Latest Zoo & Conservation News
Week ending November 12, 2011

Compiled by:
Library Staff
San Diego Zoo Global

Local news in red.

100,000 turtles sacrificed in ritual slaughter to celebrate Kali Puja festival
October 27, 2011

As part of the annual Hindu celebration of Kali Puja, sacrifices are made to the Hindu goddess Kali. Devotees buy and eat turtles, purchased in local markets. Up to 100,000 turtles may have been killed in this year’s celebration, including some critically endangered species. Among the species found for sale in local markets are the northern river terrapin (Batagur baska) and the black soft-shell turtle (Trionyx nigricans). However, "the slaughter is often overlooked by authorities", even with the turtles' critically endangered status.

From the article:

"Since the killing of turtles was made illegal, this mass slaughter has been carried out in the name of 'religion'," said Dr Rashid of Centre for Advanced Research in Natural Resources & Management (CARINAM) in Bangladesh. 'It's because of this that the authorities turn a blind eye - they are too scared of causing social unrest."

The meat sells for between $10 - $60 per kilo (£6-£37), depending on the species. Followers believe that by eating the turtle, they will take on its strength and longevity. During festival, the majority of Bangladesh's Hindu population consume turtle meat. Businessman Sunil Kumar Bala commented: "We have been eating turtles during Kali Puja for a long time. It is a tradition that we will maintain even if the government tries to stop us."

Sales of turtles during Kali Puja has become a lucrative business for around 30,000 people, and is part of a longstanding tradition. After the festival, the majority of the dried turtle shells are sold in southeast Asia, where they are believed to have medicinal benefits. However, turtles are ”amongst the world's most endangered animals; around half of their 300+ species are threatened with extinction.”

Full article:

California Academy of Sciences’ green roof is thriving
November 2, 2011 By Joe Eaton and Ron Sullivan

When architect Renzo Piano was planning the new building for the California Academy of Sciences, he coordinated the design with neighboring Turtle Hill in Grandview Park. As a result, the new building’s roof is a garden featuring plants that match those on Turtle Hill. Among the plants that are thriving on the Academy’s roof are self-heal prunella, Hooker’s evening primrose, California fuchsia, beach strawberry, native grasses, and native succulents. The roof also attracts insects, including honeybees and bumblebees.

From the article:

Plant-animal partnerships are part of the roof's message. "It's important to learn that plants don't just make it on their own," he said. "They have a long evolutionary partnership with pollinators." The roof is a magnet for insects and other creatures; bumblebees and honeybees were everywhere, white and West Coast lady butterflies, a red-tailed hawk. San Francisco State graduate student Jessica Van Den Berg found 173 arthropod species (65 kinds of parasitic wasp alone) but, surprisingly, no ants. A citizen science group is still keeping a tally. Thirty species of birds have been identified.

The use of native plants means less water to maintain this rooftop garden.

Full article:

Iconic East County Simpson's Garden-Town nursery to close
November 2, 2011 By Steve Schmidt

For 83 years, Simpson’s Garden-Town Nursery in Jamul has been doing business in East County, but will close later this month. Owners Cathy and Lee Smith are retiring, after many years of maintaining a business that reflected practices of earlier times, like hand-written receipts. The grounds feature farm animals, restored automobiles, and unrestored vehicles that add to the charm. The Smiths are not selling the business, but plan to live there in retirement, as they have for years in a two-story farmhouse. They also want the freedom to do some traveling. According to the article, the Smiths "will continue to host charity events on their property, including car shows and a popular chili cook-off held each year."

Full article:

Estuary reborn in South San Diego Bay
November 2, 2011 By Ed Joyce, Nicholas McVicker

After more than 50 years, a section of South San Diego Bay has been reconnected to the rest of the bay, bringing in tidal flow. As a result, what was a dead area is again becoming a marsh habitat, attracting birds and other wildlife.
The 200-acre closed area was created with levees for an old salt-pond operation, and now the levees have been breached.    Restoration work on one section of the area “...over the past year has included removing debris, redistributing sediment and creating new tidal channels.” These new channels provide habitat for a variety of fish, as well as shorebirds.

From the article:

"One of the philosophies that we had in designing the salt marsh project was to create the conditions where nature would take over," said [Andy Yuen, project leader]. "And one of the things that we're seeing is, as we've created these tidal channels, is that the marsh is beginning to claim itself back. And so it's beginning to form secondary channels that are cutting it's way into the salt marsh and creating more diversity of habitats and more circulation within the mudflats themselves."

There is still much more work to be done on this nearly $8 million dollar project.

Full article:

Plain-tailed wrens sing together in orchestrated duets
November 3, 2011 By Arran Frood

The plain-tailed wrens (Thryothorus euophrys) appear to sing a duet that is comparable to a dance, with the male and female bird reacting to each other’s notes, according to a recent study of brain activity in duetting songbirds. The researchers learned that “...the females take the lead while males are most likely to make mistakes." The duets are thought to be a way of defending territory. However, the birds also sing alone, so scientists "...weren't sure if each bird simply sings a fixed, pre-arranged pattern - two combined solos - or if the duet is a cooperative, reactive effort." What they found was that the female birds were "orchestrating the music" and that both males and females had stronger neurological responses to duets rather than their solo songs.

Information from this study may be helpful in robotics, helping robots respond more effectively in interactions with others, including humans.

Full article:

Fortune ES, et al. 2011. Neural mechanisms for the coordination of duet singing in wrens. Science 334(6056):666-670. doi:10.1126/science.1209867 hopes to link frog conservation projects with donors
November 3, 2011 By Jeremy Hance

A new program has been launched by Amphibian Ark, using a website to connect donors with amphibian projects in need of funding. Titled, the project is intended to support amphibian conservation efforts world-wide. Currently 41% of amphibians are threatened with extinction.

From the article:

"This website currently includes 48 projects in 23 countries on three continents and can be searched by country, region, species, funding amount required, and by project type," explains Kevin Johnson, Amphibian Ark Communications Officer, in a press release. "You can also browse new projects that have been added in the last 30 days or projects that have been added in the last 60 days. Using, donors have been able to easily locate amphibian conservation projects that are a good match with their organizations’ missions, and provide appropriate support, to ensure the success of these vital programs."

Many of the programs, which range from requests of $1,500 to over a million, are working to set up breeding and monitoring programs for endangered amphibian species. Support doesn't have to come from just funding, some programs are in need of equipment, staff, or training.

One project has already been funded through the site, with the Denver Zoo supporting a project to save the critically endangered Lake Titicaca water frog (Telmatobius culeus).

Full article:

Unmaintained duck nest boxes can inadvertently trap turtles
November 3, 2011

When duck nest boxes in restored wetlands habitats are not maintained, an unintended consequence is that the boxes may be tipped over, trapping and killing other species, including turtles. This was the observation made by University of Cincinnati Educator Associate Professor Denis Conover, of the Department of Biological Sciences in UC's McMicken College of Arts and Sciences.

From the article:

Ordinarily a good thing, duck nest boxes—a nesting box attached to a pole in the wetland ground—are often erected in wetlands to provide nest sites for cavity-nesting ducks such as wood ducks and hooded mergansers. In fact, duck nest boxes have been put up in many wetlands throughout the United States and Canada and have helped with increasing wood duck populations.

However, improper care of these boxes can have devastating effects on wetland turtles. Conover writes that "if a pole gets tipped over and the box gets into the water, these duck nest boxes can serve as death traps for turtles."

Conover wrote an article about his finding, and recommends more frequent monitoring of duck nesting boxes. The duck nesting boxes have proven valuable in providing nest sites and helping increase duck populations.

Full article:

CITATION: Conover D, Wauligman WR, Cody K. 2011. Tipped over duck nest box traps turtles in a restored wetland (Ohio). Ecological Restoration 29(3):211-212. doi:10.3368/er.29.3.211

Rare eastern bettongs reintroduced to mainland Australia
November 3, 2011

Nineteen of the rare eastern bettong (Bettongia gaimardi) have been translocated from Tasmania to the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve on the Australian mainland. These mammals, a "once plentiful miniature member of the kangaroo family," have not been seen on the Australian mainland for over 80 years. According to Dr. Adrian Manning from the Australian National University, Eastern bettongs are "...ecosystem engineers, because they dig soil looking for truffles, and in doing so move fungal spores, improve soil conditions and encourage excellent water infiltration, which are all essential to good ecosystem health."

The reintroduction of the bettong is part of a study to determine if they can serve as “an ecological restoration tool”  to help repair damage to box gum grassy woodlands.

For more information about the reintroduction project:

Full article:

Bristol Zoo hatches Utila spiny-tailed iguanas, a first in captivity
November 3, 2011

Seventeen Utila spiny-tailed iguanas (Ctenosaura bakeri) hatched recently at the Bristol Zoo Gardens. These are a critically endangered species, and this hatching is a first for the species in captivity.

From the post:

The eggs were laid after two young adult Iguanas arrived at the zoo last year as a new breeding pair, to boost numbers of this species in captivity. They were transferred to a temperature-controlled incubator for three months until hatching and then moved into a vivarium on display in the Zoo’s Reptile House.

Tim Skelton, Curator of reptiles and amphibians at Bristol Zoo, said: “I’m thrilled that we have successfully hatched so many Iguanas from the first clutch of eggs laid by our new female. This is an interesting and very valuable species because they are only found on one island, Utila, off the coast of Honduras in Central America.”

Full blog post and photos:

Tropical forest trees are fertilized by nitrogen in air pollution
November 3, 2011

In studies conducted by the Smithsonian Institution Global Earth Observatory sites in Panama and Thailand, researchers have learned about the long-term effect of nitrogen pollution on tropical forests.

From the article:

"Air pollution is fertilizing tropical forests with one of the most important nutrients for growth," said S. Joseph Wright, staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. "We compared nitrogen in leaves from dried specimens collected in 1968 with nitrogen in samples of new leaves collected in 2007. Leaf nitrogen concentration and the proportion of heavy to light nitrogen isotopes increased in the last 40 years, just as they did in another experiment when we applied fertilizer to the forest floor."

One of the implications of these findings is for bean family forests. The bean trees fix their own nitrogen with soil bacteria, and if more nitrogen is available, it may impact their ecological advantage, resulting in a change in tropical forest composition.

There is also “ evidence that trees are growing faster in Panama, despite the long-term increases in nitrogen deposition and atmospheric carbon dioxide." Increased nitrogen, increased plant growth, and a resulting increased response to atmospheric carbon dioxide has been seen as a possible offset to global warming.

Full article:

San Diego Zoo scientists establish cell cultures of endangered Mississippi gopher frogs
November 3, 2011

Using a new technique called “tissue piecing” followed by freezing in liquid nitrogen, San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy scientists have “taken a tremendous leap forward in banking viable amphibian cells.” The first successful cell cultures came frozen biopsy specimens taken from Mississippi gopher frogs (Rana sevosa), proving that this technique may be a tool in saving endangered amphibians.

From the article:

The tissue-piecing technique has been used for some time with numerous species. In mammals, for example, scientists can mince a skin biopsy, treat it with cryoprotectant and freeze it. Later the tissue pieces can be thawed in a lab to establish a cell culture. But this method had not been previously successful with endangered amphibians until now.

"We are very pleased to have demonstrated for a critically endangered species that we have the techniques necessary for establishing cell cultures under field conditions, when quick access to a lab is not feasible," said [Dr. Oliver Ryder, SDZG ICR director of genetics]. "For species for which we have not been able to successfully establish cell cultures, but have banked tissue-pieced samples, we know now that we have saved viable cells. In the future we now have the opportunity to go back when we hope to have worked out methods for growing cells from species whose cells have been recalcitrant to our cell culture efforts and use tissue-pieced specimens to obtain, grow and preserve cell cultures in support of conservation science applications."

Thanks to this research, the total number of Mississippi gopher frog cell cultures has been expanded to 19 individuals.  Amphibians are suffering population declines due to pathogens and other ecosystem threats. Cell cultures may help combat disease, as well as provide data for reproductive research.

Full press release:

Coral reef biodiversity may be vastly underestimated
November 3, 2011 By Jeremy Hance

A study of tropical coral reefs, using DNA barcoding to identify species, determined that the biodiversity of the reefs is more complex than expected. 525 crustaceans were identified from seven tropical sites.
From the article:

"Given the complexity and extent of the world's coral reefs, the survey covered only a very limited depth and habitat range," said Laetitia Plaisance lead author with of the Smithsonian and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. "And yet we have so many more species than we ever expected."

Highlighting the diversity of life found in coral ecosystems, over a third of the species encountered by researchers were only found once, while 81 percent were only found in one location.

Coral reefs are a diverse marine environment that is threatened by pollution, overfishing, and greenhouse gas emissions.

Full article:

CITATION: Plaisance L, Caley MJ, Brainard RE, Knowlton N. 2011. The diversity of coral reefs: what are we missing? PLoS ONE 6(10):e25026. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0025026

Gulf of Mexico fish-tracking system goes full steam ahead
November 3, 2011 By Susan Carpenter

After a six-month pilot program, a fish-tracking system called the Gulf Wild system will be implemented by an association of Gulf fishermen. The system involves tagging each fish with an identification number, matching that number to a database that includes the species, fishing vessel, and location when caught. The program was developed in response to concerns about the safety of fish caught in the Gulf of Mexico after the 2010 oil spill. It also coincides with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ’s tightening of DNA sampling. News reports have estimated that fish are mislabeled 45 to 48 percent of the time. Mislabeled fish can be a health concern for people with allergies.

Full blog post:

Snow coming to SeaWorld San Diego and Legoland
November 3, 2011 By Lori Weisberg

SeaWorld and Legoland are featuring snow as part of their winter holiday event planning. SeaWorld is reviving their SnowWorld, bringing in fresh snow daily for visitor enjoyment. Legoland will add Holiday Snow Days, with snow falling in a new Holiday Fun Town. Both parks will have nightly Christmas tree lighting. The snow events will begin Nov. 19th, and both parks will feature fireworks.

Full article:

How do populations of other animals compare to the 7 billion humans on Earth?
November 3, 2011 By Bill Chappell

After the United Nations’ announcement of the 7 billionth person on Earth, what other species number 7 biillion or more? The answers are “best guesses." Humans are the largest animal to achieve that high of a population, but even that 7 billion number has a margin of error, and there is some debate on when the 7 billion mark is actually reached. When looking a purely the numerical size of a population, for land-based vertebrates brown rats outnumber humans and the domestic chicken is estimated at 18.6 billion individuals. When measured in biomass, ants outweigh humans, and an estimated 500 trillion krill outnumber animals worldwide.

Full blog post:

Climate shift could leave some marine species homeless
November 3, 2011

Researchers in a recent study led by Dr. Mike Burrows of the Scottish Association for Marine Science compared land and sea temperatures over a 50 year period, going back to 1960. They used this data to predict how rapidly terrestrial and marine species would need to move to maintain a desired habitat temperature.

From the article:

Dr Burrows explains, 'When temperatures rise, plants and animals that need a cooler environment move to new regions. The land is warming about three times faster than the ocean so you might simply expect species to move three times faster on land, but that's not the case.

'If the land temperature becomes too hot for some species, they can move to higher ground where temperatures are generally cooler. That's not an option for many marine species which live at, or near, the surface of the ocean. When temperatures rise, species such as fish will be able to move into deeper water to find the cooler environments they prefer -- but other species, such as marine plants or slow-moving corals, will have to move further to find suitable habitats and could become trapped if there are no cooler places for them to go.

Some of the areas facing climate change and rising temperatures are important biodiversity locations. This study may provide data to help meet the challenge of conserving these areas.

Full article:

CITATION: Burrows MT, et al. 2011. The pace of shifting climate in marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Science 334(6056):652. doi:10.1126/science.1210288

Georgia botanical garden holding design competition for high schoolers
November 4, 2011

Georgia’s State Botanical Garden is sponsoring an art competition for Georgia students in grades nine and above. The theme is Georgia’s native plants, and prizes of $1,000, $500, and $250 will be awarded, along with certificates. The winning designs will be featured on shirts, tote bags, and other popular items in the gift shop.

Full article:

San Diego Natural History Museum to display 200 animal skulls in new exhibit
November 4, 2011 By Mike Lee

Nearly 200 animal skulls will be on display in the San Diego Natural History Museum. These skulls are part of a collection that had been stored in the Biodiversity Research Center for the Californias.

From the article:

“The museum has thousands (of skulls) in our collection and we have always wanted to show them to the public," said Josh Payne, traveling exhibits designer. "This exhibition illustrates some of the strange adaptations in animals that enable them to find food, dig burrows, smell, hear, and see.”

The skulls range in size from rhinoceros to small snakes, and include all 57 of San Diego County’s snakes and lizards.

Full article:

Plant species and pollinators may adapt better to climate change in presence of alternative pollinators
November 4, 2011

Using a new mathematical model and computer simulations, researchers studied ”...the effect of climate change on populations of flowering plants and their insect pollinators.” Their findings indicate that for some species, evolution in response to climate change may preserve mutualist relationships.

From the article:

Researchers found that in some cases evolution can rescue plant-pollinator mutualisms that would otherwise become extinct as a result of climate change. Whether a mutualism survives, however, can depend upon the density and distribution of other species in the community. For example, under many circumstances, the presence of alternative pollinators available to the focal plant can help to protect both the focal plant and the focal pollinator from extinction.

"In such cases, habitat fragmentation or loss of native pollinators might compound the threat of climate change to mutualisms," said Tucker Gilman, a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis and the paper's lead author.

Climate change today could be happening much faster than any previous climate change, so mutualisms that adapted in the past may not be able to survive.

Full article:

CITATION: Gilman RT, et al. 2011. Evolution of plant-pollinator mutualisms in response to climate change. Evolutionary Applications. doi:10.1111/j.1752-4571.2011.00202.x

Maned wolves now on display at San Diego Zoo
November 4, 2011

The San Diego Zoo now has two female maned wolves (Chrysocyon brachyurus) on display in a separate exhibit in the “Polar Rim” area. Native to South America, the number of maned wolves is declining, but as yet they are not considered threatened. The two sisters are the first named wolves on display at the zoo in over 30 years.

Full article:

Millions of birds migrating to Spain will be illegally caught in panary traps
November 4, 2011 By Giles Tremlett

Using “panary” traps, hunters in eastern Spain and adjacent areas will be illegally trapping up to four million migratory birds during the late autumn peak hunting season. Panary traps are “copses filled with glue-covered twigs and spikes” and many of the trapped birds suffer a slow death, glued to the ground. The hunters aim to trap thrushes, which is not illegal, but the use of panary traps is. Hunters have been using the traps for centuries, and members of the trapper's association say that they "will continue to fight" for the right to use them. Species of birds other than thrushes are also trapped in the parany traps, and even if they are cleaned and released, their survival is uncertain. At present, strengthening the laws is unlikely to happen.

Full article:

Amazonian poison dart frogs maintain diversity with color and pattern variety
November 4, 2011 By Helen Fields

Poison dart frogs in Peru are found in a variety of colors and patterns. This seemed unusual to have so many patterns, when most species using warning colors have one pattern. Mathieu Chouteau, an evolutionary biologist, conducted a study to determine the effectiveness of the various colors and patters, and gain insight into why there is such variation. Using Ranitomeya imitator, a poison dart frog that exhibits 10 different color patterns as a model, he determined that frogs in differing areas develop colors and patterns unique to that area.

From the article:

To figure out what was going on, Chouteau enlisted his girlfriend's help to make 3600 models of frogs, each 18 millimeters long. "It was, like, at least a month of working full-time," he says. They pressed black clay into frog-shaped molds and painted each one in one of two patterns: yellow striped or reticulated, like a giraffe, with green lines. They also made brown frogs as a nontoxic-looking control. Then Chouteau packed the frogs in his carryon baggage and flew to Peru.

The models represent the frogs that live in two different sites: one in the Amazonian lowland and one in a valley at about 500 meters above sea level. The two sites are separated by a high ridge. In one very long day at each site, Chouteau set out 900 of the frogs on leaves along narrow trails used by locals to hunt in the forest. For the next 3 days, he went back and checked them to see whether the soft clay recorded evidence of attacks by birds.

Chouteau found that birds attacked frogs whose coloring did not match the colors of the local frog, and left the local frog alone.

Full article:

CITATION: Choteau M, Angers B. 2010. The role of predators in maintaining the geographic organization of aposematic signals. The American Naturalist 178(6). doi:10.1086/662667

New theory on bat flight posits bats evolved straight from fluttering to flying
November 5, 2011 By Matt Kaplan

A long-standing theory in evolutionary biology is that gliding is "a prerequisite for powered flight, a transitional step along the way to full-fledged flapping." However, by examing the evolutionary tree of bats, Kevin Padian at UC Berkeley and Kenneth Dial at the University of Montana, Missoula, discovered that modern bats have no close relatives that ever glided. Instead, the closest relatives of today's fast-flying insect-eating bats were probably "...climbing, cave-dwelling, insect feeders rather than tree-dwelling, pollen, blood or fruit eaters."

From the article:

On the basis of this, Padian and Dial theorized that bats started out eating crawling insects that would not have required echolocation to be caught. Yet if such insects were the preferred diet of early bats, they wondered why these bats had evolved to become capable climbers that could hang upside down from cave walls.

An answer came to the two researchers while they were looking at video footage of a baby bat being dropped off a ledge in a lab (onto a pillow). The bat, they noticed, rapidly fluttered its wings to help it control itself as it fell. In the same way, they propose, proto-bats, when dropping down from the ceilings of caves, could use flapping to control their descent and land in the right place to gobble up prey.

The researchers believe that this shows that gliding "was never part of the equation," and bats evolved directly from "fllutterers" to full-fledged fliers. They presented their findings at last week's annual meeting of the Socity of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Full article:

Remembering Gibbon Conservation Center founder Alan Mootnick
November 6, 2011 By Christopher Webber

Alan Mootnick, a self-taught primatologist who founded the Gibbon Conservation Center in Santa Clarita, died on Friday at the age of 60, following complications from heart surgery.

From the article:

For 31 years, Mootnick researched and cared for dozens of gibbons simultaneously at his center in Santa Clarita, which claims to house the largest gathering of endangered apes in the Western Hemisphere. At the time of his death the sprawling property north of Los Angeles was home to 44 gibbons, which are native to subtropical rainforests in China, India, and the islands of Southeast Asia.

...Each year hundreds of school children and students visit the center. Mootnick, known for his bushy gray-flecked beard and trademark suspenders, also hosted an annual "Breakfast With the Gibbons" fundraiser, which was open to the general public.

Mootnick published some 30 academic papers in peer-reviewed journals, and was part of a team of researchers to identify a new species of the Southeast Asian apes, the endangered Hoolock Gibbon. Government agencies, zoos and rescue agencies around the world regularly sought his advice on how to treat gibbons.

Mootnick is "survived by a sister, Ronnie Weinberger, two nephews, three cousins, an aunt and 44 gibbons...."

Full article:

Laguna Beach hotels to recycle all soaps – a first in US
November 6, 2011 By Susan Carpenter

Laguna Beach is becoming the first city in the country to have all of its hotel properties participate in Clean the World. The non-profit organization "provides recycled hotel soaps and hygiene products to those in need."

From the article:

In an average year, with an estimated 75% occupancy rate, Laguna Beach hotels generate 336,000 bars of soap and a slightly lesser number of shampoo, conditioner, bath gel and lotion bottles, all of which were previously thrown in the trash. Working with Clean the World, those hygiene products will be reclaimed by the housekeeping staff and set aside in a separate receptacle to be shipped to a Las Vegas processing facility. The bars of soap are cleaned of hair and paper, sterilized, ground into pellets and pressed into new bars of soap that are distributed to non-governmental organizations in 45 countries that do not have ready access to soap.

The bottled amenities are likewise reclaimed. If they're full, the bottles' exteriors are sterilized and redistributed to homeless shelters and soup kitchens inside the U.S. If the bottles are 25% empty, the plastic is recycled or potentially upcycled for use in other products.

Since its founding in 2009, 1,200 hotels have partnered with Clean the World, including the Disneyland properties in Anaheim which "...have collected 3,152 pounds of hotel soap and 2,212 pounds of bottled amenities." Some of the main killers of children in developing countries are "...diseases that could be reduced by as much as 60% with simple handwashing," and Clean the World aims to help the situtation; so far they have distributed "more than 9 million bars of soap."

Full blog post:

Edinburgh Zoo to import 85% of bamboo for pandas
November 6, 2011 By Jane Bradley

Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland is expected to receive two pandas from the Ya'an reserve in Chengdu, China by the end of the year. To feed the animals, which "can eat up to 18,000 kilos (39,600 pounds) of bamboo every year", the zoo will have to import most of the bamboo from a farm in the Netherlands, which will cost £70,000 ($111,500) a year. The bamboo will be shipped to the zoo every two weeks and kept in a special storage facility "to ensure maximum freshness."

From the article:

“Our bamboo strategy is the result of more than three years of research, planning and exhaustive negotiations with suppliers across the UK and Europe,” said the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s gardens manager Simon Jones.

“Our starting point was to ensure a long-term supply of fresh bamboo that was both sustainable and cost-effective. Because bamboo forms such a fundamental part of the giant pandas’ diet, we also had to guarantee consistency of supply – and to ensure that the bamboo was of the highest possible quality whilst also offering the variety of species required for their highly specialised needs.”

The zoo will grow about 15% of the pandas' diet on-grounds in case of emergencies, although they hope to increase the percentage they grow in the future.

Full article:

Last year’s greenhouse gas emissions topple worst-case scenario
November 6, 2011 By Jeremy Hance

The US Department of Energy is reporting that carbon emissions in 2010 "exceeded worst-case scenario predictions from just four years before." The United States, India, and China were mainly responsible for driving the global levels up 6% over 2009 levels; China comprised 24.6% of global carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels and cement, with the US accounting for 16.4% and India 6.2%. The article notes that if other sources of greenhouse gasses were taken into consideration such as "deforestation and land-use changes...Indonesia would rise from its current position of 15th in global carbon emissions." The DOE did note some bright spots, with Switzerland, Azerbaijan, Slovakia, Spain, New Zealand and Pakistan actually lowering their emissions from 2009 to 2010. Additionally, developed countries that signed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol (the US has never signed onto the Protocol) "...largely [kept] their goals to date, reducing overall emissions by around 8 percent from 1990 levels." The US has never signed the Kyoto Protocol

Full article:

Climate change scenarios in California’s Bay-Delta from 2010-2099
November 6, 2011

A recent climate change analysis conducted by USGS scientists and academic colleagues suggests that California’s interconnected San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta will experience impacts of global climate change from 2010 to 2099 with projected shifts in biological communities, rising sea level, and modified water supplies endangering the agricultural economy, water security, and natural ecosystems. Increasing water temperatures and salinity resulting from climate change could endanger habitat quality for native aquatic species. Water resource adaptation strategies will need to be developed in response to longer dry seasons and diminishing snow packs/summer runoff, and flooding will likely become more common as sea-level rise accelerates.

The report provides a host of new information which may inform collaborative planning initiatives in the Bay-Delta area. It also serves as a general influence in guiding adaptation strategies for the management of climate change impacts in other coastal regions with emphases on anticipation, flexibility, and adaptability.

Full article:

CITATION: Cloern JE, et al. 2011. Projected evolution of California's San Francisco Bay-Delta-River system in a century of climate change. PLoS ONE 6(9):e24465. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024465

Binder Park Zoo kicks off "Knitting for Conservation" program
November 7, 2011

Michigan's Binder Park Zoo is kicking off their new program, Knitting for Conservation, this Wednesday, November 16th. Participants are asked to "bring their own yarn and knitting needles and [Binder Park Zoo] will provide the patterns and light refreshments." Future projects will include "shelter blankets, nests for orphaned animals, bear mittens, and more."This month's event will "feature knitted sweaters for penguins affected by the recent oil spill" in New Zealand. Oil buildup on their feathers prevents penguins from being able to insulate themselves, so the sweaters will help to keep the birds warm. Additionally, the sweaters will prevent the birds from ingesting the oil when they preen their feathers. Sweaters will also be "...placed on plush animal penguins and...sold at local retailers in Australia and New Zealand." They can also be purchased online, with proceeds going toward the Phillip Island Nature Park Wildlife Rehab Centre, through the Penguin Foundation of Phillip Island website at

For more information, visit the Binder Park Zoo website at

Full announcement:

Balboa Park 2015 leader undaunted by city woes
November 7, 2011 By Roger Showley

Mark Germyn, a Vancouver, British Columbia native with more than 30 years of experience working with world’s fairs, expositions, and theme parks, was recently named the new chief operating officer for the nonprofit Balboa Park Celebration Inc. Germyn is making plans for the organization’s 100th anniversary celebration of the Panama-California Exposition in San Diego’s Balboa Park—the event which, in 1915, commemorated the opening of the Panama Canal and San Diego’s orientation as the closest American port of call. Though the centennial celebration currently lacks a name, budget, large-scale funding, and any solid itinerary of events, Germyn hopes to develop a framework and start within the park by the beginning of the year. He is undaunted by San Diego’s political polarization and budget woes and expects the city to rally together.

Germyn mentions interest in supporting institutional planning grants for collaborative events as well as tying in events which are already ingrained in San Diego’s culture, such as Comic-Con and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon. Overall, he speaks of goals for a unique, well-rounded visitor experience not focused on a single event, but rather the result of an aggregate “streetmosphere” or “soundscape” reminiscent of the experience of a world expo or fair.

Full article and German interview:

In-depth look at San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research's Hawaii Endangered Bird Program
November 7, 2011 By Mark Szotek

Due to its loss of more than 55 endemic species (predominantly native forest birds), Hawaii was recently identified as the “extinction capital” of the planet. This loss of bird species accounts for almost a third of all bird extinctions since recording began in the 1700s.

Scientists Alan Lieberman and Richard Switzer of the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research were interviewed to provide an in-depth look at the Institute’s collaborative Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program, which seeks to save Hawaii’s remaining critically endangered forest bird species. The Program centers around the breeding of four critically endangered forest bird species -- the 'Alala (Corvus hawaiiensis), the Puaiohi or Small Kauai Thrush (Myadestes palmeri), the Maui Parrotbill (Pseudonestor xanthophrys), and the Palila (Loxioides bailleui).

Read the full interview:

Malibu elementary school opens zero waste campus
November 7, 2011 By Susan Carpenter

This week, Muse School CA—a private, nonprofit school for children ages 2-12 in Malibu Canyon—unveiled a new recycling and materials policy with goals for 100% landfill waste diversion. The school’s recycling system includes a five-tiered zero-waste sorting unit which recycles standard materials (plastic, glass, metal, paper), reuses broken electronics and office materials, and upcycles classroom castoffs. Disposable, non-compostable materials and containers are not allowed, and the school provides refillable stainless-steel bottles to all students and staff. Organic, locally raised food (at least 30% of which will one day be grown on site) is prepared at the school from scratch each day for lunch, and all food waste is composted on school grounds. Salvaged materials were also used in the construction and finishing of school buildings, play areas, and landscaping. Natural predators—including housecats, owls, and a falcon managed by an onsite falconer—are used as chemical-free methods of controlling indoor and outdoor pests. Students interact with recycling decisions on a daily basis and strive for a zero-waste goal. Muse School’s next objective is to install solar panels, moving it closer to net zero energy consumption.

Full blog post:

NWF report: Outdoor time helps kids get a good night’s sleep
November 7, 2011

A study recently completed by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) suggests that the majority of children in the United States are sleep deprived. The results suggest that a lack of recreational time outdoors is a large component of the problem, as kids are frequently over-scheduled and/or over-stimulated by popular indoor diversions including television, handheld games, computers, and an ever-growing array of electronic devices. A good night’s sleep is dependent upon natural light during the day, soothing effects of outdoor scenes, and enhanced exercise from playing outside.

For ideas of outdoor activities from the NWF, see an interactive map at:

Read the full NWF report: “Green Time for Sleep Time” from the National Wildlife Federation

Full article:

Asia-Pacific region sees increased tree cover in last decade with help from locals
November 7, 2011 By Mark Kinver

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that "involving local groups has been a key factor in halting the loss of forest cover in the Asia-Pacific region." The report, titled "Forest Beneath the Grass" found that even taking into account "illegal deforestation, forest fires and climate change," the region increased tree cover an average of 1.5m hectares per year in the last decade. The FAO credited "assisted natural regeneration" (ANR) projects with reversing the trend of forest loss.

From the article:

ANR is a forest restoration and rehabilitation technique that converts grass dominated areas into productive forests, based on the natural process of plant succession, encouraging the regeneration and growth of indigenous tree species.

...As opposed to more resource-intensive programmes, such as agro-forestry schemes or large-scale plantation projects, the authors highlighted how ANR schemes were relatively passive and cheap, allowing local communities to become actively involved.

ANR projects, which include the stages of " selection, modifications to encourage growth of preferred species, possible supplementary planting, site protection and monitoring," were much more successful when they involved local residents in the implementation process. The benefits to local participants can be "...diversity in harvestable crops, cost-effective land management, hunting grounds, and improved ecological services," while the benefits to the local ecosystems are "restored biodiversity and increased carbon storage."

Full article:

Conservation scientists ‘unanimous’ in expectations of serious loss of biological diversity, study finds
November 8, 2011

Amidst rising numbers on the endangered species list, a new study by University of York Environment Department scientist Dr. Murray Rudd reveals the near-unanimous expectations among conservation scientists (99.5% of 583 survey respondents) that a major loss of biological diversity is imminent. The goal of the survey was to gather opinions on the geographic scope of waning biological diversity as well as explore the respondents’ values, priorities, geographic affiliation, and support of various management actions—including controversial strategies such as conservation triage, or choosing not to intervene in a highly threatened species’ decline due to resource limitations.

From the article:

"Understanding the degree of consensus within the scientific community will help policy makers to interpret scientific advice, improving the likelihood of successful of conservation initiatives," concluded Rudd. "The extremely high level of consensus demonstrated by these results underlines the urgency of preventing further damage to the natural world."

Full article:

CITATION: Rudd MA. 2011. Scientists’ opinions on the global status and management of biological diversity. Conservation Biology 25(6):1165-1175. doi:10.1111/j.1523-1739.2011.01772.x

Eight local San Diego groups vie for conservation grant
November 8, 2011 By Mike Lee

SDG&E will award a grand prize of $25,000 to the winner of the third annual ECO Ambassadors People’s Choice Award. The award is a joint effort between SDG&E, the San Diego River Park Foundation, and CBS8. The eight finalists were selected “based on their records of environmental stewardship, innovation and responsibility.”

The finalists include:

• U. S. Green Building Council -- San Diego chapter
• Project Wildlife
• Olivewood Gardens
• Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation
• The Science Exchange
• San Diego Coastkeeper
• San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy
• Lakeside River Park Foundation

People can vote from November 11 through December 1 at

Full article:

California Wolf Center to help critically endangered Mexican gray wolf
November 8, 2011 By Katie Euphrat, Susan Murphy

The California Wolf Center, a 50-acre conservation and research facility in Julian, CA, is playing a role in the national effort to conserve critically endangered Mexican gray wolves (Canis lupus baileyi). Three wolves from the Wolf Center’s Mexican gray wolf pack are scheduled for release along the Arizona and New Mexico border this fall or winter, after which scientists will monitor them closely through howl surveys and micro-chipped collars to analyze general activity, movement, and diet. Prior to the wolves’ release, Wolf Center researchers are experimenting with taste aversion—lacing livestock meat with a nausea-inducing chemical—in hopes that it will dissuade the wolves from feeding on livestock post-reintroduction, raising the chances that they will not be targeted by ranchers and will instead help to keep the ecosystem in balance by reclaiming their natural position on the food chain.

Full article:

Chytrid fungus spread probably started through international amphibian trade
November 8, 2011 By Richard Black

A research team from Imperial College London recently published its findings on investigations into Bd (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis), a chytrid fungus identified just over a decade ago which is currently plaguing frog populations on every continent. The fungus, thought to have originated in southern Africa, kills amphibians by blocking transfer of vital substances through the skin, which leads to cardiac arrest. Through whole-genome sequencing technique and comparative analysis of data from around the world, the scientists identified three lineages of the fungus and suggest that it was almost certainly distributed as a result of international amphibian trade. The genetic different fueling the virulence of the most widespread and damaging strain has yet to be identified, but the research team believes it was the result of a chance encounter between prior strains. Dating work strongly suggests that the widespread, virulent strain arose in the 20th Century, coinciding with the rise in international amphibian trade—both through the exotic pet trade as well as medical trade of frogs for use in pregnancy testing.

Further analysis may lead to an understanding of what causes virulence. Researchers also see potential to investigate resistance by using less virulent chytrid forms to give amphibians a degree of resistance against the most serious strain, as has been successful for other vaccines.

Full article:

CITATION: Farrer RA, et al. 2011. Multiple emergences of genetically diverse amphibian-infecting chytrids include a globalized hypervirulent recombinant lineage. PNAS. doi:10.1073/pnas.1111915108

Obama proposal would open Arctic and Gulf of Mexico to drilling
November 8, 2011 By Bettina Boxall

A proposal recently put forth by the Obama administration supports a five year program (2012-2017) through which shorelines in the Arctic and Gulf of Mexico would open up for oil and gas leasing, making available more than three-quarters of undiscovered resources on the Outer Continental Shelf. Though it omits areas on the West and East coasts targeted during the Bush administration, the program calls for three lease sales off the Alaskan coast in contested environmentally fragile areas. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar emphasizes the government’s commitment to caution and safety, yet environmentalists adamantly condemn the proposal arguing that science has yet to develop proven methods of oil spill prevention, containment, or response in remote arctic regions. GOP House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings found fault on the other side of the spectrum, arguing that the proposal “places some of the most promising energy resources in the world off-limits.”

Full blog post:

France's Thoiry Zoo and Wildlife Park steps up rhino surveillance against poachers
November 8, 2011

In response to a wave of rhino horn thefts from zoos, museums, auction houses, antique dealers, and private collectors across Europe, the Thoiry Zoo and Wildlife Park west of Paris recently announced the broadening of its security. Surveillance measures including 24-hour video cameras and regular staff rounds were already in place for the zoo’s small primates (which had been stolen and illegally sold in years past), and these measures have now been extended to monitor the zoo’s white rhinoceroses (Ceratotherium simum). Rhinos are often poached for their horns, which are sold on the black market for 25,000-200,000 euros ($34,500-$277,000) despite the ban of their trade by the 1975 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Particularly in Asia, the horns are prized for ornamentation and culturally attributed medicinal purposes, though they are made of keratin—the same common protein that makes up human hair and nails. An Irish crime group is suspected behind the recent rhino horn thefts in Europe.

Full article:

San Diego County Fair to continue elephant rides at least until 2014
November 8, 2011

Earlier this week, the 22nd District Agricultural Association (DAA) decided to delay until 2014 any decisions regarding elephant rides at the San Diego County Fair. PETA and Animal Defenders International had been asking the fair board to stop working with Have Trunk Will Travel, the company which runs the elephant rides, citing a controversial video of an elephant training session. Many people showed up at the hearing to argue for both sides of the issue, including people from the movie industry who have worked with Have Trunk Will Travel on movies such as “Water for Elephants.” The DAA justified delaying their decision by “saying it made sense to wait until an elephant management policy at zoos throughout the nation solidifies,” although Director Davis Watson, who voted against delaying the decision, “said he preferred to ban elephant rides at the fair for safety reasons, noting that the [AZA] recently adopted a policy that zoos should adopt contact-free elephant programs by Sept. 1, 2014.”

Full article

Animals to remain at Thailand’s flooded Safari World
November 8, 2011

Safari World, one of Thailand’s largest zoos, “has rejected a proposal to evacuate wildlife from the flooded site, saying ‘the deluge is under control.’

From the article:

The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation earlier offered evacuation assistance to the private zoo in Min Buri district in eastern Bangkok.

"We see no reason for the authority to provide evacuation help as we have more than 1,000 staff members who are ready to protect the zoo," Mr Pin [Safari World founder and chief executive] said. "Until now, not one animal has died [as a result of] the flood."

The zoo is “surrounded by water with an average depth of 1 metre (3 ft)”, with approximately 30% of the grounds dry. The deputy chief of the National Parks department “expressed strong concern over the situation,” citing the potential for the spread of disease if the animals were kept surrounded by water for too long. Additionally, the zoo has many large animals that would be difficult to move, such as rhinos and giraffes, should the situation worsen. Although the Zoological Organisation of Thailand has offered to provide support, as Safari World is a private facility, the zoo association cannot force Safari World management to evacuate the animals.

Full article:

Phoenix's Desert Botanical Garden hosts Chiles and Chocolates Festival
November 8, 2011 By Angelique Soenarie

The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona, will be hosting its ninth annual Chiles & Chocolates Festival this weekend.

From the article:

More than 6,000 people are expected to attend the festival, which will have 30 vendors on site offering samples of gourmet chocolates, spicy salsas and other Southwestern treats. Latin music will be performed by DJ Miguel Ivery, and a variety of dance performances will be staged throughout the day.

The vendors will be selling a wide variety of chocolate and chili creations, including handmade artisan chocolate, mole-spice blends, gourmet brownies, green-chili pork, roasted fresh chilis, chicken street tacos, and burritos. The festival runs from 10 am - 5 pm from November 11-13. Entrance to the festival is free with admission to the garden ($18 general public, $15 seniors, $7.50 students, $5 children ages 3-12).

Full article:

Striking the right balance between predator and prey conservation in ecosystem management
November 9, 2011

A new study led by Rob Williams of the University of Washington in Seattle and the University of British Columbia examined the delicate relationship between conservationally important predators and their prey. Trying to find "...the right balance of ecosystem management to sustain and protect..." both the Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) and Orcas (Orcinus orca), Williams and his team prepared a detailed model of their relationship. They found that in order to sustain a "hopeful growth of the southern resident killer whale population", the salmon population must increase as well.

From the article:

In 2009, there were 87 southern resident killer whales. The researchers calculate that this relatively small population likely consumes 12-23% of the approximately 300,000 Chinook salmon, which is a substantial portion for the at-risk fish. This amount increases 42% for a mother nursing her calf. If the killer whale population grows – for example, to 155 individuals by 2029, as projected by one recovery scenario – that percent will only increase.

Dr. Williams notes that these findings will contribute to discussions about ecosystem capacity to support both predator and prey.

Full article:

CITATION: Williams R, et al. 2011. Competing conservation objectives for predators and prey: estimating killer whale prey requirements for Chinook salmon. PLoS ONE 6(11):e26738. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026738

Riverside: Native plant sale set for Saturday
November 9, 2011

Excerpt from the announcement:

The Riverside-San Bernardino Chapter of the California Native Plant Society will hold its fall Native Plant Sale on Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Western Municipal Water District’s demonstration garden at 450 Alessandro Blvd., Riverside.
The Native Plant Sale will offer:

There will also be Master Gardeners of Riverside County on hand from 10 am – 4 pm to answer gardening questions, and a “workshop on climate-appropriate plant selection and care” at 11 am.

Full announcement:

Indigenous do not have right to free, prior and informed consultation on Amazon's Belo Monte Dam, rules Brazilian court
November 9, 2011

Brazilian Federal Judge Maria do Carmo Cardoso ruled this week that "indigenous communities do not have the right to free, prior and informed consultation on the Belo Monte dam," citing that the physical infrastructure of the dams and reservoirs would not be located on tribal lands. Judge Cardoso's ruling overrides a previous ruling from the same court which concluded the Belo Monte dam would substantially impact the indigenous peoples who "[depend] on the river for fishing and navigation." The proposed dam would "flood some 40,000 hectares of rainforest, displace more than 10,000 people, and block 80 percent of the Xingu river...."

From the article:

In reaching her decision, Cardoso argued that the project’s impact studies and an environmental license, would "fully mitigate any possible harm on indigenous communities," according to International Rivers, an NGO fighting the dam.

International Rivers noted that Cardoso stated that "indigenous peoples should consider themselves 'privileged' to be consulted about large projects that affect their livelihoods."

Others denounced the decision, including Ubiratan Cazetta, head of the Federal Public Prosecutor's office in state where the Belo Monte Dam is under construction. Cazetta stated that not including indigenous peoples into the decision-making process of such a project " disrespectful fo the point of absurdity," further stating that the decision violates the spirit of the "Brazilian Constitution and international human rights agreements." The dam is backed by government energy companies in Brazil.

Full article:

Larger birds more affected by human-made noise
November 9, 2011

After studying 30 different species of birds living in the Rattlesnake Canyon Wildlife Area of New Mexico, they found that larger birds are more likely to be affected by "loud human sounds" and will stay away from such areas. The canyon is in close proximity to "thousands of natural gas wells, many of which are coupled with constantly roaring compressors -- think of listening to a motorcycle that's about 15 metres (50 ft) away." The researchers found that smaller birds which have a high-pitched song are less affected by the human noise, with larger birds such as mourning doves (Zenaida macroura) and western tanagers (Piranga ludoviciana) avoiding the area. They conclude that the larger birds are more affected by the noise because their lower-pitched songs are drowned out by sounds coming from machinery.

Full article:

CITATION: Francis CD, Ortega CP, Cruz A. 2011. Noise pollution filters bird communities based on vocal frequency. PLoS ONE 6(11):e27052. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0027052

Indigenous technicians scour Amazonia to help researchers track wildlife
November 9, 2011 By Daniela Hernandez

A new study looked at the effectiveness of enlisting indigenous peoples to assist in environmental monitoring projects. The scientists, where were conducting a project looking at the "interactions between indigenous peoples, their environment and the native fauna," trained residents of the Makushi and Wapishana villages in the Amazon to collect data on "sights and signs of animals." Jeff Luzar, one of the reasearchers on the project, indicated that the large scale of the project (which covered 48,000 square kilometers, or 18,500 square miles, of the Amazon basin) would have been impossible without the villagers' help. However, they had to make sure that the data collected by the villagers would be accurate enough for their study.

From the article:

During the three-year study, they trained 335 residents from 23 communities to gather data about wildlife population densities. The paid technicians trekked through mountains, savannas, woodlands, rainforests and swamps looking for animals or animal signs like eaten fruit, feathers and tracks.

Professional scientists then retraced some of the technicians’ steps to ensure the data were valid.

Eighteen technicians fabricated data at least once, but most of them collected valid information, according to the study, published in the October issue of Bioscience. They logged nearly 1,300 miles (2,000 km) each month and sighted more than 48,000 animals from almost 270 species, including rarely sighted tapirs and pacas.

Lead author José Fragoso says that indigenous people "...are quite capable of assessing biodiversity..." and that their assistance may be "the only way" to gather such data in remote environments. Limitations to this approach include the need for financing the trained villagers who would performing wildlife management rather than subsistence-oriented activities and the problem of convincing other scientists of the data's validity. Fragoso and his team are also hoping that by including the villagers in wildlife management projects would allow them to take a greater interest in conservation efforts.

Full article:

CITATION: Luzar JB, Silvus KM, Overman H, Giery ST, Read JM, Fragoso JMV. 2011. Large-scale environmental monitoring by indigenous people. Bioscience 61:771-781. doi:10.1525/bio.2011.61.10.7

Do plants perform best with family or strangers? Researchers consider social interactions
November 9, 2011

In a new paper, researchers at the Department of Biology at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada suggest that "plants benefit from both altruism and biodiversity but when these processes occur at the same time, it is difficult to predict the outcome." Previous studies have indicated that plants that are grouped together with their siblings exhibit "altruism", cooperating with their relatives to survive. However, other studies have concluded that plants grown with non-related plants are more successful and that diversity is a benefit to survival. Susan Dudley, one of the authors of the study, points out that some of the difficulty in predicting plant behavior stems from the fact that people "...can't interpret plant behaviours as easily as we do those of animals."

From the article:

The problem, she says, is that plant social interactions are treated as a black box, with researchers only looking at the output, or the fitness of the plant, in sibling competition. But they need to investigate the mechanisms inside the box -- by describing how traits of individuals affect fitness -- to understand how the output is reached and which mechanisms are occurring to get there.

Future research may focus on how kin recognition between plants "shapes communities and ecosystems."

Full article:

CITATION: File AL, Murphy GP, Dudley SA. 2011. Fitness consequences of plants growing with siblings: reconciling kin selection, niche partitioning and competitive ability. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. doi:10.1098/rspb.2011.1995

Lion's escape quickly stopped by Woodland Park Zoo staff
November 9, 2011 By Christina Wilsdon

Earlier this week, a female African lion (Panthera leo) escaped from her sleeping den into a behind-the-scenes service hallway at the Woodland Park Zoo. The lion, Kalisa, was never in an area accessible to the public, and the zoo's emergency response team was able to safely tranquilize Kalisa and return her to her den within an hour. The emergency response team, which is made up of veterinarians and firearms units, regularly conducts emergency drills (along with the rest of the zoo staff and many volunteers). The zoo will be investigating the escape to determine how Kalisa escaped from her den.

Full article:

WWF airlifts black rhinoceroses—upside down—to protected area in South Africa
November 9, 2011

The WWF's Black Rhino Range Expansion Project is using a novel way of relocating black rhinos (Diceros bicornis) to protected areas.The new technique involves sedating the rhinoceroses and airlifting the animals upside down for 10 minutes during the flight to the Limpopo Province in South Africa. 19 of the rhinos were transported in this way.

From the article:

This new technique in removing rhinos from dangerous situations is gentler than previous methods, according to Dr. Jacques Flamand, World Wildlife Fund project leader. "The helicopter translocations usually take less than ten minutes, and the animals suffer no ill effect," he said in a statement. "All of the veterinarians working on the translocation agreed that this was now the method of choice for the well-being of the animals."

Full article and photos:

San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy launches with support from key influencers
November 9, 2011

San Diego Zoo Global (SDZG) has launched the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy, which will bring the organization's worldwide conservation efforts under a single umbrella. The Wildlife Conservancy will provide "...people around the world an easy way to support and become involved with the organization's efforts to save critically endangered species." Early supporters of the Conservancy include celebrities Lou Diamond Phillips and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who are honorary Wildlife Guardians. The Wildlife Conservancy will continue SDZG's conservation work with rare and endangered species and is "...dedicated to bringing endangered species back from the brink of extinction."

From the article:

In addition to celebrity support, the Wildlife Conservancy has already received a sizable gift. The donation, made by John and Jill Gartman, designates $10,000 to the Wildlife Conservancy to save the endangered but little-known Southern California mountain yellow-legged frog by reintroducing it back into the wild. Gartman, who serves as chair of The Foundation of the Zoological Society of San Diego, is very interested in San Diego Zoo Global's conservation efforts.

The Conservancy also manages some 100 projects in 35 countries around the world. Interested people can join the SDZG Wildlife Conservancy as either a Wildlife Hero or a Wildlife Guardian. Learn more about becoming involved at the San Diego Zoo Global website.

Full article:

US State Department delays Keystone tar sands pipeline to study alternative routes
November 10, 2011 By Geoff Mohan

Excerpt from the blog:

President Obama's decision Thursday to put off the decision of whether to permit the controversial Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico drew cheers from his environmentalist supporters but heightened criticism from opponents eager for jobs and fuel for the ailing U.S. economy.

The 1,700-mile pipeline would carry oil extracted from Canada's tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico, crossing plains states and the enormous Ogallala aquifer. It has been the target of increased protest and opposition from environmentalists and residents of those states, who complain that the corrosive oil poses a spill threat. In addition, extracting tar sands oil requires a great deal of energy, making the fuel's carbon footprint high, environmentalists say.

To be built, the pipeline requires approval of the U.S. State Department, which on Thursday announced it would study alternative routes, effectively delaying the permit process until after the presidential election next November.

Continue reading blog post:

Dramatic rescue of mother and baby African elephant in Zambia
November 10, 2011 By Dominique van Heerden

Staff and tourists at the Kapani Safari Lodge in Zambia came to the rescue when they found a baby African elephant (Loxodonta africana) and its mother trapped in the mud. They contacted the South Luangwa Conservation Society and the local wildlife authority to get the elephants out. The rescuers reported that the rest of the herd had been trying to help the distressed animals, "but they were stuck too deep."

From the article:

Team managers from the conservation society slipped a rope around the baby and after a few attempts managed to pull her out of the muddy pit. The team says it took a lot of coaxing to get her out and on her feet though, adding that she "was terribly frightened and wouldn't leave her mum's side".

Getting the adult elephant out of the mud was a far more challenging task -- by the time the baby had been rescued, its mother was dehydrated and exhausted. But the SLCS team eventually pulled her out too, using a tractor and rope.

After being rescued, both elephants rushed off to rejoin the herd.

Full article and photos:

Western black rhino declared extinct
November 11, 2011 By Matthew Knight

In the latest update of the IUCN Red List, a review of 60,000 species, concluded that Africa's western black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis longipes) is officially extinct. Last seen in western African in 2006, the subspecies of black rhino (which ws previously classified as Critically Endangered) went extinct due to lax enforcement of anti-poaching laws and lack of implementation of conservation efforts. The IUCN warns that without strong efforts to prevent their extinction, the northern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) and the Javan rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus) may suffer the same fate. [The IUCN indicated that the northern white rhino may be "possibly extinct in the wild"; the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is home to two of the remaining 7 or 8 of these rhinos in captivity.] They point to the successful conservation of the southern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum simum), which has increased in numbers from less than 100 in the late 1800s to " estimated wild population of 20,000 today."

Full article: