Chinese $100,000 a month for six months every time a birth occurs, and any cubs also remain the property of China. There are seven giant pandas in U.S. zoos. In addition to the three in San Diego, both the Atlanta and Washington, D.C., zoos have breeding pairs, although they are unlikely to produce offspring for at least a year or more.

Bai Yun's false pregnancy was not the only one to disappoint San Diego Zoo panda researchers this year. In a cooperative effort with Mexico City's Chapultepec Zoo and Tokyo's Ueno Zoological Gardens, members of the giant panda team artificially inseminated the three females at the Mexican zoo. That was in March, after an unsuccessful attempt to breed them with Tokyo's male, Ling Ling. Two of the females exhibited the same sings of pregnancy that Bai Yun showed, including altered hormone profiles, loss of appetite and nest-building All three zoos will participate in a similar joint effort next year, Lindburg said.

 

Lizards choose offsprings' sex

August 17, 2001 www.enn.com

LONDON — Lizards might be able to control the sex of their offspring by getting more or less sun and regulating the temperature during gestation, scientists said this week. One theory is that the cold-blooded reptiles use temperature to control the number of male and female offspring and maintain a balance between sexes in the adult population. Alternatively, females of the Australian skink species, known as Eulamprus tympanum, might opt for warmer temperatures — and therefore male offspring — whenever they can as it speeds up gestation. However, the mountain terrain they inhabit limits their choice. "Given the opportunity in captivity, pregnant female Eulamprus tympanum will bask at higher temperatures, which speed up embryogenesis and hence reduce their burden, and produce male offspring," said Kylie Robert of the University of Sydney, Australia. But in the wild the lizards produce balanced litters. Robert said that factors such as cool weather or the presence ofpredators may prevent the lizards from reaching warmer temperatures. Or they might actively choose to maintain lower temperatures to produce balanced litters.

 

Biocontrol using nonnative species

August 17, 2001 www.enn.com

WASHINGTON — In research appearing in the journal Science, ecologists Jane Memmott and M. Laurie Henneman of the University of Bristol in Britain sought to determine the degree to which alien species imported as so-called biological control agents had infiltrated a local ecosystem. They found that parasitic wasps transplanted from Texas and China into Hawaii more than half a century ago to prey on pests that devour sugar cane have emerged as commanding figures in the complex food web of a boggy forest on Kauai island, many miles away from where they were introduced. They're there in high numbers, and they're there in places that are really remote from agricultural areas.The research examines the consequences of using nonnative species as biocontrol agents The researchers constructed food webs of Hawaiian plants, butterflies, and moths as well as the wasps They found that about 20 percent of the caterpillars contained wasp eggs. Of these wasps, only 3 percent were native to Hawaii. Fourteen percent of the wasp species had been accidentally introduced to the state over the years. But three wasps that had been introduced as biocontrol agents accounted for an overwhelming 83 percent of the attacks. But the species of wasps implicated all had been released prior to 1945, suggesting more recent biocontrol efforts may be having a smaller adverse effect as the safety of biocontrol has tightened up a lot.

15 dead elephants in Assam wake up Centre

August 18, 2001 www.indian-express.com

NEW DELHI– The sudden deaths of 15 elephants over the past five days in Assam’s Nameri National Park, has put in question the ‘‘official version’’ attributing the tragedy to liver fluke. Some reports reaching here suggest that the elephants may in fact have been poisoned. Vivek Menon, well known elephant expert and executive director of the Wildlife Trust of India points out that unlike in other countries, the authorities here do not carry out toxicity tests to establish poisoning.

Equally worrying for the authorities are reports of poachers capturing at least 12 young elephants from the Upper Assam area. Nepal is one of the biggest centres for illegally caught elephants, the pachyderms have a huge market in the private wildlife resorts at Chitwan and other sanctuaries.
Although elephant-capturing was banned by the Indian Government in the early seventies — owing mainly to the cruel ‘kheda’ method where several animals, forced to fall into man-made ditches, often broke their legs — the business has mushroomed illegally in the recent years.

NEW Zoo seeks reaccreditation

August 19, 2001 www.greenbaypressgazette.com

Representatives from the American Zoo and Aquarium Association were at the NEW Zoo in Suamico this past week as part of Brown County’s application to have the zoo reaccredited for another five years. The county-run zoo first received accreditation by the association in 1996. Representatives inspected the facility and talked with staff, zoo manager Neil Anderson said. Anderson said he will attend a hearing Sept. 7 in St. Louis to determine whether the zoo will be reaccredited.

 

Manatee moves to Tampa

August 20, 2001 www.newscoast.com

 

BRADENTON -- It's taken Mo the manatee nearly three years at the Parker Aquarium in downtown Bradenton to mature, and bulk up, in preparation for life in the wild. He now weighs 1,340 pounds, up from 750 pounds. Mo gained that weight by eating about 120 pounds of kale, broccoli, apples and sweet potatoes every day."He's a big, strapping male that needs to get back out into the wild," said Dr. David Murphy, as volunteers packed bags of ice around Mo's foam bed in the moving van. On Monday a dozen volunteers slid the sea cow onto a sling and lifted him about 12 feet above his pool and into the van.

The Parker aquarium, part of a network of aquariums that take care of stranded manatees, was always a temporary home for Mo."The program is to grow these guys up and let them go back into the wild so they can be viable for their population," said Carol Audette, manatee curator at Parker. "You don't want to keep them in captivity for no good reason."Mo came to Bradenton after his last try at freedom didn't turn out so well. Sea World of Orlando had taken care of Mo, who was rescued as a wandering infant, for four years.Sea World released him into the Crystal River three years ago, but it was too late in the year and Mo had few other manatees to follow.

 

Cycad smuggling ring

August 20, 2001 www.uniontrib.com

 

In one of the largest rare-plant smuggling crackdowns in U.S. history, 12 people were charged last month in California with smuggling cycads and other rare plants from Africa, Asia and Australia.

The three-year investigation spanned four continents and included a cooperating cycad fancier and an undercover U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent posing as a collector. Authorities estimated the value of the plants smuggled in the case at more than $840,000.

 

The plants, which look a bit like palms are rare and ancient. Some cycad species originated up to 250 million years ago and were once the most successful plant on the planet, reportedly nourishing dinosaurs. But now cycads are considered endangered. They number less than 300 species worldwide. While some of the plants can live for hundreds of years, they grow slowly and reproduce infrequently -- they don't flower. Development has threatened them, as have poachers, government officials say.

 

In the early 1970s, a multinational agreement known as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species was reached to limit trafficking of rare plants and animals. The laws produced from that convention, known as CITES, allegedly were violated in last month's crackdown.The government's investigation began in earnest in August 1999 at Cycad '99, an international cycad collectors show at Fairchild Tropical Gardens in Coral Gables, Fla. There, an undercover agent and a cooperating witness met Peter Heibloem, 47, of Queensland, Australia, an author of a book titled "The Cycads of Central Africa." Heibloem is also a motivational speaker who offers seminars to businesspeople and others interested in expanding their "mind power." Heibloem allegedly was offering illegal cycads for as much as $1,350 each.The indictment states Heibloem and others shipped $542,000 worth of protected cycads to the United States from South Africa, Australia, and Zimbabwe. Heibloem and others allegedly used invalid permits and false labels in an attempt to fool authorities.

 

China panda mum, dad unknown

August 20, 2001 www.enn.com

 

Sichuan province — Yaya, has delivered a set of twins, weighing around 185 grams (0.40 lb). Yaya, herself a twin, counts as one of the Giant Panda Breeding Research Centre’s most prolific breeders, having delivered twins twice before. Yaya's cubs are part of a current baby boom at China's panda reserves. Nine pregnant pandas kept in captivity at the centre were likely to give birth in the next few months, the official Xinhua news agency said last week. Fifty percent of them could be twins, Xinhua quoted an official as saying. Four others from Sichuan's Wolong Nature Reserve, a protected panda habitat, were also expected to produce cubs, it said.

 

Australia's megafauna

August 20, 2001 www.enn.com

CANBERRA, Australia — Researchers have applied a state-of-the-art dating technique to find that Australia’s huge animals which disappeared as long ago as 46,000 years. If the dates are right, this questions earlier theories blaming the last ice age 21,000 years ago, or man hunting the animals to extinction after arriving about 60,000 years ago. The new dates point to a third theory — the "slow burn" —in which the megafauna was gradually wiped out by man changing the landscape plus climate changes.

While academics are agreed that dinosaurs were probably wiped out after a huge meteorite hit the planet about 65 million years ago, causing catastrophic cooling and acid rain, the jury is still out on the fate of Australia's megafauna that followed. The heyday of giant animals was the Pleistocene era, about 1.6 million to 40,000 years ago. During this time, when the world cooled and dried, plants adapted to better survive long dry spells and became less lush and nutritious. Plant-eating animals became larger as they ate more to get thenutrition they needed — and predators in turn grew bigger to cope with their larger prey. Australia, isolated from other continents for 45 million years, developed its own distinctive fauna, including huge lizards, marsupial lions Flesh-eating kangaroos, hippopotamus-sized wombats and flightless emu-like ducks weighing 1.5 tons — of which 86 percent or up to 55 species were believed to have been wiped out. Those that vanished included the large short-faced kangaroo, the Procoptodon, which grew up to 10 feet tall and 660 pounds in weight, with its foot reduced to a single toe adapted to move quickly across dry, hard land. The wombat-like Dipotrodon, the largest marsupial known, was nearly 13 feet long, five-feet tall and weighed 1.5 tons.

Over three years researchers used refined optically stimulated luminescence techniques, only recently available, to date grains of sand from rock layers bearing intact megafauna fossils from 28 sites nationwide, revealing burial times of around 46,000 years ago. These dates suggest the massive creatures and man co-existed for up to 15,000 years. "Slow-burn" theorists argue the first people modified landscapes, reduced habitat by fire-stick farming, took the eggs of flightless birds and reptiles, and wiped out populations by tethering animals to waterholes during droughts. Paleontologist Mike Archer, director of Sydney's Australian Museum, says this appears the most likely theory — while admitting that the debate is far from over.

 

West Nile virus in Canadian birds
August 21, 2001 www.enn.com

TORONTO — Health Canada officials said Monday they are conducting further tests on a dead crow found in the border town of Windsor, Ontario, in early August after preliminary tests showed the presence of the virus. And a Blue-Jay found in Oakville, 25 km (15 miles) west of Toronto, is also being examined after early tests showed signs of the virus.West Nile virus has killed nine people in the United States since it appeared in the New York area in 1999. A recent report by the New York health department said an estimated 8,200 people were infected and 1,700 of them got sick. The disease was first identified in the 1930s along a branch of the Nile River in Africa.

 

Giant Pandas on the Web

Aug 21, 2001 www.uniontrib.com

Barbara J. Feldman, a San Diego County resident and a former computer consultant and programmer. Recommends the following sites for kids:

Animal Planet: Meet the Pandas http://animal.discovery.com/convergence/pandas/pandas.html

Discovery Online: Panda Bonanza http://www.discovery.com/news/features/pandas/pandas.html

Nature: The Panda Baby http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/panda/

Pandas at the National Zoo http://pandas.si.edu/

San Diego Zoo: Panda Central http://sandiegozoo.org/special/pandas/

An archive of her past columns is available at http://www.surfnetkids.com. Questions, comments and topicsuggestions can be e-mailed to: feldman@surfnetkids.com.

Sea turtle deaths in S. America

August 21, 2001 www.enn.com

WASHINGTON — Increased fishing activity near important South American nesting beaches for leatherback turtles has caused the deaths of hundreds of the endangered marine reptiles in recent months, a leading conservation group said on Monday. Up to half of the global population of leatherback turtles comes ashore to lay eggs on the Atlantic beaches of Suriname, Guyana and French Guiana, making this one of the world's crucial nesting areas for sea turtles, officials with the World Wildlife Fund said. But the group said it had documented a massive die-off of the turtles during the current nesting season, which lasts until the end of this month. "High numbers of turtles are being caught in the nets of fishing boats in the area, some of them operating illegally," Arnoud Schouten, who heads the World Wildlife Fund's marine turtle program in the region, said in a statement. "Leatherback numbers in the Pacific have plummeted in the last 20 years."

USDA Standards for Scrapie Control

Aug. 21, 2001 www.aphis.usda.gov

WASHINGTON,--The U.S. Department of Agriculture has established a list of states that conduct effective state scrapie control programs consistent with USDAregulations, and has established new interstate movement, identification, and indemnityrequirements for sheep and goats. All 50 states have agreed to abide by the new regulations. In addition to setting the standards for effective state scrapie control programs and listing the states which meet those standards, this final rule will require identification of mature sheep, breeding sheep, and breeding goats moving interstate and will reinstate an indemnity program for certain sheep and goats affected by scrapie. Producers who move sheep and goats in interstate commerce should contact their local USDA Veterinary Services office to have tag numbers assigned. Additional information on the USDA scrapie program may be found at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/scrapie/

The compliance date for all requirements to identify animals that are not scrapie-positive animals, suspect animals, high-risk animals, exposed animals, or animals from an infected orsource flock is Nov. 19. The compliance date for all requirements for the identification of commercial whitefaced breeding sheep under 18 months of age and commercial breeding goats is Feb. 19, 2002.

This rule is published in the Aug. 21 Federal Register and becomes effective on Sept. 20. APHIS documents published in the Federal Register and related information, including the names of organizations and individuals who have commented on APHIS dockets, are available on the Internet at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ppd/rad/webrepor.html.

USDA Seeks comments on Animal Disease Impact

Aug. 21, 2001 www.aphis.usda.gov

WASHINGTON,--The U.S. Department of Agriculture seeks comments and suggestions regarding the economic impact of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, bovine spongiform enchephalopathy, or other disease. Interested persons can send their written comments to USDA's Animal and Plant HealthInspection Service or deliver their comments at a public meeting on Sept. 28 from 9 a.m. to 12p.m. at 4700 River Road, Riverdale, Md., conference rooms C and D.

APHIS is seeking comments and suggestions to aid in the development of a report required by the Animal Disease Risk Assessment, Prevention and Control Act of 2001. A notice of public meeting and request for comments was published in the Aug. 7 Federal Register. APHIS documents published in the Federal Register and related information, including the names of organizations and individuals who have commented on APHIS dockets, are available on the Internet at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ppd/rad/webrepor.html.

Consideration will be given to comments received on or before Oct. 9. Please send an original and three copies to Docket No. 01-064-1, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Suite 3C03, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, Md. 20737-1238 or e-mail your comments to the Animal Disease Risk Assessment Prevention and Control website at http://comments.aphis.usda.gov. Please state that your comments are in reference to Docket No. 01-064-1. Comments received may be reviewed at USDA, Room 1141, South Building, 14th Streetand Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C., between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Mondaythrough Friday, except holidays. Persons wishing to review comments are requested to call ahead on (202) 690-2817 to facilitate entry into the reading room.

Steller sea lions and commercial fisheries

August 21, 2001 www.enn.com

Over the course of the year, the sea lions have become a friction point between commercial fishing interests and environmental advocacy groups. The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has known for more than a decade that sea lions are lured by thousands of salmon that cluster in fish-farm pens along the Pacific Coast. To address the problem of break-ins, the department issues licenses that permit farmers to shoot marine mammal predators if they threaten their stock. Over the past 10 years, salmon farmers have shot nearly 5,000 marine mammals, including 300 Stellers, natives of the North Pacific. A shortage of pollock and herring stocks is driving sea lions to infiltrate salmon nets where plentiful stock is sitting prey. Clashes between fish farmers and the hungry intruders often result in expensive damage to farm property and more sea lion deaths. Marine biologists and conservationists fear the trend bodes ill for the Steller, whose population has declined sharply since 1965. Today, Stellers number only 10 to 20 percent of their population 30 years ago. Though they number nearly 40,000, only about 500 Stellers are left in California. In 1990, the eastern species of Stellers was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. In 1997, the western species, which resides mainly in northern Alaska and Russia, was listed as endangered.

Elephants believed poisoned in India

August 21, 2001 www.enn.com

GUWAHATI, India — Indian forest guards have found 18 dead elephants in a sanctuary in the northeastern state of Assam in the past month and officials said angry villagers were suspected of poisoning them. Forestry department official Pankaj Sharma said villagers, harassed by raids on their farms by wild elephants looking for food, were believed to have killed the animals in Nameri national park. Herds of wild elephants regularly venture out of Assam's forests and trample rice fields and destroy granaries and houses in their search for food. Northeastern India is home to about half of India's elephant population of 30,000. Government protection of elephants over the last 20 years, including a ban on their capture, has led to an increase in the population in Assam state to about 5,000.

Terns on Great Gull Island, NY

August 21, 2001 www.nytimes.com

GREAT GULL ISLAND, N.Y. — More than 12,000 terns live here, one of the largest colonies in the world for two species, the common and roseate terns. The 23 researchers and volunteers are here to work with the birds and with Helen Hays, the woman who has led studies here for more than 30 years. The heavily vegetated, rocky island resembles a military training ground. Its 17 acres are home to derelict fortifications built at the time of the Spanish-American War, World War II-era barracks and dozens of observation towers— plus blinds the researchers will hide in to observe their subjects.

For the terns, timing is everything. Colony residents engage in virtually all aspects of the breeding cycletogether, from their arrival at the island to egg-laying and the fledging of their nestlings, then to their departure for southern wintering grounds. Researchers believe that this synchrony increases breedingsuccess, especially in large colonies like this one. They also find safety in numbers, putting up a ferocious joint defense against predators they cannot thwart on their own. Great black- backed gulls and herring gulls would eagerly fall on eggs and chicks if the terns did not gang up on them. Great Gull Island is home to more than 2,000 nesting pairs of roseate terns, the rarest tern species, along with about 10,000 nesting pairs of common terns.

The island is owned by the American Museum of Natural History and managed by Ms. Hays, a museum ornithologist who has become famous among birders for her work here.She has been involved with Great Gull Island for 32 years. This season has seen an unusual number of the endangered roseate terns arrive on Great Gull Island from one of their other primary homes, Bird Island in Massachusetts, as well as from Maine, Connecticut and the South Shore of Long Island. Ms. Hays said that on Aug. 6, about 1,500 roseate terns arrived on Great Gull Island, and they were still there last week, an unusually long stay.

Japan funding reptile center in Uganda

August 21, 2001, www.japantoday.com

KAMPALA — A zoo for snakes and other reptiles and amphibians is to be set up in Uganda with Japanese and U.S. funding as part of a leisure park for tourists, Ugandan officials said Monday.The zoo will be a reptile leisure park offering games and other services. (Kyodo News)

Zoo Asks Visitors to Please Feed the Animals

Aug. 21, 2001 www.themoscowtimes.com

Lacoste is sponsoring the 100-year-old alligator, which is the spitting image of the company's trademark The Moscow Zoo is hunting for sponsors who can provide packed lunches, cooked breakfasts and night-time cocoa for the 5,000-odd, some very odd, animals at the zoo with a new ad campaign plastered on billboards all over town.You don't actually have to provide the food — money will do — and for that the zoo will put up a plaque in your honor and allow you special privileges with the animal, reptile or insect in question.

Any of the 5,000 animals at the zoo are up for sponsorship from the giraffes to the goats to the lions and the gnus. Prices start at a remarkably low price of $0.20 a day for a teal, a freshwater duck, to $85 a day to fill up each of the walruses with the 12 kilograms of fish they eat every day. Instead of sponsoring an animal, the zoo prefers to say a participant is taking care of, or acting as guardian for, whichever beast took his or her fancy. Sponsors or guardians sign up for a minimum of three months, but the longer, the better the zoo says. By helping out, guardians will be following in a long, honorable tradition as the zoo is no stranger to gifts from benevolent sponsors. When the zoo opened in 1864, Tsar Alexander II, finding himself with an extra elephant on his hands after some excessive generosity from the emir of Bukhara, gave the beast to the zoo. In another case of noble largesse, a Russian countess once gave the zoo her personal aviary.

Founded in 1864 by the Russian Imperial Society for the Acclimatization of Animals and Plants, the zoo has long had a reputation for scientific research and the breeding of rare animals.

Rare Alligator Threatened in China

August 21, 2001 www.nytimes.com

According to a new study, the Chinese alligator is barely hanging on in nature. Researchers say fewer than 130 of these animals are left in the wild, though their current habitat in southeastern China can hardly be called wilderness. Once widespread in the lakes and wetlands of the lower Yangtze River Valley, the Chinese alligator, which can reach six feet in length, is now restricted to ponds surrounded by rice paddies and villages. One of the largest and most promising populations consists of 11 stragglers who live in a pond near a video rental shop, farmhouses and a vast expanse of rice paddies. Dr. John Thorbjarnarson, a conservation zoologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, headquartered at the Bronx Zoo, and his Chinese and American co-authors predict that unless it gets help, the Chinese alligator will soon become the first crocodilian to become extinct in the wild in historical times. The study is coming out soon in the journal Biological Conservation. Dr. James Perran Ross, the executive officer of the crocodile specialist group with the World Conservation Union, called the new study "a real call to action." But while the alligators are disappearing in the wild, they are thriving in captivity, with more than 10,000 crowding the Anhui Research Center for Chinese Alligator Reproduction near Xuancheng, China.

The numbers raise the possibility of reintroductions if habitats can be found, a difficult prospect because of China's large population. To survey the country's remaining alligators, Dr. Thorbjarnarson and his colleagues went to the 13 areas in China where the species is protected as well as to other known or suspected alligator sites. Based on other information they could gather from sources like local farmers, they set the upper limit for the total in the wild at somewhere below 130. The researchers were also surprised to find the alligators forced into odd habitats. While Chinese alligators prefer low-lying wetlands, they were found living in ponds at higher elevations even thoughthe soil was unsuitable for digging burrows. So while adults were able to walk down to burrows in the valley below, the tiny hatchling alligators simply froze in the winter cold. Chinese and American researchers are already making plans for the first attempt at reintroducing Chinese alligators. The animals will come from, of all places, the Bronx Zoo. He said researchers still needed to find $40,000 to undertake a yearlong project to get the alligators situated in a new home in the wild, where their progress would be monitored. Dr. Thorbjarnarson is hoping to use fish ponds on an island at the mouth of the Yangtze," he said

The only other alligator species in the world is the American alligator, which grows to be about twice the size of a Chinese alligator and is considerably more threatening to humans.The American alligator was itself threatened at one time by unrestricted harvesting, but Dr. Vliet said there are now one million to two million American alligators.

Genetic Engineering in New Zealand

August 21, 2001 www.nytimes.com

AUCKLAND, New Zealand, Aug. 20 — The Royal Commission on Genetic Modification has recommended that research on genetically modified crops and animals "proceed with caution,"elating the nation's biotechnology interests while dismaying opponents of the technology, particularly the nation's influential Green Party. The commission's report explicitly rejects the idea of a nation free of genetically modified crops and animals, saying it would not be in New Zealand's social, environmental or economic interests. The report, a wide-ranging inquiry into the technology's implications for health, environmental, legal, economic and cultural issues, is the first of its kind from an industrialized nation. It is expected to attract interest from other countries grappling with the controversies arising from biotechnology. The full report is online at www.gmcommission.govt.nz.

St. Louis Zoo welcomes two hippos

August 21, 2001 www.jacksonville.com

ST. LOUIS - On Monday, the zoo welcomed two Nile hippos, Tombi and Bibi after the massive females were flown in to Lambert Airport on a chartered Federal Express Airbus from Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Fla.. The hippos will live in a nonpublic area of the zoo until spring, when the zoo an exhibit will let guests view the animals as they swim underwater. The exhibit is part of River's Edge, a multimillion-dollar expansion that includes Crocodile Cove, the Missouri River Aquarium, Warthog Wallow and other exhibits. The zoo typically transports animals on the ground, the transportation mode elephants Rani and Ellie got when they arrived last month by truck. But Disney asked that the hippos fly to St. Louis, and the trip lasted two hours. Federal Express bans animals from its regular delivery service, but zoos and circuses can charter special flights. The hippos each are 2 years old and weigh about 1,200 pounds, about one-third of their ultimate weight. Fischer says captive hippos often live into their 40s. Nile hippos can be found in sub-Saharan Africa, where they spend most of their days in the water. At night, the hippos - about 157,000 of them are in existence - forage the land for grasses. The zoo plans to acquire a male to mate with the two hippos.

Zoological Society / research, conservation

August 22, 2001 www.uniontrib.com

Mention the San Diego Zoo and your not likely to think of forest buffalo cytogenetics, Klinefelter's syndrome in Siberian tigers, bile acids and vertebrate reproduction, and the role of major histocompatibility complex, or MHC, in mate choice. But those scientific topics also fall under the broad umbrella of the Zoological Society of San Diego. And for the first time since its founding in 1916, when zoos were just places that kept animals in cages, the society has documented the full scope of its research programs.

The 110-page "2000 Annual Report: Conservation and Science," released this month, is a virtual tour of the animal and plant collections at the San Diego Zoo and the Wild Animal Park, of its research in veterinary medicine, molecular biology and taxonomy, its conservation education efforts and field programs at 47 sites worldwide. "There wouldn't be a baby panda if it weren't for science," said Alan Dixson, director of the Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species, the research arm of the Zoological Society of San Diego. The same is true of a number of endangered animals bred at the zoo and the animal park, including the cheetah, the California condor, the lion-tail macaque, the African rhinoceros and its Indian cousin, and several species of Caribbean iguanas.

Currently about 10 percent of the society's $100 million annual budget is directly related to science and conservation, Dixson said. But conservation plays a role in virtually everything the society does, he added, including using a portion of sales receipts from the souvenir shops at the zoo and the animal park for conservation. The animal collections at the San Diego Zoo and the Wild Animal Park are the heart of the society's conservation efforts, Dixson said. They include more than 8,000 animals representing more than 800 species, about 10 percent of them listed as threatened or endangered.

It is, Dixson said, "probably the most significant collection in the world." Even so, it accounts for only 4 percent of the the world's mammal species and 2 percent of its reptiles. Overall, a third of the world's mammals are endangered, Dixson said, and the zoo's supply of animals coming from the wild has all but disappeared. James Dolan, the zoological society's director of collections, said about half the society's mammals came from the wild when he joined the zoo nearly 40 years ago. Today at least 95 percent of the mammals in the collection are zoo-born.

Last year the San Diego Zoo successfully bred several endangered mammals, including the western lowland gorilla, Chacoan giant peccaries, Malyan tapirs and the Persian onager, "the world's most imperiled equine species," according to the report. Sixteen slender-horned gazelles were born at the Wild Animal Park last year. That's a total of 374 gazelles born in captivity since the 1970s, when the species became extinct in the wild and the only captive population was maintained at the San Diego Zoo. There were a number of significant births in the bird collection, too, including the endangered kagu from New Caledonia. The San Diego Zoo is only one of three zoos worldwide to maintain the bird and last year's hatching was the first in 40 years in North America. Important reptile births at the zoo last year included the Fiji Island banded iguana, which is kept in a special off-exhibit area of the zoo. The zoological society, with the permission of the Fijian government, manages the endangered animals' entire U.S. population.

Worldwide the society supports 47 conservation projects, according to the report, including giant pandas in China, koala habitat assessment in Australia, butterfly ranching in Madagascar, Andean condor reintroduction in South America and, closer to home, 10 programs in Southern California, Arizona and Mexico. Although the zoological society's mission centers on fauna, plants receive attention, too. The botanical collection includes the Baja California (3,000 plants, 150 species) and the California Nativescapes (1,500 specimens, 500 species) gardens at the Wild Animal Park, and more than 1,100 species of coral trees, orchids, acacias, bamboos, figs, palms and cycads arranged according to bioclimatic zones at the zoo.

As for the giant pandas, the zoological society does far more than just showcase the crowd-pleasers at the zoo. It conducts a wide range of research on the bears here and in China. The studies include chemical analysis of their scent markings, chemical communication between the animals, environmental enrichment, behavioral and hormonal responses to radio collars, mother-infant relationships, reproduction of captive giant pandas and infant development. The giant panda has become the poster child for wildlife conservation and the logo for the World Wildlife Fund, which gives high marks to the efforts of the Zoological Society of San Diego on behalf of the animal. "The San Diego Zoo has really set the standard that other zoos can aspire to," said Karen Baragona, a senior program officer with the organization in Washington.

"They really are sincere in their commitment to save pandas in the wild, and they have done a lot of wonderful things through their captive breeding program." That praise is a stark contrast to the group's earlier stance, when in 1992 it sued unsuccessfully in federal court to block the zoo from bringing pandas from China. The zoological society's report comes at a time when the San Diego Zoo is proposing to build new exhibit space in its current parking lot and build an underground parking structure to replace it. The plans have drawn some opposition, centered on how the zoo expansion will affect the rest of Balboa Park. "I support the mission they have as far as the conservation of species, but they also have a mission to conserve Balboa Park, and they should know that better than anyone," said an opponent of the plan, Jay Hyde of the Uptown Planners neighborhood planning group.

Drawing an analogy between modern zoos and Noah's ark is not far-fetched, Dixson said. Human population growth and its effect on the environment have brought us to the brink "of the next great extinction," he said. "It's a very serious situation, and not just for pandas," he said. "The last extinction was 65 million years ago and it took 10 million years for the planet to recover. Previously there has always been a level playing field, but this time we've so polluted the planet it may not even be able to recover."

According to a mission statement adopted in 1998, the Zoological Society of San Diego sees its primary responsibility as the protection of habitat and the reproduction of endangered species. Exhibiting animals and plants -- what zoological gardens are traditionally all about -- is last, after conservation and education.

Angolan nature reserve to get Botswana elephants
August 22, 2001 www.enn.com

JOHANNESBURG — A controversial project to reintroduce wildlife to war-ravaged Angola has been given a boost with a promised donation of 300 elephants from Botswana. The Kissama Foundation, a private group that has been mandated to rehabilitate Angola's national parks, said in a statement that two family groups comprising 15 to 20 elephants would be captured in Botswana in early September. The elephants would be taken by road to an airbase in South Africa's Northern Province and from there flown by cargo plane to Quicama National Park, south of the capital Luanda. The elephants will join 15 others donated by South Africa last year. The remaining elephants from Botswana will be captured and delivered at a later date. Animal welfare groups have cautiously welcomed the project but remain concerned about wildlife security in a country that has been at civil war since independence from Portugal in 1975. The foundation, which involves environmentalists from Angola and South Africa, says the 50,000-acre park is secured by an electric fence and more than 40 trained game guards. Sparsely populated Botswana, which is home to more than 100,000 elephants, has hinted it might resume lethal culling to bring its numbers of the animal down.

In the 1980s, UNITA rebels killed huge numbers of elephants and rhinos for ivory and horns, which were sold to support their insurgency. UNITA poachers also used antitank mines to kill elephants. South Africa's plans to relocate 1,000 Kruger Park elephants to Mozambique is regarded as a more viable plan because Mozambique's civil war ended almost a decade ago.

Jeffrey Pines under attack

August 23, 2001 www.uniontrib.com

MOUNT LAGUNA -- The reddish-orange color of the Jeffrey pine trees along Sunrise Highway is the

first sign that something's not right. The odd tint is signaling the worst tree epidemic to hit Southern California's national forests this year. Craig Cowie, a resource officer with the forest's Descanso district estimates as many as 10 percent of the Jeffrey pines are dead. The usual mortality rate for that type of tree in California is about 1 percent. Jeffrey pines can live as long as 500 years and grow as tall as 200 feet. They're considered one of the tougher species of pine trees because they can tolerate heat and cold and are fairly resistant to drought. The trees are found as far north as Oregon and as far south as Baja California. Yet, despite their size and toughness, there are numerous things that can kill a Jeffrey pine, including ozone, insects, fungal diseases, plants and extended drought. Laura Merrill, an entomologist for the U.S. Forest and a molecular biology student from Berkeley are examining the pines to find out what's killing them. The trees have suffered during the drought evidenced by their short needles, but no insects have been found. They’ve found a lot of dwarf mistletoe, which is a plant that feeds on the branches. When that plant's seeds ripen, they explode and infect nearby trees. She's also finding a large amount of Annosus root disease, a fungus that is widespread on Mount Laguna.

Trees have been dying all over California in the past year. Thousands of oak trees have died from a mysterious malady called sudden oak death. In San Diego County, eucalyptus trees have succumbed to an insect native to Australia. Coast live oak trees around Lake Hodges were hit by a combination of fungal root disease and beetle attacks. And Torrey Pines State Reserve suffered a recurring infestation of ips bark beetles and red turpentine beetles. Three other national forests also have tree epidemics. A defoliating moth is attacking California black oaks in the San Bernardino Mountains. And an outbreak in the San Jacinto mountains has affected sugar pines. Merrill believes the harsh drought conditions on Mount Laguna may be the central culprit in the Jeffrey pine deaths. Because drought has weakened the trees considerably, it is tougher for them to resist multiple attacks from the root disease, the dwarf mistletoe and insects such as ips bark beetles and the California flathead borer beetle. Officials are also trying to get rid of the dwarf mistletoe, spending between $35,000 and $100,000 annually to eradicate the parasitic plant.

San Diego County Snakes

Aug 23, 2001 www.uniontrib.com Bradford D. Hollingsworth;

San Diego and its surrounding areas have a tremendous snake diversity, with over 60 different species,

ranging from small, secretive burrowers to large-bodied, dangerous rattlesnakes. In San Diego County, 25 snake species have been documented. Of these, only four are hazardous to humans and their pets. All four are rattlesnakes and the vast majority of bites occur when people try to handle these venomous reptiles. Of the four species of rattlesnakes, the Sidewinder (Crotalus cerastes) is restricted to our deserts and the Speckled Rattlesnake (C.mitchellii) is more secretive, preferring rocky terrain. Most rattlesnake encounters involve the Red Diamond (C. exsul) and Western Rattlesnakes (C. viridis). Both are large-bodied, terrestrial snakes that prefer the same habitat prized by housing developers. As a result, homes are built in areas already occupied by these snakes. Families living along the margins

of the development near open space have the highest occurrence of snake encounters.

All snakes are beneficial to people in one way or another. Snakes are integral members of our

ecosystem. Many species help control rodents and studies have shown that snakes significantly reduce rodent populations. Without snakes, rodent species would swell to carrying capacity and overwhelm the ecological balance. More importantly, snakes represent a pinnacle of evolutionary diversity. They are supreme hunters revered by cultures all over the world. Taking safe, precautionary measures to make our homes safe for children and pets will reduce unwanted encounters. Educating ourselves and our children will reduce dangerous confrontations. It also will reduce the negative stereotypes that promote their extermination.

Funds to states for wildlife conservation

August 23, 2001 news.fws.gov

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and five territories are now eligible to take part in the new Wildlife Conservation and Restoration Program. The Secretary of the Interior is in the process of distributing $50 million in grant money through the Wildlife Conservation and Restoration Program to states and territories for programs that benefit wildlife conservation, wildlife conservation education and wildlife-associated recreation projects. The Wildlife Conservation and Restoration Program is a new grants program established by Congress through Title IX of the Commerce, Justice and State Appropriations Act which will fund everything "from field guides, trails and wildlife viewing platforms to restoring habitat for species."

For states and territories to be eligible for participation in the program, each needed to first present a wildlife conservation plan to the Service, which included a commitment by the state or territory to begin the implementation of a wildlife conservation strategy within 5 years that is based on their greatest conservation needs. A chart showing each state's apportionment under the wildlife conservation grants program for fiscal year 2001 is available by calling 202-208-5634.

Science And Policymaking On Global Warming

August 26, 2001 unisci.com

The University of California Revelle Program on Climate Science and Policy has been established to strengthen interaction between scientists engaged in advancing the understanding of Earth's climate system and decision makers in government and the private sector applying climate science to societal needs. By expanding the collaboration among researchers studying natural science, economics, policy and public health aspects of climate change, the program can magnify the value of research far beyond the academic environment. Dr. Lisa Shaffer is the executive director of the UC Revelle Program. She is also She is the director of policy programs and international relations at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego. Nine top science experts from the University of California and other leading institutions involved in many aspects of global climate change research participated in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP-6) in The Hague, Netherlands, in November 2000. In a unique role, the scientists comprised a formal nongovernmental organization (NGO) accredited to the negotiations process to provide objective science input and to act as "honest brokers" in addressing scientific questions from national delegations, media groups and other participating organizations.

The UC Revelle Program is sponsoring an interactive workshop at Scripps Institution of Oceanography on Sept. 10-11 "Regional Air Quality and Global Climate Change: Connecting Scientific Discovery to Decision Making," to further strengthen the dialog between climate scientists and policymakers facing climate science issues in their decisions. Scientists involved in the UC Revelle Program will continue to participate in the formal United Nations negotiating sessions as a policy-neutral science group to provide scientific facts and to interact with delegates, media and other attendees.

 

San Diego wants SeaWorld to limit the fluff
Aug 26, 2001 www.uniontribune.com

A new city order mandates that at least 75 percent of SeaWorld's attractions be true to the park's theme of animal education and conservation.Shamu's Happy Harbor is not a harbor and it sports no actual Shamu. It's a park playground and falls into the other 25 percent category -- that being entertainment.To pass muster as a marine-related exhibit, a SeaWorld exhibit needs to include "significant" education or animal conservation elements, the council decided recently when it approved SeaWorld's controversial expansion plans.

Donna Frye, the lone council member to vote against SeaWorld's updated master plan, said some sort of criteria needs to be established to determine whether attractions meet the city's new condition. The master plan is to go to California Coastal Commission for its approval, perhaps in October. That's the last hurdle.Several community groups have been active in the lengthy process. Many people feel that they should have a say in SeaWorld's future because, even though the marine park is a private concern, the sprawling operation sits on city-owned property. SeaWorld leases the 189-acre Mission Bay Park site. A consulting firm hired by SeaWorld did its own analysis of the 31 attractions and found that the park misses by 1 percent, according to Greg Konar of Project Design Consultants. Mike Westlake, the San Diego planner overseeing the city review of the project, believes criteria could be established as SeaWorld proposes new attractions. The City Council could kill or force changes to a project if it doesn't believe it has educational or conservation elements or if SeaWorld is falling behind.

Some observers have become leery of SeaWorld, which has existed, under a number of owners, since 1964. Anheuser-Busch became the owner in 1989. The new master plan will force SeaWorld to steer more of its proposed projects through public reviews. In return, SeaWorld will be able to propose projects that are much larger than had been permitted. In 1998, SeaWorld won voter approval to build attractions taller than 30 feet, the existing height limitation along San Diego's shoreline. The master plan had to be updated and approved to provide for this exemption mandate. The approved expansion plans include the building of another thrill ride -- a roller coaster-like attraction - - even though SeaWorld is already failing to meet the 75/25 mandate. The park would need to add several animal exhibits to equalize the addition of one thrill ride under the percentage guidelines.

Prairie Farmers Reap Conservation's Rewards

AUG 27, 2001 www.nytimes.com

MEDINA, N.D., Aug. 23 — The newest federally subsidized cash crop is fattening up before heading south for the winter. Waves of ducks — 45 million mallards, pintails, gadwalls and teals — will rise out of ponds and sloughs next month and fly over the heads of assembled hunters and birdwatchers who are flocking to the state and transforming tourism here. But the most immediate beneficiaries are the farmers who own the waterfowl's habitat. In return for dependable annual payments, they turn their fields into grasslands that require little upkeep and become nesting and breeding grounds for ducks. At the same time, they have ensured the revival of a North American duck population that a decade ago was in serious decline. "Protecting these small shallow wetlands with grass cover for the wildlife has been critical for the return of the ducks," said Ron Reynolds, the biologist who leads the United States Fish and Wildlife Service's habitat and population evaluation team that tracks the ducks here.

Half of the land in the continental United States — 900 million acres — is owned by private farmersand ranchers. How that land is used in the next decade will affect the survival of wildlife, the quality of drinking water from city taps, the amount of pollution in streams, rivers and bays and the extent of urban sprawl. But many of the large farmers, backed by powerful agribusiness lobbies, oppose increases forconservation programs, presaging a big fight in coming weeks as the House and Senate debate their different approaches. In the last five years, conservation payments have fallen to 9 percent of all farm subsidies from 30 percent of the payments.

California Corridors for Animal Lifelines

AUG 28, 2001 www.nytimes.com

MURRIETA, Calif. —With increasing urbanization the fragmented islands of natural habitat that remain lose species, with the biggest carnivores — mountain lions, bobcats and coyotes — the first to go. If such keystone species are lost, biologists say, the rest of the ecosystem can begin to unravel. So last November, 152 scientists, conservationists, and state and local officials met at the San Diego Zoo to map wildlife corridors that they believed had to be protected to ensure biological diversity alongside the sprawling human diversity of California, the most populous state.

The Tenaja corridor was one of 232 critical habitat linkages noted in a report and atlas from the November conference published this summer by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, the United States Geological Survey, the San Diego Zoo, the Nature Conservancy and the California Wilderness Coalition. The corridor links the isolated Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Preserve to the larger Cleveland National Forest in the Santa Ana Mountains southeast of Los Angeles.

While some scientists remain skeptical, the debate has steadily turned in recent years to how best to design wildlife corridors, according to the researchers who advocate their use. California officials are now using the detailed maps just published to identify corridors that ought to be protected from development and, in some cases, restored. The state also recently bought a 2,675-acre ranch in Southern California for $5.6 million. The ranch is between two state parks, Anza-Borrego and Rancho Cuyamaca, and serves as a corridor for wildlife migrating between the mountains and desert east of San Diego. Last year, voters approved two bond measures that provided $4.1 billion for protecting parks and watersheds. A growing part of the money spent by the state on land is being used to acquire wildlife corridors.

Dr. Paul Beier, a biologist at Northern Arizona University has studied mountain lions in the Santa Ana Mountains. By putting radio collars on 32 cougars to study their movements from 1988 to1992 he found that the animals used areas like Coal Canyon and the Tenaja corridor and tended to avoid urban areas. When the animals did not, they often got into trouble. Twelve mountain lions were hit by cars. The police in Oceanside shot one mountain lion after it wandered into town. Dr. Beier concluded that the Santa Ana Mountains, which include about 1,287 square miles of undeveloped land, were too small to support a viable population of mountain lions. Young mountain lions will have to travel from other areas through corridors to keep the Santa Ana population from becoming extinct, Dr. Beier said. In conservation biology, that is called the rescue effect.

Whether corridors will encourage that kind of influx of wildlife is not known. "There's almost no science of corridors," said Dr. Daniel Simberloff, a biology professor at the University of Tennessee, who is skeptical about the value of wildlife corridors compared with core habitat. But Dr. Beier found no evidence of negative effects when he analyzed 32 studies of corridors, he reported in a 1998 paper in Conservation Biology. Scientific evidence in support of wildlife corridors is still weak, largely because appropriate studies were difficult to design and carry out but in Southern California, they are our only option. We have all the state parks and wilderness areas we're going to get. We can tweak the margins. But to make them viable over the long term, we have to think about how we're going to link them.

Genetically Modified Dutch Elm Trees

August 28, 2001 unisci.com

A team of Scientists from the University of Abertay Dundee in Scotland have grown the world’s first genetically modified elm trees, possibly enabling the reintroduction of elm trees resistant to the Dutch elm disease fungus into their natural habitat. Since 1970, more than 20 million elms in the UK have fallen victim to the environmentally devastating disease while, over the past 70 years, more than 70 per cent of US mature elms have been destroyed by DED. Their work is published in the August 2001 edition of the academic journal, The Biochemist. Professor Kevan Gartland is Head of the Division of Molecular and Life Sciences said, "This is an example of environmentally-friendly biotechnology. Our work on elm trees could be used to tackle the damage to landscapes and ecosystems caused by tree fungal diseases, such as Dutch elm disease and chestnut blight, throughout the world."

Right Whale’s Buoyancy

August 29, 2001 unisci.com

The North Atlantic right whale is considered to be the most endangered large whale species, with a total population of less than 300 and a low reproductive rate. In addition, the species suffers a substantial number of fatalities each year due to collisions with ships. The September 7 issue of The Royal Society Proceedings B Vol. 268, No. 1478, features an article that might explain this animals' relatively frequent collisions with ships. In contrast to other whale species, the right whale glides during the ascent portion of its dives instead of the descent, but they maintain a similar or greater ascent rate, which could only be achieved with the assistance of some buoyant force. Even if a right whale perceives a ship as a threat, its ability to maneuver may be compromised by its buoyancy.

New Mimic Octopus

August 29, 2001 unisci.com

During research dives in Indonesia by Mark Norman of the University of Melbourne in Australia, dynamic mimicry (the ability to rapidly switch between mimicking different models) was observed in a spectacular long-armed octopus new to science. This octopus combines color and texture changes with postures and body movements to impersonate its models; e.g. banded sea snakes are impersonated by probing six arms down a burrow and raising two undulating banded arms. Uniquely, the mimic octopus can rapidly swap between "impersonations" as the perceived threat changes. Unique foraging behavior was also observed with the octopus foraging through subterranean tunnels up to 1 meter long.Reported in: The Royal Society Proceedings B Vol. 268, No. 1478 Pg 1755)

Endangered Species Agreement

August 29, 2001 news.fws.gov

Interior Secretary Gale Norton today announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and several conservation organizations have reached an agreement that will enable the Service to complete work on evaluations of numerous species proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act. The Service will issue final listing decisions for 14 species and propose eight more species for listing. The Service also will be able to take action on four citizen petitions to list species under the Act. The Service and the organizations have agreed to extend deadlines for eight other critical habitat designations, thereby making funds available for these actions. While the formal agreement is still pending, the Service will immediately reallocate funds to begin work on the species covered by it. Under the agreement, the deadlines for final critical habitat designations for five species and proposed and final critical habitat designations for three others will be extended into the next fiscal year. The Service will use the funds that would have been spent on these actions in fiscal year 2001 and early fiscal year 2002 to list new species, propose new listings, work on other critical habitat designations, and respond to petitions. A complete list of the species affected by the agreement appears below.

Emergency Listing

Tumbling Creek Cavesnail (Missouri)

Pygmy rabbit (Washington)

Carson wandering skipper butterfly(Nevada and California)

Final Listing Determinations

Ohlone tiger beetle (California)

Spalding's catchfly (Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Washington, and Canada (BC))

Showy stickseed (Washington)

San Diego ambrosia (California)

Mountain yellow-legged frog (Southern California population)

Coastal Cutthroat trout (Washington and Oregon)

Buena Vista Lake ornate shrew (California)

Chiricahua leopard frog (Arizona and New Mexico)

Scaleshell mussel (Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma)

Vermilion darter (Alabama): Final Listing Determination

Mississippi gopher frog (Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana)

Golden sedge (North Carolina)

Holmgren milk-vetch and Shivwits milk-vetch (Utah and Arizona):

Proposed Listings

Rota bridled white-eye (Rota, U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands)

Island fox (California)

Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly (New Mexico):

Gila chub (Arizona and New Mexico):

Four invertebrates (New Mexico and Texas):

Petition Findings

Lower Kootenai River burbot (Montana, Idaho, and Canada (BC)): 90-Day Petition Finding

Miami blue butterfly (Florida): 90-day Finding

Big Cypress fox squirrel (Florida): 12-Month Finding

Bonneville cutthroat trout (Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and Nevada ): 12-Month Finding

Logjam on Endangered Species ends

August 29, 2001 www.nytimes.com

WASHINGTON— Breaking a logjam that had all but stopped the USFWS from listing new endangered species, the Bush administration promised quick action today to protect 29 vanishing plant and animal species. In exchange, a coalition of environmental groups agreed not to demand the government's immediate compliance with court orders affecting a few other species.

The federal government had listed 1,244 endangered species as of the end of last year. From 1996 to 2000, the list grew by about 50 species a year. The last time the wildlife service added a species without a court order was on Dec. 26, listing nine species of invertebrates in Bexar County, Tex. Since January and the advent of the Bush administration, only one species, the milk vetch plant, has been listed, and that was under a court order.

While those involved in the negotiations have come to an agreement, the wildlife service said a formal settlement document must still be written and approved by the Departments of Interior and Justice before it is presented to courts with jurisdiction over the cases. The agreement diverts $588,000, an almost negligible sum in the federal government's $1.9 trillion budget. But Mr. Frazer of the wild life service said it was a significant part of the $6.3 million that the wildlife service had for species protection.

The Interior Department has requested an additional $1.3 million for species protection for the 2002 fiscal year, which begins on Oct. 1, although the service has said it needs $120 million to cover its endangered species backlog and comply with court orders. Chris Tollefson, a spokesman for the wildlife service, said, "Our entire fiscal 2001 listing budget was consumed with complying with settlement agreements and court orders relating to critical habitats."

Self-Medication by African Apes

August, 2001 BioScience p 651-661

Much of the plant material that is consumed by animals in the wild contains an array of secondary compounds. Johns (1990) argues that the herbal medicines and modern pharmaceuticals used by humans today have replaced the non-nutrative chemicals commonly present in our primate ancestors’ diets. In this light, the nonnutritive compounds of items ingested by African great apes are worth investigating.

How Good are Species Recovery Plans?

August 2001, BioScience p 643-649

4 major hypotheses were tested that effect recovery plans. The study was funded b the Society for Conservation Biology, USFWS and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis. The analyses suggest several ways in which the science of recovery planning could be improved:1. Opportunities for adaptive management when recovery plans are revised should be employed (capitalize on new and improved information) 2. The new policy endorsing diversification of participants in recovery plan development should be vigorously pursued. 3. Recovery criteria must be clearly linked to species biology to ensure that recovery plans are appropriately suited to each species’ situation. And 4. The policy encouraging development of multispecies and ecosystem-based recivery plans should be scrutinized to ensure that promised efficiencies do not come at the expense of insightful analysis and strategy.

African Conservation Database

August 2001, BioScience p 613-623

Patterns in the distribution of species in Africa and understanding these patterns holds great potential for revealing insights into speciation, systematics, endemism, migration and many other fields. Patterns of species distribution also have urgent applied implications, because humanity's impact is causing an extinction crisis in which species are being lost at a rate 1,000-10,000 times faster than that usual in the geological past (Pimm et al. 1995).A unique dataset (developed at the Zoological Museum, University of Copenhagen), offers an opportunity to pioneer a continent wide blueprint for conservation action. This dataset summarises available published and unpublished data, and expert opinion on the distribution of birds, mammals, snakes, and amphibians for all of sub-Saharan Africa, at a much finer resolution than anything previously available (a continental resolution of one-degree grid squares). These data have been accumulated at ZMUC over the last four years (Burgess et al. 1997), drawing on a vast international network of collaborators within academia, governmental institutions and NGOs. It is available at: www.zmuc.dk/commonweb/research/blueprint-africa.htm

Swift foxes return from extinction

August 31, 2001 www.enn.com

The swift fox, unique to the Great Plains of North America, was declared extinct in the state of Montana in 1969. Today it is being reintroduced through a unique partnership between Defenders of Wildlife, theBlackfeet Nation and the Cochrane Ecological Institute. Defenders of Wildlife announced this week that 21 swift foxes have been reintroduced on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in northwestern Montana. With the goal of restoring a self-sustaining population of the tiny foxes,the three partners have released a total of 97 animals since the first release in 1998. The Alberta-based Cochrane Ecological Institute, one of the world's only swift fox captive breeding facilities, is providing the foxes. The Blackfeet Fish and Wildlife Department is providing the site and assisting with the reintroduction. Defenders of Wildlife, a national conservation organization based in Washington, DC, coordinates the project and funds the release and the salaries of tribal biologists who will monitor the foxes.

 

Virus closes zoo exhibit
August 24, 2001 web.duluthnews.com

APPLE VALLEY, Minn. -- The Minnesota Zoo has closed down one of its most popular exhibits because of a contagious virus. The virus -- known by several names, including orf, sore mouth and contagious pustular dermatitis -- is usually not fatal, but began affecting sheep last week. That could force zoo officials to keep the popular goat and sheep barn closed for up to two months. The exhibit allows children to climb into the goat pens and play, pet and feed the docile animals.

The virus is usually not fatal, but can cause pimples, blisters and scabs around an animal's orifices and hooves. Zoo veterinarian Jim Rasmussen said that humans can develop lesions on their hands after direct contact with infected animals, but he doesn't think the public was exposed. No zookeepers have shown symptoms. Because the virus is contagious, however, the goats will be quarantined until their barn mates recover, Rasmussen said.

 

Koala Scoliosis Study

27 August 2001 www.adelaide.edu.au

Scoliosis is the medical term for curvature of the spine. Long recognised as a problem in children, it is not what you associate with koalas, but that link has been the subject of Emily Milbourne’s honours project. While studying in the Department of Anatomical Sciences, she is also a part-time animal keeper at Adelaide Zoo. "When I was looking for an Honours project, Professor Maciej Henneberg suggested a study of the koala spine," said Emily. "Even the normal anatomy of koalas is not fully described, as far as I can tell," she said. Scoliosis in koalas and humans seems to take different forms. "If you showed a scoliotic koala to a doctor, they would probably not describe it as scoliosis in human terms," said Emily. "The spine, instead of being straight, develops a sharp angle to one side. It’s as though the animal had been snapped by bending its head down to its feet," she said. No koalas are being euthanased for the study. Cleland Wildlife Park, where koalas are permanently on show, has a number of cadavers from natural deaths, dog attacks and car accidents. These bodies are being made available for the research, and they include some very old animals, in which scoliosis can be more pronounced.

"Koalas are quadrupeds, not bipeds like us" said Emily, "But they spend at least 19 hours each day sitting upright with a spine isn’t designed for that. A sitting koala tends to put all the pressure on its sacrum, so it uses its spine a lot, even leaning back on tree branches," she said. "Gravity acts very differently on horizontal and vertical spines, so when a quadruped sits upright, it is going to change the forces acting on its spine," said Emily.

"It is very difficult to get reliable information on how many wild koalas have back problems," said Dr Greg Johnston, the Society’s Senior Research Scientist, and an Honorary Research Fellow at the Department of Anatomical Sciences. Professor Maciej Henneberg and he are joint supervisors of the project. " The best figures suggest that up to 5% of koalas may be afflicted," said Dr Johnston. "Emily’s work will tell us how serious a problem the disease is and may suggest better modes of treatment for them."

Adelaide Zoo plans to create a new koala habitat and exhibit in the near future. Emily hopes that if her work shows that scoliosis has an environmental origin, it may assist zoos in designing better koala habitats of this kind, but she sees other benefits, too. "Since the koala is one of Australia’s best known animals, it is good to have a description of its basic anatomy that other researchers can use, and which will help them detect abnormalities," said Emily. "In terms of scoliosis, I don’t think that my research will determine what causes it, but because it hasn’t been researched before, it should provides a starting point for others who may find the cause, or any genetic links."

Siberian fox domestication

August 30, 2001 www.nature.com

A unique project in Siberia that has helped researchers understand how animals become domesticated could soon expire from lack of funds. Researchers at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics in Novosilbirsk have compressed into decades a process that might otherwise require thousands of years. Through intense selective breeding, they have turned the silver fox fox–known as the red fox in the United states– into an amiable, tail-wagging hose pet. The work, started in 1959 by the late geneticist Dmitry Belyaev has demonstrated the close links between behavioural and developmental genetics. The 45,000 foxes so far involved in the Siberian project were chosen by researchers for their propensity to being tamed. The selection process resulted in the emergence of traits in physiology, morphology and behaviour that are most noticeable in the changes of coat color and the presence of floppy ears and curled tails.

Texas Law controls exotic pets

September 1, 2001 www.chron.com

FORT WORTH -- Texas is home to as many as 2,300 tigers -- a number that ranks the state second to India -- according to a recent legislative report. But Texas is one of a handful of states that do not regulate the keeping of dangerous wild animals. Still, a new state law that took effect Saturday gives cities and counties the right to regulate or ban the keeping of many of the beasts. Three Texans were mauled by big cats in 1999, and a 10-year-old San Antonio girl was killed by a tiger kept as a pet.

Most major Texas cities already prohibit wild animals. But the new law gives county authorities more power, including the ability to fine owners with such animals. The new law also may prompt expanding the list of prohibited animals in some cities. The law restricts 19 species, including lions, tigers, cougars, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, bobcats, baboons, bears and gorillas. Exceptions are made for zoos, veterinarians, research facilities, private owners with federal permits, filmmaking companies, some traveling circuses and college mascots, such as the Baylor University bear cub seen at football games.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department used to regulate wild animals but dropped that role four years ago, citing a lack of staff. Local officials, such as animal control agencies or sheriffs, will enforce the new law. Opponents of the law, including some exotic-animal groups, claim it interferes with property rights and goes too far. The law does not cover pythons, other deadly snakes and wolves

Saving the Scottish Capercaillie

September 1, 2001 news.bbc.co.uk

There are just 1,000 capercaillies left in Scotland so environment minister Rhona Brankin has announced a £70,000 package to help protect one of the country's most endangered birds. Although climate change has been a factor in the bird's decline, research has also revealed that deer fencing throughout the countryside has had a direct impact on its ability to survive. As a result, the funding announced on Saturday will be allocated to the Forestry Commission for the removal and marking of fences in areas close to known capercaillie populations. Ms Brankin said she would also introduce changes to legislation which would make shooting or killing the capercaillie an offence. During the 1970s the rare species numbered about 20,000 in Scotland - the figure is now closer to 1,000.

Oak Malady

September 3, 2001 www.nytimes.com

A disease that has killed many thousands of trees on the West Coast could pose a threat elsewhere if it spreads east because northern red oaks and pin oaks, classic trees of the Midwestern and Eastern forests, also seem susceptible, a plant pathologist has warned. The seedlings of those trees can succumb to the disease, sudden oak death, as easily as those of the oak species already under siege, the pathologist, Dr. David Rizzo of the University of California at Davis, said at a conference last week. And those oaks to the east, he added, may be even more vulnerable.

The disease was discovered in tanoaks in 1995. Since then, it has killed more than 100,000 tanoaks, coast live oaks, California black oaks and Shreve's oaks along the California coast and, more recently, in southwestern Oregon. When sudden oak death strikes, susceptible trees start weeping sap and can be attacked by beetles and fungi. The disease is caused by a recently named fungal-like organism, Phytophthora ramorum, which belongs to a virulent genus that includes the pathogen that is considered the cause of the Irish potato famine of the mid-1800's.Sudden oak death has also been found on an array of other plants, including madrone, evergreen huckleberry, California buckeye and Pacific rhododendron. It kills some plants and causes leaf spots and twig dieback on others.

Both red and pin oaks are dominant forest trees with a combined range extending from northeastern Texas to Nova Scotia. The disease has not been found outside California and Oregon. Dr. Rizzo found that the blue oaks and valley oaks in California were not susceptible. Although Dr. Rizzo urged caution in extrapolating from his research on seedlings, he said mature northern red and pin oak trees would probably also be affected by sudden oak death if it spread to the East and Midwest.

Many scientists are worried about the possibility that the disease may spread eastward. Dr. Steve Zack, a wildlife ecologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, which has its headquarters at the Bronx Zoo, said the potential for ecosystem havoc was profound. "Oaks are central to food webs involving innumerable wildlife species," said Dr. Zack, who lives in Portland, Ore. "It's unprecedented to have a pathogen that's spread across so many native plant families and species so quickly. Although there are minor things called deserts and plains, and we don't know if or how the disease might spread across them, this lends no assurance to East Coast people that our problem might not also be theirs."

Pittsburgh aquarium shopping for sharks

September 4, 2001 www.cnn.com

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania (AP) --The Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium has one little problem as it tries to woo visitors with a much-ballyhooed shark tank: the aquarium has only six sharks on display, including just two tiny sharks in the 100,000-gallon saltwater tank, despite claims late last year that the aquarium would soon be swirling with 17 toothy swimmers. "It certainly is something that has hurt us in the public perception, I think," zoo spokeswoman Jen Roupe said. "People are just drawn to sharks. It's such a big thing." The tank belatedly opened in December, one month after three sharks died when a valve problem released too much ozone into the water. In the spring of 2000, two more died after a salt mixture put in the water turned out to be contaminated with cyanide. After the delays and bad publicity at the aquarium, zoo officials are still tweaking the ozone equipment -- and keeping mum on when more sharks will be added. The shark shortage comes at a time when the public's appetite for information about the creatures is especially strong due to the summer’s spate of shark attacks.

The $16.8 million facility opened in March of last year. The giant tank now includes a leopard shark and a zebra shark. Four more small sharks have been on display in smaller, cold-water tanks. The zoo has 10 sharks, all smaller species, waiting in quarantine. They will be displayed when they're old enough, Roupe said. The zoo is also shopping for three or four larger sharks -- 5 to 6 feet long -- to put in the ocean tank. Despite the ongoing aquarium problems, zoo business is down only about 5 percent -- with 584,000 visitors this year, compared with 616,000 by this time last year. Roupe said the slow economy and nearby highway construction are probably more to blame than the shark tank.

Genesis of AIDS

September 4, 2001 www.nytimes.com

The first evidence that H.I.V.-1 jumped to humans from primates came about a decade ago, when scientists isolated a virus from an African chimpanzee that very closely resembled the AIDS virus now infecting tens of millions of people. The chimpanzee virus looked so much like H.I.V.-1 that it was almost irresistible to think that the animals had somehow given the virus to people. Its genes were arranged the same way, and it even had a distinctive gene, called vpu, that had never been seen in any other virus. While AIDS-like viruses were starting to emerge in other primates and in other animals, none looked so much like H.I.V.-1 as this chimpanzee one did.

3 years ago Dr. Beatrice Hahn of the University of Alabama examined the frozen organs of a chimpanzee that had died a decade ago. That animal also had a virus in its tissues that looked like H.I.V.-1.While scientists had found only two, or possibly three chimpanzees that had the virus, Dr. Hahn's information, added to three other lines of evidence, was enough. One line of evidence pointed to west-central Africa — a region where chimpanzees live — as the place where the human AIDS epidemic began. Scientists, analyzing the genetic sequences of AIDS viruses found in patients from around the world, were discovering that the viruses in west- central Africa were the most diverse. And it is a general rule that the more diverse an organism's genes are, the longer it has been around. That is because as the years go by more and more variations accumulate in an organism's genes.

The second line of evidence was a plausible way for the virus to get from chimpanzees to humans. People in west-central Africa eat chimpanzees. It was entirely reasonable to think that an infected animal's blood gave the virus to a person who was handling the chimpanzee meat, infecting the person and setting the stage for an AIDS epidemic."People eat chimpanzees," Dr. Hahn said. "We expect that transmissions occurred through the exposure to blood through hunting or preparation of meat."Finally, researchers were discovering AIDS-like viruses in other animals and other primates in Africa, but none were as closely related to H.I.V.-1 as the viruses in the three chimpanzees. The only species that fit all the evidence as the source of H.I.V.-1 was the chimpanzee, Dr. Holmes said.

Dr. Bette T. Korber, a molecular geneticist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and her colleagues had the genetic sequences of viruses isolated from people and knew when those viruses were found, starting with the oldest human H.I.V. sample available. It was from a man in what is now Kinshasa, Congo, in west-central Africa, in 1959.Since the viruses mutate at a roughly constant rate, the researchers could construct a path of how the virus had mutated and determine how long it would take to move from one virus to another one with the amount of genetic diversity found today. From those calculations, they found a date when the spark of the epidemic was lit: 1931, plus or minus 15 years.

"We think that these transmissions have gone on forever and a day, for all the centuries that people hunted chimpanzees," Dr. Hahn said. "The rule is that these transmissions go nowhere. They just peter out, unless you have additional factors that promote subsequent spread in the new human host."One possible explanation for the extensive spread of H.I.V.-1, several scientists said, was that people began congregating in cities in Africa. There, the conditions were ripe for an AIDS epidemic."If you look at the population of Kinshasa, it's an exponential curve going up," Dr. Sharp said. "During the 20th century, you have far more movement of people into urban areas and perhaps changes in behavior." In addition, doctors in clinics in Africa commonly reused needles without sterilizing them between patients, a practice that, he said, "would have played a role in getting the virus kick-started."

 

38 million people to Clean Up the World on 21 and 22 September
September 04, 2001 www.enn.com

The world's largest community-based environmental project will take place on the weekend of September 21st to 22nd of September, uniting individuals and communities in 123 nations (see notes to editors for a full list of countries). The ninth annual Clean Up the World involves community action in a range of activities including waste collection, water treatment, environmental rehabilitation and education programs. Clean Up the World has its origins on Sydney Harbour and in the success of Clean Up Australia Day, the biggest community event in the country. It is the brainchild of one person, Australian yachtsman Ian Kiernan, who was motivated to act after witnessing the effects of pollution and other rubbish on oceans across the globe. Mr Kiernan established Clean Up Australia and, in 1993, joined with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) to link community groups in over 80 countries under the Clean Up the World banner. The first countries to become involved included superpowers such as the United States, Japan and China alongside small nations like the Comoros, Kiribati and Nauru.
For further information including electronic press kits, interviews, transparencies and contact details for overseas CUW Organising Committees, please contact: Paul Sheridan, Clean Up the World, ph: 61 2 9552 6177, email: paul@cleanup.com.au

Shark populations threatened

September 04, 2001 www.enn.com

Populations of sharks are declining at alarming rates worldwide, largely due to increasing demand for their fins. Fishers typically land sharks as bycatch—or incidentally while targeting other species of fish. Many of these bycatch sharks are pulled aboard, butchered for their fins, and then tossed back into the ocean to sink and die. Since the fins are dried, refrigeration is not required and by discarding the less valuable body of the shark, fishers are able to save limited refrigeration space for the desirable catch.

Shark fin is a lucrative commodity, particularly in Southeast Asia. The fins are used to make shark fin soup, a delicacy that can cost as much as US$100 a bowl. Historically, only the wealthiest class of people ate shark fin soup, primarily at special occasions such as wedding banquets. But, over the past twenty years the economic boom in Asia has caused a surge in demand for shark fins and shark fin soup. Viewed as a status symbol, shark fin soup is now routinely served at all sorts of occasions from business dinners to parties.

In February of 2000, San Francisco-based conservation organization WildAid launched its Shark Conservation Program in response to the escalating finning crisis and its dramatic impact on virtually all species of sharks (there are approximately 375 known species). A comprehensive report, "End of the Line: Global Threats to Sharks", can be downloaded from their web site. The organization is also urging

people to sign an E-Petition in support of preserving and protecting shark populations and outlawing the practice of finning worldwide. "We’ve estimated that some species have declined up to 90% in U.S.

waters," said Alice Ng, a shark campaigner for WildAid. Finning is already banned in U.S. waters as well as in Costa Rica, and parts of Australia. But, poaching of sharks in marine reserves, such as the Galapagos Islands is on the rise.

Sharks are keystone predators and are therefore vital to maintaining balance in ocean ecosystems. Removal of sharks from an ecosystem "causes a significant disruption, in fact a collapse of the house of cards that is a normal food chain." An important consideration is the biology of sharks, which is quite different than that of most bony fishes. Sharks, for the most part, have very few young. Those that give live birth, like White sharks or Mako sharks, are extremely vulnerable to over-fishing because if you kill an adult you lose an awful lot of opportunity to keep the population going. Unlike cod, which can produce millions of young, sharks are generally slow to grow, produce very few young, and are very slow to mature.

Interestingly, health has been an effective tool in WildAid’s efforts to educate people. "In Thailand we released a report stating that 7 of the 10 shark fins tested came back with extremely high levels of mercury," said Ng. Following the release of the report sales of shark fins in Thailand declined by 50-70%.

SeaWorld has baby killer whale

September 4, 2001 www.uniontrib.com

Kasatka, the killer whale, and her calf (believed to be the first killer whale conceived through artificial

insemination) are doing well. Kasatka was inseminated in February 2000. Her unnamed calf, born about 9 p.m. Saturday, is the 15th killer whale born at a SeaWorld park and the first born in a decade at the San Diego park.

Wild gorillas and human diseases

4 September 2001 www.nature.com

Mountain gorillas in Uganda may be catching mange from humans, new research reported by Graczyk, T. K., Mudakikwa, A.B., Cranfield, M. R. & Eilenberger, in Parasitology Research. The skin disease is the price the apes pay for losing their fear of people and gaining star status with ecotourists. This is the first report of mange in a wild primate. Human diseases in general are the biggest threat to the survival of the 650 remaining mountain gorillas, says Michael Cranfield, a specialist in conservation medicine at the Baltimore Zoo in Maryland. If measles or tuberculosis got into the gorilla population, the consequences could be devastating.

The mountain gorillas (Gorilla gorilla beringei) of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in southwestern Uganda are accustomed to people. Ten tourists visit them each day, plus their guides. The gorillas now often leave the forest to search for food in human settlements. Food isn't all they find: "People leave clothes behind, and curious gorillas play with them," says Thaddeus Graczyk, a parasitologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The mite Sarcoptes scabiei, which causes mange in furry animals and scabies in humans, can survive in clothes or bedding.

Mange - flaky, sore and itchy skin - is rarely fatal and the recent outbreak seems to have been curbed. But it hits young animals hardest, and can exacerbate the effects of other diseases. Vets from the Ugandan Wildlife Authority spotted gorillas with skin damage about a year ago. When skin samples revealed Sarcoptes mites and their eggs, the hunt began for an effective drug, and a way of administering it. Antiparasitic sprays failed to penetrate the gorillas' thick hair, even when fired from a paintball gun. Eventually, Cranfield's team used darts to deliver Ivermectin, a livestock drug that makes skin cells toxic to the mites. It had never been given to primates, necessitating careful testing on captive animals. Ivermectin seems to have done the trick, but "it's worrying that we haven't found the exact source of the infection", says Cranfield. The mites can spread rapidly between the social gorillas.

Alien Species not all bad

September 4, 2001 www.nytimes.com

Ecologists generally define an alien species as one that people inadvertently or deliberately carried to its new location. In the New World, exotic species are those introduced after the first European contact. That date, rounded off to 1500, represents what ecologists consider to have been a major shift in the spread of species, including crops and livestock, as they began to leapfrog with humans from continent to continent. Distinctions between exotics and native species are artificial, said Dr. Michael Rosenzweig, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona, because they depend on picking a date and calling the plants and animals that show up after that exotic. Ecosystems free of species defined as exotic are, by default, considered the most natural. "Both native and exotic species can become invasive, and so they all have to be monitored and controlled when they begin to get out of hand."

Only a small percentage of alien species cause problems in their new habitats, said Dr. Daniel Simberloff, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Tennessee. Of the country's 7,000 alien species — out of a total of 150,000 species — only about 10 percent are invasive, he said. The other 90 percent have fit into their environments and are considered naturalized. Yet appearances can deceive, ecologists caution, and many of these exotics may be considered acceptable only because no one has documented their harmful effects. And non-native species can appear innocuous for decades, then turn invasive.

At its core, the debate is about how to manage the world's remaining natural ecosystems and about how, and how much, to restore other habitats. Species that invade a territory can harm ecosystems, agriculture and human health. They can destroy some native species and supplant or threaten others. Next to habitat loss, these invasive species represent the greatest threat to biodiversity worldwide, many ecologists say. Ecologists caution that many of these exotics may be considered acceptable only because no one has documented their harmful effects. And non-native species can appear innocuous for decades, then turn invasive.But a number of experts question the scientific wisdom of trying to roll back ecosystems to a time when they were more natural.

In the March issue of the journal Evolutionary Ecology Research, Dr. Rosenzweig, the editor, challenges the prevailing view that invasive alien species reduces biodiversity. The exotics increase the number of species in the environment, he wrote. Even if alien species cause extinctions, the extinction phase will eventually end and new species may then begin to evolve, he explained. Ecologists should focus on managing the environments that include exotic immigrants, Dr. Rosenzweig said, and creating new ones where necessary to enhance species' survival and biodiversity.

Tokyo DisneySea Opens

Sept 5, 2001 www.latimes.com

Walt Disney Co. on Tuesday drew about 30,000 people to its first marine-inspired theme park, Tokyo DisneySea, Disney's ninth theme park. Park officials had expected as many as 50,000 customers on opening day and blamed the lower-than-anticipated turnout on a forecast of rainy weather. Tokyo DisneySea is a sister park to the adjacent Tokyo Disneyland. The expansion is part of a companywide plan to transform all of the Disney parks outside of Disney World in Orlando into destination resorts that draw visitors for several days. Burbank-based Disney is also building theme parks outside Paris and in Hong Kong. The $2.8-billion attraction features 23 rides--including a storm simulator and a volcano-theme roller coaster--and a luxury hotel.

Disneyland, which remains Disney's most visited theme park worldwide and produces a $100 million a year in licensing income for the company. Disney expects its newest park to draw 10 million visitors a year. Rival Universal Studios, which opened its first theme park in Osaka, Japan, in March, has been drawing about 1 million visitors a month, ahead of company projections. Oriental Land Co. operates both of Disney's Japanese parks under a license with Disney. The company financed the bulk of the project's cost, though Disney paid $10 million in design costs.

 

Flamingo dies of West Nile virus at zoo

September 5, 2001 dailynews.philly.com

Philadelphia Zoo veterinarian Dr. Keith Hinshaw said zoo staffers noticed the male flamingo began acting strangely around Aug. 26. "It didn't seem to be as interested in food and as active as the flamingos normally are." Although most birds killed by West Nile virus are crows, this was not the first flamingo in the country to die since the mosquito-borne disease turned up in the New York City area two years ago. The Bronx Zoo lost more than 20 birds, including flamingos, that year. In the Philadelphia area, health officials have reported a mounting toll of birds - mostly crows - including 41 in the city alone this year.

The zoo had already begun moving all its flamingos indoors in the evening. The early morning and evening hours are when mosquitoes feed, and health officials have suggested that people avoid going around with exposed arms or legs in those hours. In the past two years, the virus has killed nine people in New York and northern New Jersey. Dozens of species of birds, from hawks to songbirds to shorebirds, have been infected in the past two years, federal biologists say. And the wave is spreading west.

 

Chester Zoo’s Cat Exhibit

September 5, 2001 http://news.bbc.co.uk/

A jaguar enclosure which has cost £2m to create has been officially opened at a zoo in Cheshire. "Spirit of the Jaguar" is home to three of the big cats and a fourth is expected to move in later. The indoor and outdoor enclosures, which represent rainforest and a savannah environments, include pools and waterfalls. Chester Zoo's marketing manager Chris Vear said: "There is a huge amount of education material so you can get the story of why the jaguar is endangered.

"There is nothing like it anywhere in Europe. "The director of science and conservation from News York's World Conservation Society, a zoo in the Bronx, is extremely impressed. "He thinks the scale, the education and the modernity of it are mind boggling. "You can get within the thickness of glass to the cats, which you can hear rumbling."We even simulate the smell of jaguar urine," he added. Two of the jaguars, Carlos and Ebony, came from Rome Zoo. They are past breeding age. A third, a young male called Salvador, was brought from a zoo in Poland. Chester Zoo is seeking a mate for Salvador from Central or Southern America.

In the wild, Jaguars live usually for 10 to 12 years. In some areas, where they are regarded as a pest, they are shot on sight. The "Spirit of the Jaguar" enclosure has been paid for by Jaguar cars.

Hawaii captured in a new book

September 4, 2001 www.nytimes.com

The Hawaiian Paradise is fast being lost. As a volcanic archipelago more remote from a continental landmass than almost any other spot on earth, Hawaii is home to an extravagant array of rare plants and animals specifically adapted to life in an isolated oasis. These native species, however, are vanishing rapidly, under assault not only from the island's mighty tourism machine, but also from highly destructive introduced species like wild pigs, goats and deer and invasive plants like bamboo, Tibouchina and blackberry.

In their new book, "Remains of a Rainbow: Rare Plants and Animals of Hawai`i," which is being published this fall by National Geographic, two photographers — David Liittschwager, 40, and Susan Middleton, 53 — offer a starkly intimate look at some 140 species native to Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Lanai, the Big Island of Hawaii and other pearls in the 137-island chain. It is a Hawaii stripped of sentiment and trespass, a piece of paradise momentarily regained.

At least a quarter of all the species on the federal endangered species list are in Hawaii. The book reveals a Hawaii that most tourists don’t see. Most of what a tourist will see are introduced species, particularly around the hotels and at the lower elevations. The coconut trees, for are non native. Above 3,000 feet you see many of the native Hawaiian plants. The really rare things are clinging to existence in the higher elevations. It's been estimated that an organism successfully colonized Hawaii only once every 10,000 years or so over the tens of millions of years since the islands began forming. Once an organism got its foot in the door, it found no reason to move around much after that. Many birds and insects lost their ability to fly, and plants stopped producing defensive toxins. In Hawaii you see an amazing fit between an organism and its environment, but you also see how defenseless many native species are against introduced competitors.

Zoo officials deny elephant abuse

September 6, 2001 www.springfieldnews-leader.com

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has filed charges against Dickerson Park Zoo, alleging officials there abused an elephant in 1998. It’s the second time in three years the federal agency has launched an investigation into allegations of elephant abuse at the Springfield zoo. The complaint stems from an incident after the elephant owned by the Seattle, Wash., Zoo was sent to Dickerson Park Zoo for breeding in 1998. In 2000, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said it would complain to the USDA that Chai was abused. In response, representatives of both zoos said the elephant was disciplined for five minutes after a second incident in which it knocked a keeper to the ground.

The USDA has requested an administrative hearing for the charges. The zoo’s attorney, Mike Cordonnier of Springfield, asked for an administrative judge to dismiss the charges. Cordonnier was hired by the city to represent the zoo. "We are not apologizing for the manner in which we handled this elephant," he said. "We feel it was a necessary amount of discipline, not an unnecessary amount of discipline, and was absolutely essential for handler safety." More than half the zoos in the United States use the "free contact" method of working with elephants in which keepers are in physical contact with the animals, and discipline is an accepted method of training, he said. If the charges aren’t dismissed and the zoo loses its case in administrative court, it could face up to $5,500 in fines and have its license to exhibit animals suspended, said Jim Rogers, a spokesman with the USDA. He declined to give further comment. The USDA handles licensing and registration for zoos across the nation. Some individual states are also involved, although Missouri is not one of them. Crocker said he also didn’t think the dispute would affect the American Zoo and Aquarium Association’s stance on re-accrediting Dickerson Park Zoo. The zoo is one of 36 zoos and aquariums that will be evaluated for reaccreditation at the convention.

 

Zoo regains accreditation

09/06/01 www.al.com/news/birminghamnews

The Birmingham Zoo Wednesday regained the national accreditation it lost in March 1999 because of its money woes and uncertain management. The American Zoo and Aquarium Association gave the reaccreditation news to zoo officials who were in St. Louis attending the AZA's annual conference. "AZA accreditation is an honor awarded to only 10 percent of zoos nationwide, and the Birmingham Zoo is proud to have regained this status," said zoo Director Bruce Read.

Birmingham Zoo Inc. took over operations from the city in September 1999. The city had secured a commitment from three governments to give BZI a declining subsidy of $6.5 million over five years. By then, BZI is expected to be solvent and fully capable of operating the zoo. In February 2000, BZI hired Read who was then general curator of Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando, to help rebuild the zoo and its tarnished image. Holly Booyse, the zoo's development director, said the zoo will build its attendance with the opening of the Children's Zoo next year and other exhibits outlined in a master plan, which is almost complete.

Zoo wants certification back
Local officials say criticisms addressed

 

Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden ain’t what it used to be.

That’s the pitch zoo officials will make this week to delegates at the American Zoo & Aquarium Association (AZA) fall convention in St. Louis.

The goal for the city’s zoo is to regain its AZA accreditation.

Dan McGinn, interim Mesker Park Zoo director, said he and two other local zoo officials will spend most of the next seven days talking to AZA members and attending convention sessions.

"We’re going to let people know we have a brand-new zoo — that the zoo is changed," McGinn said. AZA officials will be told "we’ve taken their criticism to heart and addressed as many of them as possible," he said.

McGinn said Mesker Park Zoo officials filed an application about two weeks ago asking the AZA to consider restoring accreditation to Mesker.

It’s possible an AZA inspection team could visit Mesker before Thanksgiving, McGinn said.

If Mesker passes the inspection, accreditation could be restored at an AZA convention next spring, he said.

The AZA suspended Mesker’s accreditation in 1998 amid allegations of improper breeding of animals on the endangered species list.

Last year, the AZA rejected a proposal to restore accreditation to Mesker, outlining problems in a report that Mayor Russ Lloyd Jr. called dismal.

New animal exhibits have been added since then and other changes have been made to meet AZA demands, McGinn said.

The improvements range from more fencing and a safe — to store drugs used for animals that meets federal standards — to increased training of zoo staff and conservation and education projects, he said.

Attendance at Mesker last year was about 70,000.

McGinn said attendance for this year surpassed 70,000 the third week in August.

Zoo officials are working with a major corporation that may donate $50,000 a year over a three-year period, McGinn said.

The Evansville Parks Board approved a $28,000 contract Wednesday with Creative Environs of Jacksonville, Fla., to come up with a new design for Mesker’s children’s zoo.

Plans are to turn the 20,000-square-foot area into a fun and educational place for children — with activities, a tree house with slides and a safari-type ride, McGinn said.

An otter exhibit also may be opened in the children’s zoo area, he said. Other animals also may be on exhibit there, he said.

More than $500,000 will be set aside to renovate the children’s zoo, he said.

The Florida firm will come up with new concepts and provide the equipment, he said.

Plans are to start demolition of the existing children’s zoo area in the fall and have the new facility ready by late spring when school lets out, he said.

A zoo master plan, presented about five years ago, recommended a $30 million overhaul of Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden.

Lloyd has indicated that a bond for the first phase for about $20 million in improvements may be issued late next year.

City officials also want the master plan recommendations reviewed to determine current construction costs and whether some proposed new exhibits are needed today.

Lawsuit against Global Warming

September 6, 2001 www.nytimes.com

Last month two dozen lawyers from around the country met in Washington to explore the avenues they might pursue to force the United States or corporations to reduce emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, which scientists say are already warming the planet and posing serious risks to human health, property and even entire nations. Representing groups like Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council, they envision winning damages for people or whole countries that have suffered adverse effects of global warming. They say they were inspired by the Bush administration's refusal to go along with the Kyoto Protocol, the internationally negotiated framework for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

The United Nations estimates the costs of global warming at more than $300 billion a year."Those who are directly injured in a very concrete way by the impacts of climate change are concluding that they won't get the remedy they need through the political process, whether it's the international or domestic political process," said one organizer of the strategy session, Brian Dunkiel of Burlington, Vt., former counsel to Friends of the Earth.

Still, the environmental lawyers have not decided whether their effort will ultimately be pursued chiefly in the federal courts or in international tribunals. They have been focusing in part on a 60-year-old landmark case involving a Canadian smelting plant that was damaging crops, timber and livestock in Washington State. An international arbiter found that one country could not pollute another without being held liable.

Humans - An Evolutionary Force

September 7, 2001 Science Vol 293 No 5536 p

Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University – Human impact on the global biosphere now controls many major facets of ecosystem function. Currently, a large fraction of the world's available fresh water, arable land, fisheries production, nitrogen budget, CO2 balance, and biotic turnover are dominated by human effects (1). Human ecological impact has enormous evolutionary consequences as well and can greatly accelerate evolutionary change in the species around us, especially disease organisms, agricultural pests, commensals, and species hunted commercially. For example, some forms of bacterial infection are insensitive to all but the most powerful antibiotics, yet these infections are increasingly common in hospitals (2). Some insects are tolerant of so many different insecticides that chemical control is useless (3). Such examples illustrate the pervasive intersection of biological evolution with human life, effects that generate substantial daily impacts and produce increasing economic burden.

Accelerated evolutionary changes are easy to understand--they derive from strong natural selection exerted by human technology. However, technological impact has increased so markedly over the past few decades that humans may be the world's dominant evolutionary force. The importance of human- induced evolutionary change can be measured economically, in some cases, and is frequently seen in the exposure of societies to uncontrollable disease or pest outbreaks. This accelerated evolution costs at least $33 billion to $50 billion a year in the United States. Slowing and controlling arms races in disease and pest management have been successful in diverse ecological and economic systems, illustrating how applied evolutionary principles can help reduce the impact of humankind on evolution. Attempts to slow these evolutionary changes are widespread but uncoordinated. How well do they work to slow evolution? Can successes from one field be generalized to others?

 

Mother accidentally killed elephant calf, zoo says

mailto:jsulek@sjmercury.comSeptember 11, 2001 Www0.mercurycenter.com

For the zookeepers who worked so hard toward a happy ending, the cause of the baby elephant's death at the Oakland Zoo couldn't be worse: The mother killed him, delivering one fatal blow to his chest with her short tusk. Zoo Director Joel Parrott speculated Monday that Sunday morning's goring, which broke two ribs and damaged a lung, was an accident. Perhaps the 11-day-old baby, Dohani, startled her in some way. Maybe the mother, Lisa, was merely trying to help the baby get on his feet and was too rough. No one at the zoo could fathom that Lisa might have attacked the calf purposefully -- as she did six years ago when she trampled her firstborn within minutes of his birth.

With Dohani, born Aug. 30, Lisa had been a model mother, Parrott said. ``She showed no sign of aggression toward him at any point,'' Parrott said. ``She was a doting mother who encouraged him to breast-feed. If she wandered away, he would follow her. Keepers had checked on Lisa and Dohani at 5 a.m. Sunday and all was well. When they checked again at 7:15, they found Dohani dead in a sleeping position in his pen. Lisa stood attentively over him. There were no signs of any prolonged violence or thrashing. The death was caused by a single blow, Parrott said. After the body was examined, Keepers gave Lisa time to grieve over the calf, allowing her to stay with Dohani from 8 p.m. Sunday to 8 a.m. Monday. When keeper Greg Gilbert separated the two, ``Lisa didn't want to leave Dohani, no matter how big a reward you offered,'' he said.

 

Balboa Park strategic plan Sep 11, 2001 www.uniontrib.com

A newly formed Balboa Park Cultural Institutions Strategic Plan Committee is made up of 21 of the park's most prominent tenants. Armed with a $150,000 grant from the James Irvine Foundation to cover the first two years of operation, they are hiring a strategic planning director to guide the process, which could cost $500,000 by the time it is completed.They have retained Bob Smith of Strategies and Teams Inc., a San Diego-based management consulting firm, to assemble a planning database covering all phases of their individual operations and the way each affects Balboa Park.

Not everyone in the park is convinced such a strategic planning team is necessary."Is this small special-interest group really good for the park?" asked Art Bishop, executive director of the San Diego Automotive Museum, the only museum head not to join the group. "Why do we need a strategic planning committee when we already have the Central Balboa Park Association? Why can't that group do what the strategic planning committee is talking about?" The Central Balboa Park Association is made up of the directors of 34 park lessees and includes all of the members of the new strategic planning committee.

Steve Mueller, the association's chairman said the strategic planning committee is a positive move because the city's focus is on land-use and related issues in the park, not on the cultural institutions themselves. The city's long-term planning for the 1,140-acre Balboa Park, codified in the general and precise plans adopted by the City Council more than a decade ago, does not take into account the "unique operational needs" of the cultural institutions themselves.

Councilwoman Toni Atkins, whose 3rd District includes Balboa Park, endorsed the idea of the park institutions working together on strategic planning issues.

The city of San Diego spent $69.3 million on capital improvements in Balboa Park over the last decade, with an added $3.3 million budgeted for additional work, said Michael J. Behan, deputy director of the metro parks division and the official who runs the park. Of the Park and Recreation department's $2.7 million funding for park maintenance citywide last year, $971,000 went to Balboa Park, he added.

Balboa Park's institutional tenants make a significant contribution to San Diego's cultural life and to its economy. The San Diego Zoo has more than 3 million visitors annually, and a budget of more than $100 million.The other park users on the strategic plan steering committee have 3 million visitors a year among them, and their combined budget is more than $50 million. The group includes the museums, the Old Globe Theatre, the Spanish Village Art Center, the Japanese Friendship Garden, the San Diego Junior Theatre, Centro Cultural de la Raza, the Veterans Memorial Center, the World Beat Center and the San Diego Historical Society.

EPA claims butterflies not harmed by transgenic corn

September 11, 2001 www.enn.com

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a report stating that genetically modified corn that produces the insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) poses little risk to monarch butterflies. The agency says its results, based on data that have not been made public, should put to rest controversy stemming from a 1999 Cornell University study that asserted the Bt pollen was harmful to the famous butterflies.

Writing in the May 20, 1999 of the journal "Nature," John Losey, a Cornell assistant professor of entomology reported that Bt-corn, has genes from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) splicedinto the plant genes. This new gene produces a protein which kills insects after the protein is ingested. In Losey's lab tests, monarch butterflies fed milkweed leaves dusted with pollen from a Bt-corn hybrid ate less, grew more slowly and suffered a higher mortality rate. Nearly half of their larvae died, while all of the monarch caterpillars fed leaves dusted with the non-modified corn pollen survived. A 1999 Michigan State University study published in the journal "Nature" supports Losey's work.

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) maintains that Bt corn poses no threat to the Monarch butterflies and the EPA's conclusion that the genetically engineered corn is relatively harmless to monarch populations is based in part on field studies conducted last summer by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Maryland, Iowa and Minnesota. Data from those studies have not been published, but have been turned over to EPA for review. The agency has declined to release the data because of confidentiality claims by biotech companies involved in the research. Agency officials said they hoped to release the data before the Sept. 30 deadline for renewing Bt corn licenses.

USDA and brucellosis infections

Sept. 12, 2001 www.aphis.usda.gov

The U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed an amendment to its brucellosis regulations today that would allow indemnity payments for sheep, goats, and horses destroyed because of brucellosis. The indemnity amount will be the appraised fair market value of the animal less its salvage value. This action would make it easier to eliminate affected animal herds and flocks and will encourage owners to cooperate with USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service brucellosis eradication program. Brucellosis is a contagious disease caused by bacteria that mainly affects cattle, bison, and swine. It causes loss of young through spontaneous abortion or birth of weak offspring,reduced milk production, and infertility. Goats, sheep, and horses are rarely infected with brucellosis in the United States. However, they are susceptible to certain strains. When they are, it is almost always a result of having been in direct contact with infected cattle, bison, or swine. At this time, there are no known U.S. herds or flocks of goats, sheep, or horses infected with brucellosis. However, should any sheep, goats, or horses become infected with brucellosis, USDA's ability to pay indemnity for those animals would be a crucial tool in encouraging livestock owners to destroy infected and exposed animals and eliminate the last sources of infection. This proposed rule is scheduled for publication in the Sept. 13, 2001 Federal Register. APHIS documents published in the Federal Register, and related information, including thenames of organizations and individuals who have commented on APHIS dockets, are available on the Internet at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ppd/rad/webrepor.html.

Coral reefs are shrinking fast - UN report

September 12, 2001 www.planetark.org

LONDON - The world's coral reefs are far smaller than scientists thought and are shrinking fast under a deadly combination of pollution, climate change and dynamite fishing, according to a U.N. study released yesterday. The most comprehensive mapping yet of the "rainforests of the oceans", prepared by the United Nations Environment Programme, showed the world's reefs covered between a half and one-tenth of the area of previous studies. The study showed coral reefs covered just 284,300 square km (110,000 square miles), or less than one-tenth of a percent of the world's seabed. Scattered under the waters of 101 countries and territories, corals are vital for fisheries, coastal protection, tourism and wildlife, hosting up to two million marine plants and animals.

 

Nine actions to benefit the environment

September 12, 2001 www.newdream.org/tttoffline

The Center for a New American Dream, a Maryland-based nonprofit has launched a new Turn the Tide program with nine actions to benefit the environment. The impact of each of the below actions is neatly quantified on the web site. The program is unique in that it allows participants to see for themselves the difference they're making.

1. Eliminate one beef meal a week

2. Declare your independence from junk mail

3. Replace four light bulbs with energy-efficient ones

4. Eliminate one 20-mile car trip per week.

5. Don’t eat shrimp

6. Move the thermostat 3 degrees F

7. Eliminate lawn and garden pesticides

8. Install an efficient showerhead and low flow faucet aerators

9. Convince 2 friends to participate

Field trials used to investigate the social lives of badgers

September 13, 2001 www.biomedcentral.com

New research published in BMC Ecology investigates why badgers, an antisocial species, choose to live in groups. The study was carried out at the University of Oxford and is the first large-scale field trial to analyse the reasons why badgers live together. By living in groups, many social animals gain benefits, such as group hunting, increased vigilance against predators and group parenting. However, badgers forage for food in solitude and do not share the duties of parenting among the group. Indeed, there is evidence that the body condition of badgers deteriorates when they live in large groups and that the reproductive success of female badgers declines as group size increases. These observations beg the question, why do badgers bother living in groups at all?

This new study uses data collected over 25 years from Wytham Woods in Oxfordshire.. The results of the study indicate that the patchy nature of the badger major food source, earthworms, could lead to the passive formation of badger groups. It seems that badgers exist in groups because they need a geographic territory with enough earthworms for each badger to eat. This work provides the first real evidence of resources, such as food, playing a part in the social organisation of a species. The authors conclude that further work will need to be done to turn their findings into a predictive theory for the social organisation of other species.

Rhino delivers first captive calf in 112 years

September 14, 2001 www.cincypost.com

On Thursday an 11-year female Sumatran rhino at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden became the first Sumatran rhino to breed and carry a calf to term in captivity in 112 years, and the first ever in the United States. Within the first five minutes after the calf's birth at 11:23 a.m., Emi began licking the little one and soon after, the calf attempted to stand. Dr. Terri Roth, director of the Zoo's Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife, used ultrasound technology and hormone analysis to discover that these rhinos' eggs are released from the ovary only after mating. This critical finding helped solve the mystery of breeding this species in captivity, zoo officials said.

In another challenge, Emi also seemed incapable of carrying a pregnancy to term, losing five pregnancies within the first three months of gestation. Emi, on loan from the Los Angeles Zoo, and the Cincinnati Zoo's male rhino, Ipuh, are bot h on loan from the Indonesian government as part of a captive breeding program established in 1984 as a cooperative effort among Malaysians, Indonesians and Americans with four U.S. zoos becoming involved (Cincinnati Zoo, Bronx Zoo, Los Angeles Zoo and the San Diego Zoo). They are the only Sumatran rhino breeding pair in the United States. A fourth rhino, an older female, resides at the Bronx Zoo. The Sumatran rhinoceros is considered the most endangere d of all rhino species, and one of the most endangered mammals on earth. There are thought to be about 300 Sumatran rhinos left in the wild and 15 in captivity. The last time a calf was born in captivity was 1889 at the Calcutta Zoo in India.

Asia's endangered freshwater turtles

September 14, 2001 www.enn.com

Freshwater turtles in Asia are facing possible extinction due to their unrestrained use as food, medicines, and pet exports. People in Asia have always eaten turtles, but mainly for subsistence in poor rural

areas. Now with the interchange of Chinese currency in world trade, turtles have become an international commodity. The Turtle Survival Alliance, an international conservation coalition formed to protect the world's vanishing turtles, got a new member last week. A group of scientists from the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory become one of 15 partners in the alliance. Their scientists join the Turtle Survival Alliance, which includes groups from around the United States and from Germany, Hong Kong and Vietnam.

Turtle Survival Alliance and its supporting groups believe the sheer numbers of turtles used in the food, medicine, and pet trade is unsustainable. Imports of turtle shells into Taiwan alone amount to, on

average, more than 30 metric tons per year. The total trade may add up to several times this amount, said Southeast Asia senior program officer Peter Paul van Dijk of Traffic, the wildlife-trade-monitoring arm of World Wide Fund for Nature and IUCN, The World Conservation Union. The number of critically endangered freshwater turtles has more than doubled in just the last four years, according to a report released today by Traffic, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Worldwide Fund For Nature (WWF), and other conservation groups last October. With three-fourths of Asia's freshwater turtles now listed as threatened and more than half considered endangered, scientists and conservationists are calling for far more effective measures to protect these animals.

 

Rumors and threats empty zoo

September 14, 2001 www.uniontrib.com

With tension tight across San Diego County and the nation, bomb scares and rumors of attack were leveled yesterday at schools, tourist attractions and job centers, reigniting public fears that barely had started to calm.One particularly ominous threat was received in the morning at a federal anti-terrorism task force set up inside San Diego FBI offices. Even though it was soon deemed "erroneous," it set off a chain reaction of fear across the region and prompted the sudden evacuation of the San Diego Zoo. A Navy official transmitted the urgent message, which read in part, "an attack will occur in San Diego, CA today" and specifically mentioned the zoo and SeaWorld. It was sent to thousands of Navy personnel and their dependents, FBI spokeswoman Jan Caldwell said, and forwarded to untold others within minutes. Bomb-sniffing dogs inside the zoo found nothing, but officials declined to reopen the park. Similar false alarms were issued yesterday in Northern California, Florida, Delaware and elsewhere -- perhaps worst of all, New York and Washington, twin sites of terrorism Tuesday that likely stole thousands of lives.Phillip Gay, a San Diego State University professor of sociology, said the crushing news coverage of events like those on the East Coast helps perpetuate copycats.

Pesticides suspected in elephant deaths

September 17, 2001 www.enn.com

GUWAHATI, India — Officials probing last month's deaths of 18 elephants in a wildlife park in northeastern India said on Saturday angry villagers killed them using pesticides. "Wild elephants are fond of country-made liquor and we suspect the villagers must have mixed it with pesticides and left it for the animals to drink," said Dr. Apurba Chakraborty, a member of the investigating team. India's northeast is home to about half of the country's elephant population numbering around 30,000. Government protection of elephants over the last 20 years, including a ban on their capture, had led to a rise in their population in Assam state to about 5,000, experts say.

Phylogeny of Malagasy lemuriforms

Zool J Linnean Soc V 133, No. 1, September 1, 2001

Numerous phylogenetic hypotheses have been advanced for the Malagasy lemuriform radiation, drawing on data from morphology, physiology, behaviour and molecular genetics. Almost all possible relationships have been proposed, and most nodes have been contested. We present a phylogenetic analysis, using several analytical methods, of a partial sequence from the 12S rRNA mitochondrial gene. Although previous studies have suggested a very wide range of phylogenetic applicability for this molecule, our results indicate that it is most useful in strepsirrhine primates for estimating relationships among genera within families and among relatively recently diverged families (mean sequence divergence about 11%). Our data show strong support for an Indridae-Lemuridae sister group and for monophyly of the Lemuridae with Varecia as the sister to all other lemurids. They also support, albeit less strongly, sister group relationships between Lemur and Hapalemur within the Lemuridae and between Propithecus and Avahi in the Indridae.

300 Botswana elephants to Angola

September 6, 2001 www.planetark.org

JOHANNESBURG - The first planeload of elephants donated by Botswana were sent to Angola this week, as part of a controversial project to reintroduce wildlife to the war-ravaged country. The Kissama Foundation, a private group which has been mandated to rehabilitate Angola's national parks, said that two family groups of four elephants each were flown in an Ilyushin cargo plane to the Quicama National Park in Angola. The four bulls and four cows are the first elephants out of a total 300 which Botswana has promised to give to Angola - a country at civil war since independence from Portugal in1975.

Kashmir probes antelope deaths

September 7, 2001 www.planetark.org

SRINAGAR - Kashmir authorities said this week they planned to send a 3-member team to China to find out whether a rare breed of antelope was being killed to make costly shahtoosh shawls in the northern Indian Himalayan state. The wildlife protection group, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), has said that poachers shoot 20,000 Chirus, a Tibetan antelope, annually for their fur despite a worldwide ban. Once several million strong, the population of the Tibetan antelope has shrunk to less than 75,000 and could become extinct within five years, the IAFW said.

Tiger & Leopard Conservation

September 12, 2001 news.bbc.co.uk

The number of Siberian tigers in the wild is estimated at between 330 and 370, with the Amur leopard reduced to a single population of between 25 and 40 animals. Experts from China and Russia are working with US biologists from the Wildlife Conservation Society. The creation of the Jilin Hunchun reserve on the Chinese side of the border should increase the amount of suitable habitat for the two species. Both are critically endangered, and the reserve's creation has rekindled hopes for their survival. Dr Dale Miquelle, a WCS biologist, said: "There are few tigers left in northeast China, and most of those are animals dispersing from the Russian side of the border. Tigers that migrate to China often find few prey species and turn to livestock, which leads to conflict with local people. The society is working to create a fund to compensate farmers for livestock losses caused by tigers. It says protecting wild prey, and removing the snares that are set for deer but sometimes kill tigers as well, will be critical parts of the animals' recovery

A recent workshop in Vladivostok agreed to set up a leopard steering committee, which will bring together scientists, government and non-government bodies from Russia, China and North Korea. The habitat available to both species is shrinking as human numbers grow, and both face similar threats. China is considering declaring another reserve, in the Wandashan mountains of Heilongjiang province.

AMNH Genomics

September 14, 2001 news.bmn.com/hmsbeagle/

The establishment of the Institute for Comparative Genomics was announced in May 2001 preceding the opening of the American Museum of Natural History’s Genomic Revolution exhibit. AMNH has a 130-year-old tradition of research in evolution and comparative biology. Such studies demand highly organized storage and retrieval systems for both specimens and data. Therefore, the comprehensive new program for gathering and analyzing vast quantities of molecular-genetic data builds naturally upon a well-established and conceptually similar research structure. One key part of AMNH's genomics research involves constructing the "Tree of Life," the map of evolutionary relationships among the 1.5 million known species, as well as those species yet to be found. This map will be analogous to the periodic table of elements; it will teach us how life is processed and how evolution works.

Given the extensive DNA preparation and sequencing capabilities of AMNH, it comes as no surprise

that an impressive new storage facility has been built to keep all the samples and has greatly

expanded the computer facilities to handle the immense quantities of data generated by the new research projects. Indeed, part of the new computer facility is devoted to keeping records of all the research samples.

Darrel Frost, associate dean of science for collections and associate curator, Division of Vertebrate Zoology explained that most research institutions store frozen tissue specimens in ultracold (-80 ̊C) freezers. The freezers run on electricity, which makes them vulnerable to power outages. AMNH researchers have opted to use liquid-nitrogen storage dewars -essentially giant thermos bottles - for storing the specimens. According to Frost, liquid nitrogen chills the samples to -150 ̊C and, therefore, gives better protection than ultracold freezers against sample breakdown. These containers hold up to 70,000 small vials per container, and give the museum a capacity to store about 400,000 samples. Frost

expects that within a few years they will actually have over a million frozen samples, many collected by AMNH staff members and others coming from outside individuals. As Frost explained, the fully automated system includes bar codes for each sample vial and computer-driven sample racks. Researchers use notebook computers with bar-code readers on a wireless network to retrieve and deposit samples, and a supercomputer, constructed on site enables the researchers who compare DNA sequences to analyze the exponentially increasing amount of data that is now being generated.

 

Cutback in tourism

September 14, 2001 www.uniontrib.com

Nationwide, because of the weak economy, the airline and hotel industries were having poor years before Tuesday's calamity. Now, there is little question that widespread fear of flying will last for several months, and hotels will feel it even more. The accounting/consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers said in a report this week that this year, the U.S. hotel industry will suffer its worst performance in 33 years.

Revenue per available room (RevPAR) will drop 3.5 percent to 5 percent this year, and 7 to 11 percent

in the last four months of the year, compared with last year, according to the company.

Fortunately San Diego gets 70 percent of its business and leisure tourists from the West. This means that we can still attract visitors from the so- called drive market (Los Angeles, Phoenix, etc.). Our tourism is stronger than the nation's, but we are vulnerable. This is going to be fairly long term; we won't dig ourselves out quickly.

Zoos Track West Nile Virus

September 17 dailynews.yahoo.com

 

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Many zoos across the country have agreed to begin tracking the West Nile virus (news - web sites), which is blamed for the deaths of at least three birds at The Philadelphia Zoo in the past month. A flamingo, a pelican and a rare Humboldt penguin have succumbed to West Nile at the zoo since late August. The only other zoo believed to have lost birds to West Nile is the Bronx Zoo in New York, where more than 20 birds died from the virus when it was first detected in 1999. Fearing the virus will spread, a coalition of zoos, veterinarians and health officials have completed a plan to monitor it at zoos.

Under the pilot program - details of which are expected to be released in the next several weeks - more zoos will begin checking dead birds for West Nile. The program's second phase will involve zoos conducting blood tests on live birds. Scientists say it may reach Central America and California by early next year. A vaccine is currently being tested on birds but its effectiveness isn't yet known, said Bob McLean, director of the U.S. Geological Service's National Wildlife Center. Meanwhile, some zoos with the room are keeping their animals indoors from dusk to dawn - prime mosquito time - and others are putting mosquito larvae-eating fish in their ponds, installing netting and using animal-friendly insecticides.

The American Zoo and Aquarium Association: http://www.aza.org

Philadelphia Zoo: http://www.philadelphiazoo.org

Bronx Zoo: http://www.wcs.org/home/zoos/bronxzoo

Lincoln Park Zoo: http://www.lpzoo.com

BSE in Japan

Sept. 18, 2001 www.aphis.usda.gov

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced today that it has imposed import restrictions on Japanese ruminants and ruminant products due to a suspected case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). These restrictions apply to prohibited product arriving in ports on or after September 10. Japan reported the suspected case of BSE to the Office International Des Epizooties (OIE), a world organization for animal health, on September 10. The disease is suspected in a 5-year-old Holstein cow kept on a dairy farm in the Chiba prefecture. Initial tests have provided some positive results. The Japanese authorities have submitted samples to international reference laboratories for confirmatory testing. USDA has restricted the importation of live ruminants and ruminant products from Japan since March of 2000 due to foot-and-mouth disease. No case of BSE has ever been diagnosed in the United States.

British Columbia's White Bears

September 18, 2001 unisci.com

Researchers at the University of British Columbia have made a discovery about a rarely seen legendary bear that sheds light on a long-standing natural mystery and could help preserve a unique and rare population of animals. The work is reported by Dr. Kermit Ritland and colleagues in this week's Current Biology. The subject of their research is the elusive Kermode bear (ker-MODE-ee, also known as the Spirit or Ghost bear), a white black bear found only in the rugged rainforests of British Columbia's north coast islands. The bears are not albinos, and while biologists had long suspected a hereditary basis for Kermodism, the biology behind the bears' white fur was unknown until Ritland and colleagues endeavored to obtain and analyze the bears' DNA. Using ingenious fur snags to obtain DNA samples from 220 wild bears, the researchers found that the white coat arises from a single recessive mutation in a gene, mc1r, which encodes a melanocortin receptor, a protein that reads hormone levels and stimulates cells to produce pigment. Ritland's team found that the mutation is unique to Kermode bears, as it does not occur in black bears of black, brown or cinnamon coloring.

Though protected from hunting, there are very few Kermode bears: in their range, which is almost exclusively comprised of three islands narrowly separated from the mainland, the Kermode exist as part of a mixed population of black bears, only 10% of which (100-200 individuals total) are the Kermode white phase.

Bolivia's gift to the Earth

September 19, 2001 www.enn.com

South America's largest freshwater protected area has been set aside by the government of Bolivia and was presented to the world in a ceremony in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, on Monday. The Bolivian government designated three wetlands totalling 17,760 square miles — an area larger than Switzerland — as protected sites under an international treaty known as the Ramsar Convention.The Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, provides the framework for national action and international cooperation to conserve wetlands. Bolivia becomes the second country to designate such a vast area of wetlands in the Ramsar Convention's 30 years of existence.

Endangered species such as the jaguar, the tapir, the giant river otter, and the hyacinth macaw inhabit these wetlands, located in the lowlands of Bolivia. The three wetlands — BaZados del Izogog-Rio Parapeti, El Palmar de las Islas-Salinas de San José, and Bolivian Pantanal — are also home to hundreds of species of plants and animals which are threatened in other parts of the country and in the rest of the world. The wetlands are linked to the Amazon basin, forming a biological and genetic corridor. They serve as freshwater reserves for the surrounding human communities.

The Bolivian Pantanal is the best preserved portion of the the larger Pantanal system, often called the world's largest freshwater wetland system, extending through millions of square miles of central-western Brazil, eastern Bolivia, and eastern Paraguay. A tapestry of lakes, lagoons, rivers, flooded savannas, palms, and dry forests, the Bolivian Pantanal regulates floods and droughts in an enormous area of Eastern Bolivia. It has enormous biodiversity, sustaining at least 197 species of fish, more than 70 species of amphibians and reptiles, more than 300 species of birds, and more than 50 species of large mammals. Unfortunately, it is bounded by dry forests that are considered to be the among the most endangered and least protected biomass in the world.

The Bolivian government's decision has been recognized as a Gift to the Earth — a first for freshwater in Latin America — by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). There are now 128 countries that are parties to the Ramsar Convention. They have set aside 1,093 wetland sites, totaling 336,000 square miles, designated for inclusion in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.

Puffins in Maine

September 19, 2001 www.nytimes.com

Since 1973 Dr. Stephen W. Kress has worked to persuade puffins to roost once again on Eastern Egg Rock, an 11- acre island off the mid-Maine coast in Muscongus Bay. He stocked the island with chicks and decoy puffins to make them feel at home, and then cleared out the hungry gulls. Now for the first time since the 1880's, Eastern Egg Rock has a puffin population. The island had 37 nesting pairs this summer and 25 puffins not yet old enough to breed, said Dr. Kress, director of the seabird restoration program for the National Audubon Society. Eastern Egg Rock now also has the largest colony of roseate terns, an endangered species,and the largest colony of laughing gulls in Maine. The knowledge gained may be important in other areas where seabirds have lost their historic habitats, Dr. Kress said. The same strategy that has worked so well for puffins will be tried next winter on Midway Island, where Dr. Kress's team will try to restore several kinds of petrels that were killed when rats were introduced. More information about the project is available online at www.projectpuffin.org.

Zoo's White Tiger Returns Home

September 19 dailynews.yahoo.com

Kaliyani, the four-year-old female white tiger visiting the Oklahoma City Zoo, is preparing to return to her home at the Nashville Zoo. Her last day on exhibit at Cat Forest is Sunday, Sept. 30. White tigers are found in the hardwood forest of India. Their color is caused by a double recessive gene group and in the last 100 years, only about a dozen have been seen in India. Current estimations put the world populations of all wild tigers at less than 7,400.

Farm breeds die out

9/19/2001 www.planetark.org

ROME - Breeds of farm animal are dying out and types of plant disappearing at an alarming rate, threatening long-term food security and depriving the world of their ability to resist disease and harsh climates. The United Nations world food body says two breeds of farm animals disappear each week, and 1,350 breeds face extinction. Over the past 15 years, 300 out of 6,000 breeds of farm animal identified by the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have become extinct. Latest information suggests that 30 percent of the world's farm animal breeds are at risk of disappearing, and their valuable traits, such as their ability to adapt to harsh conditions, disease, drought and poor quality feed, could be lost too.

The FAO estimates that over time 10,000 plant species were used for human food and agriculture. Now no more than 120 cultivated species provide 90 percent of human food supplied by plants. More than 90 percent of the agricultural diversity that existed at the start of the 20th century has been lost. Given the expected doubling of food needs in the next three decades as the world's population grows, biodiversity will be essential to food security, the FAO says.

Over the past decade, the FAO has helped collect data from some 170 countries on domesticated mammals and birds: cattle, goats, sheep, buffalo, yaks, pigs, horses, rabbits, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, pigeons, even ostriches. The greatest threat to domestic animal diversity is the export of animals from developed to developing countries, which leads to cross-breeding or even replacement of local breeds. Many indigenous breeds are being replaced in both developed and developing countries by a few high production breeds. FAO has introduced a global strategy to manage farm animal resources, which aims to document existing breeds, develop and improve their use in agriculture, and maintain those not currently of interest to breeders.

Frogs Vital In War Against Disease

September 20, 2001 unisci.com

Researchers at the University of Ulster in Ireland have uncovered a vital weapon in the fight against killer diseases such as cancer and heart disease -­ frog venom. The team, headed by Professor Chris Shaw, from the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University’s Coleraine campus has discovered that molecules called peptides, secreted by rain forest frogs to ward off predators, have the potential to:

* Dramatically reduce high blood pressure; (Giant Mexican Leaf Frog)

* Stop blood clotting, an effective tool in the fight against Deep Vein Thrombosis and heart disease;

(Giant Mexican Leaf Frog)

* Tackle conditions that are resistant to treatment by conventional antibiotics; (Australian tree frog)

* Make crops resistant to insect attack; (African Running Frog)

* Help tackle cancer tumors and leukemia. Protect bone marrow against damage during chemotherapy (Molecules from a North American Pond Frog are similar to messenger molecules in the human body which are known to stimulate or inhibit the growth of cancer tumors)

Much of Professor Shaw’s field research was carried out in the rainforests of China in association with researchers from the University of Fuzhou in China. Professor Shaw will be returning to the rainforests shortly in search of new specimens.

Whales related to hippos & cows

September 20, 2001 www.enn.com

Scientists have known that whales evolved from four-legged land animals million of years ago. Immunological tests in the 1950s and recent DNA tests have shown a relationship to plant-eating artiodactyls, hoofed mammals having an even number of toes, such as pigs, cows, and hippopotamuses. Earlier, those test findings had not been supported by fossil evidence, and scientists thought they pointed more to a link to carnivores. Now authors of two new studies say their fossil finds, in separate areas of Pakistan, have convinced them that the tests are correct. Hans Thewissen of the Northeastern Ohio Universities has discovered remains of two species of four-legged, 50 million-year-old whale ancestors. He is the lead author of a paper published in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

Philip Gingerich, a professor of geology and paleontology at the University of Michigan is the lead author of a paper appearing in the journal Science. His group found two skeletons of two otherspecies, about 47 million years old, in the Balochistan area of southwest Pakistan. The key factor in both papers is that the fossil animals' ear cavities have specific formations that link them to whales, while they also have legs and a distinctive ankle structure similar to other artiodactyls.

Despite the DNA and immunological evidence, some researchers had believed whales are related to extinct carnivores called Mesonychians, who had teeth suited for eating fish. Gingerich noted that he has read descriptions of modern hippos killing and eating gazelles that stray too close to them at watering holes. "We may have slightly exaggerated the plant-eating characteristics of artiodactyls, though they are certainly predominantly plant-eating."

Eucalyptus victim of psyllid

Sep 21, 2001

Crews have been ordered to cut down 35 eucalyptus trees on the shoulders of state Route 163 through Balboa Park that have fallen victim to a voracious insect. The lack of adequate irrigation for the past several years is believed to have weakened many of the red gum eucalyptus and made them vulnerable to attack by the red gum lerp psyllid, an Australian insect that has killed thousands of red gum eucalyptuses on California freeways.

The insect, first reported in 1998 in Los Angeles, has infested 31 of the state's 58 counties.Red gum lerp psyllids lay their eggs on eucalyptus leaves and suck the trees' oil and sap from the leaves, causing the leaves to die. When enough leaves are lost, the trees no longer are able to draw water and die. Eucalyptus trees were brought to California in the late 1800s, but the psyllid was not imported with them, apparently because the trees mostly were imported as seeds rather than as potted trees.

Lacking an insect parasite in North America, eucalyptuses proliferated in California for more than a century. The psyllids probably were brought to the United States in the camping gear or personal effects of American travelers. Caltrans will attack the psyllid infestation by releasing thousands of other Australian visitors -- a species of tiny, nonstinging wasps that prey on the insects.

The San Diego Zoo also is battling the insects, which were detected on red gum eucalyptus trees there in 1999. Since then, the zoo has removed about 550 trees, using some of the wood to build displays andfurniture. The zoo has planted 1,380 replacement trees. "Since the koalas in our care feed on the leaves of the red gum eucalyptus, we have taken extraordinary measures to make sure we have a constant food source," said Dan Simpson, zoo arborist.The koalas are unlikely to starve, though, because they also eat leaves of at least 80 other species of eucalyptus trees, Simpson said.

Malaria-Stopping Mosquito

September 21, 2001 sciencenow.sciencemag.org

BARCELONA--Motivated by more than a million deaths from malaria each year, scientists hope to replace existing mosquito populations with ones unable to spread the disease. Two advances were reported at the Third International Congress of Vector Ecology on 20 September. Putting any new gene into mosquitoes has proved difficult; a technique used in fruit flies doesn't work. Last year, scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, reported that they had genetically modified Anopheles stephensi, a species that transmits malaria in India. The team inserted a test gene that encodes the green fluorescent protein (GFP). But the gene doesn't induce resistance to

Plasmodium, the parasite that causes malaria. Now a team led by Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena, a molecular entomologist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, has spliced into the same mosquito species a gene that does. It encodes a peptide, called SM1, that appears to thwart Plasmodium by blocking receptors in the mosquito's gut and salivary glands. Without access to these receptors, Plasmodium can't replicate in the insect and infect humans when the mosquito bites. In mosquitoes carrying the gene, Plasmodium lost 85% to 95% of its ability to replicate, and mice bitten by the insects did not get sick. In contrast, more than half the mice bitten by normal mosquitoes became infected.

Meanwhile, Mark Benedict of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta announced at the meeting that his team has created the first transgenic Anopheles gambiae, the most common malaria vector in Africa. The team only slipped the GFP gene into A. gambiae, as a first step. Still, the achievement is "very, very exciting," says Paul Eggleston of Keele University in the United Kingdom. It's probably a matter of months before researchers produce a malaria-resistant version, says Eggleston--for instance, by equipping it with SM1. Skeptics warn that even such a feat would not mean an end to malaria; there are numerous obstacles, from ensuring that new mosquitoes replace existing ones to convincing the public that it's safe to set them free. But even if they're never released, says Eggleston, the altered mosquitoes will teach researchers about how malaria parasites interact with their host.

javma/oct01/s100101a.aspAquarium cutting workforce
September 21st, 2001 duluth.com

DULUTH -- The Great Lakes Aquarium announced Thursday it would be cutting jobs. Aquarium officials said one of the reasons for the cutbacks is lower than projected attendance."The budget cutting will include both expenses cutting in terms of expenditures and also positions," said Zahn. "And as a private company that doesn't get any tax dollars to cover operating the place, that's the responsible thing to do. We need to live within the revenue that we actually have."Zahn said the attacks on American and the trouble on Wall Street had nothing to do with Thusday's announcement.

Brazilian Jungle May Be Razed

September 23, 2001

RASÍLIA — A joint commission of the Brazilian Congress has approved a measure sponsored by a "rural caucus" of legislators that would more than double the amount of the Amazon jungle that ranchers, loggers and miners would be permitted to raze. Though the bill must be approved by both houses of Congress to become law, environmental groups are alarmed and have begun a national campaign to defeat it. The measure, a new forestry code, would modify the government's current policy of requiring owners of land in the Amazon to preserve 80 percent of their property as forest. Instead of the 20 percent left for development, the new code would enable landowners to use at least 50 percent of their holdings

for "productive purposes" once a "zoning study" granted approval. The draft code would also remove a longstanding provision that obligates landowners to replant deforested areas along riverbanks, allow them to replace some virgin forest with nonnative, commercially attractive species like eucalyptus, and redefine what constitutes jungle. President Fernando Henrique Cardoso opposes the changes and was able to thwart an effort to pass a similar bill in May. But his government's coalition in Congress has weakened since then and is likely to become more divided ahead of presidential elections a year away.

Little Rock Zoo Accredited

September 24, 2001 www.kark.com

Director Michael Blakely was hired in 1999 -- his top job requirement -- get back the accreditation the zoo lost in 1998. Thursday, before a 12-member board of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association in St. Louis, he did just that. Curator Bill Baker says the zoo has come a long way. "I could easily say the animal management and quality of care is some of the finest in country." This is good news for both zoo keeper, and zoo goer. And it is now a reality. Arkansas was one of 36 facilities up for accreditation this time around -- and now Little Rock joins the close to 200 zoos and aquariums with the industry seal of approval.

Briefcase at zoo linked to terrorists

September 24, 2001 www.msnbc.com

BALBOA PARK, Sept. 24 – Officials investigating the September 11 terror attacks are trying to determine whether there is any link to a briefcase that was found at the San Diego Zoo.

A zoo security guard has told the FBI that several weeks ago she found a metal case that may have beloned to Hani Hanjour (believed to have been at the controls of AA flight 77 when it crashed into the Pentagon). The case contained identification, papers and possibly cash. Someone came to the zoo and claimed the case but no record was kept of that person’s identity.

 

$2 Million for Maine Salmon Conservation

September 25, 2001 news.fws.gov

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, through the U.S. Department of the Interior, has awarded a $2 million grant to the state of Maine for the restoration and conservation of Atlantic salmon in the Machias River and its tributaries. The grant is part of a nationwide package announced by Interior Secretary Gale Norton of more than $16 million to 25 states to promote the conservation of threatened and endangered species. When completed, this project will permanently protect 86 percent of Atlantic salmon habitat in the Machias River system. This represents 20 percent of the nation’s remaining wild Atlantic salmon spawning and nursery habitat. Also, the acquisition will benefit the federally threatened bald eagle.

Shedd Aquarium beluga is pregnant

September 25, 2001 www.chicagotribune.com

Aquarium officials announced today that Naya, an 11-year-old female beluga, is pregnant with her first baby. The expected due date is next July. And the baby's father is obvious: 16-year-old Naluark, the only male beluga on the premises for more than a year. Naya's pregnancy is an exception to marine biologists' theory that female belugas are much more likely to become pregnant if, during the March to May breeding season, they have more than one male around to mate with. Only in recent years have aquariums with belugas been sending males to each others' collections to stimulate breeding activity, resulting in 10 successful captive beluga births in North America since 1997.

The Shedd had no beluga pregnancies until 1997, when it brought in Inuk, an older adult male beluga, from Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, Wash., to compete with Naluark in the Shedd's mating program. In the next three years, four baby belugas were born at the Shedd. Two calves died shortly after birth, but two others survived and are thriving: Kayavak, a 600-pound, 2-year-old female, and Qannik, a 515-pound, 1-year-old male. Beluga babies born to first-time mothers more often than not do not survive. About 40 belugas now live in aquariums in the U.S. and Canada, Ramirez said. The aquariums participate in a beluga-breeding cooperative to share multiple males at each other's facilities. As part of the exchange program, the Shedd shipped Inuk to Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut in 1999 on breeding loan, leaving Naluark the only male at the Shedd. He had been sexually active with the Shedd's females last year with no resulting pregnancies, so Naya's pregnancy this year was a mild surprise, Ramirez said.

5 lions dead in Gir

September 25, 2001 www.indian-express.com

In the past one month, five lions have died in the 1,363-sq km Gir sanctuary. And the Junagadh Conservator of Forests, Wildlife, Bharat Pathak, admits that ‘‘in four cases, the deaths were unnatural.’’ Ironically, the Union Environment and Forest Ministry and the state government have been at loggerheads for the past five years over a project to shift some lions out of Gir to Madhya Pradesh in order to increase their chances of survival. The Rs 68-crore project of the ministry was approved for implementation in 1995 and is to be completed in three phases, the first phase ending in 2002 with the shifting of 15 lions. But the Gujarat government has come up with many reasons — from not being consulted earlier to people of Junagadh loving their lions so much that they would never agree — to vehemently oppose the idea.The state forest department has pressed the panic button over the latest round of deaths and is reviewing its conservation programme.

Funds for Arizona Endangered Species

September 26, 2001 news.fws.gov

Interior Secretary Gale Norton has awarded $1,178,702 in matching grants to Arizona Game and Fish Department to work in partnership with private or municipal landowners for the conservation of threatened and endangered species. Here is a list of the Arizona projects that will be funded with these grants: Development of a Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan for the Malpai Borderlands Region (Malpai Borderlands, AZ and NM) – $95,000 Habitat Conservation Plan for Cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl in Arizona (Pima and Pinal Counties) – $239,702 Habitat Conservation Planning Support for the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program (400+ river miles through AZ, CA, and NV) – $300,000 Two grants totaling $194,000 were awarded to establish Safe Harbor Agreements with private landowners to protect the bald eagle, Gila topminnow and desert pupfish. Grants of $350,000 were awarded to assist in the development of Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances. The species for which agreements will be sought range from-- Flat-tailed horned lizard, Ramsey Canyon leopard frog, Tarahumar frog, Page springsnail, Three Forks springsnail, San Xavier talussnail, Sonoyta mud turtle and Quitobaquito tryonia.

Funds to Texas for Endangered Species

September 26, 2001 news.fws.gov

Interior Secretary Gale Norton has awarded $1,498,896 in matching grants to Texas Parks and Wildlife to work in partnership with private or municipal landowners for the conservation of threatened and endangered species. Here are a list of the Texas projects that will be funded: Houston Toad Regional Habitat Conservation Plan (Bastrop County) $300,000 Griffith League Ranch Habitat Conservation Plan (Bastrop County) $260,119. Conservation of the Little Aguja Pondweed and Associated Rare Species in the Davis Mountains (Jeff Davis County) –$249,777 South Texas Safe Harbor Agreement - $81,000 will be used in agreements with landowners to create thornscrub brush and forest habitats on private lands at high priority locations along the border with Mexico. Total project budget is $159,000. Northern Aplomado Falcon Safe Harbor Agreement - the $200,000 grant will be matched by the Peregrine Fund. Total project budget is $478,000. Black-capped Vireo Safe Harbor Agreement - $67,000 to further work that Environmental Defense is doing to encourage landowners to restore and manage sufficient habitat to recover the endangered vireo in the Hill Country. Total project budget is $89,000. Rare Plants in the Lower Rio Grande Valley -$172,000. Total project budget is $230,000. Black-tailed prairie dog - the $169,000. Total project budget is $188,000.

Buffalo Zoo receives $650,000 grant

September 26, 2001 buffalo.bcentral.com

The Zoological Society of Buffalo will receive a $650,000 grant from the John R. Oishei Foundation in support of a new river otter exhibit. The funding is contingent on the Zoological Society being able to raise an additional $350,000 for construction of exhibit, which will be the first built under a new master plan. Zoo officials have submitted a proposal to New York state, under the Environmental Protection Act of 1993, to secure the additional funds. The New York State grant Program will release awards in that program next year.

Rhino dies, worker hurt at Brownsville

09/27/2001 www.dallasnews.com

Dr. Don Farst, managing director of Gladys Porter Zoo, said a female rhinoceros and two male rhinos were mistakenly put together in an exhibit Tuesday morning. There should have been two females and one male, he said. The males went into a dominance display and fought their way to the edge of the exhibit, which is a water-moated exhibit, and both fell off of the edge into the water."

A 36-year-old rhino named Fred, which had been the fourth-oldest southern white rhino in North America, died in the scuffle. Fred and the other male rhino, 29-year-old Ben, weighed about 4,500 pounds each, zoo officials said. Maintenance worker Juan S. Rodriguez broke his right leg, dislocated his left shoulder and severely sprained his left ankle after he was attacked by one of the rhinos. He was in stable condition in a local hospital.

The zookeeper who put the animals in the exhibit immediately realized his mistake when he saw the male rhinos begin to fight and put the female rhino, 35-year-old Tilly, inside. Zoo officials were trying to use a thick rope and a backhoe to get the animals out of the moat. But as the rhinos fought in the moat – ranging from 2 feet to 4 feet deep – Fred got pushed into the deeper end and suffocated on mud, officials said. After Ben was rescued from the moat, zoo employees were trying to move him into a barn when he began to charge toward them. He caught up with Mr. Rodriguez and picked him up and threw him. Ben was eating hay several minutes after the incident.

Chronic Wasting Disease Program

Sept. 27, 2001 www.aphis.usda.gov

The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced the authorization of $2.6 million from Commodity Credit Corporation funds to implement a chronic wasting disease (CWD) surveillance and indemnity program in the United States. While considered rare, CWD is endemic to free-ranging deer and elk in a limited area of southeastern Wyoming, northeastern Colorado, and southwestern Nebraska. CWD has also been found in captive elk herds in Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. All positive herds are under state quarantines.

USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will implement the CWD program by purchasing positive and exposed elk from CWD-infected herds, enhance surveillance and diagnostic testing for CWD, and increase training for producers and veterinarians. CWD is a progressive disease that affects deer and elk. CWD is part of a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, a group that includes scrapie and bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Currently, there is no live animal test or vaccine for CWD.

Venomous Bite Kills Snake Researcher

September 27, 2001 sciencenow.sciencemag.org

A field expedition to a remote region of Myanmar in Southeast Asia ended in tragedy earlier this month, when a prominent snake expert succumbed to a poisonous snakebite. Joseph Slowinski, 38, is believed to be the first academic herpetologist killed by a snakebite in the field, though at least two others have died of bites from laboratory animals. Slowinski was bitten when, in an effort to identify a snake that had already attacked another expedition member, he reached into a bag that contained a deadly multibanded krait (Bungarus multicinctus). Slowinski died 30 hours later on 12 September at the team's field site deep in northeast Myanmar. Rescue helicopters were stymied by monsoon rains and could not arrive in time. Slowinski specialized in the evolutionary relationships of neurotoxic snakes, making more than 10 forays into Myanmar to study them. He joined the California Academy of Science as a curator in 1997. Recently he received a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to extend the work into China. "He discovered many, many new species," says Robert Drewes, curator of the herpetology department at CAS. Among his accomplishments were the discovery of a new species of cobra and the founding of Contemporary Herpetology, an online journal.

N.C. Zoo receives grant for $258,720

September 27, 2001 triangle.bcentral.com

Chapel Hill-based webslingerZ Inc. and the North Carolina Zoo announced today that they have received a grant for $258,720 to develop Web technology that increases student awareness worldwide of conservation field research and environmental problems. The grant will come from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency based in Washington, D.C., with matching funds from the zoo and Zoo Society, the zoo's non-profit fundraising organization. Additional funds will come from the associated partners. Grant funds, through the Zoo Society, will help pay for teacher training, Web technology development, satellite telephones and communication with conservation researchers worldwide, digital video and still cameras for recording field experiences, classroom materials, and travel. The two-year project will begin in October and is expected to be available to the public in early 2003.

Achievements Of The American Cockroach

September 27, 2001 unisci.com

American cockroaches Periplaneta americana are unique insects. First, they are the most ancient insects in the world. Second, these large (up to four centimeters long) red creatures are the fastest among all land insects. In 1991, a world record was registered: a Periplaneta americana cockroach ran at a speed of 5.4 km/h. That means that for one second, the champion cockroach overpassed a distance 50 times greater than the length of its body. To achieve a similar result, a man of average height would have to run at a speed of 330 km/h. S.A.Shukolyukov and V.S.Saakov, researchers from the Sechenov Institute of Evolutional Physiology and Biochemistry, St. Petersburg, have found that American cockroaches are not only good sprinters. These insects are capable of synthesizing beta-carotene in their body. So far, this capability has not been found in other animals.

India’s Tiger Success Story

September 27, 2001 news.bbc.co.uk

The number of tigers has doubled at the Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, following a move to stop illegal logging and grazing. The animals had radio devices attached to their collars, to monitor their daily movements and discourage poaching. The government was persuaded to close sandstone mines around the reserve and improve state-owned diamond mines that were polluting local water supplies. The vulnerable population of 2-3 tigers per 100 sq kms has now grown to 7-8, a healthy number for breeding. The EIA and Global Tiger Patrol are calling for the Indian government to learn from this example and act now to protect the tiger.

 

How insects walk on ceilings

September 27, 2001 www.eurekalert.org

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on honeybees and Asian weaver ants establishes that their adhesive organs allowing them to walk upside down are quite different from those of animals such as geckos and most other insects. Geckos have sticky pads on their feet, which peel off at the end of each step. It’s a relatively static system. The adhesive organs in ants and bees are much more dynamic. Each foot, viewed through a microscope, has a pair of claws that resemble a bull’s horns, with a sticky footpad called an arolium positioned between the claws. When the insects run along a surface the claws try to grasp the surface. If they are unable to catch onto the surface, they retract and the footpad comes into action. The footpad quickly unfolds and inflates with blood, protruding between the claws and enabling the adhesive pad to stick to the surface. The footpad then deflates and folds back. The entire process takes just tens to hundredths of a second, and is repeated with each step. In addition, the footpad secretes a fluid that allows the insects to adhere to smooth surfaces. The dynamic nature of the arolium provides varying levels of stickiness, depending on the surface.

 

Zoo to acquire exotic animals for breeding

9/27/01 www.sj-r.com

Over the next several months, Springfield's Henson Robinson Zoo will be receiving several new and exotic animals.Soon to be added to the zoo's roster are a pair of golden-headed lion tamarins, an Emperor tamarin and a Parma wallaby. The zoo hopes to begin breeding programs with all three species.The golden-headed lion tamarins will come from an undecided location in the U.S. The emperor tamarin is coming from the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.The zoo also will attempt to breed Parma wallabies by placing a new female from Los Angeles with its male wallaby. These creatures are not endangered in their native Australia, but they are one of the smallest species of wallabies, a relative of the kangaroo, and one of the rarest species in captivity in the U.S.

Henson Robinson Zoo has had a track record of successful breeding programs. The zoo has produced two litters of red ruffed lemurs the largest single family group of red ruffed lemurs in the United States. Early last summer, the zoo saw the birth of a dusky leaf monkey. At the time, there were only 36 of these primates in the U.S., and Henson Robinson was one of the few institutions to get this kind of species to breed. Also, three spider monkey offspring have been produced over the last five years.

Wildlife Society conference

September 28, 2001

RENO, Nev. — More than 1,800 scientists attending a national wildlife conference this week were urged to remain vigilant in protecting the environment as the nation focuses on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The society, founded in 1937 and based in Bethesda, Md., is made up of scientific professionals representing private companies, special interest groups, and government agencies. The group's five-day conference began Wednesday, with much of the focus on the effects of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

African wildlife databases in Illinois

28-Sep-2001 www.eurekalert.org

 

Concerned about how to best manage its animals the government of Namibia sought help from Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo and the UI in 1994. A collaborative program, which primarily focuses on the 8,600-square-mile Etosha National Park, has led to an unprecedented database of demographics, habitats, diseases, genetics and reproductive issues related to the lion (Panthera leo). Two years ago, the researchers reported that all of Africa’s lions south of the equator are of the same sub-species, said Michael B. Briggs of the Chicago Zoological Society at the Brookfield Zoo. "We found regional differences, displayed in their adaptation to their environment, but it was clear from a genetic standpoint that it wouldn’t hurt to move animals from one place to another," he said. Various samples (tissue, blood, serum, parasites, sperm, etc.) have been studied at the zoo and at the UI Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Urbana. The samples are archived at the zoo.

Briggs and Michael J. Kinsel of the Zoological Pathology Program at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine are working with the Namibian Carnivore Monitoring Program, a collection of government and non-government agencies and interested individuals, to obtain the same information for leopards (Panthera pardus) and cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus). Namibia is home to 70% of the world’s cheetah population.Comprehensive databases of the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), African dog (Lycaon pictus) and black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelus) in their natural environments will also be created. "If we can see the differences between free-ranging and captive animals, we can enhance management in both habitats," said Kinsel, who travels with Briggs to Namibia a couple of times a year for fieldwork and to train local workers to collect samples and perform necropsies.