2008 Briefs : January - March

Den Use by Chinese Pandas

January 1, 2008   www.wildlifejournals.org

Ron Swaisgood from the Center for Research in Endangered Species and Chinese researchers studied the denning ecology of giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) in the Foping Nature Reserve, China.  17 used and 21 unused cavities of appropriate size to accommodate denning were examined and measured.  Results indicated that maternal females preferred deeper cavities with a high interior-to-entrance ratio for height and width, suggesting a preference for narrow entrances and roomy chambers. Microhabitat features, including slope and distance to water, were also useful in predicting den use by maternal females.  The availability of suitable dens may limit population size, especially in areas where tree dens have been eliminated by logging of old growth forests. The study is reported in the Journal of Wildlife Management  71(8):2694–2698; 2007

Jaguars in Brazil's Pantanal

January 1, 2008  www.nytimes.com   By J. MADELEINE NASH

The jaguar, Panthera onca, is the largest cat in the Americas and the third largest in the world.  It can still be found in the wildlife-rich Pantanal, a 74,000-square-mile mosaic of rivers, forests and seasonally flooded savannas that spill from Brazil into neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay.  Convincing ranchers to end such killing has become a priority for conservationists in the region. Last year, Thomas Kaplan, executive chairman of the foundation Panthera, an emerging force in big cat conservation, finalized the purchase of two large ranches and signed an agreement to buy a third, creating a property that will soon total more than 400,000 acres.  The ranches, which will be run by Panthera, are particularly important because they connect previously isolated wildlife preserves. Now, jaguars will be able to travel safely from one sanctuary to the other.  Panthera was founded in 2006. Perhaps 15 percent of the world’s remaining population of jaguars live in the Panatal.  Alan Rabinowitz, executive director of the science and exploration program at the Wildlife Conservation Society, believes ranching and jaguar conservation can co-exist.  “Cattle open up the landscape,” Dr. Rabinowitz said, and enhance habitat for the jaguar’s wild prey. “If you were to take out the cattle and let large areas revert to scrubby vegetation, you’d have far fewer jaguars in the Pantanal than you do today.”  Jaguars can also provide ranchers with an additional source of income. For example, several ranches in the Pantanal, San Francisco among them, run ecotourism operations that have turned a liability into a valuable asset. The IUCN (World Conservation Union) believes the total free-ranging population at fewer than 50,000 adults and classifies jaguars as near threatened.  They may not yet be as endangered as Asian tigers, whose noncaptive breeding population has plummeted below 2,500, or African lions, of which there are perhaps only 20,000 to 30,000 left in the wild. But if conflicts with people and their livestock are not soon resolved, they could become endangered.

Animal Migration Book

January 1, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By Carl Zimmer 

But in his new book “No Way Home,” David Wilcove, a Princeton biologist, warns that “the phenomenon of migration is disappearing around the world.”  Lots of bird species, elk, buffalo, salmon, dragonflies, zebras and leatherback turtles all migrate, but despite their huge numbers, they are particularly vulnerable to hunting, the destruction of wild habitat and climate change. Humans have already eradicated some of the world’s greatest migrations, and many others are now dwindling away. While many conservation biologists have observed the decline of individual migrations, Dr. Wilcove’s book combines them into an alarming synthesis. He argues that it is not just individual species that we should be conserving — we also need to protect the migratory way of life.  In years to come,  global warming may come to have a huge effect on migrations, by dismantling ecosystems and leaving migrating animals without the food they depend on.

Black Rhino Poaching in Zimbabwe

January 1, 2008  www.sciencedaily.com

Since 2000, 22 black rhinos have been shot in the Lowveld Conservancies in addition to 45-50 black rhinos that have been shot by poachers in other conservancies. “The declining economy in has fuelled the loss of jobs, particularly on commercial farms and created an environment that’s conducive to poaching,” believes Raoul du Toit, Project Executant, Lowveld Rhinoceros Project, WWF - Southern Africa Regional Programme Office.  As well as targeted poaching of individual animals, there have been more than 66 cases of rhino caught in snares and sometimes fatally injured in the Lowveld conservancies since 2000. This is a marked increased since the initiation of Zimbabwe’s “fast-track” land resettlement programme Available records show that no black rhinos were poached in that area between 1993-2000.  Since 2000, people have been allowed settle into conservancies and enforcement of anti-poaching controls has been relaxed. As a way to combat the poaching surge, WWF, in collaboration with the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, with funding provided by other partners and agencies, is now stepping up its drive to protect the country’s black rhinos.  Currently, Lowveld boasts of 375 black rhinos – about 10 per cent of the world’s wild population.

Breeding Andean Condors at Buenos Aires Zoo

January 1, 2008  www.washingtonpost.com  By Monty Reel

An endangered species, condors cannot reproduce until they are 8 to 12 years old. Even if they manage to survive to that age, they can lay only one egg every three years, and many of those eggs turn out to be infertile.  For the past decade, a team of scientists and volunteers at the Buenos Aires Zoo has been raising condor hatchlings and releasing them throughout South America, helping restore populations of the bird in places where it had long been considered extinct.  Since 1997 18 condor chicks have been hatched and nearly 60 adult condors have been rescued and nursed back to health , the grown birds now fly in South American skies ranging from Venezuela in the north to Tierra del Fuego at the continent's southern tip.  Estimating populations of condors is extremely difficult because their nests are usually in mountainous locations that are difficult to reach, and the birds regularly venture hundreds of miles from those bases. In 1965, the condor was declared extinct in Venezuela, and it was believed to be on track for the same fate in Ecuador and Colombia, Jacome said. On the coast of Argentina - the country that historically had the largest condor population - the bird had also disappeared.  But today, about a dozen condors live in Venezuela, perhaps 100 inhabit Colombia and Ecuador. Quite a few nest near Argentina's coast, where the project has released several condors in recent years.
Chile and Argentina probably have the most condors

Luxury Safari-style Tents at Monarto Zoo

January 1, 2008  www.news.com.au   By Jessica Hurt

ADELAIDE, Australia -- Monarto Zoo is investigating plans to build luxury accommodation to help boost South Australia's shortage of high-end regional accommodation.  Accommodation in wildlife parks, such as the Madikwe Safari Lodge and Sir Richard Branson's Ulusaba Private Game Reserve, which borders the Kruger National Park, are big tourist draws in Africa. A National Tourism Investment Strategy research report in July, 2006, revealed regional South Australian centres lacked the upmarket accommodation to attract big tourism dollars.  Since then, new properties have opened including Rawnsley Park's four new luxury eco-villas, the Murraylands' first five-star accommodation, Riverview Rise Retreats, and the re-development of the Barossa retreat, Peppers The Louise. The Port Lincoln Hotel will open on January 30 and the nature-based, Southern Ocean Lodge at Hanson Bay, Kangaroo Island, in March.

Aftermath of Tiger Escape : Lawyers & Exhibit Changes

January 2, 2008  www.sfgate.com  By Jaxon Van Derbeken

Mark Geregos, the high-profile lawyer who defended Michael Jackson and Scott Peterson has been retained by the Dhaliwal brothers to represent their interests “which may include litigation against the zoo”  Geragos said the brothers have no idea why the animal attacked. Meanwhile, a new 4- to-5-foot-tall glass wall is the most likely addition to the tiger grotto.  The barrier would rise on the public side of the tiger grotto, adding to the 12 1/2-foot-tall moat wall and increasing the height of the barrier to 16 1/2 feet. It would be built of tempered, laminated glass, and a similar wall would also be installed in the lion exhibit.  In addition, surveillance cameras and electrical "hot" wires are being considered for the tiger grotto, zoo officials said.  The barrier and other additions would be built within 30 days under emergency plans authorized by the city's Recreation and Park Department, which oversees the zoo. The final design has not been approved and is subject to change.  The zoo is scheduled to reopen to the public on Thursday, although the lions and tigers will not be on exhibit, either outdoors or in the Lion House. Zoo officials have not decided whether to go ahead with a media tour and inspection of the tiger grotto today.

ZSL’s Mountain Chicken Frog Breeding Program

January 2, 2008  www.timesonline.co.uk

Mountain chicken frogs from the island of Dominica are one of hundreds of amphibian species driven to the edge of extinction by the chytrid fungus. Conservationists from the Zoological Society of London began a rescue expedition last year but were able to track down only seven of the frogs, which are now kept in permanent quarantine at London Zoo.  This group is one of only two from the island of Dominica that have been taken into captivity. The other population of 12 frogs is held by a private collector in the United States.  Mountain chicken frogs are also found in Montserrat but have genetic differences from those in Dominica, where the inhabitants are so proud of the amphibian that it forms part of the coat of arms for the island. It was also the national dish until the fungus arrived.  The frogs can weigh more than 2 lb and are one of the biggest frogs in the world.  They breed by laying eggs in a foam-filled burrow and the mother stays near to feed the tadpoles with infertile eggs until they are ready to fend for themselves. About 500 zoos around the world are expected to take part in the Amphibian Ark campaign to save frogs, toads, salamanders, newts and caecilians. In the past two years at least a dozen species of amphibian have been taken from the wild to safeguard their future. An estimated 120 species of amphibian have become extinct since 1980 and 1,891 species are threatened.  WAZA and WCU have declared 2008 the international year of the frog

Breeding Australia’s Corroboree Frog

January 2, 2008  bowral.yourguide.com.au  By Rosslyn Beeby

MELBOURNE, Australia – The survival of at least 50 of Australia's 216 frog and toad species under threat from habitat loss, pesticides, disease, water pollution and climate change. For several years, the Amphibian Research Centre in Werribee, Melbourne, has been running a captive breeding program for the critically endangered southern corroboree frog (Pseudophryne corroboree). The frogs feed on ants and small beetles, and breed in the high-altitude sphagnum bogs of Kosciuszko National Park.  But recent surveys suggest as few as 30 calling males may be left in the Snowy Mountains.  The program has minimal funding.  The centre's founder, Gerry Marantelli, says he's organized school tours, lectures in local libraries and even raffles to keep the program afloat.  Despite Australia ranking among the world's top 10 nations for diversity of frog species, government funding for frog conservation remains well below $1million.  2008 has been declared the Year of the Frog and a global coalition of scientists is hoping to raise $70million as the first step in a $458million five-year plan to establish captive breeding programs for the world's 500 most-threatened frog and toad species. The Amphibian Ark's project leader is United States herpetologist Kevin Zippel.  More about the campaign is at www.amphibianark.org

Pronghorns at the Queens Zoo

January 2, 2008  www.qgazette.com

The Wildlife Conservation Society's (WCS) Queens Zoo has announced the debut of three pronghorn antelopes, native to North America.  The new fawns--one male, two females--come from two zoos in Kansas and North Dakota.  Pronghorns are second only to Arctic caribou for long-distance migration in the Western Hemisphere. The pronghorns share the same exhibit as  the zoo's bison herd, creating an authentic "Great Plains" experience for both the animals and visitors.  In the wild, Pronghorns embark on the longest remaining overland migration in the continental United States, and for 6,000 years, this isolated population has traveled the same ground. According to WCS researchers, however, the pronghorn and its ancient migration route could vanish from an ecosystem that includes Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Six of the eight antelope migration corridors in and out of the Yellowstone ecosystem have already been lost.

8 Bighorn Sheep Die in Colorado

January 2, 2008  www.thedailyjournal.com 

GUNNISON, Colo. (AP) -- Eight Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep died in southwest Colorado last month, and all showed signs of pneumonia, state wildlife officers said Wednesday.  The Division of Wildlife said seven bighorns were found dead and the eighth was so sick it had to be euthanized. Five were rams and three were ewes.  The bighorns were part of the small Fossil Ridge herd near Gunnison, about 130 miles southwest of Denver. Because the herd had only about 50 bighorns before the deaths, the loss of eight animals is significant, officials said. Field examinations suggested pneumonia was the likely cause of death for at least some of them. Tests at the Division of Wildlife laboratory in Fort Collins found evidence of the disease in all eight.  Wildlife officers are monitoring the survivors and evaluating treatment options, but they are limited. About 7,500 live in the state, compared with an estimated 275,000 elk and 600,000 deer. The state permits limited hunting of bighorns, with about 300 licenses issued each year.

S.F. Zoo Reopens Today

January 3, 2008  www.sfgate.com

Manuel Mollinedo, executive director of the zoo, said new "Protect the Animals" signs would ask patrons to leave the animals alone, and portable loudspeakers would remind visitors to leave promptly at the 5 p.m. closing time. A hard-wired notification system is also planned to alert visitors to any escapes by the creatures that live there.  "Help make the zoo a safe environment," the signs state. "The magnificent animals in the zoo are wild and possess all their natural instincts. You are a guest in their home. Please remember they are sensitive and have feelings. PLEASE don't tap on glass, throw anything into exhibits, make excessive noise, tease or call out to them."  At the news conference, Zoological Society Chairman Nick Podell lavishly praised the beleaguered Mollinedo, who took over at the zoo in February 2004 and was earning $314,038 a year plus $15,702 in benefits and a $9,548 expense account, according to zoo tax documents filed in November. The society operates the zoo, although the land and animals are owned by the city.  Within the next 30 days the zoo will build a reinforced-glass barrier atop the tiger grotto's dry moat wall, bringing the height to at least 16.5 feet tall, the national standard.  The Lion House, will be closed to the public, and screened fences and barriers will surround the outdoor grotto and Terrace Cafe, sites of the attacks.  Patrons will be able to leave mementos and tributes at the main entrance to both Sousa and the 4-year-old Tatiana.

Florida Scrub Jay Population Declining

January 3, 2008  www.heraldtribune.com  BY TOM PALMER

LAKE WALES – After monitoring the number of Florida scrub jays in 41 sites, the Nature Conservancy concludes that the species is declining -- even within preserves set aside for them, a new report has concluded.  Florida scrub jays have been federally protected by the Endangered Species Act since 1987, and are found only in Florida. The Florida scrub jay's classification as threatened rather than endangered means it is not in imminent danger of extinction. But it has disappeared from parts of Florida in recent decades. FWS officials found declines of between 37.5 percent and 65 percent in major jay populations throughout Florida. The decline in reproduction noted in the report means there are fewer birds to replace their parents or other adult jays -- which live an average of five years -- and to help rear young. What is behind the decline? One potential factor mentioned in the report is inadequate habitat management.  According to scientists, breeding populations of Florida scrub jays persist only where there are enough scrub oaks to provide an ample winter acorn supply, cover from predators and nesting sites in spring.  However, when scrub oak stands become overgrown because of a lack of fire, jay populations decline because it is harder to move through the territory and spot predators, such as hawks.  Sites with declining numbers of birds should be assessed to determine if they should be better managed, the report said.  FWS officials recommends  Florida adopt a scrub-jay management plan and that existing management plans for public lands be evaluated to determine how well they are working.

H5N1 bird flu found in Israel

January 3, 2008  www.ynetnews.com 

BINYAMINIA, Israel -- The Israeli Health Ministry has made a positive ID of H5N1 bird flu virus in Binyamina kindergarten. All chicken coops and hatcheries within six-mile radius pending further testing.  Earlier Thursday morning 18 of the 25 chickens in the kindergarten's petting zoo, were found dead. The kindergarten staff has been given preventive medicines and none of the children or their parents came in contact with the birds. Veterinarian Gilad Goldstein, said "It was obvious that some sort of epidemic hit the petting zoo, which made me suspect either NVD (Newcastle Disease Virus – a viral infection in birds) or the bird flu… knowing there was a bird flu alert in the area, I sent blood samples to the Health Ministry."  The Health Ministry has opened a pubic hotline for information about the outbreak.

The AMNH’s Frozen Zoo

January 3, 2008   www.walrusmagazine.com   by Megan Ogilvie

NEW YORK CITY -- This frozen tissue lab — more formally known as the Ambrose Monell Cryo Collection — is the newest research collection at the American Museum of Natural History. The five-year-old facility hopes to archive all of the fauna on the planet. “We want it to represent the whole extent of non-human biodiversity, from whales all the way to microbes,” says George Amato, the director of conservation genetics at the museum and the overseer of the lab. As more and more species become extinct, scientists are looking to cryogenics as a way of saving the genetic blueprints of animals. Other institutions freeze tissue, but few do it as well and as comprehensively as this museum.” Three of the eight stainless-steel vessels that line the cryostorage room are up and running. Nearly two metres tall and almost as wide, the custom-made vats are insulated like giant Thermoses and drink liquid nitrogen from snaking metal pipes. Temperatures inside the vats are kept below –150°C, cold enough to cryogenically preserve tissue samples in perpetuity. With all eight vats up and running, the lab will eventually accommodate more than half a million vials. (Only the lab’s focus on fauna makes even that remarkable capacity barely adequate to its task; preserving instances of all known fungi, for example, would require several times as much space.) Just 15,000 samples have been deep-frozen so far, but an already impressive variety of species populates the droning vats: amphibians from Madagascar, lizards from Arizona, bats from the Caribbean. Also dolphins and polar bears, cats and coyotes, wasps, fruit flies, endangered honey beetles, and several leech species new to science. Smaller creatures are frozen whole and placed in vials. A snippet of flesh is taken from larger animals; even a single cell contains an organism’s entire genome.  To keep track of the samples and corresponding data such as where and how they were collected (frozen genetic material doesn’t have nearly as much meaning without such information), the lab hijacked grocery-store technology. Scan a bar-coded plastic vial and bleep, information about its contents pops onto the computer screen.

Science & Nature Evaluate Presidential Candidates
January 3, 2008  www.sciencemag.org

Both leading scientific journals, Science and Nature, have published overviews of the leading presidential candidates.  Their views on global warming, energy, stem cell research, and space are summarized.  Contact the Library if you would like a copy of the articles.

Bighorn Sheep Transfer

January 3, 2008  origin.sltrib.com   By Tom Wharton

ANTELOPE ISLAND, Utah – In 1997 biologists brought the first group of California bighorn sheep to Antelope Island, a  28,022-acre Great Salt Lake Island.  They hoped the herd would not only provide a special wildlife viewing experience for visitors but create a nursery to raise sheep that could be transplanted to other parts of the state.  Now 55 of the estimated 200 sheep on the island to the Stansbury Mountain Range about 12 miles away as the crow flies and another 20 to the Newfoundland Mountains.  After being trapped, the animals were loaded into secure nets and flown three at a time by helicopters pilots to a staging area near White Rock Bay where they were fitted with a radio collar and ear tags.  Vital statistics were taken and antibiotics administered before they were moved to trailers for eventual release.  "There is no sedation used," said Steve Bates, the wildlife biologist for Antelope Island State Park. "They are handled as calmly and quickly as possible and then released. When we don't sedate them, they do much better."  The Foundation for North American Wild Sheep, a nonprofit hunting group that has raised millions to improve habitat for the sheep, provided much of the approximately $30,000 that will be spent moving the bighorns this week.

Australian Scientists Save Quolls

January 4, 2008  www.nzherald.co.nz   By Nick Squires

Rangers and Aborigines collected an initial batch of quolls in 2003 from around Darwin and Kakadu National Park.  The carnivorous marsupials were fitted with radio collars and released on the uninhabited Pobassoo and Astell islands. Five years later, the population is now more than 5000. The quolls were relocated in a A$300,000 operation dubbed "Island Ark" because they were dying after preying on cane toads. The toads have poisonous glands on their backs and have caused the deaths of millions of crocodiles, lizards, birds and other creatures. Quolls normally eat frogs as part of their natural diet and quickly began targeting the introduced toads, with disastrous results. Within hours, or even minutes, of killing and eating a cane toad, quolls expire from massive heart failure caused by the amphibian's poison.  Northern Territory senior scientist Tony Griffiths said “They're healthy and they're living longer than quolls on the mainland. The conditions are ideal and there are no predators."  One of four species of quoll in Australia, northern quolls favour rocky habitat and eat everything from insects and lizards to skinks and small mammals.  "They breed once a year and have up to eight young, so the population can increase fairly quickly," said scientist Dr Brooke Rankmore. "We're waiting to see how big the population grows before it starts to self-regulate and plateau out."

New Species From Central America

January 4, 2008  www.timesonline.co.uk  By Lewis Smith

Eleven previously unknown animal and plant species have been discovered by scientists in a remote forest region of Central America.  Three salamanders with ballistic tongues, two frogs and six plant species, including a mistletoe with a “spectacular flower”, were among the finds never before seen by scientists.  In addition to the new species, the researchers also found 5,300 previously catalogued species in the cloud forest in La Amistad National Park in Costa Rica. The remoteness of the park and the lack of human interference there have allowed it to flourish as one of the most ecologically valuable ecosystems in the world.  Alex Munro, of the Natural History Museum, led the expedition that is part of the Darwin Initiative, funded by the British Government, which aims to provide information about the species, types and numbers in the national park, which covers 400,000 hectares (990,000 acres) in Costa Rica and Panama.  Researchers from the Natural History Museum, London, are working in collaboration with scientists from Costa Rica’s national biodiversity institute, INBio, the University of Costa Rica, the University of Panama and Panama’s national parks authority.  La Amistad is a Unesco World Heritage Site and it is thought that it is host to at least 250 species of reptile and amphibian, 600 species of bird, 215 species of mammal and 14,000 species of plant. 

Albino Alligators Stolen from Brazilian Zoo

January 4, 2008  news.bbc.co.uk  By Gary Duffy

Seven rare albino alligators have been stolen from a university zoo in the western state of Mato Grosso. The animals, said by officials to be worth around $10,000.  Police say there was no sign of a break-in at the zoo which contains more than 800 animals spread across 11 hectares (27 acres) hectares of parkland.  The alligators were said to be young with an average age of around two years, and only one albino alligator is now left at the zoo. Animal rights activists say Brazil accounts for 10% of the world's illegal trade in animals, mainly parrots and other birds, which are often sold in Europe and the United States.

New Salisbury Zoo Director

January 4, 2008  wjz.com

SALISBURY, Md. (AP) ―  Lisa Tate, 43, who served in several positions at Zoo Boise, will succeed Jim Rapp as director of Maryland’s Salisbury Zoo. The director's job pays $66,400 a year; the director oversees a staff of 14 full-time employees and an annual budget of $955,750. Tate has 18 years of experience in zoo operations. At Zoo Boise, she served as zookeeper, exhibit designer, construction manager, collection planner and manager and interim assistant zoo manager. She also had worked as director of a primate and avian conservation center in Boise. She is now taking correspondence classes at the University of California-Davis to obtain a master's degree in nonprofit management and ethics.  When she arrives on January 28 she will begin working on the Zoo’s accreditation. 

Owl Butterfly Naming Rights Auctioned

January 4, 2008  www.enn.com 

Florida Museum of Natural History researchers George Austin and Andrew Warren discovered a new butterfly from Mexico's Sonoran Desert earlier this year, and describe it in a recent issue of the Bulletin of the Allyn Museum, published by the Florida Museum's McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity.  The species' new common name is the Minerva owl butterfly and its scientific name is Opsiphanes blythekitzmillerae, is in honor of Margery Minerva Blythe Kitzmiller of Ohio on behalf of her five grandchildren.  Naming rights were obtained in a public auction that ended Nov. 2.  The winning bid was $40,800.  “The gift will allow us to continue research with our colleagues in Mexico," said Warren, "Over the next two years we plan to name several additional new species of Mexican butterflies and conduct fieldwork in poorly known and threatened habitats throughout the country."

Laysan Teal Conservation Program

January 4, 2008   www.ens-newswire.com

MIDWAY ATOLL, Hawaii -- The endangered Laysan duck, Anas laysanesis, occurs only within the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands' Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument established June 15, 2006.  The ducks were once widespread across the Hawaiian Islands, but, by 1860, they ceased to exist anywhere except Laysan Island. This is only the third year since the 42 teal were trapped in the wild and transported by ship to re-establish a second population on Midway Atoll at a rat-free refuge that was once part of its historic range.  Biologists with the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say the total tally of adult and fledgling Laysan ducks on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge rose from 42 to about 200 birds over the past three years. "Now Laysan ducks are found on three rat-free islands for the first time in hundreds of years and are flying between islands at Midway Atoll” said USGS wildlife researcher Michelle Reynolds, who coordinated the project.

Disease Kills 67 Gharial in India this Month

January 4, 2008  news.bbc.co.uk

The number of gharials that have died this month in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh has risen to 67.  They have succumbed to an unknown disease in the Chambal River sanctuary. One or two are washing up every day on the river banks, causing concern among wildlife officials and organizations. Forest officials have collected water samples and conducted post-mortems on some of the reptiles and a team of international veterinarians is expected in the country soon. Last month one official said cirrhosis of the liver was the cause of the deaths. There are only about 1,500 gharials left in the wild in India. In the 1970s, the reptile was on the brink of extinction and recently the species was reclassified, from being 'endangered' to 'critically endangered' by the World Conservation Union.

OSU gets $1 Million for Whale Research

January 4, 2008  www.gazettetimes.com  By KYLE ODEGARD

Terri Irwin, the widow of “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin, is giving Oregon State University more than $1 million to tag, track and research endangered whales through new studies scheduled to begin this year. Bruce Mate is director of OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute and an internationally recognized expert in whale migration and behavior.  The research will span several oceans in both the northern and southern hemisphere, and should continue into 2009, Mate said. Researchers will identify the migratory routes, range and critical habitat of humpback whales and blue whales, which will be the primary species studied.  Terri Irwin was raised in Eugene and her family operated a cougar rescue. Her husband, the late Steve Irwin, was killed in September 2006, but months before his death, he had chartered a vessel as part of preparation for filming a special in the Antarctic. Terri Irwin gave the use of that charter to OSU.  “It was (worth) probably $80,000 or more ... We got to go tag humpback whales off the Antarctic Peninsula in February. We named a whale after Steve,” Mate said. The “Steve” humpback ended up traveling farther than any other humpback whale tracked.  And when Terri Irwin was presented with an “adopt-a-whale” certificate given to donors, Mate learned that the date the whale was tagged was Steve Irwin’s birthday.

Albany Birds Killed by Virus

January 4, 2008  www.nytimes.com 

NEW YORK -- A virus killed hundreds of crows across the state in the last week, according to the State Department of Environmental Conservation. Officials said concentrations of dead crows were spotted in Orange, Dutchess, Albany, Jefferson, Montgomery and Steuben Counties. Ward Stone, a state wildlife pathologist, said the strain of avian “reovirus” attacks the birds’ intestinal system and is spread through fecal matter. Winter facilitates the spread, with crows gathering in large roosts. The strain is not likely to be contracted by humans.

Circus Elephant Kills Trainer

January 4, 2008  www.shortnews.com

AUSTRALIA -- Ray Williams, a 57-year-old trainer, died as a result of a broken back and a ruptured aorta inflicted by Arna, a circus elephant from the Stardust Circus.  The Stardust Circus animal handler was tending to two elephants in an exercise enclosure at the Yamba showground when he was killed.  Nobody witnessed the incident but a post-mortem examination in Lismore yesterday showed the man died as a result of a broken back and a ruptured aorta after a severe blunt trauma. Animal liberation groups have called for the elephant to be moved, saying that elephants that kill once often do so again.

Grizzly Bear Status Review

January 4, 2008  www.missoulian.com  By JOHN CRAMER

Chris Servheen is the grizzly bear coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said the federal agency is on track for completing its review by the end of 2008. Endangered status is determined by threats to a species' habitat and population, the strength of regulatory protections and other factors. The  grizzlies' genetics, movements, population trends, mortality rates, the number of females with cubs and other factors, including looking at whether and how often the bears move between established recovery zones will all be evaluated. When Yellowstone's grizzlies were removed from the endangered species list in April, the Fish and Wildlife Service said it would determine by the end of 2008 whether other grizzly bears in the Lower 48 states should be treated as separate populations or grouped together.  Currently, grizzly populations in the five recovery zones in the northwest United States and Canada are considered distinct. An estimated 1,200 grizzlies live in the five recovery ecosystems in Washington, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, most of them in the Northern Continental Divide and Yellowstone areas.  Federal and state officials hope to reconnect large blocks of public land in the northern Rockies to create corridors for grizzlies to move between recovery ecosystems, from the Selkirk/Cabinet-Yaak on the Canadian border to Yellowstone.









Cars Hit More Animals on Roads
December 22, 2007   www.nytimes.com   By JIM ROBBINS

Each year, about 200 people are killed in as many as two million wildlife-related crashes at a cost of more than $8 billion, according to a report from the National Academies of Science.  90% of the accidents occur on rural two-lane roads, and the most common animal involved is a deer.  The human death toll has risen from 111 in 1995 to around 200 in 2005, the most recent year for which figures are available. The Montana institute that prepared the report said the number of wildlife crashes was far greater than federal statistics suggested — about 300,000 crashes involving wildlife are reported to the authorities a year — because many of the accidents are reported only to insurance companies. In recent years, the institute estimates the number of crashes ranged from one million to two million. Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, has been a large laboratory for studying measures to prevent such collisions, which had been frequent on a four-lane highway that runs through the park. Officials there have built 24 underpasses and overpasses, and the changes have reduced collisions by more than 80 percent. The report prepared for Congress found that vehicle collisions were a major source of mortality for 21 federally endangered or threatened species, like the red wolf, kit fox, Key deer and Florida panther. Seven grizzlies were killed this year on Montana roads.  In November, a truck driver plowed through a herd of bighorn sheep on Highway 200 near Thompson Falls, Mont. The sheep often congregate there because they eat a salty de-icer the highway department sprays on a treacherous stretch of road. More than 350 wild sheep have been killed there since 1985.

Utah: Cholera Suspected in Bird Deaths

January 5, 2008 www.nytimes.com 

About 1,500 dead birds recently washed up on the southern shore of the Great Salt Lake.  The dead grebes, ducks and gulls were sent to the National Wildlife Health Center of the USGS in Madison, Wis., for examination.  Disease expert, Tom Aldrich of the State Division of Wildlife Resources, said  “I would bet it was cholera.” The disease, which poisons the blood, spreads when birds are overcrowded and food supplies are short. It does not affect humans.

When Animals Go AWOL, Zoos Tame PR

January 5, 2008  online.wsj.com  By JUSTIN SCHECK and BEN WORTHEN

When an escaped tiger killed a San Francisco zoo visitor on Christmas, it was the biggest blow yet to an industry that has been working hard to improve its reputation.  In 2007, at least 10 animal escapes from U.S. zoos generated press coverage. The nation's largest zoos are in the midst of a public-relations campaign led by the AZA to counter recent accusations by animal-rights groups that captive creatures are mistreated. They're launching educational campaigns about the animal aging process to show that when an animal dies it is often due to natural causes. They're also talking publicly about incidents, including escapes, that they might not have disclosed in the past.  The AZA has also beefed up its crisis-management system. Crisis-management courses are now taught at the AZA's training program in Wheeling, W. Va.  Ironically, many image-rattling events can be partly traced to zoos' past attempts to improve their images. Pressured by animal-rights activists, zoos shifted over the past few decades to naturalistic habitats that are seen as more humane. Sparsely furnished cages were replaced with vegetated outdoor areas featuring few barriers beyond a trench at the perimeter. Fewer fetters means more opportunity to flap, climb or jump away. It also tends to mean higher insurance premiums.

Golden Snub-nosed Monkey Population Increases

January 6, 2008  www.china.org.cn

A Guizhou Golden Snub-nosed Monkey eats a pumpkin in its enclosure in Fanjing Mountain in southwest China's Guizhou Province, January 6, 2008. It is one of the three types of Golden Snub-nosed monkeys, a protected species only found in China. Its population has increased to 800 from 350 in the past 20 years. Photos of the monkeys in enclosures in Fanjing Mountain in southwest China's Guizhou Province http://www.china.org.cn/english/environment/238535.htm

ULTIMATE Recycling

January 6, 2008  www.coopamerica.org  

1. Appliances: Goodwill accepts working appliances, www.goodwill.org , or you can contact the Steel Recycling Institute: 800/YES-1-CAN, www.recycle-steel.org .
2. Batteries: Rechargeables and single-use: Battery Solutions, 734/467-9110, www.batteryrecycling.com .
3. Cardboard boxes: Offer to your local Freecycle.org listserv or on Craigslist.org for others who may need them for moving or storage. If your workplace collects at least 100 boxes each month, UsedCardboardBoxes.com accepts them for resale.
4. CDs/DVDs/Game Disks: Send scratched music or computer CDs, DVDs, and PlayStation or Nintendo video game disks to AuralTech for refinishing, and they’ll work like new: 888/454-3223, www.auraltech.com .
5. Clothes: Wearable clothes can go to your local Goodwill outlet or shelter. Donate wearable women’s business clothing to Dress for Success, which gives them to low-income women as they search for jobs, 212/532-1922, www.dressforsuccess.org . Offer unwearable clothes and towels to local animal boarding and shelter facilities, which often use them as pet bedding.
6. Compact fluorescent bulbs: Take them to your local IKEA store for recycling: www.ikea.com
7. Compostable bio-plastics: You probably won’t be able to compost these in your home compost bin or pile. Find a municipal composter to take them to at www.findacomposter.com .
8. Computers and electronics: Find the most responsible recyclers, local and national, at www.ban.org/pledge/Locations.html .
9. Exercise videos: Swap them with others at www.videofitness.com .
10. Eyeglasses: Your local Lion’s Club or eye care chain may collect these. Lenses are reground and given to people in need.
11. Foam packing: Your local pack-and-ship store will likely accept foam peanuts for reuse. Or, call the Plastic Loose Fill Producers Council to find a drop-off site: 800/828-2214. For places to drop off foam blocks for recycling, contact the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers, 410/451-8340, www.epspackaging.org/info.html
12. Ink/toner cartridges: Recycleplace.com pays $1/each.
13. Miscellaneous: Get your unwanted items into the hands of people who can use them. Offer them up on your local Freecycle.org or Craigslist.org listserv, or try giving them away at Throwplace.com or giving or selling them at iReuse.com. iReuse.com will also help you find a recycler, if possible, when your items have reached the end of their useful lifecycle.
14. Oil: Find Used Motor Oil Hotlines for each state: 202/682-8000, www.recycleoil.org .
15. Phones: Donate cell phones: Collective Good will refurbish your phone and sell Cellphoneit to someone in a developing country: 770/856-9021, www.collectivegood.com . Call to Protect reprograms cell phones to dial 911 and gives them to domestic violence victims: www.donateaphone.com . Recycle single-line phones: Reclamere, 814/386-2927, www.reclamere.com .
16. Sports equipment: Resell or trade it at your local Play It Again Sports outlet, 800/476-9249, www.playitagainsports.com .
17. “Technotrash”: Project KOPEG offers an e-waste recycling program that can help you raise funds for your organization. Use Project KOPEG to recycle iPods, MP3 players, cell phones and chargers, digital cameras, PDAs, palm pilots, and more. Also, easily recycle all of your CDs, jewel cases, DVDs, audio and video tapes, pagers, rechargeable and single-use batteries, PDAs, and ink/toner cartridges with GreenDisk’s Technotrash program. For $30, GreenDisk will send you a cardboard box in which you can ship them up to 70 pounds of any of the above. Your fee covers the box as well as shipping and recycling fees. 800/305-GREENDISK, www.greendisk.com .
18. Tennis shoes: Nike’s Reuse-a-Shoe program turns old shoes into playground and athletic flooring. www.nikereuseashoe.com . One World Running will send still-wearable shoes to athletes in need in Africa, Latin America, and Haiti. www.oneworldrunning.com .
19. Toothbrushes and razors: Buy a recycled plastic toothbrush or razor from ToothbrushRecycline, and the company will take it back to be recycled again into plastic lumber. Recycline products are made from used Stonyfield Farms’ yogurt cups. 888/354-7296, www.recycline.com .
20. Tyvek envelopes: Quantities less than 25: Send to Shirley Cimburke, Tyvek Recycling Specialist, 5401 Jefferson Davis Hwy., Spot 197, Room 231, Richmond, VA 23234. Quantities larger than 25, call 866/33-TYVEK.
21. Stuff you just can’t recycle: When practical, send such items back to the manufacturer and tell them they need to manufacture products that close the waste loop responsibly.

Cincinnati Zoo Indian Rhino Delivers Stillborn Calf

January 7, 2008  news.enquirer.com  BY JIM KNIPPENBERG

Late Saturday night, Nikki, the Cincinnati Zoo's 3,600-pound Indian rhinoceros, delivered a stillborn female calf. Zoo vet Dr. Mark Campbell worked 20 minutes performing emergency resuscitation, but the calf never responded.  Sixteen-year-old Nikki was 492 days into a 470- to 500-day gestation. Physiologist Dr. Monica Stoops had spent five years developing the A.I. technique that made the calf the world's first rhino produced by artificial insemination using frozen and thawed sperm. It represented a major breakthrough in the breeding of endangered species. “Up until late Saturday, the baby was kicking and moving, so we know the death occurred during delivery. We just don't know why. But it's not unusual for first-time mothers - Indian rhinos more than the four other rhino species - to deliver stillborn." Said Dr. Terri Roth, the zoo's vice president of Conservation & Science and director of the Center for the Research of Endangered Wildlife.  Nikki was on exhibit outdoors Sunday and fine. Researchers Roth and Stoops are saddened by the development, but say it won't interrupt the rhino breeding program.

India’s High-Altitude Zoos Popular with Tourists

January 7, 2008  www.dailyindia.com   By Asheesh Goyal

NAINTAL, Uttarakhand --  The Bharat Ratna Pt. Govind Ballabh Pant High Altitude Zoo in Nainital, is situated at 2,075 meters above the sea-level.  Zoo authorities, have utilized the available topography and geography, developing facilities for Himalayan Black Bears, snow leopards, Siberian Tigers, Tibetan wolf and different types of pheasants and other birds on the hilly sides of the location 4.693 hectare location. "The Nainital zoo is one of the three high altitude zoos in India. The other two zoos are in Darjeeling and Shimla. The animals which are found particularly in higher altitudes, are not found in the zoos situated in plain regions. The authorities here have also planned to begin breeding of snow leopards. In Darjeeling, breeding of snow leopards has already started in the 'Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park (PNHZP)', which has been active and successful in breeding endangered snow leopards.

Nepal Boosts Vulture Numbers with Drug-free Cattle

January 7, 2008   www.enn.com  By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU -- The poisoning of vultures eating dead cattle treated with the anti-inflammatory drug, diclofenac, has been a problem in South Asia. The use of diclofenac is not allowed in Nepal but conservationists say the ban is largely ignored. Now the number of  White-rumped and Slender-billed vultures at one of Nepal's few conservation sites has nearly doubled after a special feeding facility started serving drug-free, safe carcasses to the birds.  Bird Conservation Nepal opened what it calls a "restaurant" for the birds last year in Nawalparasi district providing the birds with old cattle that have not treated with diclofenac.  The nesting pairs of vultures in Nawalparasi reached 32 in 2007 from a mere 17 in 2005. The group's conservation officer Dev Ghimire said his group is planning to open more such feeding centers in Rupandehi, Kapilvastu and Dang districts, further west of Nawalparasi.  The population of vultures in mountainous Nepal is estimated to have dipped to only about 500 nesting pairs, down from about 50,000 in 1990.

2008 Year of the Polar Bear

January 7, 2008  newswire.ascribe.org

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Polar Bears International (PBI) and the Oregon Zoo kicked off a campaign to raise people's awareness of the polar bear’s disappearing habitat. (See www.polarbearsinternational.org)  More than 35 zoos and institutions plan to become education centers on Arctic conservation. PBI hopes to enlist the younger generation as advocates for polar bears ecome ambassadors for their own futures-and for that of the world's polar bears." PBI’s program includes:
       - Conferencing Classroom, where leading scientists conduct live Webcasts from the tundra.
       - Leadership Camp/Adventure Learning Program, where high school students, nominated and selected by schools and zoos, spend nearly two weeks on the tundra
       - Zoo Visitor Enhancement, which provides every participating zoo with a polar bear interpretive cart and presentation materials.
       - Local TV Broadcasts with leading polar bear and arctic researchers for local TV stations
       - National Teen Contest, to encourage teens to act on polar conservation issues
       - Online Game, that immerses players into the arctic.
       - Churchill, Manitoba, Canada Tour, where representatives of participating zoos will experience the Tundra Buggy(R) Lodge during peak polar bear season.

Polar Bear Listing Postponed

January 7, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By A.P.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- Federal officials said Monday that they will need a few more weeks to decide whether polar bears need protection under the Endangered Species Act because of global warming.  The deadline was Wednesday, but the USFWS said it now hopes to provide a recommendation to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne in time for a decision by him within the next month. The Biological Diversity Center, along with Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council, filed a petition more than two years ago claiming that global warming was eroding sea ice, the polar bear's primary habitat.  In September, the U.S. Geological Survey issued a report concluding that two-thirds of the world's polar bears, including the entire population in Alaska, will be killed off by 2050 because of thinning sea ice from global warming in the Arctic.  USFW-Alaska, polar bear discussion: http://alaska.fws.gov/fisheries/mmm/polarbear/issues.htm

Wild Animal Park Safety Concerns Answered

January 7, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com

 A recent letter to the San Diego Union Tribune (Dec. 30) questioned the safety of  “two female attendants roaming through the park” walking a cheetah and companion dog on a leash.  Lisa McDonald of Fallbrook answers those concerns by noting:

  1. A big part of safety is ‘knowing the animal’  A cheetah is less likely to assert himself with a person than a lion or tiger.
  2. The cheetah is smaller than a Siberian tiger by a factor of 5
  3. Giant breeds of dog routinely exceed a cheetah’s weight (100 pounds)
  4. Cheetahs are handled competently at shows all over the world by small women and the elderly using only a thin show collar and lead.  The WAP cheetah is walked with a stout nylon buckle collar and 2 leashes, one for each handler. – sufficient to restrain a horse.
  5.  Should the cheetah spook or become upset, there are 2 handlers at all times and frequently another pair of handlers walks in front and behind.
  6. Ambassador animals are chosen wisely according to manageability and temperament.

Lisa notes that “the value of being able to observe such an endangered animal up close…is far more effective at helping children see his value…than any amount of watching nature shows or looking at pictures in books.”   

USDA to Amend Temperature Regulations for Animal Transport

January 7, 2008  www.aphis.usda.gov

WASHINGTON – The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service seeks comments on a proposal to amend the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulations for transportation of live animals excluding marine mammals.  The goal of the proposed rule is to remove the current ambient temperature requirements for various stages in the transportation of regulated animals.  If accepted, this proposed rule would replace those requirements with a single performance standard under which the animals would be transported under climatic and environment conditions that are appropriate for their welfare making acclimation certificates for live animals other than marine mammals unnecessary.  This proposal also would require transport compartments on aircraft to be opened during prolonged layovers, as well as the use of ground equipment to maintain appropriate conditions in the cargo hold during the layover.  Finally, the proposed rule, if finalized, would eliminate the requirement for acclimation certificates for animals other than marine mammals.  Comments received on or before March 4 will be considered.  Send an original and two copies of postal mail or commercial delivery comments to Docket No. 99-014-2, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.  If you wish to submit a comment using the Internet go to the Federal eRulemaking portal at: http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/  This will also allow you to view public comments and related materials available electronically. Comments are posted on the Reglations.gov Web site.

Listing the Pygmy Rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis)

January 8, 2008   epa.gov 

The USFWS announces that a petition to list the pygmy rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis) as threatened or endangered has merit, and plans to initiate a status review to determine if listing and the designation of critical habitat for the species is warranted. Please submit any scientific data, comments, and information concerning this species on or before March 10, 2008. Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery: to Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R8-ES-2007-0022; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.  Or to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov  We will not accept e-mail or faxes. We will post all comments on  http://www.regulations.gov   For more information contact: Robert D. Williams, Field Supervisor, Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office by mail, by telephone (775-861-6300), or by facsimile (775-861-6301).

Public Information Solicited:
    (1) Information regarding the species' historical and current population status, distribution, and trends; its biology and ecology; and habitat selection;
    (2) information on the effects of potential threat factors that are the basis for a listing determination under section 4 (a) of the Act, which are:
    (a) present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of the species' habitat or range;
    (b) overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes (in relation to the pygmy rabbit, this includes hunting and research);
    (c) disease or predation;
    (d) the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
    (e) other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence; or
    (3) information on management programs for the conservation of the pygmy rabbit.

For more information on the biology, habitat, and range of the pygmy rabbit, please refer to the ``Species Information'' section in our previous 90-day finding published in the Federal Register on May 20, 2005 (70 FR 29253).

All-Terrain Vehicles Imperil Wildlife

January 8, 2008  www.nytimes.com 

Nearly 40 years ago, President Richard Nixon issued an executive order to protect wildlife by restricting off-road vehicles to carefully designated trails. President Jimmy Carter gave the interior secretary the authority to ban such vehicles from sensitive lands. But there are now nine million off-road vehicles and dirt bikes (snowmobiles are a separate category). And their owners, with little resistance from the authorities, are transforming some of America’s most sensitive public lands by going “off trail” with grave consequences for animal habitat, fragile desert soils and historical artifacts. The real problem is that the important decisions about where off-road vehicles can go are not being made by the federal Bureau of Land Management, which is supposed to protect these lands and regulate these vehicles, but by the owners, user associations and rural county officials who are under their thumb.  In Utah, the bureau is presently drafting six new land-use plans that would allow about 15,000 miles of designated trails. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, an environmental group, points out that many of these routes have been lifted straight from maps provided by the off-road vehicle associations and have not been independently surveyed to assess their potential damage to the soil, animal habitat and archaeological sites.  Worse, some of the trails crisscross about 2.5 million acres of land that the Clinton administration thought worthy of permanent wilderness protection. Once these trails are in regular use, and enshrined on federal maps, the land would almost surely be ineligible for wilderness designation, which is typically reserved for roadless areas. 

Illegal Road Building in Sumatra

January 8, 2008  www.enn.com 

Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and its partners have cleared an estimated 20,000 hectares of natural forest in the Bukit Tigapuluh landscape, with some clearing appearing to be in violation of Indonesian law.  An investigation by WWF Indonesia and other scientific and conservation groups have found that the construction of a “legally questionable” highway for logging trucks is dissecting habitat for indigenous people, elephants, tigers and orangutans in central Sumatra.  Also under threat is the crucial Bukit Tigapuluh Forest Landscape.  The forest is one of the last large forests in Sumatra, boasts some of the richest biodiversity on earth and is one of Indonesia’s most important habitats for numerous species. It is the location of a successful conservation project to reintroduce orangutans, which now reside in a part of the landscape that is proposed for protected status but is already being cleared by APP-affiliated companies.  Part of the area being cleared is in a proposed Specific Protected Area that serves as habitat for about 90 Sumatran orangutans recently introduced into the area for the first time in more than 150 years. Unplanned and illegal road building is especially devastating to such areas, opening them up to poaching, illegal settlement and plantation activities and undermining the viability of indigenous communities.  The investigation report was released in Indonesia in January by WWF Indonesia and partners, KKI WARSI, Zoological Society of London, Frankfurt Zoological Society and Yayasan Program Konservasi Harimau Sumatera (PKHS).

Studies Published on Monarch Butterfly Migration

January 8, 2008  www.enn.com 

Each year, millions of eastern North American monarch butterflies fly a few thousand miles to reach a 70 square-mile-cluster of pine groves in central Mexico.  The spectacular migration is  driven by an intricate molecular mechanism in a tiny cluster of cells in the butterfly brain.  In previous research, University of Massachusetts Medical School Professor and Chair of Neurobiology Steven M. Reppert, MD, has demonstrated that the butterflies use a time-compensated sun compass and daylight cues to help them navigate to the pine groves. His studies have shown that time compensation is provided by the butterfly's circadian clock, which allows the monarch to continually correct its flight direction to maintain a fixed flight bearing even as the sun moves across the sky.  Two papers will be published this week in two journals of the open-access publisher Public Library of Science (PLoS), describing in detail the monarch butterfly circadian clock for the first time, and identify and characterize an entirely new clock gene that provides insight into not only the biology of the butterfly and its migration, but also the evolution of circadian clocks in general.  Concurrent with their studies of the monarch clock and relevant to the identification of CRY2, Reppert and colleagues have been working to create a butterfly genomics resource. 

Florida Manatee Deaths Decrease in 2007

January 8, 2008  www.enn.com  By Jim Loney

MIAMI (Reuters) - The number of endangered manatees that died in Florida waters last year dropped by 24 percent, according to preliminary report on Monday from the state's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.  317 manatees died in 2007 compared to 417 in 2006, the highest death toll on record.  An annual census found 2,817 manatees in state waters last year, down from 3,113 the previous year.  The number of deaths blamed on boats also dropped significantly, from 92 in 2006 to 73 in 2007, the report said.  Manatee death counts can swing wildly from year to year and the wildlife commission cautioned not to read too much into the decline.  The commission decided last month to delay a decision on a recommendation from its research staff to reclassify the manatee to "threatened" because it no longer met the criteria for "endangered" status.  Although they have no natural enemies, manatees are routinely crushed or drowned in canal locks, run over by speeding boats or hurt by fishing line and hooks. They are vulnerable to cold water in winter and to deadly blooms of "red tide" algae.

Polar Bear Cubs at the Nuremberg Zoo

January 8, 2008  www.telegraph.co.uk  By Tom Chivers

Vilma, a female polar bear delivered 2 cubs in November.  Vera, delivered 1 cub in December. "Polar bears are very sensitive and normally reject the cubs as soon as they are disturbed," said Dr. Helmut Magdefrau, the deputy head of Nuremberg Zoo.  The German zoo has announced that it would be bottle-feeding Vera’s infant after Vilma apparently ate her two cubs.  "The safety of the young animal is the first priority," said deputy zoo director Helmut Maegdefrau of the decision to separate the cub from its mother. Vera's behavior was concerning her keepers.  Although she has not tried to harm the infant, it has been taken away as a precaution after she was seen carrying it out of her cave dwelling and trying to hide it elsewhere in the compound, said Maegdefrau, who described her as "nervous".  Although no attempts have been made to enter the caves and no cameras were installed Vilma’s missing cubs were probably killed and eaten by her because they were sick. 

Decline of Hector’s Dolphin Population

January 8, 2008  www.nzherald.co.nz

The hector's dolphin is the world's rarest dolphin. About 7000 remain, down from about 26,000 in the 1970s, when set nets began to be widely used.  Set nets are banned or heavily restricted in many countries worldwide, including Australia, the UK and USA.  Despite the ban, the number of hector's dolphins dying increased by two thirds in 2007.  The New Zealand Department of Conservation figures showed 25 hector's dolphins, which are an endangered species, were found dead in 2007, up from 15 in 2006.

Aye Aye Born at Bristol Zoo

January 8, 2008  news.bbc.co.uk

Two-month-old Raz, an aye aye and the second of the species to be born in Britain, is being hand-raised at the Bristol Zoo.  Four keepers are feeding him every 2 hours.  Caroline Brown, said: "We made the decision to hand- rear this infant in advance of his birth because his mother has not had much success rearing her babies. "So far he is gaining weight and seems strong. Aye ayes are quite slow- developing babies and require an intensive feeding regime."  The first aye aye born in captivity was also at Bristol Zoo Gardens in 2005, when keepers hand-reared a female called Kintana.  Once thought to be extinct, the aye aye is classified as endangered. Experts say there could be as few as 1,000 left.

Oversight of S.F. Zoo Questioned

January 8, 2008  www.sfgate.com  Wyatt Buchanan

San Francisco leaders are considering changes to the 15-year-old agreement that turned over control of the city's zoo to a nonprofit group, relinquishing the city's direct oversight of an institution that was facing the loss of its accreditation because of its deplorable condition. The agreement is up for renewal this year. As the agreement is now written, the city acts as the zoo's landlord by maintaining ownership of the animals and the property. The city gives a yearly $4.1 million "administrative fee" to the Zoological Society, which runs day-to-day zoo operations. The Zoological Society's 60 board directors meet and make decisions in private. Becoming one of those directors requires an annual donation of $10,000 plus a one-time, $50,000 payment to the zoo. The major function of the board is raising money for the zoo.  After the Zoological Society took over, city voters passed a $49 million bond issue in 1997, and the society board raised another $35 million in private donations for zoo improvements.  Zoo Director Manuel Mollinedo - who earns about $330,000 a year in salary and benefits - said a city takeover would cost taxpayers an additional $12 million to $15 million per year. Private donors and foundations are much more likely to donate to a nonprofit organization than a city-operated zoo, he said.

Beneficial Soil Ingestion in Chimpanzees

January 8, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

The deliberate ingestion of soil, or ‘geophagy’, has important health benefits for chimpanzees, according to Sabrina Krief and her colleagues from the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, France.  Far from being a dysfunctional behavior, geophagy has evolved as a practice for maintaining health.  In this particular study (1), to be published online this week in Springer’s journal Naturwissenschaften, geophagy increases the potency of ingested plants with anti-malarial properties. Although geophagy is widespread throughout the animal kingdom, in humans it is perceived as an aberration.  The paper looks at the consequences of soil ingestion on the health status of chimpanzees in the Kibale National Park in Uganda.  These chimpanzees have been observed to ingest soil shortly before or after consuming plant parts, such as the leaves of Trichilia rubescens, which have anti-malarial properties in the laboratory.

Zoo Inseminates Elephant Chai Again

January 8, 2008  seattlepi.nwsource.com  By KATHY MULADY

Woodland Park Zoo officials artificially inseminated Asian elephant, Chai over the weekend, ignoring concerns by animal rights activists that another baby could fall victim to the herpes virus that killed her first offspring, Hansa, last year. It is the fifth insemination attempt on Chai since Hansa was born in November 2000.  Elephant keepers expect to know by spring if Chai, 29, is pregnant. If the insemination takes, a baby elephant could be born in 22 months, the average gestation time. The semen came from a bull elephant who lives at the Tulsa Zoo and Living Museum in Oklahoma.  "The sperm in the semen sample were very healthy and robust, and the timing was excellent, giving Chai a very good chance at conception," said Nancy Hawkes, Woodland Park Zoo's general curator.  The 20-minute procedure was done while Chai was awake, munching on cantaloupe, apples and carrots to keep her occupied. A fourth Woodland Park Zoo elephant, Sri, went to the St. Louis Zoo in 2002 on a 10-year loan for breeding. Sri became pregnant, but the baby died before it was born, and she still carries the unborn body two years later. Zoo officials there say that isn't unusual for elephants.  Six-year-old Hansa, the first elephant born at Woodland Park Zoo, died in June from a previously unidentified strain of the herpes virus.

Revised Critical Habitat for Monterey Spineflower

January 9, 2008  www.epa.gov  

The USFWS is designating revised critical habitat for the threatened Monterey spineflower (Chorizanthe pungens var. pungens).  In total, approximately 11,055 acres (ac) (4,475 hectares (ha)) fall within the boundaries of this revised critical habitat designation. The revised critical habitat is located in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, California. The  rule becomes effective on February 8, 2008.

Zoo’s Support Elephant Conservation

January 9, 2008  www.aza.org 

The International Elephant Foundation (IEF) and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) today announced their support for 15 new elephant conservation projects for 2008, marking a record level of support.  IEF is a non-profit organization that supports and operates elephant conservation and education programs both in managed facilities and in the wild, with emphasis on management, protection and scientific research. IEF receives the majority of its funding from members of the AZA. For 2008, IEF will support the following elephant conservation projects:

Kalama Community Wildlife Conservancy: Community Conservation of Elephants in Northern Kenya
Prey Proseth Elephant Conservation Community, Cambodia

Enforcement of Poaching Control and Bush Meat Trade In and Around WAZA National Park, Cameroon
Lake George Marine Ranger Station: the Waterways Project, Uganda

Movement, Population Distribution and Social Dynamics of African Elephants in Kunene and Omusati Region of Namibia
Support for the core activities of Save The Elephants
Mahouts and Their Elephants Working as Conservation Response Units in Sumatra
Saving Elephants By Helping People, Sri Lanka
Building Capacities for Mitigating HEC in Buxa-Jaldapara Landscape, Northern West Bengal, India

Children and Elephants of Boromo Region, Burkina Faso
Direct Action Education: Cambodian Wild Elephant Conservation Materials, Cambodia
Support for GAJAH the publication of the IUCN/SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group (AsESG)

Lao Elephant Care and Management Program, Laos
Ultrasonographic and Endocrinological Characterization of Luteogenesis in Pregnant and Non-Pregnant Asian Elephants
Study to reduce elephant deaths caused by Endotheliotropic Elephant Herpes Virus (EEHV)

National Zoo Sells Ringtones

January 9, 2008  dcist.com

Friends Of the National Zoo (FONZ) has sent out a press release announcing the sale of National Zoo Animal Vocalization Ringtones. Oh, the zoomanity.  There are 25 animal vocalizations available for download, each for $2.99. All three of the Zoo's pandas are on offer, as well as the Sumatran tiger cub Soyono and other zoo animals like an African lion, cheetah, giant anteater, white-cheeked gibbon, golden lion tamarin, Grevy’s zebra, and an Asian small-clawed otter. Other wildlife ringtones are available by animals not featured at the Zoo courtesy of Conservation Calling, plus D.C.’s official bird, the wood thrush, and the state birds of Maryland (Baltimore oriole) and Virginia (Northern cardinal).

Cultural Differences in Chimpanzee Colonies

January 9, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

A team at primatologists at the University of Liverpool has now discovered that variations in behavior can be attributed to chimpanzees migrating to other colonies, proving that they build their ‘cultures’ in a similar way to humans. Dr Stephen Lycett, said “We knew there were behavioral differences between chimpanzee colonies, but it was assumed that young chimpanzees developed certain behavioral characteristics from the genes passed down from their parents. It was also thought that because behavior was dictated by biology, chimpanzees did not have a ‘culture’ in the same way that humans do.”  By looking at how chimpanzees prepare their food, the research team discovered that one colony used stone tools to crack nuts, whereas another colony used wooden tools as well as stone. They found these methods of preparing food have spread 4000km from East to West Africa over the more than 100,000 years. The team also found this true of other techniques, such as grooming. The research suggests that behavioural variety is due to how chimpanzees socialise rather than genetics as previously thought.  To investigate the theory further researchers built an evolutionary tree of chimpanzee behaviour in East and West Africa as well as a genetic family tree. They had expected to find that those with similar genetic patterns also shared behavioural similarities. Instead, they found that some chimpanzees shared behavioural similarities with those that were genetically different from them.

Siberian Jay’s Communication Study

January 9, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Uppsala University Researcher, Michael Griesser recently published the results of a study on Siberian Jays in the journal Current Biology.  His study demonstrates that the Siberian Jays have different alarm calls for hawks that are sitting, searching for prey, or attacking. With the help of a playback experiment in which he played the various alarm calls for Siberian jays, he was able to demonstrate that the alarm call is sufficient to get Siberian jays to evince a situation-specific fleeing behavior.  Upon hearing the call that is given for sitting hawks, they fly up to the tops of trees and look for the hawk. The attack call prompts them to flee to the closest refuge as quickly as possible and then to start to look for the hawk. Playing the call that is given for hawks searching for prey gets the jays to flee to the nearest refuge and stay there without moving, for several minutes, to avoid being discovered by the hawk.  “These findings show for the first time that animals can assess and communicate about the behavior of their predators, and that not only mammals but also birds have developed advanced communication systems.” said Griesser.

How High Can Tigers Jump?

January 9, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com  By Adam Goldman, A.P.

The AZA may adjust its 16.4-foot wall-height recommendation for tigers once it learns fully what happened in San Francisco, according to spokesperson Steve Feldman.  Animal experts say they aren't aware of any hard numbers about the precise leaping ability of tigers. They said it depends on the animal and whether it has been taunted, as may have happened in the San Francisco tragedy. In an incident at a national park in Nepal in 1974, an enraged Bengal tiger protecting her cubs mauled a researcher who had climbed into a tree. The tiger managed to climb onto a 15-foot-high limb.  “She just went right up and she didn't have much to hold onto. She clearly made that jump without much problem,” said Melvin Sunquist, professor of wildlife ecology at the University of Florida and a tiger expert. Dale Miquelle, director of  the Wildlife Conservation Society's program in Russia, said he has seen tigers do many unusual things, such as climbing to the top of large trees when incensed – something tigers don't normally do.  “What animals normally do, and what they can do, are often very different things,” Miquelle said.  The AZA said it has 216 accredited members with 258 tigers among them. Only five of them were born in the wild, and tigers in captivity generally cannot jump as high as those that are in top condition from hunting in the wild.  Louis Dorfman, an animal behaviorist and chairman of the International Exotic Animal Sanctuary in Texas, oversees 24 tigers at his sanctuary, including an 11-year-old Bengal-Siberian tiger that weighs about 550 pounds and extends about 11 feet paw-to-paw when it stretches like a housecat.  Dorfman said his tigers have never tried to scale their fences, but warned: “With provocation, they're capable of unbelievable aggression and power.  Zoo visitors running back and forth can resemble prey to a tiger. Throwing objects at a tiger or dangling something can also trigger its predatory instincts.

Restoring California Fisher Populations

January 10, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

ARCATA, Calif.—U.S. Forest Service and U.C. Santa Barbara scientists believe they have identified the habitat needs for Pacific fishers, a rare California mammal that is a candidate for reintroduction efforts and listing under the Endangered Species Act.  Their findings were published in the current edition of Ecological Applications and focused on the state’s two remaining fisher populations.  Fishers are weasel-like mammals weighing 4 to 13 pounds that have declined the past 150 years because of trapping, logging and fires. They were once found in much of the West, but now only live in parts of California, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. Remnant populations in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains live more than 250 miles from the nearest populations in northwestern California.  Dr. Frank Davis of U.C. Santa Barbara led the research, which compared where fishers now live in California and the environmental factors influencing their distribution. The information is critical because California Department of Fish and Game managers are considering reintroducing the secretive carnivore to parts of the state.

2 Barbary Lions Born at Belfast Zoo

January 10, 2008  news.bbc.co.uk

Two male Barbary lion cubs were recently born at the Belfast Zoo.  Barbary lions are extinct in the wild and there are only about 40 in various zoos in Europe.  Fewer than 100 reside in zoos around the world.  The cubs' parents, Qays and Fidda, arrived at Belfast Zoo in July 2005 and the this is their second litter.  Last June,  Lily was born but was rejected by her mother and had to be hand-reared.  She now shares an enclosure with a dog to encourage her to abandon her bond with humans.  It is hoped she can join the lion enclosure later this year.  The last confirmed Barbary Lion was shot in Morocco in 1921.

Mojave Fringe-Toed Lizard Finding

January 10, 2008  www.epa.gov

The USFWS announces that a petition to list the Amargosa River population of the Mojave fringe-toed lizard (Uma scoparia) in the State of California as threatened or endangered presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that listing this population may be warranted. Therefore, we are initiating a status review of the Amargosa River population of the Mojave fringe-toed lizard, and we will issue a 12-month finding on our determination as to if the petitioned action is warranted. To be considered in the 12-month finding for this petition, comments and information must reach us by March 10, 2008. You may submit comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov By U.S. mail or hand-delivery to : Public Comments Processing, Attn: RIN 1018-AV02; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.  E-mail or faxes will not be accepted.  All comments will be posted on: http://www.regulations.gov 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Diane Noda, Field Supervisor, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2493 Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, CA 93003; telephone 805-644-1766 ext. 319; facsimile 805-644-3958. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.

Philadelphia Researchers Study Guam’s Kingfishers

January 10, 2008  www.pacificnewscenter.com

Philadelphia Zoo researchers are now on Guam to study endangered species on the island. Lead researcher,  Mary Jane Mabuti said they hope to educate Guam's school children about endangered species.  The researchers are particularly interested in helping the wild kingfishers.  In the 1980s, the Philadelphia Zoo took part in an emergency rescue operation to save the last 29 wild kingfishers from extinction on Guam.

“Mutualism” Study in the African Ecosystem

January 10, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Acacias, common across the sub-Saharan African savannah, have swollen thorns that serve as nests for three species of biting ants. Healthy trees have hundreds of the thorns, and more than 100,000 ants per tree. Both the ants and the trees benefit from their close cohabitation – a phenomenon  known as mutualism. The ants get the thorny shelters, as well as nectar they collect from the bases of Acacia leaves. Because the ants swarm in defense against herbivores, the trees get protection from browsing animals like giraffes and elephants.  A recent study in the journal Science by Todd Palmer of the U of Florida found that certain Acacias in central Kenya, which had been fenced off from wild herbivores, looked sickly compared with their unfenced counterparts.  He also noticed that the sickly trees appeared to have fewer thorn nests, so he began measuring the differences of  trees in six experimentally fenced plots and six open plots. The observations confirmed the fenced trees had fewer swollen thorns. The research also revealed that the fenced trees had fewer active “nectaries” at the base of leaves where the ants sip the trees’ nectar. Ants inhabiting the fenced trees  were far less defensive than their counterparts on the unfenced trees.  Without mammals around to eat the trees, sheltering fewer, less aggressive ants would not present a cost to the trees. To the contrary, the trees would seem to be better off, because they would not need to use their resources to support the ants.  But the research revealed that the fewer colonies of weakened ants become less able to defend their territory from another species of ant that, unlike the others, does not have a mutually beneficial relationship with Acacias. Instead, this fourth ant species feeds away from the tree and does not protect it from attackers – in fact, it actually encourages a destructive, wood-boring beetle whose cavities then serve as this ant’s home.

Famous Santa Barbara Giraffe Dies

January 10, 2008  www.knbc.com

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- Gemina the "crooked-necked giraffe," one of the Santa Barbara Zoo's most recognizable and beloved animals, was euthanized Wednesday. "We observed a decline in her appetite over the past two weeks and she had stopped eating all together," said Alan Varsik, the Zoo's Director of Animal Programs and Conservation. A necropsy has been performed, though the results will not be available for several weeks, zoo officials said in a statement.
Click here to find out more!  It is believed that her final ailment was not related to her neck condition, officials said. "Though a few giraffes in captivity have been known to live into their late-20s, reaching age 21 is considered an achievement," said Rich Block, zoo CEO and director. "She was a great animal ambassador, showing that differences can be accepted and even celebrated. She will be missed."  Gemina was born July 16, 1986, at the San Diego Wild Animal Park to Ginger and Black Jack, who were both born at the San Diego Zoo.  She has lived at the Santa Barbara Zoo since she was approximately 1 year old, zoo officials said in a statement. Her condition began around age 3 and has developed over the years, though the cause is unknown.  A humorous, zoo-produced video about Gemina was created at that time and can be viewed on the Zoo's Web site, SBZOO.org.  The Web site also has a place for the public to post remembrances about Gemina and to make donations in her memory.

Mangrove Removal from San Diego Wildlife Preserve

January 10, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com  By Mike Lee

Non-native mangrove plants were thought to have been eradicated nearly a decade ago from a Mission Bay salt marsh, but on Saturday, volunteers will be attempting to get rid of them again. Many of the city's natural spaces, are filled with “invasives” such as arundo donax, pampas grass and other species.  Cities nationwide, because of their highly disturbed landscapes offer abundant footholds for imported plants, and San Diego’s mild climate, allows almost anything to grow.  The result is less available habitat for native birds and other animals.  In San Diego, the Sierra Club's Canyons Campaign has helped connect residents and volunteers to more than two dozen open spaces in the city. One of its primary activities is arresting the advance of invasives, some of which are considered ornamental plants by residents. Eric Bowlby, leader of the Canyons program says “It can be a rather futile effort if it's not done as part of a comprehensive plan for restoration in a given region.”  One ongoing theme for the Sierra Club and others is educating gardeners about plants to avoid – including ice plant, a succulent that commonly escapes from cultivated areas and spreads rapidly. “We'll always be pulling weeds if we don't get rid of the seed sources,” Bowlby said.  Isabelle Kay, manager of the University of California San Diego's habitat reserves, figured the mangroves were gone from the Mission Bay salt marsh years ago. But thousands of the plants have since taken root in the soft soils of the city-owned Northern Wildlife Preserve near the university's natural area and Campland on the Bay.  The infestation “changes the ecosystem in a lot of different ways,” Kay said. “Instead of having a wetland meadow with grasses . . . we now have a little forest.” One problem is that mangrove bushes create attractive but dangerous nesting spots for an endangered bird, the light-footed clapper rail. Nests built in mangroves get caught in the branches when the tide rises, instead of floating freely up and down on native grasses.  UCSD’s latest attack on the mangroves is powered by a $21,600 grant from the Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project, and help from Audubon Society volunteers and Aquatic Adventures, a science education group. 

10 Worst Zoos For Elephants

January 11, 2008  www.newspapertree.com

The International Defense of Animals claims to be an international animal rescue and advocacy organization based in San Rafael, CA.  Each year they publish a “Top Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants” list. This is the first year it has been compiled with public input through internet voting, Of seven elephants who died at AZA-accredited zoos in 2007, at least four suffered from arthritis and chronic foot disorders, caused by lack of space and inadequate, unnatural zoo exhibits. Among the worst cases: Clara at the St. Louis Zoo and Carol at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. Both elephants were euthanized after becoming crippled and debilitated by excruciating foot and joint disease. A deadly infectious disease that is spreading through the U.S. zoo population claimed the lives of two more young elephants in zoos in 2007. The deaths of Hansa (age 6) at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle and Nisha (age 16 months) at the Dickerson Park Zoo in Missouri prompted IDA to demand that zoos stop breeding Asian elephants and adopt strict limits on transfers between zoos. The list is at http://www.idausa.org/news/currentnews/nr_080109.html

NYC Plans to Clone Historic Trees

January 11, 2008  www.nytimes.com

Agriculture students from a Queens high school are sending 6- to 12-inch sections of new growth, from the upper branches of historic Central Park trees to a scientific tree nursery in eastern Oregon. If all goes well, the genetic-match saplings will return in two years to be replanted as part of the ''Million Trees NYC'' project announced last year. The target trees, five in each of New York's five boroughs, include nine different species. All were selected by borough foresters as historical for having existed for at least a century -- either as fixtures of the urban landscape or as having special significance to local communities.  Among them is what may be the city's oldest tree, the St. Nicholas elm in upper Manhattan, which George Washington is said to have walked under 230 years ago during the American Revolution.  Partners in the cloning effort include the Central Park Conservancy, a private group that manages the 840-acre park; Bartlett Tree Experts, a Connecticut-based company that has tree care contracts in New York, 25 other states, Canada, England and Ireland; the nonprofit Tree Fund and the Coleman Co., a camping equipment maker whose coolers will be used to ship the cuttings to Oregon.

Proposed Endangered Status for Black Abalone

January 11, 2008  www.epa.gov

The NMFS, have completed a review of the status of black abalone (Haliotis cracherodii) and have concluded that the species is in danger of extinction throughout all of its range and are proposing to list the species as endangered under the ESA. This proposal is based on information indicating that: the disease known as withering syndrome has spread to areas throughout the range of the species, has been responsible for the local extirpation of populations
throughout a large part of the species' range, and threatens remaining black abalone populations; low adult densities below the critical threshold density required for successful fertilization exist throughout a large part of the species' range; and, a number of interacting factors (e.g., suboptimal water temperatures, reduced genetic diversity, and illegal harvest) may further hamper natural recovery of the species. A critical habitat designation is being considered and may be proposed in a subsequent Federal Register notice. If the proposed listing is finalized, a recovery plan will be prepared and implemented.  Comments on this proposal must be received by April 10, 2008. You may submit comments, identified by [RIN 0648-AW32] via the Federal eRulemaking Portal http://www.regulations.gov   Facsimile (fax): 562-980-4027, Attn: Melissa Neuman.  Or mail to: Chief, Protected Resources Division, Southwest Region, National Marine Fisheries Service, 501 West Ocean Blvd., Suite 4200, Long Beach, CA 90802-4213. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted to http://www.regulations.gov   We will accept anonymous comments. Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only.   A draft black abalone status review report and other reference materials regarding this determination can be obtained via the Internet at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov

S.F. Braces for ‘Circus’ at Public Hearing on Tiger Attack

January 11, 2008  www.sfgate.com  By Steve Rubenstein and John Coté

San Francisco is holding a public meeting today at City Hall on the fatal Christmas Day tiger mauling.  After hearing from zoo supporters and critics the Park Commissioners and Joint Zoo Committee will confer with their lawyers to try to figure out what to do about the biggest crisis in the zoo's 79-year-history.  Meanwhile, across the street, attorneys for the city, the zoo and the two tiger-attack survivors will fight over potential evidence that might help explain why the Siberian tiger jumped out of her outdoor exhibit, killing a 17-year-old San Jose boy and injuring two of his friends.  The San Francisco city attorney has asked that the survivors - Paul Dhaliwal, 19, and his 23-year-old brother, Kulbir - agree to an inspection of their cell phones and the car they took to the zoo. A Superior Court commissioner has ordered that the evidence be kept by police at least until today's hearing.

Near-escapes of Snow Leopard and Polar Bear at San Francisco Zoo

January 11, 2008  www.sfgate.com 

The safety of visitors and workers at the San Francisco Zoo continues to be called into question, as new information surfaces today that a polar bear and snow leopard came close to escaping from their enclosures over the past week.  Several zookeepers have told The Chronicle that a female polar bear scaled the wall of her enclosure on Jan. 3, nearly escaping and prompting the zoo to raise the height of the exhibit wall the next day. A week later on Thursday, a snow leopard chewed through a temporary enclosure, according to a zoo spokesman.  Zoo officials today disputed the keepers' characterization of the incidents, saying the wild animals were acting normally and that neither posed a threat to zookeepers or the public.  Several zookeepers told The Chronicle today that the latest incidents made them fearful for their safety and called into question whether visitors are safe.  Zoo spokesman Sam Singer confirmed this morning that a 100-pound male snow leopard named Ghurka ripped a 4-inch hole in a mesh cage Thursday and stuck its paw and part of its head through the gash. The incident occurred as a zookeeper was attempting to move the 7-year-old animal, which was born at the zoo, from one enclosure to another. Singer said the snow leopard never posed a serious threat to the zookeeper or any threat to the public.  More frightening perhaps was the near-escape of a female polar bear named Ulu, according to sources. Ulu is the zoo's only wild-born polar bear and is considered too unpredictable to be kept with the zoo's two other polar bears.  Separate zookeepers have told The Chronicle that the animal, which weighs more than 600 pounds, nearly climbed over a wall of her exhibit after zoo officials pelted her with empty tranquilizer darts in a misguided effort to harass her into a night enclosure. The incident happened around 9 p.m. the night before last week's major storm. The bear's keepers were not called in to help, the sources said.  Ulu was forced back down the exhibit wall by officials who turned a fire hose on her, the sources said. She had never scaled the wall before, the sources said. Reached by phone this morning, Singer denied that the polar bear had attempted to escape. He attributed the story to normal wild animal behavior.

Baby Orangutan Reunites with Mother at Como Zoo 

January 11, 2008  www.twincities.com  BY RICHARD CHIN

Markisa, a 20-year-old orangutan at the Como Zoo, gave birth Dec. 13 via Caesarean section, the first primate C-section at the zoo and one of only a handful of orangutan C-sections worldwide. Markisa's water broke after 8˝ months of pregnancy. When she didn't deliver in the normal four hours of an orangutan labor, she was taken to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center, where U vets performed the C-section with the assistance of OB-GYN doctors from the U Children's Hospital. The male baby had fluid in his lungs and stopped breathing shortly after birth but was successfully resuscitated, and responded to treatment that would be used on a human infant.  Veterinarians also used human medicine to keep Markisa lactating so she could breastfeed her infant after she recovered. Three days after birth, the baby was brought back to the zoo where Zookeepers took 3-hour shifts to hold the new baby 24 hours a day for 11 days. They wore orange, furry vests so the new baby could cling to them, and did not talk or sing to him, which was the hardest part of the job. Gradually, the baby was reintroduced to Markisa, and on Christmas Day, she successfully began to nurse him. Zookeepers said they believe the reintroduction of the baby to its mother after a C-section was done in record time. They said that in the eight other known orangutan C-section births worldwide, the reintroduction process has taken up to several months.  Zoo officials believe the transition went well because Markisa - who had a stillbirth in 2005 - was herself raised by orangutan parents. And eight years ago, she saw another orangutan at the zoo give birth and raise an offspring.

Spinal Surgery for Woodland Park Baby Gorilla

January 11, 2008  www.bellinghamherald.com

SEATTLE -- Surgeons from Children's Hospital helped veterinarians at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle remove an infected cyst near the spine of a baby gorilla.  Doctors found the 3-month-old gorilla has mild spina bifida, but that is not expected to be a concern as she grows older.  The Children's Hospital experts donated their time, and the Integra Life Sciences company donated nearly $60,000 worth of medical instruments.  Her recovery is expected to take up to two weeks. After the hour-long operation the baby, who has not been named, was returned to her mother, Amanda, and began nursing. Zookeepers painted Amanda's nails red so she would be distracted and pick her nails instead of the baby's incision.

Protection for Mojave Fringe-toed Lizard

January 11, 2008  www.lvrj.com  By KEITH ROGERS

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a conservation group, the Center for Biological Diversity, made separate announcements Thursday stating the Amargosa River population of the Mojave fringe-toed lizard will undergo an in-depth review for listing under the act as called for in a petition filed by the center.  The population of interest exists in the Amargosa River area of San Bernardino County, Calif. The river originates in Nye County, Nev.  Federal wildlife biologists also found that the center's assertion of the lizard's Amargosa River population being "a distinct and separate population" may be warranted, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service states.  The Center for Biological Diversity blamed the lizard's demise on off-road vehicle traffic allowed by the Bureau of Land Management in a pair of sand dunes that comprise 98 percent of its range. The dunes are popular among off-roaders in the Southwest.  The smooth-skinned lizard, with a body up to 4 inches long and a tail the same length, lives in three dunes in and adjacent to Death Valley National Park. Its largest habitat is Dumont Dunes, which along with Ibex Dune comprise most of its range.  The center's statement quotes University of Toronto zoology professor Robert W. Murphy as saying the discovery of the lizard's Amargosa River population "as genetically very distinct was completely unanticipated."


January 11, 2008  online.wsj.com  By June Fletcher

An offshoot of the fashionable green movement, ‘Biomimicry’, as an industry and scientific discipline is so new that analysts don't cover it and universities are just beginning to teach it. Interdisciplinary university programs are springing up here and abroad -- from six in the U.S. two years ago to 19 today, according to the Biomimicry Institute, a Missoula, Mont.-based nonprofit educational group. "It's a place for biologists, chemists, engineers and architects to learn to talk to one another -- and they normally don't," says biology professor Jeannette Yen, who directs the Center for Biologically Inspired Design at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.  Her colleagues and students are looking into making decorative panels that can change color like an octopus and robots that can sense nearby objects without touching them, much like fish swimming in schools. Applications under development in other universities and private labs range from pipes with interiors that replicate shark skin, so water will flow faster, to superstrong tape that copies the action of a gecko, which clings to surfaces through the molecular attraction of the tiny hairs on its feet.  Much of this activity was inspired by the Biomimicry Institute's founder, natural-history writer Janine Benyus, who conducts seminars with manufacturers and trade groups. Ms. Benyus christened the movement in 1997 with the publication of her book "Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature." A year later, she founded the institute as well as the Biomimicry Guild, a consulting firm that takes product designers and biologists to Central and South American jungles to observe how nature solves problems. Over billions of years, she says, organisms have evolved elegant solutions to challenges similar to ones designers face. "The answers are all around us," she says.

The San Diego Zoo Measures Tiger Fencing

January 12, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com  By Jeanette Steele

One zoo industry guideline for tiger fencing is 16.4 feet.  At the San Diego Zoo, officials want to make sure Tiger River fences are 16 feet high. Even then, they would be just shy of what the guideline calls for.  Over the next few weeks,  workers at the Balboa Park zoo and the zoo's Wild Animal Park will measure the fences.  The zoo's Tiger River attraction is believed to have wire fences that go 12 feet straight up, topped by a 4-foot section that angles inward. Another part of the exhibit has a 20-foot sheer cement wall.  At the WAP, the tiger fencing is supposed to be at least 13 feet tall, with a five-foot angled top section. The San Diego Zoo says it meets national standards for animal safety.  But it has become clear since the San Francisco incident that those benchmarks include few hard numbers.  The Wild Animal Park endured its own tiger escape in 1992, when heavy rain created a gully under Bali the tiger's fence. The Sumatran tiger scrambled out and was about 100 feet from the park's back gate when two workers shot him dead. After that, the park shored up the enclosure with extra concrete to prevent future washouts

Columbus Zoo Buys Python for $35,000

January 12, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com 

The Columbus Zoo paid $35,000 to a snake breeder in Oklahoma to keep a 24 foot reticulated python named Fluffy, on permanent display. Billed as the longest snake in captivity,  last year the python helped draw 1.53 million visitors, just under the zoo's attendance record of 1.56 million set in 2006, said Pete  Fluffy is about as thick as a telephone pole and is on display in a 25-foot enclosure with a pool and a few plants.  She eats two 10-pound rabbits each week. Bob Clark, a breeder from Oklahoma City raised her from a hatchling and claims she is quite tame. The largest known reticulated python, was 32 feet, 9 1/2 inches when killed in 1912 in Indonesia.

Conserving India’s Hoolock Gibbon

January 12, 2008  www.thedailystar.net

BANGLADESH -- The IUCN Red Data Book identifies eight of the 10 species of primates in Bangladesh as endangered and the hoolock gibbon, locally known as ulluk, is considered critically endangered. A seminar entitled 'Hoolock Gibbon Conservation in Bangladesh' was organized by the Wildlife Trust of Bangladesh to urge the government to formulate a national hoolock gibbon conservation policy.  Speakers said there are now less than 300 hoolock gibbons in the country and special action is needed to conserve the species by protecting their habitats.  A team of US wildlife researchers led by Dr Eliot Haymof with the support of Wildlife Trust of Bangladesh (WTB) recently made a documentary on the endangered species of hoolock gibbon at Lawachhara Reserve Forest in Moulvibazar district.  The researchers found that there are 57 Hoolock Gibbons in the forest, living in 14 separate groups.  Sources in WTB said there are 282 Hoolock Gibbons in the country, whereas the number was more than 3000 just 20 years ago.  Today, Hoolock Gibbons are found in only four countries, Bangladesh, India, Malaysia and China, with only 500 of the species surviving, they added.

Public Hearing Calls for SF Zoo Review

January 12, 2008  www.sfgate.com  By Wyatt Buchanan

A public hearing called by S.F. Mayor Gavin Newsom provided a chance for scores of people, many of them zoo volunteers, to express their thoughts on the tiger incident December 25th, and to discuss possible changes in zoo management. The commission passed a motion calling for a review of previous zoo audits and for the city controller to conduct a financial and performance review of the zoo. The motion also called for zoo administrators to be more involved with the management of the Recreation and Parks Department, to create an emergency plan with police and fire officials and to create a plan for increasing lighting and cameras at the zoo. The zoo's administration was also charged with improving relationships with employees. Nick Podell, the president of the Zoological Society, defended the zoo and Mollinedo.

Florida Teaching Zoo Helps Puerto Rican Primates

January 12,  2008  www.thevillagesdailysun.com   By PATRICIA STEELE

BUSHNELL — The Florida Teaching Zoo, based in Bushnell, is the new home to 30 patas monkeys. Veterinarian Mark Wilson, who operates the zoo said “We’ve been working with the National Zoo in Mayaquez, Puerto Rico, for years, developing a breeding program to protect and expand the gene pool.”  Patas monkeys are threatened in their native Africa where they are hunted for food, but they have been “introduced” to Puerto Rico where, their population has exploded, causing major problems for agriculture.  The monkeys are very social and live and travel in groups as large as 50.  They live in the mountains, but cross main highways and raid the fields of pineapples, plantains or whatever crop is convenient, and farmers are calling for their extermination.  Wilson plans to develop three groups of monkeys in his teaching zoo. He wants to have different ages and social levels represented so the animals will learn from one another.  His  goal is to have a facility open to the public, which will feature the patas monkeys, elephants, black jaguars, and several other big cats and a variety of birds. The facility will be similar to the Marion Nature Park, which he operated for several years. “I am limiting the facility to about eight species of exotic or endangered animals and birds,” Wilson said. Wilson would like to bring at least 300 patas monkeys to his facility so he can find new homes for them, but it will take time.

Update on S.F. Zoo Tiger, Tatiana

January 12, 2008  www.mercurynews.com  By Linda Goldston

Tatiana, a Siberian tiger and two littermates were born at the Denver Zoo in 2003. Tatiana was the smallest of the litter but the dominant cub. Tatiana's parents and her brother are still at the Denver Zoo, while her sister, Mariette, is at Henry Villas Zoo in Madison, Wisconsin.  Daily logs from Denver were released this week as part of a public records request - Tatiana's first recorded weight was 9 lbs 9 oz; she was highly intelligent and was trained to stay calm during vaccinations.  She was also trained to respond to "down," "sit" and "up." One of only 147 Siberian tigers in North American accredited zoos, she was moved to the San Francisco Zoo on December 15, 2005 to breed with 15-year-old Tony.  Although they had mated several times, there were no cubs produced. Her necropsy report indicated three bullet wounds and a weight of 243 pounds. There are only 300-400 Siberian tigers left in the wild, according to the most recent census, said Ron Tilson, who runs AZA’s tiger breeding program.  After Tatiana was killed by police, the zoo started receiving e-mails, letters and donations from around the world; some to remember their favorite tiger, some to honor an endangered species or volunteer at the zoo in her memory. The zoo's "Adopt An Animal" fundraising program already had 200 Siberian tiger "zoo parents," but several more asked to join after Tatiana's death. 

Houston Zoo Hosts Texas Wildlife Diversity Conference

January 13, 2008  www.jaspernewsboy.com

The 2008 Texas Wildlife Diversity Conference will focus on implementation of the Texas Wildlife Action Plan and the status of non-game research.  A unique session on Texas Plant Communities dedicated to developing a process to expand the Texas Native Plant Conservation Plan, which currently exists as only an outline.  Scheduled for Jan.17 through Jan. 19, 2008, the former Nature Conservancy of Texas Director and incoming Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Executive Director Carter Smith will both attend.

Nuremberg Zoo’s Baby Polar Bear Update

January 14, 2008  abcnews.go.com  By CHRISTEL KUCHARZ

PASSAU, Germany -- More than 15,000 e-mails arrived at the Nuremberg zoo this weekend with suggestions for a name for the tiny polar bear cub that is being hand-reared there. Zoo officials had initially determined not to interfere with the upbringing, but decided last week to separate the 5-week-old polar bear cub from its mother amid concern that the mother bear might harm or even kill the cub.  Two cubs of another polar bear in the same zoo had been killed by their mother earlier last week and the zoo had come under a barrage of criticism for not preventing that from happening.  The cub now weighs about 85.5 ounces, she's getting a mix of sweet corn syrup and milk and it looks like she's adapting remarkedly well. Mother Vera also seems to have calmed down and is doing better, overcoming the separation from her cub.  The city of Nuremberg, which owns the zoo, published two links  www.tiergarten.nuernberg.de and www.eisbaer.nuernberg.de — and more than 1.1 million people have visited them this weekend.  Animal rights activist Juergen Ortmuller has filed a complaint with legal authorities claiming the zoo has violated European animal welfare laws because, he says, hand-rearing a polar bear cub interferes with Mother Nature.

Dolphin Dies at Brookfield Zoo

January 14, 2008 www.chicagotribune.com 

Micco, a 6-year-old Atlantic bottlenose dolphin at Brookfield Zoo, died Sunday, apparently of complications from a respiratory infection.  When he stopped eating normally in December, he was put on antibiotics and other medicine.  Although his appetite seemed to improve, he became worse this weekend died as trainers and animal-care staff examined him to determine the cause of his illness. Trainers administered CPR and heart stimulants but could not revive the dolphin. The initial postmortem report indicated a severe infection in his trachea. Respiratory ailments are the No. 1 cause of death in dolphins, both in captivity and in the wild. "We suspect that it was a fungus," said Kim Smith, vice president of animal care.  Micco was one of Brookfield's eight dolphins, a group that includes Micco's mother, Kaylee, 14, and grandmother, Tapeko, 25.

Tourism or Hunting in Kenya

January 14, 2008  www.economist.com

Although Kenya has a number of nature reserves, most of its wildlife lives on privately owned land, where killing or exporting these animals has been banned since 1977. The International Livestock Research Institute estimates that the African wildlife hunting industry might be worth some $600m annually.  Landowners currently make around $5 per hectare per year from their wildlife.  Some rent an area for wildlife-viewing to a single tour company, and may average $10 per hectare. In the Mara area, rents can be as much as $50 per hectare. However, in 95% of the land where wildlife is found, it nets landowners no money at all.  While tourism is popular in Kenya, there are few incentives for people to protect wildlife rather than turn their land over to agriculture. [Example: If one owned a goat, but was not allowed to use it in any way: no slaughter, no milk, meat or skin; if breaking these laws meant risking death or imprisonment; and if  the only way of making money out of the goat would be if a passing bus with a load of tourists happened to drive past and photograph it, not many people would keep goats.  It is no wonder that despite millions spent to conserve Kenya’s wildlife, stock has declined by 70% since 1977. More than half of the most productive rangelands in Kenya, which used to hold most of the country’s wildlife, have been converted to agricultural production. Rich-country conservationists need to be less squeamish about killing animals. They ought to support developing countries’ efforts to create incentives for their landowners to protect wildlife.

UPS Foundation Funds Louisville Zoo Education

January 14, 2008  www.bizjournals.com 

The Louisville Zoo has received a $100,000 grant from The UPS Foundation, the philanthropic arm of package shipper United Parcel Service Inc.  The funding will be used to support School at the Zoo, a week-long educational program for middle school students that uses the zoo as a classroom.  More than 5,600 students have participated in School at the Zoo since it began in 1999.  The program covers curriculum such as animal behavior, life cycles, classification, ecosystems, food webs and organisms.  The UPS Foundation has been supporting the Louisville Zoo since 1992 and School at the Zoo since 2003, the release said.

Permits for Sea Turtle Research

January 14, 2008  www.epa.gov

The NMFS has completed a draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) on the Issuance of Endangered Species Act Permits for Scientific Research on Endangered and Threatened Sea Turtles in the North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. The PEA is available for review upon at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/esa_review.htm Written comments should be mailed to the Chief, Permits, Conservation and Education Division, F/PR1, NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Room 13705, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Comments may also be submitted by facsimile at (301)427-2521, provided the facsimile is confirmed by hard copy submitted by mail and postmarked no later than the closing date of the comment period. Comments may also be submitted by e-mail to: NMFS.Pr1Comments@noaa.gov Include in the subject line of the e-mail comment the following document identifier: Sea Turtle Programmatic EA.  For further information contact: Patrick Opay, Amy Hapeman, or Kate Swails, (301)713-2289.  Comments must be received on or before February 13, 2008.

Study on the “Ecology” of Parasite Infection

January 15, 2008   www.eurekalert.org

Research published today (15 January) in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that the same community ecology principles that determine how different animal species affect each other’s population sizes through competition and predation also affect parasite species interacting within the microcosm of a single host.  The research has important implications for treating many human and animal infections, including malaria and viruses. These infections rarely occur singularly and the research at the University of Edinburgh suggests that a range of drugs used to treat infection by parasitic worms may alter the effectiveness of anti-malarial and anti-viral treatments by affecting the level of competition among parasite species. The research, conducted by Dr Andrea Graham, a BBSRC David Phillips Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, examined data from a large number of animal studies of coinfection. A microparasite infection such as malaria often occurs in people already suffering from other parasites, such as worms. The research shows that these multiple infections affect each other by competing for host nutrients or by generating an impaired immune system response. The effect is the same as if a large herd of wildebeest started to eat all the available food in an area of the Serengeti. Analogously, the study found that if a host was suffering from a worm infection that caused a reduction in a nutrient needed by another parasite in the body at the same time, the second parasite would be reduced in number. Conversely, if a worm infection suppressed the immune response, other parasites would explode in numbers, just as zebras would rapidly breed in the absence of lions.

White House Honors Brookfield Zoo

January 15, 2008  www.chicagotribune.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. -  The Brookfield Zoo was among 10 institutions presented Monday with the National Medal for Museum and Library Service by First Lady Laura Bush at the White House. The annual awards, given by the Institute of Museum and Library Services in Washington, D.C., honor institutions for their collections and community involvement, and include a $10,000 award. The Chicago Zoological Society, which operates the Brookfield Zoo, was honored for programs such as Zoo Adventure Passport, which provides free field trips to low-income families. 

Rwanda’s First National Conservation Park

January 15, 2008  www.greatapetrust.org

DES MOINES, Iowa, USA – January 14, 2008 – The Rwandan government, Great Ape Trust of Iowa and Earthpark have announced that the Gishwati Forest Reserve is the future site of the Rwanda National Conservation Park.  The Gishwati Forest, in Rwanda’s Western Province, was deforested in the 1980s by agricultural development and in the 1990s during the resettlement of people following the civil war and genocide.  Human encroachment, deforestation, grazing and the introduction of small-scale farming resulted in extensive soil erosion, flooding, landslides and reduced water quality – as well as the isolation of a small population of chimpanzees. Following meetings with MINITERE, REMA, NAFA, the Rwanda office for Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN), the National University of Rwanda, the Wildlife Conservation Society and Great Ape Trust, four goals were established for the Gishwati project:
    * Create Rwanda National Conservation Park, defined as conservation of biodiversity in an extensively degraded landscape, populated with low-income small-scale agriculturalists.
    * Restore ecosystem services in the form of improved water quality, reduced soil erosion and flooding, fewer landslides and increased sequestration of carbon.
    * Restore natural biodiversity with special emphasis on chimpanzees as a keystone and flagship species.
    * Generate income through ecotourism, investment opportunity and local employment.
Once the second-largest indigenous forest in Rwanda, Gishwati extended 1,0002 km (100,000 hectares or 250,000 acres) in the early 1900s.  By the late 1980s, Gishwati was about one-fourth its original size. Resettlement by refugees following the 1994 genocide reduced the forest to about 62 km (600 hectares or 1,500 acres). Reforestation efforts during the past several years have increased Gishwati’s forest to approximately 102 km (1,000 hectares or 2,500 acres).

Monkey Malaria Found in Humans

January 15, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

A study published today in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, confirms that a potentially fatal species of malaria is being commonly misdiagnosed as a more benign form of the disease, thereby putting lives at risk.  Funded by the Wellcome Trust and the University Malaysia Sarawak, researchers in Malaysia studied more than 1,000 samples from malaria patients across the country using DNA-based technology.  They found that more than one in four patients in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo, were infected with Plasmodium knowlesi, a malaria parasite of macaque monkeys. Infections were most often misdiagnosed as the normally uncomplicated human malaria caused by P. malariae.  Until recently, P. knowlesi, was thought to infect only monkeys, in particular long-tailed macaques found in the rainforests of South East Asia.  P. knowlesi is unprecedented among the malaria parasites of humans and non-human primates as it reproduces every 24 hours, and one of the features of fatal P. knowlesi infections is the high number of infected red blood cells in these patients. Therefore, even a short delay in accurate diagnosis and treatment could lead to the rapid onset of complications, including liver and kidney failure, and death.

Hogle Zoo Gets $3M for Polar Bear Exhibit

January 15, 2008  www.sltrib.com  By Matthew D. LaPlante

Utah's Hogle Zoo has announced receipt of a $3 million grant from the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation toward a new Arctic exhibit. The four-acre project "will depict the Arctic's physical, cultural and social landscapes, and dramatically illustrate how humans impact the region.” The Zoo hopes to put a $65 million bond before the voters of Salt Lake County this year to pay for the $20 million polar exhibit and other large-scale capital projects. The Arctic project is a "priority component" of the zoo's master plan, which also includes a new animal hospital for which the zoo announced a $1.5 million donation from the Utah-based ALSAM Foundation last month. Polar bears have not been at the Hogle Zoo since 2003, when the zoo's last polar bear, Andy, died after ingesting a fleece glove dropped into the bear's exhibit by a visitor.

PGAV Architects Will Design KC Zoo Polar Bear Exhibit

January 15, 2008  www.kansascity.com  By MATT CAMPBELL

The firm of PGAV Architects was chosen Tuesday to design a new polar bear exhibit at the Kansas City Zoo — for the second time.  The previous park board in December 2006 approved a zoo request to waive competitive bidding and award the contract to PGAV because the company was set to design the zoo’s new entrance and had performed well for the city.  But the park board appointed in spring 2007 instructed staff to go back and seek bids. PGAV and one other firm responded. The bidding set the project back about three months, but under the new process, PGAV’s bid projected higher minority and women enterprise participation.  Another consideration in awarding PGAV the $1,025,000 contract is that the firm has experience in designing polar bear exhibits. Zoo director Randy Wisthoff said that was important in the wake of the recent tiger escape at the San Francisco Zoo.  A completion date is scheduled for 2009. 

Sea Otter Feeding Study

January 15, 2008  www.enn.com 

SANTA CRUZ, CA-- U.C. Santa Cruz research biologists Tinker, Estes and Bentall have published a sea otter feeding study that introduces a new level of complexity to the dynamics of food webs. For wildlife managers, it means that each animal has to be considered as an individual and may not be representative of the whole population. When you look at a population as a whole, you may see a diversification of the diet in response to limited food resources. But when you look at individuals, you see dietary specialization.  One implication of this dietary specialization for California sea otters is that some otters may be exposed to certain food-borne pathogens much more frequently than otters with different diets. "A lot of sea otters in the Central Coast population are dying from infectious diseases, and this could help us to better understand that disease mortality by allowing us to pinpoint the specific vectors of disease transmission," Tinker said. The study compared sea otters on the Central Coast, which has the largest population of southern sea otters, to those in a much smaller population around San Nicolas Island off the coast of Southern California.  The San Nicolas population is the result of an effort by the USFWS to reduce the vulnerability of California sea otters to oil spills by establishing a separate population in the late 1980s.  About 140 sea otters were relocated to San Nicolas Island, but most of them soon returned to the mainland.  The few that remained have prospered. With plenty of food to go around, the San Nicolas otters are in better shape than their mainland counterparts, and their population is now growing much faster. The mainland population’s diet as a whole is much more diversified than at San Nicolas, but individual diets are more specialized. It is not surprising that animals are highly individual in the way they feed, but the link between individual specialization and resource availability is new. The paper appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Vaquita Porpoises Critically Endangered

January 15, 2008  www.enn.com  By NOAA

A recent study published in Conservation Biology estimates the population of vaquita, a porpoise found in the Gulf of California, to be only 150 individuals - 2 years away from irreversible extinction level. The research team was led by Armando Jaramillo, Instituto Nacional de Ecologa, Mexico, and included researchers Barbara Taylor, NOAA's Fisheries Service, and Randy Reeves Reeves, Chair of the Cestacean Specialist Group, IUCN , the World Conservation Union. The group assessed the number of vaquita based on past estimates of abundance and deaths in fishing nets together with current fishing effort. Approximately 30 vaquita drown each year in the Gulf of California when they become entangled in nets set for fish and shrimp. They are found only in a small area of productive, shallow water in the northernmost Gulf of California and are  listed as endangered species by the U.S. and Mexico and critically endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN)

India Confirms H5N1 Outbreak

January 15, 2008  www.enn.com  By Krittivas Mukherjee

MUMBAI (Reuters) - The Indian government has confirmed that the latest outbreak of bird flu in poultry in the country's east was of the virulent H5N1 strain. It is the fourth outbreak of the strain in Indian poultry since 2006.  More than 35,000 chickens and other poultry have died in and around Margram village in West Bengal state's Birbhum district over the last couple of weeks, officials have said.  A second outbreak has been detected in the district of South Dinajpur, also in West Bengal but not neighboring the other outbreak, said Anisur Rahaman, state minister for animal resources. West Bengal borders Bangladesh which is fighting to contain bird flu in almost a third of its 64 districts. It has killed more than 300,000 chickens in Bangladesh since last year.  A Reuters photographer in Margram saw shirtless villagers carrying dead chickens with bare hands to a government health centre to claim compensation. Dead chickens and even a few crows and owls were strewn across the landscape, according to health officials and television news pictures.  Officials said culling of about 400,000 chickens within 3 km (2 miles) of the affected areas would begin on Wednesday.  "We will quarantine anyone we find with flu-like symptoms," said federal Health Secretary Naresh Dayal, adding that the government had adequate stock of the drug Tamiflu.  In previous outbreaks, the virus killed birds in the western state of Maharashtra on two occasions and broke out again in Manipur state in the northeast last August. Although the strain can infect and kill humans, India has not reported any human cases so far. The disease has killed more than 200 people worldwide since 2003.  Around a fifth of humanity could fall ill should there be another flu pandemic, according to estimates cited by the World Health Organization, with catastrophic effects on the global economy.

Computer Used to Study Animal Communication

January 15, 2008  www.springer-sbm.com

Computer programs may be the most accurate tool for studying acoustic communications amongst animals, according to Csaba Molnár from Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary and his research team. Their paper, published in the journal Animal Cognition this week, tested a computer algorithm’s ability to identify and differentiate the acoustic features of dog barks, and classify them according to different contexts and individual dogs. The software analyzed more than 6000 barks from 14 Hungarian sheepdogs (Mudi breed) in six different situations: ‘stranger’, ‘fight’, ‘walk’, ‘alone’, ‘ball’ and ‘play’. The barks were recorded with a tape recorder before being transferred to the computer, where they were digitalized and individual bark sounds were coded, classified and evaluated.  In the first experiment looking at classification of barks into different situations, the software correctly classified the barks in 43 percent of cases. The best recognition rates were achieved for ‘fight’ and ‘stranger’ contexts, and the poorest rate was achieved when categorizing ‘play’ barks. These findings suggest that the different motivational states of dogs in aggressive, friendly or submissive contexts may result in acoustically different barks.

Nepal Opens Vulture Breeding Center

January 15, 2008  www.enn.com

KATHMANDU - Nepal will open its first vulture breeding centre to try to save its endangered vultures.  Of the eight species of vultures found in Nepal, the white-rumped and slender-billed vultures are categorized as critically endangered.The plan is to capture at least 10 breeding pairs of each critically endangered species and keep them initially in two aviaries at Kasara in Chitwan National Park, said Dev Ghimire, an official with Bird Conservation Nepal.  The park, located 80 km (50 miles) southwest of Katmandu, is popular for its rare Asian rhinoceroses.  "This is just a beginning and more pairs will be subsequently trapped and released," Ghimire said.  The number of vultures in Nepal have dropped to about 500 nesting pairs from 50,000 in 1990, primarily from eating dead cattle treated with diclofenac.  Bird Conservation Nepal set up a separate feeding centre west of Chitwan for white-rumped and slender-billed vultures last year offering them chemical-free carcasses.

Zebra Found Dead at SF Zoo

January 16, 2008  www.sfgate.com  By Tanya Schevitz

SAN FRANCISCO -  A  9-year-old [10 next month] zebra named Lisa was found dead in a stall Tuesday, two days after zoo veterinarians began giving her medication. The normal life expectancy of a zebra in captivity is 20 years and about 18 in the wild, officials said.  The zebra had been seen salivating while out in the African Savanna exhibit and was put in her stall and given a common equine medication for inflammation.  Karen Eggert, a spokeswoman for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said that the death would not trigger an automatic investigation by the agency. She said investigators only go in after an animal death if there is an indication that there was a violation of the Animal Welfare Act in terms of the animal's environment, treatment, care and feeding.

Melbourne Zoo Breeds Cairns Birdwing

January 16, 2008  www.abc.net.au

The Cairns Birdwing is the largest type of butterfly in Australia and the Melbourne Zoo just celebrated the birth of a half-a-million butterflies since its breeding program began 22 years ago. Patrick Honan of Melbourne Zoo said "We bring in about 25,000 butterflies to the butterfly house a year." Caterpillars are housed in the zoo's special breeding room before shedding its skin to reveal its pupa.  After its wings expand, it can fly and then is taken to a new home in Melbourne Zoo's butterfly house where it stays a warm 30-degrees celcius all day long.

Six Foreign Birds as Endangered

January 16, 2008   www.epa.gov

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), determine endangered status for six avian species—the black stilt (Himantopus novaezelandiae), caerulean paradise-flycatcher (Eutrichomyias rowleyi), giant ibis (Pseudibis gigantea), Gurney's pitta (Pitta gurneyi), long-legged thicketbird (Trichocichla rufa), and Socorro mockingbird (Mimus graysoni)--under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). This rule implements the protection of the Act for these six species. This final rule is effective February 15, 2008. for further information contact Dr. Patricia De Angelis, at Suite 110, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Arlington, Virginia 22203 ; by fax to 703-358-2276; by e-mail:ScientificAuthority@fws.gov or by telephone, 703-358-1708.

Hand-Rearing Pied Tamarins at Paignton Zoo

January 16, 2008  news.bbc.co.uk

DEVON, U.K. -- Two pied tamarin babies born on New Year's Eve and abandoned by their mother are being hand-raised at Paignton Zoo. The baby's mother, Leia, came to Paignton Zoo from Belfast Zoo.  Their father, Jedi, came from Apenheul Primate Park in the Netherlands. At birth, the male, Chewie, weighed 53g and the female, Padme, 41g. They were fed initially on glucose solution, then moved on to diluted baby formula, building up to near normal strength after five days.  They are currently spending all day in sight, smell and hearing of the adults, clinging to a small piece of carpet inside the incubator. They are being fed every two to four hours - primarily by primate keeper Andrew Fry- while colleagues are sharing the task of taking the babies home at night. It is hoped that they will be reintroduced to an enclosure after six weeks. Night feeds would then stop, but they would still need milk feeds from the keepers for another few months, the zoo said.  Pied tamarins are the most endangered of all Amazon primates, and listed as critically endangered by the IUCN.

Giant Rodent Fossil Identified

January 16, 2008  news.nationalgeographic.com

Scientists in Uruguay have uncovered fossil evidence of the largest species of rodent ever found. Living in wooded areas of South America about 4 million years ago, it was an herbivore and possibly prey, of saber-toothed cats.  Its huge skull, more than 20 inches long, suggests it was more than eight feet long and weighed between 1,700 and 3,000 pounds. Named Josephoartigasia monesi, it is believed to be more closely related to a guinea pig or porcupine than mice or rats.  An artist's rendering showed a creature that looked like a cross between a hippopotamus and guinea pig.  The fossil was found in 1987 about 65 miles west of the capital of Montevideo, near the vast River Plate estuary and an Argentine fossil collector donated the skull to Uruguay's National History and Anthropology Museum nearly two decades ago. It was recently rediscovered by curator Andres Rinderknecht, who enlisted the help of fellow researcher Ernesto Blanco to study it. Rinderknecht said ''Possibly it had a behavior similar to other water-faring rodents that exist today, such as beavers, which split their time between land and water.''  But he said the rodent appears to have had no tail.  The research by Rinderknecht and Blanco was published Wednesday in this week's issue of biological research journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

S.F. Zoo Zebra Dies of Intestinal Blockage

January 17, 2008  www.sfgate.com  by Nanette Asimov

SAN FRANCISCO – The necropsy report on the Zebra that died recently at the San Francisco Zoo showed that she had been suffering from a complete obstruction of her intestinal tract due to a pair of stones measuring about 6 1/2 inches in diameter. The resulting infection killed her. "Intestinal stones are a common cause of disease and sudden death in domestic horses,"  said Jacqueline Jencek, the zoo's chief of veterinary services. "The UC Davis Pathology Department reported that her teeth, hooves and body condition were very good with no other signs of illness or diseases noted." A former equine surgeon at UC Davis said such illness can be prevented, but only when caught in time. "It's probably related to the water, minerals and soil," and can be discovered if the animal passes small stones, said Diana Hassel, who now teaches equine emergency surgery at Colorado State University. Hassel said the disease has become less common as animal-care experts have understood that alfalfa can contribute to the potentially deadly illness. "There's probably some genetic thing," she said, adding that two animals could eat the same diet for the same period of time, yet only one might get sick. A histopathology, will show what else may have been going on with the zebra's major organs, and that report will take about a month.

NYC Zoos Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions

January 17, 2008   www.nydailynews.com  By Bob Kappstatter

NEW YORK (AP) - The Wildlife Conservation Society is taking steps to make its carbon footprint smaller.  "We can't be a leader in global conservation if we don't also live it at home," said President Steven E. Sanderson as he announced plans for a 30-percent cut in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.  The organization's efforts include installing a water-saving system at the Bronx Zoo's sea lion exhibit and working to upgrade its co-generation power plants from dual fuel-burning to natural gas, planning ecologically "green" buildings and using alternative fuel vehicles at its zoos and aquarium.  An outside consultant team calculated that the WCS's operations emit about 34,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases annually.  That includes direct emissions from heating and power generation at the five facilities and WCS-owned vehicles; emissions for purchased electricity by parks, and emissions from organization activities - travel by air, car and train; and even paper consumption. "Our goal was to look at our largest institutions at home to begin this process. We now have a baseline to compare future carbon mitigation strategies," he said in a statement.  "The process of assessing our footprint is now ongoing and will help generate ideas and strategies to reduce consumption and improve efficiency." The restoration of the Bronx Zoo's Lion House into the Madagascar exhibit, which opens next June, and the Jose E. Serrano Center for Global Conservation, scheduled to open next spring there will include a large number of green initiatives.

Critical Habitat for the Quino Checkerspot Butterfly

January 17, 2008  www.epa.gov

The Quino checkerspot butterfly was historically distributed throughout the coastal portion of southern California (Los Angeles, Orange, western Riverside, San Diego, and southwestern San Bernardino Counties), and northern Baja California, Mexico.  The USFWS proposes to revise currently designated critical habitat for the Quino checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha quino).  In total, approximately 98,487 acres fall within the boundaries of the proposed revised critical habitat designation: 23,494 ac are federally owned; 7,756 ac are owned by the State of California; 4,359 ac are Tribal lands; 7,739 ac are owned by city or county governments; and 55,139 ac are privately owned. Of these 98,487 ac we are considering excluding 1,684 ac (681 ha) of land within the San Diego County Multiple Species Conservation Plan's City of Chula Vista Subarea Plan, and 37,245 ac (of non-Federal land within the Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP) area. Areas included in the proposed revision are in Riverside and San Diego Counties, California.  You may submit your comments and materials via the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov or U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: 1018-AV23; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.  We will not accept e-mail or faxes. We will accept comments from all interested parties until March 17, 2008. For further information contact: Jim Bartel, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, 6010 Hidden Valley Road, Carlsbad, CA 92011; telephone 760-431-9440; facsimile 760-431-5901.

Predator-Prey Ecology Study

January 17, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – The direct effect predators have on their prey is to kill them. The evolutionary changes that can result from this direct effect include prey that are younger at maturity and that produce more offspring.  Indirect effects are rarely characterized or measured – such as a decline in the number of surviving prey, resulting,  in more food available to survivors.  UC Riverside biologists Matthew Walsh and David Reznick studied life history traits between Trinidadian fish communities impacted by the presence of predators and offer a novel way of quantifying these indirect effects by showing that prey adapt to food availability as well as the presence of predators.  They warn that “The reintroduction of predators, which is an ongoing practice, such as in the reintroduction of wolves in the United States, demands more caution than is currently practiced since the prey will have adapted to a new environment in the time that predators were absent and will be ill prepared in more ways than had been imagined for the reintroduction.  The study appears in the Jan. 15 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  “Likewise, the crash that we have seen in the populations of many commercially exploited species of fish, and their failure to recover when fishing pressure is reduced, has been attributed to such indirect restructuring of the ecosystem.

USFWS Determines Jaguar Status

January 17, 2008  news.fws.gov  By Elizabeth Slown 

The USFWS has determined that a U.S. recovery plan for the endangered jaguar would not advance the conservation of the big cat.  The vast majority of jaguars and jaguar habitat lay south of the United States. Jaguars occur from southern South America to the U.S.-Mexico border area.  The United States contains one percent of jaguar habitat.  Four male jaguars, thought to originate from a core population 130 miles south of the border, are known to have crossed into New Mexico and Arizona since 1996.  Too few jaguars and too little habitat in the United States signify that a recovery plan would have little influence on protecting the jaguar population.  The Service continues to protect jaguars within its borders, and works cooperatively with other Latin America countries to conduct research, protect habitat and reduce the killing of jaguars.  The Service has funded jaguar work in Belize, Argentina and Brazil and will continue to fund research in northern Mexico to improve knowledge of jaguar conservation.  It supports the Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project to monitor occurrences in Arizona.  The Jaguar Conservation Team, an Arizona-led effort, has summarized the current knowledge of U.S.-Mexico borderland jaguars and identified actions to facilitate the presence of jaguars in the U.S. and help them persist here and in Mexico.  Various levels of protection and conservation plans for the jaguar are in place in many of the 20 countries through the cat's core range.

Human Activities Contribute to California Warming

January 17, 2008   publicaffairs.llnl.gov

LIVERMORE, Calif. –  Recent research by scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the University of California, Merced and the National Center for Atmospheric Research shows that California temperatures have jumped statewide by more than 2.1 degrees Fahrenheit between 1915 and 2000. This warming is likely related to human activities. Using data from up to eight different observational records, the team found the warming has been fastest in late winter and early spring.  California is not alone when it comes to warming trends. Late winter and springtime temperatures have increased in nearly all of western North America. They have been associated with a large change in atmospheric circulation in the northern Pacific, likely resulting from greenhouse gas-induced warming.  An increase in California temperatures could have dire consequences for the state’s water system.  The research, funded by the California Energy Commission, and including contributions from Livermore scientists Thomas Phillips and Charles Doutriaux, appears in the Dec. 19 online edition of the journal Climatic Change. The research also was included in the “Report to the Governor and Legislature on Climate Change.” California temperature trends also are discussed in a recent article in the American Geophysical journal, Eos, written by Duffy, Bonfils and Lobell.

Servheen Receives Conservation Award

January 17, 2008  www.missoulian.com                

BROOKFIELD, Illinois - Chris Servheen, mammalogist and wildlife biologist at the University of Montana and grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the USFWS, will receive the 2008 George B. Rabb Conservation Award Jan. 29 from the Chicago Zoological Society.  Servheen has worked for grizzly bear conservation for 30 years, primarily in the Misson Mountains and northwestern Montana wilderness areas.  His research is directly applicable to the recovery of the grizzly and all large carnivore populations requiring large areas of natural habitat in regions where those areas have significantly dwindled.  Servheen has organized interagency grizzly bear sub-committees for federal, state, and private participants, as well as conferences on private landowner initiatives in conserving bear habitat, and served as an advisor to many state and federal land management agencies.  He has advised many private and public sector conservation initiatives, agencies and conservation groups including Vital Ground and The Nature Conservancy.  He was recently recognized with the Department of the Interior’s Meritorious Service Award, the second-highest award presented by the department.  The George B. Rabb Conservation Award was created in 2005 by the board of trustees of CZS to honor the lifelong legacy of animal welfare and worldwide conservation leadership of Rabb, president emeritus of the Chicago Zoological Society.

New Species of Palm Discovered in Madagascar

January 17, 2008  www.timesonline.co.uk  By Lewis Smith

A new palm species has been discovered in a small area of the west side of Madagascar.  Tahini spectabilis soars 60ft (18m) as it puts out a spectacular “candelabra” structure upon which millions of flowers appear. These drip with nectar, attracting birds and insects, but requires such an expenditure of  energy, that the palm then dies. Despite its size, the palm escaped detection until Xavier Metz, a plantation owner, took his family for a picnic and brought back a picture.  The new species, announced today in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, has 16 ft diameter leaves which are among the largest seen in flowering plants.  Only about 100 of the palms are believed to exist.  Taxonomy experts at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, have discovered that it is not just a new species but represents a genus never seen on Madagascar before.

Whale Sharks at Risk

January 17, 2008  news.nationalgeographic.com  By Stefan Lovgren

Whale sharks are the world's largest living fish species, growing up to 40 feet (12 meters) long. They move near the surface, feeding on the plankton and krill that mass in these waters during the winter months.  Shark populations have declined dramatically in recent years, mainly due to overfishing.  Most at risk are migratory sharks, including whale sharks, which are known to travel more than 8,000 miles (12,875 kilometers) across the Pacific Ocean, from Mexico to the Tonga Islands, according to Zeb Hogan, a fisheries biologist with the University of Reno in Nevada. .  Hogan leads the Megafishes Project, a three-year effort funded by the National Geographic Society to document the 20-plus species of freshwater fish that measure at least 6.5 feet (2 meters) in length or 220 pounds (100 kilograms) in weight. Of the more than 1,000 species of sharks and rays, 145 are known to be migratory.  Eighteen percent of these thousand species are threatened with extinction, according to Hogan, compared to 45 percent of the migratory sharks and rays.  At a UN-sponsored conference on migratory sharks held in the Seychelles last month, three species—whale sharks, basking sharks, and great white sharks—were singled out as being in urgent need of protection.

Polar Bear Decision by USFWS Suspicious

January 17, 2008  www.time.com  By BRYAN WALSH

Two years ago, green groups sued the federal government to declare the polar bear “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. On Jan. 9, a day before the deadline, the USFWS  announced that it would need another month to decide, due to the complexity of the bear's situation.  This is the situation: As temperatures warm, the Arctic sea ice that supports the polar bear shrinks, leaving the animals to drown as they are forced to swim long distances between the ice, or simply starve to death. The summer of 2007 saw record melting of Arctic sea ice, and NASA scientists now predict that the Arctic could be ice-free as soon as the summer of 2013. "Without the sea ice, there is no polar bear," says Andrew Wetzler, director of the Natural Resource Defense Council's endangered species project. A 2007 USGS study projected that the polar bear population — currently around 25,000 — could decline two-thirds by 2050.  But the bears face another threat. On Feb. 6 — three days before USFWS's new deadline — the Minerals Management Service (MMS), also part of the Interior Department, plans to lease 30 million acres for oil and gas drilling in the Chukchi Sea bordering Alaska, where one-fifth of the world's remaining polar bears live. Drilling — with the risk of spills and seismic damage — could further jeopardize the polar bear, and environmentalists consider it suspicious that USFWS decided to delay its decision until after the lease sale.

Tiger was Taunted

January 18, 2008  www.mercurynews.com

One of three San Jose youths mauled by a tiger at San Francisco Zoo told the father of the boy killed that they had been yelling and waving at the animal while standing on the railing outside its grotto.  The interview - and the account by the father of Carlos Sousa Jr. of San Jose - were part of the affidavit San Francisco police used to obtain a search warrant for the car and cell phones of the 2 survivors.  Police also removed a bloodied sign and post from the tiger exhibit as potential evidence during their investigation the day after the attack.  Sam Singer, spokesman for the zoo, told the Mercury News that the sign had been about 18 inches in from the middle of the railing around the tiger exhibit, in an area "where the public is prohibited to go." Police also found a partial shoe print on top of the railing that matched a shoe worn by one of the boys. The Chronicle said police seized synthetic urine meant to beat a drug test, a small amount of marijuana and a partially filled bottle of Grey Goose vodka from the car. Paul Dhaliwal's blood-alcohol level was 0.16 percent, twice the legal level for drunkenness, while Kulbir Dhaliwal's was 0.04 percent and Sousa's was 0.02 percent. According to the newspaper, police said no incriminating messages or images were recovered.  Any evidence that the youths provoked the tiger's attack could limit the zoo's and city's liability in a civil case.

Rescued Leopard Cubs Go to Lucknow Zoo

January 18, 2008  economictimes.indiatimes.com

LUCKNOW, India: Two ten-day old leopard cubs abandoned by their mother have been rescued by forest guards and taken to the zoo in Lucknow.  Runa Singh, Director, Lucknow zoo said the 2 females from the Tiger Reserve are being bottle fed goat's milk and zoo authorities are taking every care to nurture the young cats back to health. With the increasing demand for animal hides in the international market, the leopard and tiger population of India is under constant threat from poachers.  According to an estimate made several years ago, the population was 10,000 animals.

Namibia’s Wild Dog Population

January 18, 2008    allafrica.com

The African wild dog is the most endangered large mammal in southern Africa.  Namibia's national wild dog population is around 300 individuals, 95 per cent of which live unprotected in communal and commercial farming areas in northeastern Namibia. The African wild dog, whose scientific name is Lycaon pictus, is the last remaining species in the genus Lycaon. Prejudice  and misunderstanding of the wild dog has led to its extermination and near-extinction. The animals are regularly and incorrectly blamed for livestock losses. The African wild dog is actually important to farmers as they keep smaller predators in check.  Without the wild dog, jackals are almost impossible to contain, says Robine Lines of the Wild Dog Project.

Bronx Zoo $50 Million Renovation

January 18, 2008  www.wateronline.com  By Drew L. Wilson

BRONX, NY – The 265 acre Bronx Zoo began in 1895 with the establishment of the New York Zoological Society (renamed Wildlife Conservation Society in 1993), with the purpose of advancing the study of zoology, protecting wildlife around the world and educating the public. Now the WCS is managing a $50 million renovation that will transform part of the zoo into the Island of Madagascar. Additionally, the project will carry the distinction of being the first landmarked building in New York City to be certified “green” by the U.S. Green Building Counsel (UGBC).  The Bronx Zoo’s Lion House will be reopened after a decade of non use in the spring of 2007 as the new Madagascar exhibit.  Constructed in 1903 and has been designated a National Historic District by the New York City Landmarks Commission. This heavily ornamented building was part of a group of buildings built between 1899 and 1920 that epitomized the Daniel Burnhham’s City Beautiful Movement. The design of the new exhibit will preserve the architectural craftsmanship of the original building while incorporating the latest construction technologies and green building practices available. Its high density polyethylene (HDPE) piping system will circulate large volumes of water throughout the exhibit. It is also being used for the five 1,500 foot deep geothermal wells for heating and cooling. The geothermal systems will be relied upon to create the environmental temperatures found in a tropical rainforest.  Shelby Heritage of ISCO Industries, which inspired the concept of HDPE pipe for the project.

Translocated Laysen Ducks Thrive on Midway Atoll

January 18, 2008  www.birdlife.org

The Critically Endangered Laysan Duck (Anas laysanensis) occurs only within the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands’ Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument established in 2006. Once widespread across the Hawaiian Islands, by 1860, they were extirpated from all but Laysan Island, a low lying island (10 meters above sea level).  In 2004 and 2005, 42 of the ducks were translocated to Midway Atoll NWR, managed by the USFWS, to increase their geographic distribution and reduce its risk of extinction. With the translocated population more than quadrupling in only three years, the total number of adults and fledglings on the Midway Atoll has now risen to about 200 individuals.   “These island ducks could not co-exist with rats, migrate, or disperse away from Laysan Island, so we have translocated birds to restore the species to a larger range”, explained USGS wildlife researcher Dr. Michelle Reynolds, USGS coordinator for the project. “Now Laysan Ducks are found on three rat-free islands for the first time in hundreds of years and are flying between islands at Midway Atoll.”

Four New Gecko Species Discovered in Vietnam

January 18, 2008   www.physorg.com
Herpetologists discovered four new species of geckos in isolated mountains and islands in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. Lee Grismer with La Sierra University in the United States and Ngo Van Tri from Vietnam's Institute of Tropical Biology published their 2007 findings in the journal Herpetologica.  The reptiles are of the genus Cnemaspis and have the species names caudanivea, auranticopes, nuicamensis and tucdupensis.  The geckos' length ranges from about 4-6 inches from head to tail.  The first gecko of this species in Vietnam was discovered in 1887 and the new find bring the total number of Cnemaspis species in the nation to five.

Request for Lethal Removal Authority of California Sea Lions

January 18, 2008   www.epa.gov

The National Marine Fisheries Service announces the availability of a Draft Environmental Assessment that analyzes impacts on the environment from the potential authorization to the States of Oregon, Idaho, and Washington (states) to lethally removal certain California sea lions that are feeding on at-risk salmon and steelhead stocks below Bonneville dam on the Columbia River. The states have requested authorization to lethally remove individually identifiable California sea lions having a significant negative impact on the decline or recovery of several populations of salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Written comments on the draft EA must be received at the appropriate address, email address, or fax number (see ADDRESSES) no later than 5 p.m. Pacific standard time on February 19, 2008. Written comments and requests for copies of the draft EAshould be addressed to Garth Griffin, Protected Resources Division, 1201 NE Lloyd Boulevard, suite 1100, Portland, OR, 97232, or faxed to (503) 230-5441. Comments on this draft EA may be submitted by e-mail. The mailbox address for providing e-mail comments is sea.lion.comments@noaa.gov Include in the subject line the following document identifier: "California Sea Lion Lethal Removal''. The documents are also available on the Internet at http://www.nwr.noaa.gov/Marine-Mammals/Seals-and-Sea-Lions/Sec-120-draft-EA.cfm   For further information contact: Garth Griffin, Portland, OR, at phone (503) 231-2005 or e-mail: garth.griffin@noaa.gov

Recovering from a Mass Extinction

January 18, 2008  www.bristol.ac.uk 

The full recovery of ecological systems, following the most devastating extinction event of all time, took at least 30 million years, according to new research from the University of Bristol. About 250 million years ago, at the end of the Permian, a major extinction event killed over 90 per cent of life on earth, including insects, plants, marine animals, amphibians, and reptiles. Ecosystems were destroyed worldwide, communities were restructured and organisms were left struggling to recover. This was the nearest life ever came to being completely wiped out.  The most recent research, conducted by Sarda Sahney and Professor Michael Benton at the University of  Bristol and published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B this week, indicates that specialized animals forming complex ecosystems, with high biodiversity, complex food webs and a variety of niches, took much longer to recover.  The Permian extinctions occurred in 3 waves, the largest being at the boundary between the Permian and Triassic periods, 251 million years ago. This was the most devastating ecological event of all time, thought to be caused by large-scale volcanism in Russia which produced the ‘Siberian Traps’, covering over 77,000 square miles in lava.

Google's Philanthropic Initiatives

January 18, 2008   www.nytimes.com   By HARRIET RUBIN

When it went public nearly 4 years ago, Google pledged to reserve 1 percent of its profit and equity to “make the world a better place.” So far, the beneficiaries of Google’s money range from groups that are fighting disease to those developing a commercial plug-in car. The company’s philanthropy — Google.org, or DotOrg plans to spend up to $175 million in its first round of grants and investments over the next three years.  Larry Brilliant, a medical doctor became director of Google.org 18 months ago.  Grants for the first of its initiatives, characterized as “predict and prevent” focuses on strengthening early warning systems in countries around the world to detect a disease before it becomes pandemic, or a drought before it becomes a famine. To attain that, DotOrg has made a grant of $5 million to a nonprofit group that Dr. Brilliant helped to set up, though it is independent from DotOrg. Called Instedd, for Innovative Support to Emergencies, Diseases and Disasters, the group seeks to improve data and communication networks. An additional $2.5 million has been awarded to the Global Health and Security Initiative to respond to biological threats in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and China’s Yunnan Province.  “In recent years,” Dr. Brilliant said, “39 new communicable diseases with a potential to become pandemic have jumped species,” including SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome; monkey pox and bird flu.  The second initiative, called “the missing middle,” refers to the missing middle class in Africa and South Asia and the missing middle level of financing between microcredits and hedge funds.  DotOrg has awarded $3 million to TechnoServe to find worthy entrepreneurs and help them build credit records and  get access to larger markets.  The third initiative, “information for all,” is aimed at helping developing countries provide better government services by making information available on their efforts to improve health care, roads and electrification. DotOrg has awarded $2 million to support the Annual Status of Education report in India to assess the quality of education;  $765,000 to create a Budget Information Service to improve district-level planning, and $660,000 to build communities of researchers and policy makers to deliver information.  Google.org’s fourth initiative supports the development of renewable energy sources that are cleaner and cheaper than coal. DotOrg has invested $10 million in eSolar, a company in Pasadena, Calif., that specializes in solar thermal power.  The philanthropy is also working to accelerate the commercialization of plug-in vehicles.   Mark Dowie, author of the book “American Foundations,” said DotOrg is part of “a new mode of philanthropy that is very similar to venture capitalism, holding those they fund responsible in ways never seen before.” The danger, he said, “is that a lot of philanthropic work is not quantifiable. How do you qualify arts grant making, for example.”

Border Fence Plan Blocks Jaguar Protection

January 18, 2008  www.enn.com 

In June 2007, more than 500 members of the American Society of Mammalogists met in Albuquerque and unanimously passed a resolution calling for USFWS to develop a recovery plan for the jaguar. The resolution concluded that "Habitats for the jaguar in the United States, including Arizona and New Mexico, are vital to the long-term resilience and survival of the species, especially in response to ongoing climate change." On January 17th, the service announced that it will not prepare a recovery plan for the endangered jaguar and will not attempt to recover the species in the United States or throughout its range in North and South America.  "This is a jaguar death sentence," said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. "If the U.S. can work across borders to develop an international recovery plan for the whooping crane, why can't it do so for the jaguar? Perhaps its because the Bush administration is dead set on walling off the U.S.-Mexico border." 

NIH Archives Published Research

January 18, 2008  www.sciencemag.org

Last week NIH informed its grantees that, to comply with a new law, they must begin sending copies of their accepted, peer-reviewed manuscripts to NIH for posting in a free online archive.  Failure to do so could delay a grant or jeopardize current research funding.  The full text of the articles will be posted to PubMed Central (PMC).  Many journals retain copyright of the manuscripts they publish, so authors must obtain permission to post a copy on the NIH site. 

New Monkey Species in North-Western Amazon

January 19, 2008   www.newscientist.com
A uacari monkey living in north-western Amazonia, belongs to a species unknown to science until recently but is now named Cacajao ayresii in honour of Brazilian biologist Marcio Ayres, who pioneered field studies on uacaris.  Uacaris are traditionally associated with flooded forests on the margins of lowland rivers, but this one turned up in a mountainous area of the Pico de Neblina region on the Brazil-Venezuela border, a long way from its relatives. The new species has a very restricted distribution, says Jean-Philippe Boubli of the University of Auckland, New Zealand, who describes it in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Primatology. Since it lives outside any protected area and is hunted by local people, Boubli says it should immediately be considered endangered.

Melbourne Zoo Charged with Animal Abuse

January 19, 2008  www.theage.com.au  By Royce Millar and Cameron Houston

The 146-year-old Melbourne Zoo has been accused of abuse and neglect of animals by senior zoo experts, staff and the RSPCA.  Incidents include:  1. An animal trainer stabbed a 13-year-old elephant named Dokkoon more than a dozen times with a sharp metal spike. 2. An escape in October by a binturong after staff warned that its enclosure was insecure. 3. Four seals have suffered partial blindness after being moved to a small swimming pool — out of public view and possibly for up to three years — while the new $20 million Stories of the Sea exhibit is built. The eye problems have been caused by chlorine in the pool. 4. The eyelids of a Malayan tapir were sewn together, also because of eye trouble. Lack of tree cover and over-exposure to the sun is believed to have contributed to the animal's eye damage. 5. Male gorilla Rigo was kept in isolation from other gorillas for 16 years in an antiquated enclosure because of his aggressive tendencies. He was finally reintegrated into a group last year without problems. 6.  Zoo management has also proposed an attraction known as the Cage of Death, similar to a shark cage, which would allow close-up viewing of four male lions at feeding time.  Zoo director Matt Vincent acknowledged the zoo had made mistakes, but said valuable lessons had been learned from such incidents.  He said the zoo had recently received accreditation after a comprehensive audit by the Australasian Regional Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria.

San Diego Ecologists, Baja Fishermen Save Sea Turtles

January 19, 2008   www.signonsandiego.com  By Terry Rodgers

Loggerhead Sea Turtles hatch on sandy beaches in Japan and swim 7,500 miles across the Pacific to forage and grow to maturity along the Mexican coastline. Longline fishing vessels typically deploy several thousand baited hooks that can extend for miles, targeting sharks, tuna and swordfish.  Sea turtles, which must surface periodically to breathe, can drown after consuming the bait and getting hooked.  Hoyt Peckham, a member of Pro Peninsula, a San Diego-based conservation group went to Magdalena Bay 6 years ago to study the turtles movements and feeding habits and was able to show that a cooperative of about 80 fishermen using hand lines and small skiffs called pangas was killing almost 1,000 turtles every year – slightly more than the death toll caused by larger fishing vessels in the entire North Pacific. The group worked with the Mexican fishermen and convinced a village leader to give up his lucrative longline gear to reduce loggerhead deaths.  A landmark turtle conservation accord was signed last fall between Groupo Tortuguero, a Mexican environmental group overseen by Pro Peninsula, and a fishing cooperative near Magdalena Bay on Baja's Pacific coast.  The cooperative's members agreed to give up their longline fishing gear. In return, Pro Peninsula and the Ocean Conservancy raised $10,000 for them to buy less harmful gear, such as traps and surface nets.  To reinforce the work by Peckham and other members of Pro Peninsula, the Ocean Conservancy plans on Tuesday to launch a program called SEE Turtles, which is aimed at building an eco-tourism market for loggerheads. The conservancy hopes to give fishermen an economic incentive to continue safeguarding loggerheads.  

New Frog Species Found in Kerala

January 20, 2008  www.hindu.com   By Divya Gandhi

BANGALORE, India -- A new species of shrub frog from the Western Ghats has been named Philautus ochlandrae.  It was discovered living in bamboo hollows in the evergreen forests of the Kakkayam Reserve Forest in Kerala.  2.5 cm in length it has a short rounded snout and protruding eyes with striking golden yellow markings. This shrub frog belongs to a group in which an unusual phenomenon called “direct development” takes place. “Skipping the tadpole stage, froglets directly emerge from the eggs that are laid in the inner walls of the bamboo,” said Dr. K.V. Gururaja. With this adaptation, the frogs do not need water to breed.  This makes the 25th new frog species discovered in the last seven years in India. The discovery was published in the international journal Zootaxa in October 2007. K.V. Gururaja, doctoral fellow at the Centre for Ecological Sciences (CES), Indian Institute of Science (IISc), is one of the five authors of the paper.

Reintroduction Problems for Captive Carnivores

January 20, 2008  www.eurekalert.org 

A study published in 'Biological Conservation' addresses the problems of reintroducing animals to the wild. This study reviewed 45 case studies, involving 17 carnivore species, and found that only 30% of captive animals released survived. Over half the deaths were caused by humans in incidents such as shootings and car accidents. The animals were also more susceptible to starvation and disease than their wild counterparts and less able to form successful social groups.  The research team from the University of Exeter was led by Kristen Jule and highlights the need for these projects to be reassessed so that animals are better prepared for living in their natural environment. This could include reducing contact with humans, creating opportunities for hunting and encouraging the formation of natural social groups, while the animals are still in captivity. The research also raised the need for long-term monitoring of released animals, so that success could be measured over several years. In addition, the paper points to the need for engagement with local communities before any reintroduction, especially as most carnivore extinctions were originally caused through conflict between animals and humans.

Center for Conservation Research Raises Mountain Yellow-legged Frogs

January 20, 2008  www.upi.com 

SAN DIEGO, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- Scientists at the San Diego Zoo are raising 65 mountain yellow-legged frogs, in an effort to stave off extinction for the dwindling species.  There are only about 150 to 200 of the frogs left in the wild, and with the creeks that serve as their habitat ravaged by drought and fire, that number is likely to decrease, The Riverside (Calif.) Press-Enterprise reported Sunday.  The scientists working on the effort at the zoo's Center for Conservation and Research -- the first ever to raise the frogs from tadpoles in captivity -- hope they will be able to release the frogs into the wild once their habitat has stabilized to become more hospitable, the newspaper said.  The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums and three other international groups have designated 2008 the year of the frog, and conservationists worldwide will be working to protect the one-third of the planet's 6,000 amphibian species that face extinction. Inland frogs fighting for species' survival

Breeding Mountain Yellow-legged Frogs at CRES

January 21, 2008  www.pe.co   By JENNIFER BOWLES

Scientists at the San Diego Zoo's center for Conservation and Research for Endangered Species have raised 65 mountain yellow-legged frogs from tadpoles, hoping they grow to breeding age so their offspring can be returned to the Inland mountains.  With only 150 to 200 mountain yellow-legged frogs left in the wild, the 65 living in a San Diego conservation facility could be the species' best chance for survival.  No one's ever really kept them or bred them in captivity, so it's all kind of brand new, it's what we're going for," said Jeff Lemm, research coordinator.  The research facility beside the zoo's Wild Animal Park is known for its frozen zoo of animal cells, forensic pathology lab and efforts to conserve endangered species in the wild. It doesn't normally harbor animals larger than insects or the eggs of lizards and birds that are incubated there, said Allison Alberts, the zoo's director of conservation and research.  But, she said, federal and state scientists who scooped the frogs up as tiny tadpoles from a creek north of Idyllwild in the San Jacinto Mountains 16 months ago asked CRES officials to care for them because the amphibians faced certain death.

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums and three other international groups have issued a declaration that 2008 is the year of the frog and the World Conservation Union (IUCN) as part of the declaration, has identified four frogs in the U.S. as the most critically endangered, including the mountain yellow-legged frog and the California red-legged frog, the amphibian made famous by Mark Twain's "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County." The declaration came in response to last year's launch of the Amphibian Ark, an unprecedented effort to save an entire class of animals, said Jeffrey Bonner, president of the St. Louis Zoo in Missouri and chairman of the ark initiative.  Zoos plan to take into protective custody 500 members of 500 species of frogs, toads and salamanders worldwide that are nearing extinction and breed them to ensure they survive into the future.  At least one-third of the world's estimated 6,000 amphibian species, which have been on the planet for 400 million years, are threatened with extinction, according to the World Conservation Union. Activities at zoos around the world, including the Living Desert in Palm Desert, will occur on Feb. 29, which happens to be Leap Day.

L.A. Zoo Rescues Blind Seal

January 21, 2008  ap.google.com  By Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) —  A blind harbor seal named Alfred was rescued off the coast of New Jersey nearly a year ago and, after a long search by the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, the L.A. Zoo took him in October.  After a period of quarantine he was placed with four female seals at the Sea Life Cliffs habitat near the zoo's entrance. "He is displaying all the behaviors that we would see in a mating ritual," said zoo trainer Lauren Whittemore. Alfred is missing one eye and is blind in the other.  He uses the sensitive nerve endings in his whiskers to find his way around his new home.  His weight has doubled since he was found last February.

National Zoo Asian Elephant A.I.

January 21, 2008  dcist.com

The zoo conducted two artificial insemination procedures on Shanthi the elephant this week. They'll be monitoring her hormones for the next ten weeks to see if it worked. The zoo tried unsuccessfully to impregnate Shanthi in April. The last Asian elephant birth at the zoo was of Kandula in 2001.

Actor Tries to Shut Down LA Zoo’s Elephant Program

January 21, 2008   www.myfoxla.com

LOS ANGELES -- In a lawsuit filed Aug. 2 against the city of Los Angeles and L.A. Zoo director John Lewis, actor Robert Culp and real estate agent Aaron Leider maintain zoo authorities have withheld medical care, kept elephants confined in a small area and used bull hooks and electric shock to control them.  After prevailing against the city's motion in October contesting the legal sufficiency of the suit, the men now want a preliminary injunction shutting down the exhibit and stopping the ongoing construction pending trial of their lawsuit, which seeks to make both steps permanent. A hearing is set for Feb. 6.  The Los Angeles Zoo's elephant exhibit is currently home to a lone pachyderm -- 21-year-old Billy. "If (zoo officials) are allowed to proceed with their plans while this action is pending, (they) will waste tens of millions of dollars more on an exhibit and program which will injure, cause great physical pain, suffering and premature death to the elephants," attorney David B. Casselman, representing Culp and Leider, said in a declaration filed Jan. 14 in support of a preliminary injunction.  Deputy City Attorney John A. Carvalho was not immediately available for comment, but said previously that the zoo is in full compliance with federal and state statutes.

Brookfield Zoo Giraffe Strangles

January 21, 2008  www.chicagosuburbannews.com

BROOKFIELD, Illinois -- Brookfield Zoo is waiting to hear from USDA officials on whether they will conduct an investigation into the third unexpected death of a zoo animal in less than six months.  Dusti, an 11-year-old giraffe was found dead of a broken neck after becoming tangled in a rope that was part of a pulley system used to hoist food into the air.  Kim Smith, vice president of Animal Care for the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, said the pulley system has been removed and zoo staff are trying to figure out how Dusti got caught in the rope. Dusti, who was 17 feet tall, reached his neck over his enclosure door, around a 90-degree corner and across 6 1/2 feet into a keeper corridor where the rope was fastened flat against the wall with safety clips.  Broken pieces of those clips were found on the ground of the corridor. At 4:30 a.m. Saturday a keeper checked on Dusti, who was doing fine inside his nighttime enclosure.  At 7 a.m. one of the Dusti’s zookeepers found him unresponsive in Habitat Africa! The Savannah. Dusti was hand-reared at Florida’s Busch Gardens. He arrived at Brookfield Zoo in 1998 and had three offspring including 1-year-old female Arnieta. Along with Arnieta the three other female giraffe’s are Jasiri, 2; Franny, 16; and Mithra, 17. Zoos typically keep only one male giraffe at a time and it will begin the process of finding a new male giraffe.

Snow Leopard Cubs at L.A. Zoo

January 21, 2008  www.kspr.com   By Kyle Bosch

Terry and Tom, born May 25th, and are the first snow leopards born at the L.A. Zoo in 22 years.  An estimated 5,000 - 7,000 remain in the wild.

Western Plains Zoo Name Change

January 21, 2008  www.abc.net.au   By Justin Huntsdale

DUBBO, NSW, Australia -- According to CEO Guy Cooper, Taronga Conservation Society Australia is well known for its scientific research and work for animal welfare.  By renaming the Western Plains Zoo, the Taronga Western Plains Zoo, people will realize the Zoo's commitment to conservation.  “This new name is an umbrella name that better describes our activities to the community,” Mr. Cooper said.  As part of the changes, the Taronga Foundation is offering funding for zookeepers to do their own conservation projects.  “Taronga has announced $80,000 for that program. There’s already two projects underway to breed endangered Booroolong Frogs and support for Sumatran Rhinoceros in Indonesia,” Mr. Cooper said.

Photos of the Worlds Most Endangered Amphibians

January 21, 2008  news.mongabay.com

The Zoological Society of London’s EDGE initiative is dedicated to preserving what the group says are some of the world's strangest and most vulnerable amphibian species. Helen Meredith is the EDGE Amphibians coordinator and the group recently released a list of the 100 most endangered and unique species.  The top 10 needing urgent conservation attention are: The Chinese giant salamander, the world's largest amphibian. It is part of a distinct evolutionary lineage from the age of dinosaurs and can reach almost 6 feet in length.  The Sagalla caecilian looks like a worm, but is actually a type of limbless amphibian with sensory tentacles on the sides of its head.  The purple frog was found only in 2003, because it spends most of its time deep underground, up to 12 feet below the surface. Six species of ghost frogs from South Africa, one of which lives only in the traditional burial grounds of Skeleton Gorge in Table Mountain. The olm, a transparent amphibian found in subterranean caves.  It is blind and hunts prey using a keen sense of smell as well as sensors that can detect weak electrical fields.  It can also live for up to ten years with no food.  The Gardiner's Seychelles frog is less than half an inch long and is perhaps the world's smallest frog. The lungless salamanders of Mexico breathe through their skin and mouth lining. The Chile Darwin's frog may already be extinct. It has not been seen since the 1980s. The Betic midwife toad from Spain, whose males carry fertilized eggs wrapped around their hind legs.

Allison Alberts Lectures on California Condor

January 21, 2008  www.newuniversity.org  By Kathryn Hayward

Allison Alberts, director of Conservation and Research for the San Diego Zoological Society, discussed the California Condor Recovery Program in a lecture at the U.C. Irvine Beckman Center, Jan. 16. She explained that in 1987, the USFWS brought the last remaining 27 California condors to the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles Zoo to begin an intensive captive breeding program. The program stipulated that the birds be reintroduced to the wild in three distinct populations, 150 birds in each, with release sites in California, Arizona and Mexico.  By 1992 the species’ population had doubled. By 2003, the first condors released into the wild in California began to breed. A part of the program’s success is due to the bird’s reproductive habits - If their first egg is removed, then within 25 to 30 days, another is laid. This practice allowed researchers the benefit of having each bird produce two eggs—one fledgling to be raised by researchers, and the other by its condor parents.  Several populations are now thriving in the Ojai and Hopper Mountain regions of California, as well as the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the third population was re-introduced to Baja California, Mexico in August of 2002. The chosen release site is located in the Sierra San Pedro National Park, and consists of a 60-by-60-by-30-feet enclosed holding pen, where researchers and field biologists study the behavioral and physical conditions of the condors.  Today, 298 members of this species exist, 144 of them living in the wild, according to the Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Species.  Alberts believes it will take decades before the program reaches its end goal of 150 birds at each site in California, Arizona and Mexico.

Taronga Takeover of Dubbo Zoo

January 22, 2008  dubbo.yourguide.com.au  By LYNTON GRACE

DUBBO, NSW, Australia -- Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo’s premier tourist attraction, has taken on the name of its Sydney counterpart, Taronga Zoo. It has changed its name to Taronga Western Plains Zoo (TWPZ).  The name change is part of a wider change to tie the two zoos together under the Taronga brand name.  Research, conducted over a number of years, found the name Taronga had national and international recognition, according to the zoos’ director and chief executive, Guy Cooper. The name change - and new logo - means any breeding programs occurring at Western Plains Zoo will now come under the respected Taronga name, increasing the programs’ awareness both nationally and overseas.  New names and logos will be put in place progressively. Rather than spend money changing uniforms or equipment upfront, items will be replaced in a phased-in approach as they require updating or renewal.

Manila Zoo to swap crocodiles for elephants, giraffes

January 22, 2008  newsinfo.inquirer.net   By Tina Santos

MANILA, Philippines – The Manila Zoological and Botanical Garden opened its doors to the public on July 25, 1959. It has about 500 animals - 30 mammal species, 63 reptilian species and 13 species of birds. With a growing population of more than 40 crocodiles, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim would like to exchange about 20 of them for animals like elephants, zebras and giraffes to diversify the zoo’s animal collection. He said the city government has written to Thailand and India about the possibility of getting some elephants. The Zoo recently received two tigers from Camp Farms in Palayan City, Nueva Ecija, and a reptile from Cayman Islands. 

Al Ain Zoo Part of $1 Billion Leisure Center

January 22, 2008  www.ameinfo.com

The Al Ain Zoo in the United Arab Emirates is being transformed into a $1billion leisure and wildlife destination. The Al Ain Wildlife Park and Resort visitors will be an integrated entertainment, hospitality, retail and residential development. Residing at the foothills of Jebel Hafeet, the project will cover 900 hectares, with more than a third of the area dedicated to wildlife desert safaris. The first phase of the development is due for completion by the end of 2010.

Calgary Zoo Adopts New Management Structure

January 22, 2008    www.canada.com  By David Parker

With Keith Scott’s resignation from the Calgary Zoo, his many duties have been re-aligned within a new executive team.  The biggest change is to the workload of Wade Harper, former senior manager of sales and marketing.  Harper is now the director and will oversee the majority of areas within the zoo's revenue stream. As a member of the executive team, he is responsible for membership, admissions, marketing, advertising, promotion, group sales, special events and continuing education. The zoo has 82,000 members and attracts 1.2 million visitors each year.  There is a full-time staff of 180-plus seasonal staff and more than 600 volunteers.  The zoo's annual budget is $26 million and, of that, Harper's group brings in approximately $17 million -- $10 million of which is from admissions. This year, he is expecting a big boost to the visitor count as well as memberships, thanks to a couple of big attractions: Malti, a baby elephant, and a new stingray tank.  The zoo plans to use a new point of sales system called Patron's Edge, which will provide instant visitor data and let people book tickets online. And a new website is being built by Suitcase Interactive that will let members upgrade their information, renew memberships and add a guest pass from their home computers.  The completion of the new North Gate entrance will provide a two-stage approach.

Giant Aquarium to Open in Moscow Zoo

January 22, 2008    www.russia-ic.com

Visitors will walk in long transparent underwater tunnels and admire life of water kingdom. Giant aquarium will occupy an old building, which belongs to the Zoo. The water complex will also include an audience hall, a large auditorium for lectures and several cafes. A future cinema complex will show popular science and educational films. The Oceanarium will be built on Poklonnaya Gora in 2009.

WWF Malaysia Focuses on 3 Borneo Species

January 22, 2008  www.nst.com.my

KOTA KINABALU: WWF Malaysia is focusing more attention on the endangered Borneo pygmy elephants, Sumatran rhinoceros and orang-utan. The newly established Borneo Species Program (BSP) will work with the Sabah Wildlife Department and other conservation groups to come up with fresh conservation ideas. WWF Borneo program chief technical officer Dr Rahimatsah Amat said, "The BSP covers the Kinabatangan Corridor of Life area and the tri-national Heart of Borneo. These are the key areas. Through this new program, we will continue to collar elephants with transmitters to follow their movements and to place cameras in rhino habitats to try and photograph them," he said.  The BSP is supported by WWF-Netherlands, WWF-UK, WWF-Germany, WWF-US, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Honda Malaysia.  So far 11 elephants have been collared with satellite tracking devices, and data obtained has helped plan land use particularly in the Ulu Segama and Malua forest reserves in eastern Sabah.  WWF Malaysia is also leading the preparation of a management plan for rhino conservation in Sabah, noting that there are only about 25 to 50 rhinos left in the state.

Gharials Dying in India

January 22, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By SAHER MAHMOOD

NEW DELHI — Three decades after it was brought back from the brink of extinction, the Indian gharial is turning up dead by the dozens on the banks of a river called the Chambal. Since mid-December, the National Chambal Wildlife Sanctuary has confirmed 76 deaths along the river, which begins in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh and runs through Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. The initial post-mortem reports suggested the cause of death to be liver cirrhosis and stomach ulcers. Further tests show lead levels in the liver that “though not toxic, can trigger suppression of the immune system,” Mr. Sudhakar added. All the more puzzling, other species that inhabit the Chambal River ecosystem, including dozens of fish species on which the gharials feed, appear to be healthy.  Follow-up tests on the fish also revealed heightened lead content. But in both the fish and the gharials, the lead levels are below levels considered lethal, the forest official said. The gharial, native to South Asia, is one of the most endangered freshwater crocodile species. WWF believes it is extinct in its former habitats of Pakistan, Bhutan and Myanmar.  An estimated 1,300 gharials remain in the wild, and the IUCN recently upgraded it from being an “endangered” to a “critically endangered” species.  The recent deaths have further depleted the stock of breeding pairs to less than 200. 

Bird Die-Off at Great Salt Lake in Utah

January 22, 2008  www.nytimes.com 

Avian cholera is caused by the bacterium Pasteurella multocida, and is the most prevalent infectious disease among wild North American waterfowl. It was first reported in this country in the 1940s and has cropped up every few years in recent decades. In 1994, it killed 10,000 birds in the Great Salt Lake. The disease flourishes in cold weather and last November was the coldest on record.  It spreads rapidly among concentrated bird populations with limited food resources.  About 15,000 birds (eared grebes, ruddy ducks, California gulls and northern shovelers) recently at the Great Salt Lake.  Dr. Krysten Schuler, an ecologist at the National Wildlife Health Center, said avian cholera was probably spread by “carrier birds.” Mr. Aldrich agreed, pointing out that the eared grebes were “the first birds to get infected with avian cholera.” “It is very unlikely that a human would develop an infection from eating a bird infected with P. multocida,” Dr. Schuler said. “But they could become infected if a wound or scratch is contaminated. A respiratory infection is possible if a person is working with carcasses in an enclosed, poorly ventilated area.”

Animal Politics

January 22, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By NATALIE ANGIER

Researchers who study highly gregarious and intelligent species like rhesus monkeys, baboons, dolphins, sperm whales, elephants and wolves have lately uncovered evidence of extraordinarily sophisticated forms of politicking, often across large and far-flung social networks.  Male dolphins, organize themselves into at least three nested tiers of friends and accomplices, said Richard C. Connor of the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.  They maintain their alliances through elaborately synchronized twists, leaps and spins like Blue Angel pilots blazing their acrobatic fraternity on high.  Among elephants, it is the females who are the politicians, cultivating robust and lifelong social ties with at least 100 other elephants, a task made easier by their power to communicate infrasonically across miles of savanna floor. Wolves, maintain a hierarchical society unless a pack leader proves a tyrant, and subordinate wolves will collude to overthrow the top cur. Political skills — the ability to please and placate, manipulate and intimidate, trade favors and scratch backs are utilized and over time these social demands may come to swamp all other selective pressures in the environment, possibly serving as the dominant spur for the evolution of ever-bigger brains.  Dario Maestripieri, a primatologist at the University of Chicago, says “The paradox of a highly social species like rhesus monkeys and humans is that our complex sociality is the reason for our success, but it’s also the source of our greatest troubles.  Throughout human history, you see that the worst problems for people almost always come from other people, and it’s the same for the monkeys. You can put them anywhere, but their main problem is always going to be other rhesus monkeys.”

Risk of an Avian Flu Pandemic

January 22, 2008   www.nytimes.com  By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.

Last year there were 86 confirmed human cases of avian flu compared with 115 in 2006, and 59 deaths compared with 79. But avian flu has not gone away. Nor has it become less lethal or less widespread in birds.  The world is clearly more prepared. Vaccines have been developed. Stockpiles of Tamiflu and masks have grown. Many countries, cities, companies and schools have written pandemic plans. Bernard Vallat, director general of the World Organization for Animal Health, recently called the virus “extremely stable” and, thus, less likely to mutate into a pandemic form. Virologists who argued three years ago that H5N1 would not “go pandemic” feel vendicated. Dr. Paul A. Offit, a vaccine specialist at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, said  “H5 viruses have been around for 100 years and never caused a pandemic and probably never will.” But he backed all preparedness efforts because he expected another pandemic from an H1, H2 or H3, the subtypes responsible for six previous epidemics, including the catastrophic one in 1918.

According to Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, the virus is still circulating and has evolved 10 clades and hundreds of variants. He noted that the H3N8 flu found in horses in the 1960s took 40 years to adapt to dogs, but that since 2004 it has spread to kennels all over the country.  The most worrisome aspect of H5N1, virtually all scientists agree, is that it persists in birds without becoming less lethal to them.  It is now endemic in local birds in Egypt, Indonesia and Nigeria, Bangladesh, Vietnam and parts of China. Reports of recurrent outbreaks also persist in parts of India, Myanmar and Pakistan. Dr. Henry L. Niman, a biochemist in Pittsburgh whose Web site tracks mutations, argues that there is a separate reservoir in wild birds that extends across Eurasia. Late each fall, fresh outbreaks appear across Europe and down into the Middle East as geese and swans migrate from Asia toward Africa. In December, dying birds were found in Poland and Russia, in Saudi Arabia and even in a kindergarten petting zoo in Israel. On Jan. 8, it reached one of England’s most famous swan-breeding grounds, the Abbotsbury Swannery, which has been around since the 11th century. The Western Hemisphere is in less danger, according to a study published in the journal PloS Pathogens, which analyzed viruses found in migratory birds sampled from 2001 to 2006 in Alberta and along the Jersey Shore. It found that none carried whole viruses from Eurasian bird pathways.  Therefore, the authors argued, it is more likely that any importation of the virus would be in “birds moved legally or illegally by humans.”

Ruling on Whales and Navy Sonar

January 22, 2008  www.nytimes.com 

According to a federal district judge Florence-Marie Cooper in California, the Navy’s own research predicted that its sonar training exercises off the California coast will cause widespread harm — and possibly permanent injury or death — to nearly 30 species of marine mammals, including five species of endangered whales. There is little doubt that the Navy’s mid-frequency active sonar is an effective tool for locating quiet-running submarines and that training is needed in shallow, offshore waters where sound propagates differently than in the open ocean. The rub is that the sonar, which generates extremely intense underwater sound, is harmful to marine mammals that depend on their own sensitive acoustical systems to feed, communicate and navigate. The waters off Southern California are teeming with vulnerable species.  Early this month, Judge Cooper issued a tough set of mitigation measures — such as shutting off the sonar when mammals are too close — that the Navy must take to avoid a ban on its training activities. That seemed reasonable, especially given the Navy’s own analysis of the potential harm. Last Wednesday, however, President Bush attempted to override the court order by granting the Navy waivers, on national security grounds, from two environmental laws on which the decision was based. That led the judge to stay some restrictions while leaving others in place.

Chester Zoo Program to Save Amphibians

January 22, 2008     news.bbc.co.uk

Chester Zoo has developed equipment to help save hundreds of species of frogs from extinction. The new apparatus, the Apod, pumps clean air into the zoo's bio-secure breeding zones, preventing the spread of airborne diseases.  Hundreds of endangered frogs are born in environmentally-controlled zones at Chester Zoo every year, and experts wanting to safeguard their survival designed the Apod. 

Hungry Tanzania Refugees Killing Endangered Species

January 22, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By Reuters

NAIROBI – The international conservation group TRAFFIC reports that refugees living near national parks in northwestern Tanzania are eating chimpanzees and other endangered species (buffalo, topi, eland, elephant and waterbuck) in order to supplement their meager diet.  In neighboring Kenya, aid and conservation groups said refugee camps housing thousands of people were damaging the environment, as displaced people chopped down trees for firewood.
George Jambiya, lead author of the Traffic report on Tanzania, said the refugees' vegetarian food aid rations were partly to blame for the poaching problem. "The scale of wild meat consumption in East African refugee camps has helped conceal the failure of the international community to meet basic refugee needs," he added. Traffic's report was based on studies carried out in 2005 and 2006.  But Christiane Berthiaume of the World Food Programme (WFP), a U.N. agency which feeds 215,00 refugees in Tanzania, said in Geneva that meat spoiled quickly and canned meat was much more expensive. Substituting canned meat for the cheaper beans that currently supplied protein would add $46 million to the estimated $60 million cost of feeding Tanzania's refugees in 2007 and 2008, she said. Since the east African nation's independence in 1961, more than 20 major refugee camps have been established close to game reserves, national parks or other protected areas. Of these, 13 still existed in 2005, Traffic said. According to the U.N. refugee agency Tanzania hosted 11 camps in January 2007, housing 287,061 refugees, down from 350,590 in 2005.  Most of the refugees fled conflict in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo from as far back as the 1960s, and Rwanda in the 1990s.

5-year Review for 10 Listed Species

January 23, 2008   www.epa.gov

The USFWS is initiating 5-year reviews of the endangered Peter's Mountain mallow (Iliamna corei), Jesup's milk-vetch (Astragalus robbinsii var. jesupi), James spinymussel (Pleurobema collina), sandplain gerardia (Agalinis acuta), harperella (Ptilimnium nodosum), Shenandoah salamander (Plethodon shenandoah), American chaffseed (Schwalbea americana), and rough rabbitsfoot (Quadrula cylindrica strigillata), and the threatened Northeastern beach tiger beetle (Cicindela dorsalis dorsalis) and Virginia spiraea (Spiraea virginiana) Any new information on these species that may have a bearing on their classification as endangered or threatened should be received no later than March 24, 2008. However, we will continue to accept new information about any listed species at any time. For further information contact: Ms. Mary Parkin, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Northeast Region, 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, MA 01035, 413-253-8617 or 617-876-6173, or via electronic mail at mary_parkin@fws.gov 

The Importance of Seed Banks

January 23, 2008  www.enn.com

MEXICO CITY — At the end of January, more than 200,000 crop varieties from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East—drawn from vast seed collections maintained by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)—will be shipped to a remote island near the Arctic Circle, where they will be stored in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (SGSV), a facility capable of preserving their vitality for thousands of years.  The cornucopia of rice, wheat, beans, sorghum, sweet potatoes, lentils, chick peas and a host of other food, forage and agroforestry plants is to be safeguarded in the facility, which was created as a repository of last resort for humanity’s agricultural heritage. The seeds will be shipped to the village of Longyearbyen on Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, where the vault has been constructed in a mountain deep inside the Arctic permafrost. The vault was built by the Norwegian government as a service to the global community, and a Rome-based international NGO, the Global Crop Diversity Trust, will fund its operation. The vault will open on 26 February 2008.  This first installment from the CGIAR collections will contain duplicates from international agricultural research centers based in Benin, Colombia, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, the Philippines and Syria. Collectively, the CGIAR centers maintain 600,000 plant varieties in crop genebanks, which are widely viewed as the foundation of global efforts to conserve agricultural biodiversity.

Oakland Zoo Mistakenly Ejects a Visitor

January 23, 2008  www.sfgate.com    By Phillip Matier,Andrew Ross

A professor of animal behavior from the University of the Pacific in Stockton says he was ejected from the Oakland Zoo after pointing out what he considered to be a dangerously inadequate fence at the tiger exhibit. On Jan. 9 Professor Tenaza started taking photos of the tiger exhibit, when zoo marketing director Nancy Filippi angrily approached him and demanded that he stop. Tenaza mentioned it looked as though the tigers could escape by climbing over a section of the fence, at which point Filippi "flew into an absolute rage and summoned the zoo's head of security," he said. Soon, Tenaza found himself being escorted out. Zoo officials insist it was all an unfortunate misunderstanding, saying everyone there has been a bit skittish since the fatal tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo on Christmas Day.  Oakland Zoo director Joel Parrott tells us that there is no prohibition on picture taking, but that the tiger exhibit was closed at the time.
The tiger exhibit has been periodically off-limits to the public since the San Francisco attack to allow crews to shore up low spots along the fence, Parrott said. In some places, that fence was found to be 3 feet lower than a national zoo association's recommended height of 16 1/2 feet, he said.  No sooner did we speak to Parrott on Tuesday than Tenaza received an e-mail from the zoo director, saying his staff had mistaken him for an animal rights activist, apologizing for the "inconvenience" and encouraging him to return.  But the soft-spoken Tenaza - who canceled his newly purchased zoo membership after being booted - says he isn't rushing back.

Evolutionary Dynamics of Wild Populations

January 23, 2008   publishing.royalsociety.org   By LEB Kruuk & WG Hill

This special issue of Proceedings B is free online and focuses on new developments in long-term analyses of animal populations where pedigree information has been collected. A range of studies illustrates their use in addressing fundamental questions concerning the genetic basis of phenotypic diversity, patterns of natural and sexual selection, the occurrence of inbreeding and inbreeding depression, and speciation. Within this framework, several important current challenges in evolutionary biology are addressed, including the analysis of evolutionary responses to climate change, exploration of the genetic basis of senescence, the exploitation of rapid advancements in molecular genetic technology, and in-depth reviews of developments in quantitative genetic statistical methodology. With study species ranging from lizards to humans, from sparrows to red deer, this unique collection provides a fascinating overview of the wealth of information available from long-term studies. 

Still No Proof of Ivory-billed Woodpecker

January 23, 2008  www.nytimes.com 

It has been almost three years since a research team, led by Cornell University and the Nature Conservancy, announced the rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker in the Big Woods — a 550,000-acre tract of bottomland hardwood forest in Arkansas. Researchers have also reported spotting an ivory-billed woodpecker in a northwest Florida swamp, and the USFWS has recommended spending $27 million on recovery efforts for the woodpecker.  Just after the sighting was announced, local economies seemed to benefit for a while as scientists, bird-watchers and news media outlets from around the world flocked to the area around the Big Woods. Lately, though, the ivory-billed boom has pretty much evaporated, especially since researchers and bird-watchers have failed to take a definitive picture of the woodpecker. A blurry video clip released when the rediscovery was announced failed to convince many ornithologists of the animal’s existence, and although there have since been plenty of purported sightings, there is still no picture.

Wind Energy Grows 45% in 2007

January 23, 2008  www.enn.com 

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) reported last week record growth in wind power generation with 5,244 megawatts of capacity installed in 2007 — a 45% increase reflecting $9 billion in investment and 30% of all new power generating capacity in 2007.  2008, however, will likely show growing pains as there is a current shortage of wind turbines, a situation that the AWEA sees as a big opportunity for manufacturers and entrepreneurs wishing to get in on a growing market. There’s always a better mouse trap — wind energy technology is ripe for imaginative innovators to not only fill the current need for parts, but to continually make those parts better.  It is also time for government to step up to the plate and push forward in support of alternative energy in a big way. Congress is debating this week the future of alternative energy tax credits set to expire this year with no current provision for renewal.  While the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 recently signed in Congress does provide $2 billion dollars in research for alternative energy, it still pales in comparison to subsidies given the fossil fuel industry.

Pacific Northwest Invasive Species Survey

January 23, 2008    www.fws.gov  

Scientists at Portland State University and the University of Washington have jointly completed the first targeted survey of nonnative aquatic plants and animals in the middle Columbia River (Bonneville Dam to Priest Rapids Dam) and the lower Snake River (upstream to the Washington-Idaho border).  The study, funded by the U.S.F.W.S. documented the introduction of 50 species since the 1880s. Fish such as the common carp and eastern brook trout represented the majority of introduced species, but the list also includes aquatic plants, crustaceans, mollusks and worms. The survey discovered three new introduced species of small crustaceans not reported previously in the Columbia River basin. These animals include:  *The isopod Caecidotea laticaudatus; * The amphipod Crangonyx floridanus (also present in the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento River system);  *And the harpacticoid copepod Harpacticella paradoxa (also present in Klamath River estuary, Calif., and the Samish River estuary, Wash.).  The Middle Columbia River Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Survey (MCRANS) included a review of scientific papers and publications as well as samples collected from numerous locations in the middle Columbia and lower Snake Rivers during 2006. "The Columbia River system is part of the lifeblood of the Pacific Northwest, and this survey represents an important step in measuring the extent that nonnative species have changed that system," said Ren Lohoefener, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Pacific region director, Portland.

Germany Debates Hand-rearing Polar Bear Cubs

January 24, 2008   www.independent.co.uk 

The Knut phenomenon is currently causing a major debate about the rights of caged animals in Germany. Soon, a female called Flocke will go on exhibit at the Nuremberg zoo in what promises to be a repetition of the Knut treatment.  While some insist that bears born in zoos have a right to human intervention to save and secure their lives, others such as the German animal rights activist, Frank Albrecht argue that they become so dependent on man that they end up divorced from nature and turn into hyperactive, disturbed freaks.  The German zoologist Peter Arras has described Knut as a "psychopath".  A team of highly experienced zoologists initially argued that nature should take its course. They allowed one of the females, which had rejected its two cubs, to kill and eat her offspring because they were too weak to survive. But the zoo's "bear infanticide" policy coincided with television pictures designed to promote viewers’ sympathy, and within hours of the broadcast, Nuremberg Zoo revised their policy: a keeper was sent into the enclosure and Flocke was removed "for her own safety". Amid growing fears that the last remaining cub might also be eaten the zoo promptly announced that the cub would be fed from a bottle.  Meanwhile, Knut faces an uncertain and lonely future. The German media like to think Flocke holds the key to his salvation and that she will eventually become his mate. But for most zoologists the idea is pure fantasy. "Knut won't manage anything with a female bear, I guarantee that," insisted Dr Arras.

WCS Measures its Carbon Footprint

January 24, 2008  www.queenstribune.com  By Liz Skalka

A carbon footprint is a measure of the amount of greenhouse gases produced from human actions and WCS’s Carbon Footprint Project Team has been collecting data for the project since 2005 for the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo and the New York Aquarium. Combined, its City sites emit 34,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases. (The 11acre Queens Zoo, for example, emits only 1,850 metric tons of that total.) WCS plans to collect emissions data from its more than 70 global locations in 52 countries. (Middlebury College located in Vermont, which also measures its emissions, gives off 35,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases per year.)  The goal of the study is to help identify ways to help further reduce the amount of greenhouse gases it gives off at its sites. In order to maintain low carbon emissions, all City sites operated by the conservation society have recycling bins, recyclable zoo maps, water faucet timers in restrooms and sustainable seafood for animal and visitor consumption. The organization also tries to reduce the amount of paper waste in its offices and encourages employee carpooling.

Roan Antelopes Reintroduced to Swaziland

January 24, 2008  afp.google.com   By the AFP

DVUR-KRALOVE-NAD-LABEM, Czech Republic (AFP) — Swaziland's last roan antelope (Hipporagus equines), or gemsbok in Afrikaans, was killed in a trap in 1961.  Now Swaziland has adopted tough conservation laws allowing rangers to open fire on poachers and three female gemsboks, born in 2005 and 2006 at the Dvur-Kralove-nad-Labem "safari park", Northeast of Prague leave this week for the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary in Swaziland.  They will join other animals offered by Britain's Marwell zoo in Hampshire, also progeny of Czech-born parents. The Czech complex says it has some of the worlds largest groups of certain species of giraffe, antelope, and rhino. Since the end of the 1960s, they have raised 316 young antelopes.  Females are of prime importance for the reintroduction program, because antelope groups are usually headed by a sole, dominant male, which can weigh up to 660 pounds and is surrounded by females and young animals. “Their horns will be wrapped in a sort of plastic pipe to avoid injury during the trip," explained Zdenek Barta, who is in charge of the animal exchange program. The Czech zoo, sends animals back to their homeland free of charge, with transportation and follow-up veterinary supervision paid for by the South African organization “Back to Africa. The species still survives in a few South African, Kenyan and Rwandan reserves and a handful of European zoos.

Elephant Conservation Projects

January 24, 2008   www.pr-usa.net  www.aza.org

The International Elephant Foundation (IEF) and the AZA have announced their support for 15 new elephant conservation projects for 2008, marking a record level of support.  “Elephants all over the world need our help,” said IEF President Michael Fouraker. “The grants made today by the International Elephant Foundation support critical elephant conservation programs.”  IEF is a non-profit organization that supports and operates elephant conservation and education programs both in managed facilities and in the wild, with emphasis on management, protection and scientific research. IEF receives the majority of its funding from members of the AZA. “Without the support of AZA-accredited zoos and their elephant programs, we would not be able to generate a record $1.5 million for elephant conservation,” Fouraker added.  For 2008, IEF will support the following elephant conservation projects: 
HABITAT PROTECTION – Kalama Community Wildlife Conservancy: Community Conservation of Elephants in Northern Kenya and Prey Proseth Elephant Conservation Community, Cambodia
ANTI-POACHING - Enforcement of Poaching Control and Bush Meat Trade In and Around WAZA National Park, Cameroon and  Lake George Marine Ranger Station: the Waterways Project, Uganda.
REDUCTION OF HUMAN-ELEPHANT CONFLICT –Movement, Population Distribution and Social Dynamics of African Elephants in Kunene and Omusati Region of Namibia.  Support for the core activities of Save The Elephants.  Mahouts and Their Elephants Working as Conservation Response Units in Sumatra.  Saving Elephants By Helping People, Sri Lanka Building Capacities for Mitigating HEC in Buxa-Jaldapara Landscape, Northern West Bengal, India.
ECOTOURISM/ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION – Children and Elephants of Boromo Region, Burkina Faso.  Direct Action Education: Cambodian Wild Elephant Conservation Materials, Cambodia.  Support for GAJAH the publication of the IUCN/SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group (AsESG)
VETERINARY MEDICINE –Lao Elephant Care and Management Program, Laos.  Ultrasonographic and Endocrinological Characterization of Luteogenesis in Pregnant and Non-Pregnant Asian Elephants.  Study to reduce elephant deaths caused by Endotheliotropic Elephant Herpes Virus (EEHV)

USFWS Awards $1.2 Million for African Elephant Conservation  

January 24, 2008   www.fws.gov   Ken Burton

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has awarded $1,277,921 to support 25 new grants and supplement four existing grants for the conservation of elephants in 15 African countries in 2007.  Partners' contributions raised the total amount for elephant conservation to more than $4 million. The grants support field projects in Botswana, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The funding will support a diverse range of activities to improve elephant survivorship, including collaring individual elephants to better understand their seasonal movements, supporting antipoaching efforts (using foot patrols, vehicles, and aircraft), creating environmental education packages for teachers to use in rural schools, and mapping habitat use by local people and their livestock in order to implement more sustainable land use plans.  In addition, funding was allocated to three projects that provide assistance in all 37 African elephant range states.  Elephant numbers plummeted during the last century from an estimated 10 million animals to fewer than 500,000 by 1989.  Congress responded that year by passing the African Elephant Conservation Act, which in turn established the African Elephant Conservation Fund.  The Fund is authorized to receive $1.4 to $5.4 million annually.  The African Elephant Conservation Fund is administered by the Service's Wildlife Without Borders Program. The funds were established by Congress to provide international assistance for conserving species that face a variety of threats, including poaching, illegal trafficking, human conflict, habitat loss and disease.  A complete list of the elephant conservation grants and summaries is at: http://www.fws.gov/international/afecf/afecf.htm

Philadelphia Zoo Hopes for Elephants in the Future

January 24, 2008   www.philly.com  By GLORIA CAMPISI 

Philadelphia Zoo president Vikram Dewan said "It's our long-term vision" to have an elephant compound of more than 10 acres at the back of the zoo.” The elephants' current habitat consists of a quarter-acre exercise yard, plus a barn where they sleep, but this spring, Kallie, 25, and Bette, 24, and Petal, 51, will be moved to the Pittsburgh Zoo's new 724-acre International Conservation Center in Fairhope, Somerset County, as the conservation center's first residents.  Kallie and Bette are of breeding age and will be key contributors to elephant-conservation efforts.  But now Dewan is focused on a new aviary, to open on March 21, 2009 – the zoo’s 150th birthday, and a new children's zoo, to be unveiled in late 2009 and in regular use by 2010.  After these projects, the zoo can begin raising money for a new elephant exhibit.  When planners looked into it several years ago - while still working out the details of the recently opened Big Cat Falls, the aviary and the children's zoo, the cost of an elephant compound was "upwards of $27 million."

Philadelphia Zoo Conservation in Marianas

January 24, 2008  www.mvariety.com   By Moneth G. Deposa

Philadelphia Zoo staffers have developed teaching kits for Marianas schools.  They have been working in the Mariana islands since 1983, focusing on the re-introduction of the Guam rail, a bird that is no longer found on Guam but has been re-introduced on Rota.  The kits have been dispensed in Guam and Rota as a cross-curriculum project to develop love and respect for the natural wildlife.  Useful to all grade levels, the kits are interactive, filled with costumes, puppets, masks, flash cards and other materials to assist teachers in presenting information about indigenous birds and bats. Each kit includes a curriculum plan and software to provide teachers with many ideas and approaches to conservation lessons.   Zoo staff members travel to the area to show teachers how to incorporate the resource into their lessons. The zoo staff made six presentations on Rota to a total of 575 students and teachers.  They made similar presentations in Guam, distributing the kits to public schools. 

New Zealand’s Frogs Critically Endangered

January 24, 2008   www.odt.co.nz   By Rebecca Fox

NEW ZEALAND -- The Zoological Society of London scientists have assessed all 6296 amphibian species according to how evolutionary distinct and globally endangered (Edge) they are, and this week released its top 100 species which includes New Zealand’s four species of native frogs a group that have changed little in the last 70 million years.  They include the critically endangered Archey’s frog (Coromandel and Whareorino Forest), which is rated No 1, and Hamilton’s frog rated No 17. The ‘‘vulnerable’’ Hochstetter’s frog (North Island) is rated No 38 and the nationally endangered Maud Island frog (Marlborough Sounds) No 58.  Edge amphibians coordinator Helen Meredith, of England, said Edge amphibians were the most remarkable and unusual species on the planet and yet an alarming 85% of the top 100 were not receiving conservation attention and would become extinct if action was not taken now. Edge program head Dr Jonathan Baillie said one in every three amphibian species was threatened with extinction, a far higher proportion than bird or mammal species.

Recovery Plan for Puget Sound Killer Whales

January 24, 2008   www.sanluisobispo.com  By DONNA GORDON BLANKINSHIP
SEATTLE --The National Marine Fisheries Service has released its recovery plan for Puget Sound's threatened killer whales. The goal is to enable the "southern resident" population of orcas to be taken off the endangered species list by helping their numbers grow by an average of 2.3 percent per year for the next 28 years. If the population increases for 14 years, the whales could be listed as threatened, a less severe category under the federal Endangered Species Act.
There are 88 orcas in the southern population today.  Critical habitat for the orcas covers about 2,500 square miles, including the waters around the San Juan Islands, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and all of Puget Sound.  The plan calls for:
-Supporting salmon restoration efforts already under way.
-Cleaning up contaminated sites in Puget Sound and reducing pollution in the region.
-Evaluating and improving guidelines for vessel traffic in and around protected areas, and minimizing underwater sound.
-Preventing oil spills and improving response plans when spills occur.
-Improving public education about how to help save the whales.
-Improving responses to sick or stranded orcas.
-Better coordination between U.S., Canadian and agencies from West Coast states.
-Continuing research to improve conservation efforts.
Unique in their diet, language and genetic makeup, southern residents were listed as endangered in late 2005. Once believed to have numbered 140 or more in the last century, orcas have suffered several periods of major population decline since the 1960s, when the whales were caught for aquariums. The population rebounded to 97 in the 1990s, then declined to 79 in 2001. Killer whales are actually the world's largest variety of dolphin and can reach close to 30 feet and weigh more than 15,000 pounds at maturity.

Al Ain Zoo Part of $1 billion UAE Resort Development

January 24, 2008   www.business24-7.ae  

DUBAI -- Around 750 homes, ranging from apartments to villas, are to be built looking out over newly created Al Ain Zoo desert safari areas - the first time housing and a safari park have been mixed in this way anywhere in the world.  Work is expected to begin around the end of this year, and phase one of the park – the African and Arabian safaris and the residential building, complete by the end of 2010.  The entire project will be finished by 2012 and will include a five-star resort, a 300-room family hotel and a multi-storey shopping and restaurant complex. From every area there will be clear views of the wildlife roaming free in the surrounding parks, which will include recreation of deserts from Central Asia, Chile, California and Australia. Housing, shops and cafés in each of these zones will reflect that culture, too. Watering holes will be strategically placed so that animals will gather and provide an even better spectacle. Hanan Sayed Worrell, a civil engineer said: “Zoos used to be about protection; in the 1960s and 1970s, people just put a fence around the animals. Then it became restoration, to restore animals to their natural habitat. The next phase, we think, is integration. If people see the Arabian oryx every day, they will understand it or want to know more about it. “It is all about familiarity. So many children are either afraid of animals, or think they are just toys. We want them to experience their life cycle and be able to see how they live.  In the meantime, the zoo’s animal husbandry activities will carry on. They will be re-introducing scimitar-horned oryx, addax (antelope) and the Dama gazelle to areas of North Africa, building on their success in bringing the Arabian oryx back to the UAE. .”  said Mark Craig who became zoo director in 2006. “Our responsibility is to the UAE, North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula; we don’t want to diversify.”  

Lion Cubs at San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park

January 24, 2008   www.imperialvalleynews.com

Four cubs were born to 4-year-old Oshana on Nov. 2 followed by three cubs on Nov. 6 to her 4-year-old sister Mina. A month later the two groups were introduced and instantly became one big pride.  "The cubs behaved as if they had always been one pride and extremely vigorous play began immediately," said Marcia Redding, San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park senior keeper. "Mina and Oshana greeted each other with friendly vocalizations and set off to check out each others cubs and dens."  The pride will be seen in the mornings daily.  Picture at http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2008-01/25/content_7494842.htm

World’s Larges Reptile Exhibit at Miami Metro Zoo

January 24, 2008  www.nbc6.net

“The Beautiful and the Deadly” is billed as the world’s largest reptile exhibit and offers an assortment of venomous lizards, alligators, crocodiles, snapping turtles and, of course, snakes. The exhibit opens at Miami Metro Zoo on Friday, Jan. 25, and continues through May 11.

Elephants Get Mustard Oil Massage

January 25, 2008  www.dailyindia.com   By Kamna Mathur

LUCKNOW, India -- Mahouts at the Lucknow Zoo use about two and half kilogram of lukewarm mustard oil and massage their elephants for at least one hour after their baths to keep their bodies warm. According to Ranu Singh, the Director of the zoo, such a massage helps in improving blood circulation and generating heat. This generates heat in their body. They get tremendous relief and their skin starts shining. Mustard oil helps them get rid of all kinds of infections," she said.  In addition, the elephants are being given a special diet of sugarcane. India has over 50 percent of Asiatic elephant population but their population has been dwindling due to poaching. A national census in 2005 shows there were 25,000 to 28,000 elephants in India, including only 1,500 male tuskers of breeding age.

Bolivian Titi Monkeys at Philadelphia Zoo

January 25, 2008  www.nbc10.com

PHILADELPHIA -- A pair of Bolivian grey titi monkeys is due to arrive at the Philadelphia Zoo’s monkey house sometime next week.  Zookeepers are preparing their habitat, which at first will be covered with brown paper to allow the monkeys to adjust to their new surroundings before they go on view to the public.  Zoo vice president Andrew Baker said the pair usually sits side-by-side and often will braid their long tails together. He said that's behavior you don't see in other monkeys. The female is pregnant so hopeuflly titi babies can be seen in the future.

Amazilia Hummingbirds at London Zoo

January 25, 2008  www.thisislondon.co.uk  By Anna Davis

Two rare Amazilia hummingbirds from Equador are the latest additions to London Zoo.  They are the only members of this species on exhibit in Britain.  They will be introduced at Easter and staff hope they will breed. The hummingbirds will join 50 other species of birds flying freely in the zoo's Blackburn Pavilion, which was built in 1883 and refurbished in March.

Common Human Viruses Threaten Apes

January 25, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Common human viruses are responsible for outbreaks of respiratory disease that have led to the decline of endangered chimpanzees in the wild, according to a study reported online on January 24th in Current Biology. Fabian Leendertz of Robert Koch-Institut and Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany headed a demographic analysis of chimpanzees suggesting there is a correlation between habituation—the proximity between humans and chimps—and disease outbreaks.  Previous studies had only demonstrated the spread of relatively mild bacterial and parasitic infections from humans to wild apes.  In the new study, the researchers gathered evidence from chimpanzees hit by five distinct respiratory outbreaks between 1999 and 2006 in Côte d'Ivoire, West Africa. The outbreaks sickened almost all of the chimps and led to a significant number of deaths.  All available tissue samples taken from chimps who had died tested positive for one of two paramyxoviruses: human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV) or human metapneumovirus (HMPV). HRSV and HMPV are common causes of respiratory disease in humans and are the leading causes of lower respiratory disease in children and, in developing countries. In adults, HRSV and HMPV usually cause mild upper-respiratory-tract infection but can lead to more serious illnesses such as pneumonia.  “The viruses we found are very common,” Leendertz said. “Antibody prevalence in humans is almost up to 100 percent, meaning almost everybody has had contact with these viruses.”  Twenty-four years of mortality data from observed chimpanzees revealed that such respiratory outbreaks could have a long history, Leendertz’s team reported. But, they added, there was some good news: “Survey data show that research presence has had a strong positive effect in suppressing poaching around the research site.”  The researchers have already stepped up guidelines to help minimize the disease risk to chimpanzees, and they urge others to do the same. For example, Leendertz said, they now maintain a distance of at least seven meters, wear masks, and disinfect their boots regularly.

NPR : Saving So. Cal. Species from Fires

January 25, 2008  www.npr.org  by Carrie Kahn

All Things Considered : Scientists in southern California have determined that last fall's massive wildfires and subsequent mudslides wiped out populations of native fish and amphibians.  Adam Backlin, a USGS expert on California's ecology says "An aquatic species really has no chance in those situations," he says. Populations of the Santa Ana speckled dace, the Harding Canyon trout and the Arroyo turtle have all had their habitats destroyed by debris that washed down from the upper canyons shortly after the blazes.  About two years ago, USGS biologists rescued 80 mountain yellow-legged tadpoles from a burned-out region of the San Bernardino Mountains and brought them to the San Diego Zoo's conservation facility.  Frank Santana, a research assistant at the zoo, says that the frogs are getting so big now that the facility is running out of room for them.  "We started off with four tanks and had to add four more. Santana says he hopes other zoos will take half of the frogs for a captive-breeding colony, and biologists will return the other half to their habitat in the local mountains — if another fire doesn't come through first. Backlin says "Forward planning up to this point has been for people and safety and loss of property and not for any natural resources. Backlin hopes such planning can be up and running before California's next fire season.

The Gap Between Apes and Humans

January 25, 2008  www.sciencemag.com  

GÖTTINGEN, GERMANY-- Humans have a huge number of unique characteristics that set them apart from apes.  Some behaviors, such as planning, may have deep evolutionary roots, but others, such as cultural innovation, seem unique to our species, and others, including altruism, may represent a novel blend of old and new characteristics. The challenge now, says van Schaik, "is to figure out how one ape among many--humans--could become so radically different." "Genius," said the 18th century French naturalist Buffon, "is only a great aptitude for patience." To many researchers, our ability to trade immediate gratification for long-term rewards sets us apart from other, more impulsive animals. Without patience, activities from planting crops for later harvest to sending space probes to Mars would be impossible. But a talk at the meeting by behavioral ecologist Jeffrey Stevens of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin suggests that patience has evolutionary roots that predate the ape-human split--and that in some situations, humans may be even more impulsive than apes.  In new studies, Stevens and his co-workers measured how long our closest relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos, would play the waiting game. The apes were placed in an apparatus designed to give them a choice between two grape halves immediately or six grape halves later. (Trial runs taught the apes that the larger food amounts arrived after a delay.) Bonobos accepted a delay of about 74 seconds, whereas chimpanzees sweated out a full 2 minutes to get the larger reward--although they did a lot of fidgeting and head-scratching while they waited.

Asian Elephant and Calf Die in Child Birth

January 26, 2008  www.star-telegram.com By CHRIS VAUGHN

FORT WORTH — Babe, the Fort Worth Zoo’s 40-year-old matriarch elephant died while trying to give birth to a calf that also died.  She came to the Zoo in 1991 and had 3 unsuccessful pregnancies, including the 2002 delivery of a stillborn calf.  She went into labor Sunday afternoon and her contractions continued for two days. A reproductive expert used sonograms to check on the calf, and all looked well until Tuesday, when It became clear then that the calf was not entering the birth canal, meaning certain death for the calf, but no one thought that Babe would die too. Throughout the night Wednesday, she seemed normal. Although she rested and did normal physical activity, her health unexpectedly declined and she died Thursday morning in her sleep.  A necropsy was performed in the presence of 9 veterinarians (6 flown in) and it was found that she had a torn uterus, resulting in peritonitis. Peritonitis is an inflammation in the abdomen, probably caused when material leaked out of the uterus.

Conservancies in California

January 26, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com 

The San Diego River Conservancy is among the smallest in the state. When state lawmakers formed the San Diego River Conservancy in 2002, they wanted the agency to help restore and enhance the neglected waterway.  Current funding pales in comparison to what the conservancy's board of directors hoped to receive when they passed a strategic plan in 2006. The blueprint calls for obtaining $164.5 million by the end of 2009 to build bike paths, buy land and complete other projects along the waterway, which runs 52 miles from its starting point near Julian to its mouth in Ocean Beach.  The conservancy has outlined many needs, including a target of preserving 1,450 acres along the river by 2010. To date, it has helped to acquire about 185 acres.  Another priority highlighted in the plan is making the river safer for visitors by containing the “significant criminal element” that uses the waterway's overgrowth for shelter, drug deals and sales of stolen merchandise. Today, the floodplain remains pocked by trash, graffiti and homeless encampments in Mission Valley.  The conservancy will fold Jan. 1, 2010, unless the state Legislature extends its charter. The idea of letting the agency die may not be far-fetched. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sought to eliminate it in 2004, but several local leaders successfully pleaded for it to be spared.   Conservancy 2007-08 budgets are:
San Joaquin River $1.5 million
San Diego River $3.3 million*  *Includes a one-time appropriation from the Coastal Conservancy.
Baldwin Hills $4.5 million
Coachella Valley $11.9 million
Santa Monica Mountains $19.2 million
Sierra Nevada $21.6 million
Rivers and Mountains $38.8 million
Tahoe $46.2 million
Coastal $141.3 million
A video chronicaling the San Diego River's history is at uniontrib.com

Habitat for California Gnat-catcher and Endangered Plants

January 26, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com  By Michael Burge

BONSALL – The San Diego Association of Governments has bought 282 acres in Bonsall to offset biological damage from a project to widen state Route 76.  SANDAG paid $11.1 million for the acreage north of Route 76 between Olive Hill Road and Via Montellano. The previous owners had planned an 85-unit residential and commercial development, called The Groves, on the land. Caltrans will break ground next year on widening 5.8 miles of the two-lane highway between eastern Oceanside and Fallbrook, and it hopes to finish by 2011. Caltrans plans to use 14 of the 282 acres for the road widening and will set the remainder aside as habitat for the endangered California gnat-catcher and other sensitive animal and plant species.

Africa’s Dying Cattle Breeds

January 27, 2008  www.nytimes.com   By Andrew Rice

In recent decades, global trade, sophisticated marketing, artificial insemination and the demands of agricultural economics have transformed the Holstein into the world’s predominant dairy breed.  Indigenous animals like East Africa’s sinewy Ankole, the product of centuries of selection for traits adapted to harsh conditions, are struggling to compete with foreign imports bred for maximal production. This worries some scientists. The world’s food supply is increasingly dependent on a small and narrowing list of highly engineered breeds: the Holstein, the Large White pig and the Rhode Island Red and Leghorn chickens. There’s a risk that future diseases could ravage these homogeneous animal populations. Poor countries, which possess much of the world’s vanishing biodiversity, may also be discarding breeds that possess undiscovered genetic advantages. But farmers say they can’t afford to wait for science. Holsteins in an African setting, can produce 20 or 30 times as much milk as an Ankole.  (A typical Ankole produced between a quarter and a half gallon.)  The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, reports that at least 20 percent of the world’s estimated 7,600 livestock breeds are in danger of extinction. Experts are warning of a potential “meltdown” in global genetic diversity. Yet the plight of the Ankole illustrates the difficulty of balancing the conflicting goals of animal conservation and human prosperity. An estimated 70 percent of the world’s rural poor, some 630 million people, derive a substantial percentage of their income from livestock. Increase the productivity of these animals, and you improve dire living standards. The World Bank asserts that highly productive livestock breeds are playing an important role in alleviating poverty.  Every cow in the world is the product of some human agency. 

Harassing  Marine Mammals During Black Abalone Surveys

January 28, 2008    www.epa.gov

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has issued an incidental harassment authorization. (IHA) to Dr. Glenn VanBlaricom during the Black Abalone Research Surveys at San Nicolas Island, Ventura County, CA.  The final IHA would authorize the take, by harassment, of small numbers of California sea lions (Zalophus californianus), Pacific harbor seals (Phoca vitulina richardsi), and northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) incidental to research surveys performed for the purpose of assessing trends in black abalone (Haliotis cracherodii) populations at SNI, Ventura County, California. The proposed research consists of 2 researchers, on foot, counting abalone at nine permanent sites (1 m\2\ each) on SNI twice a year, with one brief additional visit to each site for maintenance.  Population trend data for black abalone populations have become important in a conservation context because of: (a) the reintroduction of sea otters to SNI in 1987, raising the possibility of conflict between otter conservation and abalone populations (abalones are often significant prey for sea otters); (b) the appearance of a novel exotic disease, abalone withering syndrome, at SNI in 1992, resulting in dramatically increased rates of abalone mortality at the Island; and, (c) the recent designation of California populations of black abalones as a species of concern in the context of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Research is done under the auspices of the Washington Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, the University of Washington, and the U.S. Navy (owner of SNI), with additional logistical support from the University of California, Santa Cruz.  A copy of the application containing a list of the references used in this document may be obtained by writing to Michael Payne, Chief, Permits, Conservation and Education Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910-3225, or online at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm

Issuance of Marine Mammal Permits : File No. 775-1875

January 28, 2008    www.epa.gov  

The Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC), Woods Hole, MA 02543, has been issued a permit to conduct research on, and import/export specimens collected from, marine mammals. The permit and related documents are available for review upon written request to: Permits, Conservation and Education Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Room 13705, Silver Spring, MD 20910; phone (301)713-2289. On January 10, 2007, notice was published in the Federal Register (72 FR 1218) that a request for a scientific research permit to take seven species of baleen whales, twenty-five species/stocks of odontocetes, and four species of pinnipeds, including the following endangered species: sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis), blue whale (B. musculus), fin whale (B. physalus), humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), and right whale (Eubalaena glacialis), had been submitted by the above-named organization. This research permit authorizes aerial and vessel surveys to be conducted including close approach, photo-id, and incidental harassment of cetaceans. Level A activities include biopsy sampling and suction-cup tagging, which will be conducted on all age classes with the exception of neonates. Additionally, researchers are authorized to capture, biological sample, incidentally harass, and release four
species of pinnipeds. Pinniped research would be conducted on all age classes including pups. The study area for this permit includes waters within or proximal to the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone from Maine to Florida. Finally, researchers are authorized to import and export cetacean and pinniped specimens (including soft and hard tissue, blood, extracted DNA, whole dead animals, etc.) to/from any country.

Wolves in Yellowstone and Northern Rocky Mountains

January 28, 2008    www.epa.gov 

The USFWS has revised the 2005 special rule for the central Idaho and Yellowstone area nonessential experimental population (NEP) of the gray wolf (Canis lupus) in the northern Rocky Mountains. Specifically, we have modified the definition of ``unacceptable impact'' to wild ungulate populations so that States and Tribes with wolf management plans can address the impacts of a recovered wolf population on ungulate herds and populations while wolves remain listed. We clarify the requirements and processes for submission of proposals to control wolves for unacceptable ungulate impacts. We also modified the 2005 special rule to allow persons in States or on Tribal lands with wolf management plans to take wolves that are in the act of attacking their stock animals or dogs. All other provisions of the special rule remain unchanged. The effective date of this rule is February 27, 2008.  This final rule is available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov   Once the complete decision file for this rule is completed it will be available for inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of the Western Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, 585 Shepard Way, Helena, Montana 59601. Call 406-449-5225 to make arrangements.  For further information see: http://westerngraywolf.fws.gov

In 1974, four subspecies of gray wolf were listed as endangered, including the NRM gray wolf (Canis lupus irremotus), the eastern timber wolf (C. l. lycaon) in the northern Great Lakes region, the Mexican wolf (C. l. baileyi) in Mexico and the southwestern United States, and the Texas gray wolf (C. l. monstrabilis) of Texas and Mexico. In 1978, we relisted the gray wolf as endangered at the species level (C. lupus) throughout the conterminous 48 States and Mexico, except for Minnesota where it was reclassified as threatened. In 2007, we delisted the Western Great Lakes distinct population segment of wolves that includes all of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and parts of North and South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. The Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Plan was approved in 1980 and revised in 1987. On November 22, 1994, we designated unoccupied portions of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming as two nonessential experimental population (NEP) areas for the gray wolf under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. One area is the Greater Yellowstone Area experimental population, which includes all of Wyoming and parts of southern Montana and eastern Idaho. The other is the central Idaho experimental population area, which includes most of Idaho and parts of southwestern Montana. In 1995 and 1996, we reintroduced wolves from southwestern Canada into these areas. These reintroductions and accompanying management programs greatly expanded the numbers and distribution of wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains (NRM). At the end of 2000, the NRM population first met its numerical and distributional recovery goal of a minimum of 30 breeding pairs and more than 300 wolves well-distributed among Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. This minimum recovery goal has been exceeded annually through 2007.

NC Zoo Helps Rebuild Iraqi Zoo

January 28, 2008  www.bizjournals.com

Veterinarians from both the N.C. Zoo and N.C. State University are offering advice to the Baghdad Zoo via a virtual link to classes and experts on campus and in the field.  This semester, veterinarians at the Baghdad Zoo will be participating in the Advanced Topics in Zoological Medicine course offered by the College of Veterinary Medicine at N.C. State. The course will allow Iraqi vets to interact with instructors, students and experts from the N.C. Zoo via satellite link and video conferencing. In addition, the Iraqi veterinarians will be able to connect directly to the N.C. Zoo Hospital for consultations and advice. The N.C. Zoo has been instrumental in both raising funds for and overseeing the rebuilding of the Baghdad Zoo since 2003.

Riverbanks Zoo’s Baby Koala

January 28, 2008  www.thestate.com

A joey, named Oz, was born in mid-May and spent seven months developing in the pouch of its mother, Lottie. He is Lottie’s second offspring.  Her first born, named Karoo died in 2005 at 9 months of age.  (Nearly 73 percent of first-born koala fair to survive according to zoo officials.) Oz's father, Great, is a 6-year-old donated to Riverbanks from the San Diego Zoo specifically to broaden the gene pool of captive koalas. Most koalas in U.S. zoos come from a similar lineage. The two Riverbanks koalas, Lottie and Killarney, are from a different line.

Oakland’s Elderly Giraffe Gets a Winter Coat

January 28, 2008  www.insidebayarea.com  By Angela Hill

OAKLAND —  Tiki is an 18-year-old great-grandmother giraffe with a disease called ringbone in her front hooves, which causes her discomfort and affects her gait. The unusual gait then causes problems for her back and shoulders, which then makes her sensitive to the cold, and she sometimes shivers.  Because of her afflictions, she gets regular visits from an acupuncturist, a chiropractor and a masseuse, and most recently, a tailor.  Gillian Swarbrick, owner of Chaskit custom horse blankets in West Point, outside Sacramento, is donating her services to custom-fit and hand-sew the special coat for Tiki. "The closest I've come to working with an exotic animal is making a coat for a pig who had pneumonia." Said Swarbrick.  Keepers Amy Phelps and Melissa McCartney had been using an ill-fitting horse blanket to keep Tiki warm during the winter months, but feared buckles or loose portions of the blanket might get hooked on a branch or fence and injure her.  Swarbrick’s design features a waterproof fabric, removable liner and Velcro fasteners. It should take two weeks to complete.  Someone suggested a leopard-print coat might be fun, just to freak out the other giraffes, but good taste prevailed. 

Non-native Deer Extermination in California

January 28, 2008  www.mercurynews.com   By A.P.

POINT REYES STATION, Calif.—The plan to kill nonnative deer at Point Reyes National Seashore is scheduled to resume this morning.  The National Park Service has hired a hunting group to eliminate 1,200 fallow and axis deer that officials say threaten the region's native deer species.  The nonnative deer were introduced to the area in the 1940s when a rancher bought them from the San Francisco Zoo. That rancher's land became part of the Point Reyes National Seashore in the 1960s.

Cuba Helps Hawksbill Turtle

January 28, 2008  www.enn.com 

The Caribbean’s endangered green and loggerhead turtles are threatened by the loss of nesting and feeding habitats, egg collection, entanglement in fishing gear, climate change, and pollution. Hawksbill turtles are also threatened by hunting for tortoise shell and suffered global population declines of 80 per cent over the last century.  Now the Cuban government government has ended all harvesting of marine turtles ending the take of 500 critically endangered hawksbill turtles coming to feed in Cuban waters each year. The phase out of the marine turtle fishery in Cuba is the result of a joint effort by the Cuban Ministry of Fisheries and WWF, with financial support from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). The two remaining fishing communities used to harvest marine turtles in Cuba are being provided with funds and technical assistance to help them implement specifically developed sustainable economic alternatives, modernize their fishing fleets, re-train their inhabitants and engage them in hawksbill turtle protection activities. The WWF/CIDA grant of over $400,000 also supports the Ministry's Centre for Fisheries Research to become a regional hub for marine turtle conservation and research, capitalizing on decades of experience by leading Cuban scientists. 

WWF Urges Blue Fin Tuna Boycott

January 28, 2008  www.enn.com

Scientists have declared it “probable” that populations of the bluefin tuna, prized for sushi in Japan, will soon collapse in the Mediterranean unless action is taken now.  High-tech fishing fleets have hunted down, often illegally, ever-declining numbers of these migratory ocean giants.  WWF exposed the drastically out-of-control nature of the Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery in the 2007 season when illegal fishing was again rife — including the use of banned spotter planes, as well as widespread unreporting.  Now major retailers in France, Italy Switzerland and Norway are boycotting bluefin tuna, and WWF is applauding their courageous decisions to stop selling Mediterranean bluefin tuna — and we urging other retailers to follow suit.  Dr Sergi Tudela is Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean.

Salamanders Denied Federal Protection

January 28,  2008  www.times-standard.com  By John Driscoll

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided that two species of salamanders that live in the Siskiyou Mountains aren't in danger of extinction and won't get special federal protection. The agency claims that populations of the Siskiyou Mountains Salamander and the Scott Bar Salamander are sufficient enough and spread out enough so that they aren't vulnerable to any particular threat.  The Environmental Protection Information Center, the Siskiyou-Klamath Wildlands Center and the Center for Biological Diversity had petitioned the agency to consider the salamanders for protection. They said that the salamanders have among the smallest ranges of any salamander and that relaxed or eliminated federal habitat protection programs put them in jeopardy. USFWS claims the species have enough protection under the Northwest Forest Plan on U.S. Forest Service lands and under the California Endangered Species Act that applies to private lands. If new information emerges that identifies a serious threat or if an emergency situation arises, the service said, it will provide immediate protection.

11 Fishers Released into Olympic National Park

January 28, 2008  www.thenewstribune.com   By SUSAN GORDON

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK – Fishers, cat-sized members of the weasel family, have been missing from Washington State’s forests for decades, wiped out by early 20th-century trappers.  On Sunday, biologists released 11 Canadian fishers – five males and six females – into the park’s Elwha River and Morse Creek drainages, near the Olympic Peninsula city of Port Angeles. It was the first step in a state, federal and privately supported effort to revive the state’s population of fishers.  Over the next three years, biologists plan to trap at least 100 fishers from central British Columbia and set them free in the Olympic Peninsula’s old-growth forests.  While Canada’s fisher population is healthy, U.S. West Coast, fishers have been waiting for federal protection since 2004.  “If we can get them re-established (in Washington), we’re one step closer to getting them re-established throughout their West Coast range,” said Laura Finley, a California-based USFWS biologist who is working with USGS, Conservation Northwest and others.  The project will cost about $650,000 by the time it’s finished.

Tasmanian Devil Tumor Research

January 28, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

COLD SPRINGS HARBOR -- In 1996 scientists first discovered the facial tumors on Tasmanian devils. The cancer was transmitted from one devil to another when tumor cells were transplanted through fighting and biting. Once afflicted with the cancer, the aggressive tumors on the face and neck of the devils, restricted their ability to eat, killing them within approximately three months. The disease has decimated the devil population by nearly 90 percent in certain geographical areas of Tasmania, and officials project that within twenty years the entire species could become extinct.  The process by which the disease spreads among the devils has only been seen once before and represents a new field in cancer biology. Inbreeding in wild populations may prevent the devils’ immune system from recognizing the cancer as foreign, allowing the cancer to be transmitted. The Tasmanian government is establishing an insurance population of more than two hundred devils in quarantined facilities before the end of 2008 and are welcoming the efforts of a  team of researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. CSHL and 454 Lifesciences, hope to learn how the tumors work at a molecular level by sequencing the genes expressed in the devils’ tumor. Elizabeth Murchison of CSHL is leading the team.  “When we have a complete view of the devil tumor genes, scientists will be able to identify the cancer causing genes, which may lead to the development of therapies and vaccines.”

Elephants Influence Lizard Habitat

January 28, 2008  www.sciencedaily.com

A study of elephant/lizard ecology will appear in the February issue of the journal Ecology at www.esa.org.  Working at the Mpala Research Center in Kenya between 2004 and 2007,  Robert M. Pringle of Stanford University, found that Kenya dwarf geckos (Lygodactylus keniensis) only inhabited trees  which had been damaged by browsing elephants (Loxodontia africana). They were completely absent from undamaged trees in the same study area.  Further investigations revealed that the preference was due to hiding places which were incidentally created by the elephants' activities. Ecosystem engineering -- the idea that activities of one kind of animal can create habitat for other animals -- is a relatively new concept, having emerged only about 15 years ago. There are that poaching may wipe out the large animals on lands where they are not protected, but elephants eating habits are extremely destructive in smaller tracts of land. Since they have no real natural predators besides humans, they can sometimes eat themselves out of house and home in the areas where they are protected.  Because of these management dilemmas, finding an "optimum number" of elephants for any given refuge or wildlife area has become a hot topic. By gaining a better understanding of ecosystem engineering and the effects that large herbivores have on other species, researchers may gain more insight into how the entire savanna ecosystem works.

Gibbons Sing to Scare Predators

January 28, 2008  www.earthtimes.org

Gibbons are renowned amongst non-human primates for their loud and impressive songs that transmit over long distances and are commonly used in their daily routine when mating pairs "serenade" every morning.  Songs in response to predators - mostly large cats, snakes and birds of prey - have been previously noted, but no extensive research into its purpose or understanding by other gibbons has been done until now.  German researchers have found that gibbons in Thailand have developed an unusual way of scaring off predators - by singing to them. Klaus Zuberbuhler from St Andrews University in Scotland and Ulrich Reichard of the Max Planck Institute in Germany, based their findings on two years spent in Khao Yai National Park in Thailand observing groups of gibbons.  "Our study has demonstrated that gibbons not only use unique songs as a response to predators, but that fellow gibbons understand them. [It] is a really good indicator that non-human primates are able to use combinations of calls given in other contexts to relay new, and in this case, potentially life-saving information to one another.  Gibbons assemble a finite number of call units into more complex structures to convey different messages, and our data shows that distant individuals are able to distinguish between different song types and understand what they mean.

Flame Retardants Found in Tasmanian Devils

January 28, 2008  news.nationalgeographic.com  By Dave Hansford

Tasmanian devils are dying from devil-facial-tumor-disease (DFTD).  A recent study conducted by the Australian government's National Measurement Institute took samples of fat from 16 living and dead devils, and found "high" levels of hexabromobiphenyl ether and "reasonably high" levels of decabromobiphenyl ether—chemicals used to treat electronics, textiles, and furniture.  Very high concentrations of such chemicals have been shown to cause cancer in lab mice, but there weren’t significant differences [of the chemicals] between diseased and non-diseased animals.  Hamish McCallum, professor of wildlife research at the University of Tasmania, said it's unlikely the chemicals caused the devils' disease, but no one is sure what triggered the cancer in the first place. McCallum said, "It's a really, really strange tumor. All the tumor cells in all the devils are essentially a clone—they are all derived from one individual.  "The event that caused that original mutation to malignancy will never be known," he said. “but it is possible that [biphenyls] could suppress the devils' immune systems in such a way that it makes them more likely to develop the cancer.”  McCallum thinks the devils in the new study could have easily ingested biphenyls directly.  "You've got to remember that [these carnivorous marsupials] are scavengers," he said.  People maintain outdoor dumps and if somebody chucked a wallaby carcass on top of a foam mattress, then … the devils might actually consume quite large quantities of that foam."

Domestic Cat Originated in Middle East

January 28, 2008   www.news.ucdavis.edu

A new genetic study from researchers at the University of California, Davis, have concluded that the modern day domestic cat originated in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East.  The study involved more than 11,000 cats, and appears in the January issue of the journal Genomics. Leslie Lyons, an authority on cat genetics and principal investigator on this study, said: "More than 200 genetic disorders have been identified in modern cats, and many are found in pure breeds. We hope that cat breeders will use the genetic information uncovered by this study to develop efficient breed-management plans and avoid introducing genetically linked health problems into their breeds."  Earlier archaeological evidence and research suggested that domestication of the cat originated about 5,000 to 8,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, the area around the eastern end of the Mediterranean, from Turkey to northern Africa and eastward to modern day Iraq and Iran. This domestication of the cat occurred as humans transitioned from nomadic herding to raising crops and livestock. From the DNA analysis, the researchers found that the cats were genetically clustered in four groups that corresponded with the regions of Europe, the Mediterranean basin, east Africa and Asia.   Today, there are 50 recognized cat breeds. Of that total, 16 breeds are thought to be "natural breeds" that occurred in specific regions, while the remaining breeds were developed during the past 50 years.  More information about cat genomics in the Lyons lab is at http://faculty.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/faculty/lalyons/ .

Chester Zoo Adopts Web 2.0 Technologies

January 28, 2008  www.e-consultancy.com 

KMP Associates has just completed a nine month project to overhaul the digital marketing strategy of Chester Zoo – the UK’s largest zoo. As well as totally re-designing the website and developing a content management system, the innovative project involved integrating the social media photo-sharing application Flickr into the site.  Visitors can upload their own photos of trips to the zoo, which are then watermarked with the www.chesterzoo.org motif and can be viewed on the main Flickr site. In this way it is hoped that the pictures will act as a further online marketing tool.  Chester Zoo staff also has greater control over the website, with the ability to write and manage its own content easily and quickly.  KMP was also commissioned to develop an online marketing campaign for Chester Zoo’s annual Frost Fair. The campaign included a game, competition, video and email marketing campaign.

Chameleons Communicate with Color Change

January 28, 2008  news.nationalgeographic.com  By Anne Casselman

A new study suggests that chameleons evolved their color changing abilities not for camouflage but to communicate quickly.  Instead of vocalizing or using pheromones, chameleons can communicate visually by changing the colors and patterns of their skin. For example, the brighter colors a male displays, the more dominant he is. So male chameleons can attract a mate or defend their territory by flashing bright colors to each other. To communicate submission or surrender, a male will display drab browns and grays.  Females also use a colorful version of signaling to communicate when they want to reject mates or are pregnant.  Devi Stuart-Fox, from the University of Melbourne, and her colleague Adnan Moussalli, from University of KwaZulu Natal in South Africa, ran experiments on 21 species of southern African dwarf chameleons to figure out why these color-changing abilities formed.  A photo gallery is at:
http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/photos/chameleons.html The study appears in this month's PLoS Biology.

Census of Antarctic Marine Life

January 29, 2008  news.nationalgeographic.com  By A.P.

U.S., New Zealand, and Italian marine scientists have begun a two-month voyage to Antarctica's northern coast as part of an ongoing study of worldwide marine biodiversity.  The expedition by the Tangaroa is part of the Census of Antarctic Marine Life (CAML), a branch of the Census for Marine Life project, which is attempting to assess the diversity and distribution of life in the oceans over ten years.  The 26 scientists on the research ship will collect samples of sea life and capture images of the sea floor down to depths of 13,000 feet (about 4,000 meters) in previously unexplored areas.  The voyage will provide essential information about the biodiversity and functioning of the Ross Sea ecosystem off the Antarctic coast.  New assessments of ocean acidification caused by climate change and identification of new species off Antarctica's coastline are expected.  In 2007 scientists announced that they found more than 700 new species in the waters surrounding Antarctica, including heart-shaped sea urchins, carnivorous sponges, and giant sea spiders the size of dinner plates.  That work, based on three voyages by the German research vessel Polarstern in the Weddell Sea east of the Antarctic Peninsula between 2002 and 2005, was also part of the CAML project.

Anthrax Confirmed at Assam State Zoo

January 29, 2008  www.telegraphindia.com

GUWAHATI, India -- Clinical tests at the College of Veterinary Sciences in Khanapara confirmed that an “acute” case of anthrax caused the sudden death of a 30-year-old rhino, Jon, in the early hours of January 22.  A committee of experts suggested vaccination of all animals in and around the zoo, with the focus on ruminant mammals such as cattle, sheep, buffalo and goats. “We implemented a series of preventive measures after the rhino died. We were only waiting to find out whether it was anthrax that caused the death before taking the final step of vaccinating animals.” Said Jon was brought to the zoo from Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in 1980.

NC Zoo’s Solar Power Project

January 29, 2008   news14.com  By Stephanie Stilwell

ASHEBORO, N.C. -- The North Carolina Zoo’s solar panel project is now in operation.  It is the largest solar project in the state and has been in the works since 2004.  Two large solar panels sit at the back of the North America parking lot, and are projected to produce 130,000 kilowatt hours a year. That's enough power to keep the lights on in 11 to 13 different homes. Visitors can see what the panels produce with an up-to-the minute readout online or onsite. The panels are mounted on three picnic pavilions and eventually it will provide a unique covered catering space for 1200 people.  Hopefully visitors at Solar Pointe will be thinking green long after they leave the zoo.

Technology at the San Diego Zoo

January 29, 2008  www.cio.co.uk  Robert Mitchell

Panda-cams and condor tracking collars are just part of the day job for Robert Erhardt, chief technology officer for the Zoological Society of San Diego. Prior to joining the Zoological Society in 2001, he was CIO at Disney Regional Entertainment. 
What’s the most interesting project you’ve worked on?
We are collaborating with the rest of the world to develop a product named the Zoological Information Management System. It’s going to be a Net-based, state-of-the-art tool that will allow animal care people to change the way they manage massive collections in zoos and aquariums around the world. ZIMS will revolutionize the way business processes surrounding animal care is done.
When did ZIMS launch, and where are you now with it?
We started five-and-a-half years ago. Right now, we’re 85 per cent to 90 per cent done.
What will ZIMS do, exactly?
When ZIMS comes online, all of [the clinical animal] data will be available. It will allow us to share best practices around the world for animal care. It will be a real-time model. For example, standard red blood cell counts for various species of primates are virtually unknown today. Even humans don’t have electronic medical records yet.  When this project is done, we will be light years ahead of human medicine in our ability to share data.
Do you use any emerging technologies?
We use RFID [for] identification of the animals. We’re using radio telemetry extensively in the field – for example, in our condor-release project in Baja, California. All of those condors are fitted with radio tracking collars. Some of them are using satellite telemetry, and others are using a cellular-based technology on a localized basis. Then we have radio telemetry tracking tools our scientists use to locate any individual through triangulation. We’re investigating the potential of using handheld devices for our keepers to be able to keep their data logs and observations. The handheld devices will be put in cradles and interface with ZIMS to collect the daily keeper information.

S.F Police : No crime found in tiger case

January 30, 2008  www.mercurynews.com  By Linda Goldston and Sandra Gonzales

Thirty-five days after declaring the San Francisco Zoo a crime scene, police have suspended their investigation, "pending new witnesses" or "new evidence being produced" that would show the young men provoked the attack. So far, police have turned up no evidence to show Paul and Kulbir Dhaliwal, the San Jose brothers injured by the Siberian tiger named Tatiana, committed a crime at the zoo. The attack left Carlos Sousa Jr. dead.  One legal expert called Tuesday's development a blow to the zoo, which is under fire for having an enclosure that allowed the tiger to escape. Sam Singer, spokesman for the zoo, said the zoo will continue its own investigation to determine what happened on Christmas Day, insisting still that "there are questions about taunting, alcohol and marijuana usage."

Endangered Species Permit Applications

January 30, 2008  www.epa.gov  

The following applicants have applied for scientific research permits to conduct certain activities with endangered species.  Written comments must be received on or before February 29, 2008. Comments must be submitted before midnight.  Written comments should be submitted to the Chief, Endangered Species Division, Ecological Services, P.O. Box 1306, Room 4102, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87103. Documents and other information submitted with these applications are available for review.  Please refer to the respective permit number for each application when submitting comments.

Permit TE-169770
Applicant: New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys of Rio Grande silvery minnow (Hybognathus amarus) within New Mexico.

Permit TE-166070
Applicant: New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Applicant requests an amendment to an existing permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys of Gila chub (Gila intermedia) within New Mexico.

Permit TE-168189
Applicant: Michael Green, Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas. Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys of black capped vireo (Vireo atricapilla) within Texas.

Permit TE-168185
Applicant: Cox McLain Environmental Consulting, Inc., Austin, Texas. Applicant requests a new permit to conduct presence/absence surveys for research and recovery purposes for the following species: black capped-vireo (Vireo atricapilla), golden-checked warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia), Attwater's prairie chicken (Tynpanuchus cupido attwateri), Northern aplomado falcon (Falco fernoralis septentrionalis), piping plover (Charadrius melodus), red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis), interior least tern (Sterna antillarium) and Houston toad (Bufo houstonensis) within Texas.

Permit TE-036436
Applicant: Environmental Planning Group, Tucson, Arizona. Applicant requests an amendment to a previous permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for lesser long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris curasoae yerbabuenae) within Arizona.

Permit TE-168688
Applicant: Sarah Itz, Austin, Texas. Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for the following species: black-capped vireo (Vireo atricapilla) and golden-checked warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia) within Texas.

Black Duiker Born at Binder Park Zoo

January 30, 2008  www.battlecreekenquirer.com

BATTLE CREEK, Michigan -- Binder Park Zoo welcomes the birth of Halali, a female African Black Duiker. Halali was born Dec. 11 and weighs 2 pounds 14 ounces. She is the third female duiker to be born in the past five years at Binder Park Zoo.  There are now 19 black duikers in North America.

Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP)

January 30, 2008  www.enn.com 

The Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP) was founded in 1997 as a small, mainly voluntary partnership programme, by three international organizations: IUCN - The World Conservation Union, CAB International, and the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE). In early 2005, GISP was constituted as a legal entity with Founding Members IUCN, CAB International, The Nature Conservancy, and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).  GISP estimates that invasive species inflict US$1.4 trillion in environmental, social and economic damage each year.  To enable informed policy making on the prevention, eradication and control of invasive species, it is critical that studies are expanded to show the extent of the problem and in particular the impact that these weeds, pests and diseases have on people’s lives. He says “numbers are not enough; decision makers need to know the tangible effects invasive species are having on the individual farmers and their crops.”  To help address the issues, GISP and one of its lead organizations, CABI, has undertaken a number of case studies of problem invasive species in.  The organization has released a new report titled: ”Economic Impacts of Invasive Alien Species: A Global Problem with Local Consequences."

Balboa Park Management Problems

January 30, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com   By Jeanette Steele

Balboa Park attracts 10 million visitors a year.  Visitors come from:
6% neighboring ZIP codes
18% elsewhere in San Diego
45% elsewhere in San Diego County
11% elsewhere in California
15% elsewhere in the United States
4% elsewhere in the world
It is managed by the city’s Park and Recreation Department but a new report questions whether it should remain a city function, saying It's a mistake to split the job of running the park among different city departments. “The complexity of this administrative structure leads to opaque accounting, redundancy and management responsibilities that often overlap or fail to address an issue at all.”  The report was prepared by the Trust for Public Land in Washington,  D.C., and the Keston Institute at the University of Southern California. It lists $238 million in fix-it projects that mostly have no funding. Some are major – $51.3 million to retrofit buildings along the Prado for earthquake safety. The authors don't think San Diego can generate the money needed to “save” the park, hampered as the city is by a tattered financial reputation, a $1 billion pension deficit and the virtual inability to sell bonds to raise money.  Park stakeholders seem to agree with the report that the current system is broken, but there's no consensus yet about which, if any, of the suggested management models should be tried.

Toronto Zoo Partners with Toronto University

January 30, 2008  www.news.utoronto.ca

“The Role of Zoos in Conservation” is the result of a partnership between The Toronto Zoo and U.T. Life Sciences Professor Dudley Williams.  Williams, who sits on the zoo’s board of management, launched the semester-long course, that focuses on how zoos are taking an active role in conservation through captive breeding, new technologies and assisted reproduction for wild populations. The course also dovetails nicely with UTSC’s new program in conservation 
biology, which began in 2006.  Guest lecturers from the Toronto Zoo, as well as the Royal Botanical Gardens and the Western Plains Zoo in Australia, visit the class weekly to speak about their areas of expertise. It’s an approach that’s resonating with students as they consider their own futures.  The course also includes a behind-the-scenes tour of the Toronto Zoo’s reproductive, veterinary and nutritional facilities. “Usually when you go to the zoo, you don’t 
get the conservation message,” said Nasir, who had all the credits he needed to graduate but stayed an extra semester to take the course. “But it is intertwined with the different educational programs that they offer.We’re learning in the course that they do a lot of behind-the-scenes conservation.”  “We call it the invisible zoo,” said Dr. William Rapley, executive director of conservation, education and research at the Toronto Zoo. Rapley said, “We have 40 species 
survival programs, Canadian endangered species breeding programs and more recently, we have begun protecting habitats through conservation outreach.” Its Centre for Sustainable Development, currently in the planning stage, will usher a new era of conservation.

Chimpanzee Bartering Study

January 30, 2008  www.enn.com 

A new study published in PLoS ONE is the first to examine the circumstances under which chimpanzees, will exchange one inherently valuable commodity (an apple slice) for another (a grape), which is what early humans must have learned to do. The researchers found that chimpanzees often did not spontaneously barter food items, but needed to be trained to engage in commodity barter. Moreover, even after the chimpanzees had been trained to do barters with reliable human trading partners, they were reluctant to engage in extreme deals in which a very good commodity (apple slices) had to be sacrificed in order to get an even more preferred commodity (grapes).  Prior animal behavior studies have largely examined chimpanzees’ willingness to trade tokens for valuable commodities. Tokens do not exist in nature, and lack inherent value, so a chimpanzee’s willingness to trade a token for a valuable commodity, such as a grape, may say little about chimpanzee behavior outside the laboratory.  It could be because chimpanzees lack social systems to enforce deals and, as a society, punish an individual that cheats its trading partner by running off with both commodities. Also because of their lack of property ownership norms, chimpanzees in nature do not store property and thus would have little opportunity to trade commodities. Nevertheless, as prior research has demonstrated, they do possess highly active service economies. In their natural environment, only current possessions are “owned,” and the threat of losing what one has is very high, so chimpanzees frequently possess nothing to trade.

African Seed Collection En Route to Arctic Seed Vault

January 30, 2008   www.physorg.com

Twenty-one boxes filled with 7,000 unique seed samples from more than 36 African nations were shipped to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a facility being built on a remote island in the Arctic Circle as a repository of last resort for humanity’s agricultural heritage. The vault is being built by the Norwegian government as a service to the global community, and a Rome-based international NGO, the Global Crop Diversity Trust, will fund its operation. The vault will open on 26 February 2008.  The shipment, which was sent by the Ibadan, Nigeria-based International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), consists of thousands of duplicates of unique varieties of domesticated and wild cowpea, maize, soybean, and Bambara groundnut.   Other centers supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) have also begun packing and shipping duplicate collections from Benin, Colombia, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines, and Syria. Collectively, the CGIAR centers maintain 600,000 plant varieties in crop genebanks, which are widely viewed as the foundation of global efforts to conserve agricultural biodiversity.  Crop biodiversity is the raw material needed to equip crops with critical resistance to pests and diseases, and enable them to grow in harsher conditions of drought, salinity, and flooding, which will likely increase with global climate change, particularly in poor nations.

Hummingbirds Create ‘Chirp’ with Tails

Janurary 30, 2008  www.physorg.com

The beeps, chirps and whistles made by some hummingbirds and thought to be vocal are actually created by the birds' tail feathers, according to a report in this week's online ‘Proceedings of the Royal Society B’. Two students at UC Berkeley used a high-speed camera to record the dive-bomber display of the Anna's hummingbird (Calypte anna), the West Coast's most common hummer. The video established that the chirp a male makes at the nadir of his dive coincides with a 60 millisecond spreading of his tail feathers - faster than the blink of an eye. Wind tunnel tests confirmed that the outer tail feathers vibrate like a reed in a clarinet. The bird's split-second tail spread at dive speed thus produces a loud, brief burst that sounds like a chirp or beep.  "This is a new mechanism for sound production in birds," said lead author Christopher J. Clark. "The Anna's hummingbird is the only hummingbird for which we know all the details, but there are a number of other species with similarly shaped tail feathers that may use their tail morphology in producing sounds."  The tail-feather beep is similar to the whistling feathers of ducks and other birds, including the mourning dove, the whistling swan and nighthawks. Those sounds, however, seem to be incidental to wing flapping, the researchers said.

Critical Habitat for Tidewater Goby

January 31, 2008 www.fws.gov

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it has designated approximately 10,003 acres of critical habitat for the federally endangered tidewater goby, a small fish that inhabits brackish waters along the west coast of California.  The critical habitat includes land in portions of Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino, Sonoma, Marin, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Los Angeles counties.  Approximately 72 percent of the critical habitat is on state lands. Of the remaining designated lands, 15 percent are privately held, 11 percent are federally-managed, and 2 percent are administered by local agencies. The Service is excluding the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in San Diego County and Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County from the designation because these bases have completed Integrated Natural Resource Management Plans that provide conservation benefits to the tidewater goby.

Hand-Raising a Baby Giraffe

January 31, 2008  www.timesonline.co.uk

Staff at Chester Zoo are hand-rearing a baby giraffe born there ten days ago. The 5ft-tall Rothschild giraffe, called Margaret, arrived two weeks prematurely and is a very small calf. She was having difficulty suckling so keepers stepped in. There are only 600 Rothschild giraffes left in the wild, where they roam the lowlands of Kenya and Uganda.  In November 2006, the first Rothschild giraffe  was born at the zoo.

Conservation Strategies Changing

January 31, 2008  www.enn.com 

Sustaining and enhancing altered ecosystems has become the new focus for conservation and restoration managers as ecosystems respond to global warming and other environmental changes.  A new study by the University of Colorado at Boulder professor Timothy Seastedt says atmospheric pollution, climate change, exotic species invasions,  extinctions and land fragmentation have altered virtually every ecosystem on the planet. Managers and biologists should be nurturing so-called "novel ecosystems" -- thriving combinations of plants, animals and habitat that have never occurred together before -- and developing new conservation strategies for them, he said. Current management practices often involve trying to fix only one aspect of an ecosystem, like eradicating an invasive species, according to the authors. But in many cases, such action does little to improve the ecosystem's overall health. Invasive plant species that have been removed, for example, are frequently replaced by other invasive species that quickly colonize the ecological "vacuum."  Instead, biologists and managers need to work with new approaches that focus on desired outcomes, emphasizing genetic and species diversity, said Seastedt, also a fellow at CU-Boulder's Institute of Arctic and Alpine  A paper on the subject was published online Jan. 31 in Frontiers in Ecology.

India Will spend $170M to Save Tigers

January 31, 2008  www.news.com.au

INDIA plans to spend $170 million over five years in an attempt to save its endangered tigers. The number of tigers in India has plummeted to between 1300 to 1500 from about 40,000 a century ago, according to provisional government survey results.  Some of the new money will be spent on shifting villages and tribal communities away from tiger habitats, according to Rajesh Gopal, head of India's National Tiger Conservation Authority.  Eight new tiger reserves will also be established, although conservationists say bad management and outright corruption are problems at some of India's tiger reserves. In 2005, the Government announced that there were no tigers left in Sariska Tiger Reserve, more than 30 years after it had set up Project Tiger, a national effort to protect the species.

Phoenix Zoo Rescues Mountain Lion Cubs

January 31, 2008  www.azcentral.com

The Phoenix Zoo has rescued two 5-month-old female mountain lion cubs.  They were brought to the zoo by the South Dakota Wildlife Division of Game, Fish and Parks after the cubs after being orphaned in the Black Hills.  In celebration of Super Bowl XLII in Arizona, the cubs have been named Eli and Brady.  Mountain lions, also known as pumas, cougars and panthers, are found throughout Arizona and have one of the largest ranges of any wild cat and can be found across the West.  The cubs are on exhibit on the Arizona Trail.

KC Zoo Breaks Ground on Tropical Exhibit

January 31, 2008  www.kansascity.com By MATT CAMPBELL

Kansas City Zoo broke ground today for a $5 million tropical exhibit.  The project, which will be completed by September, will transform an original 1909 building and usher in the zoo’s centennial next year. Zoo Director Randy Wisthoff said the new renovation, paid for with bonds will restore a pitched glass skylight to the structure. The floor is also being lowered by four feet to create an 18-foot-tall space and year-round attraction with natural light. Species planned for the 8,000 square feet of exhibit space include tamarins, gibbons, otters, capybara and toucans. Officials are asking the public to share memories, photographs, souvenirs or other items about the zoo over the decades to celebrate the centinnial.

Endangered Species Permit Applications

January 31, 2008    http://www.epa.gov  

The public to comment on the following applications to conduct certain activities with endangered species. Comments must be received on or before March 3, 2008. Mail to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Endangered Species Program Manager, Region 8, 2800 Cottage Way, Room W-2606, Sacramento, CA 95825 (telephone: 916-414-6464; fax: 916-414-6486). Please refer to the respective permit number for each application when submitting comments. For further information contact: Daniel Marquez, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, (telephone: 760-431-9440

 Permit No. TE-08502
Applicant: Jeff Steinman, San Juan Capistrano, California    The applicant requests an amendment to take (locate and monitor nests) the least Bell's vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus) in conjunction with surveys and population monitoring throughout the range of the species in California, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-172629
Applicant: Kirsten Sellheim, Davis, California    The applicant requests an amendment to take (capture, collect, and kill) the Conservancy fairy shrimp (Branchinecta conservatio), the longhorn fairy shrimp (Branchinecta longiantenna), and the vernal pool tadpole shrimp (Lepidurus packardi) in conjunction with research and genetic analysis in Lassen, Plumas, Mendocino, Lake Colusa, Sacramento, Napa, Alameda, Merced, Stanislaus, Fresno, Solano, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara Counties, California, and in Jackson County, Oregon, for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Permit No. TE-035879
Applicant: Wildlands Incorporated, Rocklin, California    The permittee requests an amendment to take (harass by survey, capture, handle, and release) the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) in conjunction with surveys throughout the range of the species in California, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-809232
Applicant: Bio-West, Incorporated, Logan, Utah    The applicant requests an amendment to remove/reduce to possession Nitrophila mohavensis (Amargosa nitorphila) from Federal lands in conjunction with research in Nye County, Nevada, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Physicist Calculates Tiger Leap

February 1, 2008  arxiv.org/abs/0801.4407

What velocity do you need to launch a 350 pound object over a 12.5 foot barrier that is 33 feet away?  Raza Syed, a physicist at Northeastern University in Boston says the answer is: 26.7 miles per hour at an angle of about 55 degrees.  If you replace 350 pound object with a female Siberian Tiger called Tatiana. And for 12.5 foot barrier 33 feet away substitute the dimensions of the tiger enclosure at San Francisco zoo.  Is this kind of speed possible for a tiger? Apparently yes. Syed says tigers can reach speeds of 35 miles per hour with a run up of only a few feet so this enclosure was clearly no barrier to Tatiana.

Toledo Zoo Breeds Northern Slimy Salamander

February 1, 2008  toledoblade.com

The Toledo Zoo's newest addition is a half-inch long, doesn't have lungs, secretes a sticky substance when threatened - and is highly prized by curator R. Andrew Odum.  A Northern slimy salamander was born early last month.  The Zoo’s first clutch of Northern slimy salamander eggs was laid in October. They were the first since the species was added to the collection about a decade ago. After the mother ate the clutch's other eggs, the viable one was removed from her presence and incubated, said, the zoo's curator of herpetology. "This is the first time that we've ever been successful,' he said. "We took the gamble, and we decided to separate it out." The Northern slimy salamander newborn, which is likely to reach 5 to 7 inches long, eventually will be on display in the zoo's upcoming Amazing Amphibians exhibit opening in May. The salamanders are native to Ohio and other eastern and central states, and they are found in moist woodlands.

CZA alerts zoos across India against bird flu

February 1, 2008  www.hindu.com

NEW DELHI -- The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) has alerted all zoos across the country to take preventive measures in the wake of bird flu outbreak in several parts of West Bengal.  The Zoo officials have been asked to provide disposal gloves, masks, caps and other accessories to animal keepers working at various enclosures particularly birds, Sharma said. "These measures have been taken to contain the spread of avian influenza," Sharma added.

16th Elephant Shrew Species Discovered

February 1, 2008  www.enn.com 

In March of 2006, Galen Rathbun of the California Academy of Sciences, Francesco Rovero of the Trento Museum of Natural Sciences, and a team of collaborators confirmed the existence of a new species of elephant-shrew or ‘sengi’ that lives only in two high-altitude forest areas of mountainous south-central Tanzania. The sengi is not really a shrew but more closely related to elephants, sea cows and aardvarks. Early scientists named them elephant-shrews not because they thought the animals were related to elephants but because of their long, flexible snouts, and ironically, recent molecular research has confirmed their unusual ancestry. The new species, which has been named the grey-faced sengi (Rhynchocyon udzungwensis), weighs about 700 grams (1.5 pounds), which is more than 25 percent larger than any other known sengi.  The description appears in the February 4 issue of The Journal of Zoology.  

Warming Creates Extinction Risks for Hibernators

February 1, 2008  news.nationalgeographic.com 

Marmot hibernation patterns were first documented in the 1970s, the animals rarely awoke before the third week of May. Now, they are regularly awake by the third week of April. These abbreviated hibernations are part of a growing body of evidence suggesting that hibernating animals are waking up earlier—or not going to sleep at all—due to rising temperatures from global warming. David Inouye, a biology professor at the University of Maryland collaborated with the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab in studying the marmots and Craig Frank, a biology professor at Fordham University in New York is studying the effects of climate change on hibernation patterns in chipmunks in New York and ground squirrels in California.  "It is reasonable to think that once temps reach a certain level, it would be practically impossible to survive an entire period of food restriction."  And while animals are rousing themselves several weeks earlier, the plants that they normally eat are not, creating the real possibility of starvation for some of these animals, Inouye pointed out.  "Wildflowers still rely on the snowmelt as their cue to come out of their hibernation," Inouye said. And that snowmelt is still happening much later than the marmots' April appearances, he noted.  These altered slumber patterns are putting animals at risk both of starvation and increased predation.

Zoo Experts Criticize S.F. Zoo

February 1, 2008   www.sfgate.com  By Patricia Yollin

Three former leaders of zoos from around the world said today that their recent visits to the San Francisco Zoo uncovered several problems, including severely outdated exhibits and animals that behave unnaturally.  Robert Atkinson, the former curator of the Woburn Safari Park in England, said he visited the zoo this morning. He said the obsolete design of many exhibits were like something from the 19th century.  "I just came away sad. It's like a zoo you would see in Eastern Europe," he said. "It's a sad place compared to the rest of the city, which is so progressive. Peter Stroud, a former zoo chief from the Werribee Open Range Zoo and Melbourne Zoo in Australia, said the concrete chimpanzee exhibit was "Third World." He pointed out "aberrant" animal behavior, such as pacing polar bears and giraffes that have licked and chewed the side of their barn.  He criticized the relatively new African Savanna exhibit, which opened in 2004. The three-acre site doesn't include enough shelter or food for animals, he said. And Les Schobert, a former general curator at zoos in North Carolina and Los Angeles, said the San Francisco Zoo seemed to be run like a department store, with officials putting emphasis on showing a varied menagerie instead of focusing on the animals' well-being.

Charles Coburn Obituary

February 1, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com   By Cheryl Clark

Charles Coburn, former director of horticulture at the San Diego Zoo died on Jan. 25 after a six-month battle with prostate cancer. He was 62.  In his early 20s, he went to New Mexico to study metal art, then returned to his San Diego Home and joined the Wild Animal Park in 1972 and was promoted to horticulture chief in 1987.  He helped to create zoo exhibits such as Tiger River, the panda exhibit, Gorilla Tropics and the East African Kopje.  He met his wife Jennifer at a topiary art conference he organized in 1991.  In 1997, Mr. Coburn took early retirement to join her  business, now called Coburn Topiary and Garden Art Inc.  Their topiaries now grace Epcot Center, Hong Kong Disneyland, “It's a Small World” in Disneyland and Wynn Las Vegas. Their creations include larger-than-life baseball players for Lake Elsinore's stadium. Six large topiary buffalo live at Legoland in Carlsbad. And 2 of his large elephants welcome visitors to the San 
Diego Zoo.  Mr. Coburn was born in Pomona, and his family moved to San Diego when he was very young. He received a bachelor's degree in philosophy from San Diego State University and a master's in business administration from the University of Phoenix, San Diego, his wife said.  Mr. Coburn is also survived by three daughters, Heidi Rose of Carlsbad, Laura Coburn of San Diego and Melodie Coburn of San Marcos; a sister, Marie Coburn of Dixon, N.M.; and his father, George Coburn of Vista.  In lieu of flowers, contributions should be sent to the Elizabeth Hospice of Escondido in lieu of flowers.

Hunting Among Chimpanzees

February 1, 2008   www.eurekalert.org

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Feb. 1, 2008 – While hunting among chimpanzees is a group effort, key males, known as “impact hunters” are highly influential within the group. They are more likely to initiate a hunt, and hunts rarely occur in their absence, according to a new study in the current issue of Animal Behaviour.  Chimpanzees live in communities of 40 to 150, within which fluid subgroups of changing size and composition form. While their diet is largely ripe fruit, chimpanzees also prey upon red colobus monkeys, which are agile and live in the trees. For this study, the researchers followed the hunting patterns of 11 adult males over more than a decade, among which two chimpanzees were identified as impact hunters. The chimpanzees that were studied live in Kanyawara, in Kibale National Park, Uganda.  While predation among chimpanzees is cooperative, the researchers found that hunting does not appear to be a collaborative process. Males were not more likely to hunt for reasons of social bonding, nor was there an association between the presence of a sexually receptive female and an increased likelihood of hunting.  The study was led by Ian Gilby, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Anthropology in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, with Lynn Eberly of the University of Minnesota and Richard Wrangham, Ruth Moore Professor of Biological Anthropology at Harvard.

Congo Wetlands Reserve Designated

February 2, 2008  www.enn.com

The Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, is an intergovernmental treaty which provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands. RAMSAR recently declared 4 new sites throughout the Congo Basin which are part of the CongoWet regional initiative.  This will be the world’s second largest internationally recognized and protected wetlands reserve.  The nearly 6 million hectares of forest making up the Grand Affluents wetland in the middle reaches of the Congo River was one of five wetlands in the Congo and the Cameroon to be notified under the RAMSAR Convention today.  WWF International’s wetlands manager Denis Landenbergue, a veteran of the long and challenging process of achieving the declarations, said "This will help secure water and livelihoods for millions of people and the conservation of important water features, forests and habitats.  Areas of these wetlands are particularly important dry time refuges for elephants, hippopotamuses and buffalos and for many migratory bird species.”  Around 300,000 people are dependant on the 5,908,074 hectare Grand Affluents RAMSAR wetland, with the four major tributaries to the Congo being the origin of its name as well as making the area an important transport network. The world’s largest RAMSAR wetland is the 6,278,200 ha Queen Maude Gulf Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Canada.

South China Tiger Cataract Operation

February 2, 2008  www.chinadaily.com.cn

NANCHANG - A South China tiger cub in an East China zoo has regained its eyesight after what is believed to be the first ever cataract removal surgery on this species. The male cub, coded 393, is one of the country's two surviving South China tigers born through artificial insemination. He was born in Shanghai on February 8 last year and was sent to Nanchang at six months old. Zoo workers suspected he was unable to see because he often ran into walls and fences and could only sniff for food.  In December, he was diagnosed with congenital cataracts in both eyes, a result of inbreeding. Almost all of the 72 tigers bred in captivity nationwide are descended from six tigers captured in the wild in 1955.  Dr. Liu Fei of Nanchang University performed the hour-long surgery.  The hospital's best anesthetist, Prof. Xu Guohai used his hands and ausculatory devises to monitor the animal’s heart and breathing as the sensors on the electrocardiograph for human beings could not penetrate the tiger's thick fur.

Katrina Dolphin Book

February 3, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com   By John Wilkins

Georgeanne Irvine has worked at the San Diego Zoo for 30 years, and written more than 20 children's books – “Bo the Orangutan,” “Elmer the Elephant,” “Zelda the Zebra” – on the side. Her newest book “The Katrina Dolphins: One-Way Ticket to Paradise" was published in November, and tells how 8 dolphins from the Marine Life Oceanarium in Gulfport, Mississippi survived Hurricane Katrina.  Their trainers hoped the dolphins had been washed into the gulf by the storm surge, but had no way to search for them since all helicopters were being used to rescue people, and most of the boats had been destroyed.  Twelve days later, they finally got on a helicopter and spotted all eight dolphins – alive, and together. It was as if the animals, raised in captivity, were waiting for the trainers to come along and toss them fish.  One by one the dolphins  were captured. They went into temporary tanks set up in a warehouse in Gulfport by the Navy's Marine Mammal Program, based in San Diego. (The program trains dolphins and sea lions to locate and mark explosive mines.)  Eventually, 17 Marine Life dolphins – the eight recaptured in the gulf, the six from the motel pools, and three that had been on loan to other parks – were sold to a resort, Atlantis, on Paradise Island in the Bahamas.  Irvine, 52, said she was recruited to write the book by a friend who works for the company that owns the resort. That company, Kerzner International, published the book.

Central Florida Zoo’s Distinctive Entrance

February 3, 2008  www.orlandosentinel.com  By Tammie Wersinger

SANFORD, Florida -- Eric McCarty is creating a new entrance for the Central Florida Zoo.  It is a concrete sculpture complete with a crocodile monitor, spider monkey and tiger. McCarty, 44, is the zoo's first landscape designer and he has added a Buddha to the herpetarium  and  desert rock formations to the spiny garden exhibit. McCarty should complete one side of the entrance within a few months. Then, he'll start on the other side.  He can already envision the finished product, which will include, among other things, an elephant bursting its way through the rock.  The first phase, which entails bending steel and metal to form various shapes, is his least favorite part of the process, he said.  When he isn't at the zoo, McCarty creates waterfalls and faux rock sculptures for homes through his business, Artistic Stone.  See one of Eric’s creatures at:

45-year-old Gorilla Dies at Louisville Zoo

February 4, 2008  www.courier-journal.com  By Peter Smith

A 45-year-old Western lowland gorilla died Saturday night at the Louisville Zoo, four years after her arrival from the Bronx Zoo.  Tunuka died of peritonitis, an inflammation of the thin membrane that lines the abdominal wall, according to the zoo.  "She was a tough, cranky female when she arrived here in 2004," Gorilla Forest supervisor Roby Elsner said in a statement. "But she really mellowed over the past four years.  Tunuka, was born in the wild and one of four gorillas at Louisville who are considered "geriatric." Frank is 44 years old, Timmy is 49 and Helen is 50. Eleven other gorillas survive Tunuka at Louisville.  

Central Florida Zoo Plans Tiger Exhibit

February 4, 2008  www.wesh.com

SANFORD, Fla. -- The Central Florida Zoo is planning a $3.5 million-dollar tiger exhibit.  Zoo curator Bonnie Breitbeil said the plan is for a Sumatran tiger exhibit, complete with water features, a raised walkway and glassed-in viewing station.  They hope to complete the project in 2 years.

Hamilton Zoo Releases New Zealand Falcon

February 4, 2008  www.scoop.co.nz

Once widespread throughout New Zealand, there are now only isolated populations of 3000 to 4500 pairs of New Zealand falcons.  The bird is classified as Vulnerable to Endangered. Hamilton Zoo has one breeding pair of NZ falcon.  In 2006, the pair produced a clutch of eggs that did not result in chicks, but on 28 December 2007, the pair produced three eggs which resulted in a single fledgling chick.  Earlier today [4 February 2008], the NZ falcon chick was taken to Kakepuku Mountain near Te Awamutu whereupon it will be prepared for release through a carefully staged progression. In a process called ‘hack release’, the chick will be placed in an enclosure and provided with food for approximately three weeks.  The hack box will then be opened and the chick released with access to food as it learns to hunt for itself. The final stage of the NZ falcon chick’s release is full independence whereupon it hunts for its own food in the wild.
The Zoo is working with Kakepuku Mountain Conservation Society, DOC and other breeding centers in New Zealand to preserve the species.  The release program at Kakepuku Mountain started in 2005 and seven birds have been released so far from across the Central North Island.

Biomimicry in Airplane Design

February 4, 2008  www.ns.umich.edu

To figure out how to create a flapping wing plane that will stand up to extreme wind and weather, scientists are turning to birds, bats and insects.  These flyers outperform man-made aircraft in aerobatics and efficiency. University of Michigan engineers are studying these animals as a step toward designing flapping-wing planes with wingspans smaller than a deck of playing cards.  Wei Shyy, chair of the Aerospace Engineering department is heading a team to study these adaptive structures and how aerodynamics integrate with wing and body shapes which change all the time.  Natural flyers can remain airborne through wind gusts, rain, and snow.  Pressure can cause flapping wings to deform during flight, but if appropriately handled, this phenomenon can delay stall, enhance stability and increase thrust. Flapping flight is inherently unsteady, but that's why it works so well. Birds, bats and insects fly in a messy environment full of gusts traveling at speeds similar to their own. Yet they can react almost instantaneously and adapt with their flexible wings.  Shyy and his colleagues have several grants from the Air Force totaling more than $1 million a year to research small flapping wing aircraft.

New Uakari Species in Amazon

February 4, 2008  news.mongabay.com

A previously unknown species of uakari monkey was found during recent hunting trips in the Amazon, the Rio Aracá, a tributary of the Rio Negro in Brazil.  Researcher Jean-Phillipe Boubli of the University of Auckland found the animal after following native Yanomamo Indians on their hunts "They told us about this black uakari monkey, which was slightly different to the one we knew from Pico de Neblina National Park, where I'd worked earlier," Boubli said. Uakaris normally live in flooded river forests, but this one turned up in a mountainous region on the Brazil-Venezuela border, far from its nearest relatives.  "There is another species of primate in that region which is very similar to the uakari," Boubli said.  The two compete ecologically”, he added. Boubli named the new monkey Cacajao ayresii after Brazilian biologist José Márcio Ayres, a  senior zoologist for the Wildlife Conservation Society who died in 2003.  He helped create a protected zone in the heart of the Amazon. The newfound Ayres uakari appears to be confined to a very small area outside any preserve and is hunted by locals.   A formal description will appear in the International Journal of Primatology.

Activists Fight to List the Polar Bear

February 4, 2008  afp.google.com

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Animal activists on Monday pressed the US government to add the polar bear to the list of endangered animal species before the sell-off of oil and gas drilling rights in Alaska begins in the coming days.  Brandon Frazier, a spokesman IFAW said "The authorities would have to get approval through the Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct drilling if there is an endangered species that inhabits the area."  The US government is due on Wednesday to offer several million acres of polar bear habitat in the Chukchi Sea in Alaska for sale for oil and gas exploration leases.  The lease-sale would make the polar bears' habitat "vulnerable to big business interests and jeopardize the government's ability to protect it," IFAW said.  US lawmakers have proposed listing the polar bear as "threatened", but IFAW said that did not go far enough.  "A 'threatened' listing leaves open the possibility for exemptions and doesn't shut loopholes, such as the one that allows Americans to trophy-hunt for polar bears in Canada and bring their heads and hides back to the US," Frazier said.  Last month the USFWS announced it was putting off a decision on listing the polar bear as a threatened species until after the sell-off of oil and gas drilling rights in Alaska.  "They are trying to wait it out, get the lease-sale through and then make the decision," said Frazier. "That way, they could list the lease-sale as an exemption."

Migratory Swallows Threatened

February 4, 2008  www.enn.com 

Andrew Dunn, of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Nigeria Program says swallows that winter in Africa migrate each spring to areas in Europe and Asia, and while they are not endangered, their numbers are declining.  There are only two known roosts for swallows in Cross River State, a coastal region in southeastern Nigeria. One site is approximately two kilometers outside of Cross River National Park, and WCS researchers fear it will be destroyed from advancing farms.  The fact that swallows congregate in large numbers in the winter makes them vulnerable to hunting.  The other swallow roost in Cross River State, at a site known as Boje, is considered one of the largest swallow roosts in Africa. However, it has suffered in recent years from hunting by local people. Still, it remains an important destination for tourists who come to see the spectacle of millions of birds gathering in a relatively small area each night.

Oldest Captive-born Anteater Dies at Santa Barbara Zoo

February 4, 2008  www.mercurynews.com

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.—A giant male anteater, misnamed Sophie, was euthanized on January 31st at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Director of Animal Programs and Conservation Alan Varsik says the initial necropsy found severe arthritis. Varsik says zoo officials "observed a significant decline in his mobility and apparent comfort in recent weeks."  Misidentified at birth as a female, Sophie was born in July 1986 at the Jackson Zoo in Mississippi and had lived at the Santa Barbara Zoo since December 1986.

Whale Underwater Communication

February 4, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Researchers from San Diego State University and the University of California have been using computer models to mimic the effects of underwater noise on an unusual whale species and have discovered a new pathway for sound entering the head and ears.  Advances in Finite Element Modeling (FEM), Computed tomography (CT) scanning, and computer processing have made it possible to simulate the environment and anatomy of a Cuvier’s beaked whale when a sonar signal is sent out or received by the whale.  The research paper, published today, Monday, February 4, 2008, in the Institute of Physics’ Journal, Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, is a catalyst for future research that could end years of speculation about the effects of underwater sound on marine mammals. Dr Cranford of San Diego State University began the research into Cuvier’s beaked whales almost ten years ago when he undertook the first ever CT scan of a large whale, which provided researchers with the very complex anatomic geometry of a sperm whale’s head. Since 1968, it has been believed that noise vibrations travel through the thin bony walls of toothed whales’ lower jaw and onto the fat body attached to the ear complex. This research shows however that the thin bony walls do not transmit the vibrations. In fact they enter through the throat and then pass to the bony ear complex via a unique fatty channel.

Circulatory System of American Alligator

February 4, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Professor C.G. Farmer and her colleagues at the University of Utah, along with the Utah Artificial Heart Institute, have published “The Right-to-Left Shunt of Crocodilians Serves Digestion” in the March/April 2008 issue of Physiological and Biochemical Zoology.  They found that after feasting, American crocodiles find a warm place to lie down while they digest their meal. During this period they divert blood through a special vessel (the left aorta) that bypasses the lung. Humans, other mammals, and birds lack this special vessel, and so all blood pumped by the right side of the heart flows through the pulmonary artery into the lungs, where carbon dioxide (CO2) moves from the blood into the gases of the lungs. Crocodilians can chose not to use the left aorta, in which case their cardiovascular system is very much like the mammalian system. However, when crocodilians are digesting a meal, they chose to shunt and direct CO2-rich blood straight to the stomach where glands make use of the CO2 to form gastric acid and bicarbonate. Consequently this shunt enables crocodilians to secrete gastric acid at a rate that is approximately 10 times the highest rates measured in mammals. If crocodilians are deprived of this ability to sidestep their lungs, their rates of acid secretion drop significantly and their ability to dissolve bone, a regular part of their normal diet, is impaired.  There are many reasons crocodilians may need this super secretion. First, these huge meals, which are stored in the stomach while they are gradually broken down, would putrefy due to the overgrowth of bacteria without the constant acid bath that inhibits bacterial growth. A second reason may be related to their hunting tactics - they spring upon their prey, and drag them into the water and drown them. This powerful burst of activity generates an extraordinary amount of lactic acid in their muscles, which, unless cleared rapidly from the body, can be lethal. The shunting of this acidic blood past the lungs and to the stomach allows the acid to quickly leave the blood and provides the blood with a bicarbonate buffer.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus Analysis

February 4, 2008   www.eurekalert.org

Parts of feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) isolated from wild lions have undergone substantial genetic recombination, according to new research published in the online open access journal BMC Genomics. The sequencing of the two full FIV genomes of different lion subtypes shows the importance of whole-genome analysis in understanding complex genetic events. These findings will be relevant to big cat conservation and developing more effective animal models for HIV.
FIV is a member of the lentivirus family of retroviruses, as is HIV. The feline virus causes similar disease progression to HIV in domestic cats, and is used by researchers as an animal model for human disease.  FIV also infects a number of other cat species, many of which are endangered. The virulence and pathogenicity of the virus varies between species, but the genetic contribution to this variation is unclear. Full-length viral genome sequences are vital for scientists to understand the extent of genetic involvement yet, until recently, only six species-specific strains of FIV had been sequenced in full: Pallas cat, domestic cat (subtypes A, B and C) and puma (subtypes A and B). The full article is at: http://www.biomedcentral.com/imedia/8645828671577328_article.pdf?random=490812

African Rhino Populations Recovering

February 4, 2008  www.LiveScience.com    By Clara Moskowitz

In the 1990s African white and black rhinos had been poached almost to extinction for their horns. But thanks to anti-poaching efforts, as well as the cooperation of local communities, African rhinoceros populations are on the rise.  "We have seen an increase in rhino populations of at least five percent per year over the last decade, which is encouraging," said George Kampamba, coordinator for World Wildlife Fund International’s African Rhino Program.  In 1997, there were 8,466 white rhinos and 2,599 black rhinos living in the wild. Today, there are 14,500 white rhinos and nearly 4,000 black rhinos.  "There's been a healthy increase in rhino numbers," said Petra Fleischer, fundraising manager of Save the Rhino International. "It’s the combined effort of anti-poaching work and monitoring to get a better picture of populations, environmental education, government strategies and community involvement. International funding is important, too." Rhinos have recently been reintroduced to some countries where they had disappeared, such as Zambia and Uganda. This can help motivate local people to become more involved in conservation, and can give a boost to tourism, Fleischer said.

Baboon Dads Influence Daughters' Fitness

February 4, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

DURHAM, N.C. -- Polygamous baboon fathers get more grandchildren if they spend a little time with their children during their juvenile years, according to research directed by scientists at Duke and Princeton universities.  The findings, in well-studied social groupings of yellow baboons living at the foot of Africa's Mt. Kilimanjaro, were unexpected in "multi-male" animal societies where both genders have multiple partners and mature males were thought to focus their energies almost solely on mating.  Scientists have long known that mothers have major effects on daughters' fitness in these kinds of animal societies. But dads have previously been invisible in the fitness stories because paternity information was unavailable until recent genetic research was included in a few studies such as this one.  In a report appearing in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on Feb. 4, 2008, Susan Alberts and her colleagues at Duke University found that the more time fathers spent living with their young daughters, the earlier the daughters reached menarche, the onset of menstruation.  "A female who can start earlier has a longer reproductive life," said Alberts, the report's senior author. "So starting out early is good." 

Gunnison’s Prairie Dog Listing

February 5, 2008  www.epa.gov  

After a thorough 12-month review of all available scientific and commercial information on the Gunnison’s prairie dog  (Cynomys gunnisoni), the USFWS finds that that the species is not threatened or endangered throughout all of its range, but that the portion of the current range of the species located in central and south-central Colorado and north-central New Mexico (the northeastern portion of the range) represents a significant portion of the range where the Gunnison's prairie dog is warranted for listing under the Act. Currently, listing is precluded by higher priority actions to amend the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. We have assigned a listing priority number (LPN) of 2 to this species, because threats have a high magnitude, and are imminent. We will develop a proposed rule to list the Gunnison's prairie dog in the northeastern (montane) portion of its range as our priorities allow. This finding is available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov  and www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/  

Review of Northern Spotted Owl  Draft Recovery Plan

February 5, 2008  www.fws.gov  By Joan Jewett

A panel of scientists will meet February 11 in Bellevue, Washington, to continue the independent evaluation of the ecology of the northern spotted owl. The panel will consider issues raised in peer reviews of the northern spotted owl draft recovery plan, including fire regimes and habitat, adaptive management and modeling tools, and will evaluate all science relevant to these issues. The panel is the second convened by Sustainable Ecosystems Institute of Portland, Oregon. SEI was selected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to review the scientific basis of the northern spotted owl draft recovery plan released in April 2007, as well as all science relevant to the ecology of the owl. To assist in the evaluation, Dr. Steven Courtney, Vice-President of SEI, has chosen a panel of eleven scientists.

Critical Habitat for Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep and Taxonomic Revision

February 5, 2008   www.epa.gov

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is announcing the reopening of the public comment period on the proposed designation of critical habitat for the Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep (Ovis Canadensis californiana) and proposed taxonomic revision under the Endangered Species Act. Also available is the draft economic analysis (DEA) of the proposed critical habitat designation.   The DEA provides information about the pre-designation costs and forecasts post-designation costs associated with conservation efforts for Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep. The DEA estimates potential future costs due to conservation efforts (baseline costs) to be approximately $26.7 million and costs associated solely with the designation of critical habitat (incremental costs) to be approximately $135,000 in undiscounted dollars over a 20-year period in areas proposed as critical habitat.  We will accept public comments until March 6, 2008. You may submit comments by one of the following methods: Federal eRulemaking Portal: www.regulations.gov
U.S. mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R8-ES-2008-0014, Division of Policy and Directives Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222, Arlington, VA 22203.  We will not accept e-mail or faxes. We will post all comments on www.regulations.gov  For further information contact: Robert D. Williams, Field Supervisor U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office, 1340 Financial Blvd., Suite 234, Reno, NV 89502-7147; telephone 775-861-6300; or facsimile 775-861-6301.

Phoenix Zoo Will Upgrade Orangutan Exhibit

February 5, 2008  www.azcentral.com   By Jennifer Sondag

The Phoenix Zoo plans to build a $5 million orangutan exhibit that will provide the animals an improved natural setting and visitors an improved viewing experienced.  The first phase of the project is a new night house. This upgrade will provide increased shelter in cold weather and will cost $1 million.  The second phase will be a new more natural environment, with grass, trees, and water. The third phase is the remolding to the existing exhibit.  A finance campaign is now underway.

Infared Pictures of London Zoo Animals

February 5, 2008  www.telegraph.co.uk  By Roger Highfield

A Thermal camera offers unique view of animal world: Hot-headed penguins, pelicans with glowing feet, cold nosed sloths and cold-hearted flamingos are revealed in a selection of images through the lens of a thermal camera that will provide keepers at London Zoo with a unique view of their animals. The images reveal some more unusual ways to keep warm including some birds cutting off the blood to one leg to conserve energy. One picture clearly reveals how warm a lion's mane keeps him while another demonstrates veins of warmth running through a butterfly's red, delicate wings.  The photographs were taken by a Zoo visitor, amateur photographer Steve Lowe, who donated them to the Zoo. Thermal imaging technology can also be used in veterinary diagnostics such that infected areas will sometimes appear very hot.  Lowes images are at: www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2008/02/05/scizoo105.xml

3 Wild Animal Park Keepers Infected with Superbug MRSA

February 5, 2008   www.nctimes.com

At least three San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park workers have become infected with an antibiotic-resistant superbug, but public health officials said it was unlikely that park visitors would be affected.  County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said Monday that the county had been monitoring skin infections of seven animal park employees who all worked in the same elephant enclosure, which is off-limits to the public.  Wooten said cultures confirmed that three had been infected with the superbug bacteria known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. She said three other employees were still being monitored and one tested negative.  Wooten said all of the infected workers were fine, did not have to be hospitalized and were being treated with antibiotics that do fight the bug.  The superbug bacteria was once found only in hospitals, nursing homes and other health facilities but it has been turning up increasingly in public areas such as gymnasiums. A Ramona boy died of an infection in February 2007.

DNA Barcode for Plants

February 5, 2008 www.enn.com 

A 'barcode' gene that can be used to distinguish between the majority of plant species on Earth has been identified by scientists who publish their findings in the February 4, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  This gene, which can be used to identify plants using a small sample, could lead to new ways of easily cataloguing different types of plants in species-rich areas like rainforests. It could also lead to accurate methods for identifying plant ingredients in powdered substances, such as in traditional Chinese medicines, and could help to monitor and prevent the illegal transportation of endangered plant species.  The team behind the discovery found that DNA sequences of the gene 'matK' differ among plant species, but are nearly identical in plants of the same species. This means that the matK gene can provide scientists with an easy way of distinguishing between different plants, even closely related species that may look the same to the human eye.  The researchers, led by Dr Vincent Savolainen, of London’s Imperial College and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, carried out two large-scale field studies: one on the exceptionally diverse species of orchids found in the tropical forests of Costa Rica, and the other on the trees and shrubs of the Kruger National Park in South Africa.

Calgary Zoo Will Change Animal Transfer Protocol

February 5, 2008  www.9news.com

CALGARY – The Calgary Zoo plans to adopt new standards for the transportation of large animals, but says proper care was given to a 6-year-old hippopotamus that died after being transferred to Calgary from the Denver Zoo.  Hazina died after she left Denver on the morning of Oct. 25 and arrived in Calgary the next afternoon. She spent the entire time in her crate. She died early on Oct. 27. The Calgary Zoo says her death was an accident and she "succumbed to complications from pressure myopathy which had produced toxins in her body during transport." New standards for hippo transfer will include: 1. Visual stops at regular intervals 2. Containers which let the animal stand and lay on its side without being cramped, but that do not allow them to turn around. 3. Crates with a non-slippery floor so animals have sure footing.  4. Abundant bedding  5.  A way to watch the animal remotely, like a closed-circuit television camera. 6. Free access to drinking water

Endangered Iriomote Wildcat

February 5, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By Ko Sasaki

IRIOMOTE ISLAND, Japan — The Iriomote (ee-ree-o-mo-the) wildcat is said to have roamed this small, subtropical island in the East China Sea for 200,000 years, but was so elusive that it was not discovered until 1967.  On an island without mice, the wildcat eats everything from wild boar to shrimp.  It is almost indistinguishable from a house cat, and is believed to be related to a leopard cat found on the Asian continent.  Last year Japan’s environmental authorities raised it one notch on a list of endangered species and a recent census puts the wildcat’s population below the 100 estimated more than a decade ago. An average of three wildcats ending up as roadkill every year,  and the island’s two-lane main road — progressively widened to accommodate an increasing number of cars is considered a major threat. Authorities have devised elaborate methods to help the wildcat cross the road : new rumble strips called “zebra zones” induce drivers to slow down and alert wildcats to oncoming cars.  Eighty-five “eco roads,” or underpasses have been dug under the main road. Surveillance cameras set up at 19 of the underpasses confirm that wildcats are using them, though perhaps not as frequently as other animals. And Chieko Matsumoto, 62, leads a private group that tries to control stray house cats, which can transmit diseases to the wildcat. Wildcat experts include Maki Okamura at the Iriomote Wildlife Conservation Center and Masako Izawa,  at the University of the Ryukyus on Okinawa’s main island.

Wild Animal Park Euthanizes Baby Elephant

February 6, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com  By Jeanette Steele

Malnourished, losing weight and carrying a drug-resistant staph infection for two weeks, a female elephant calf, born November 28 was euthanized by Wild Animal Park Vets Monday.  Born to a mother who suffered complications during the birth, the baby had serious health problems in addition to the staph infection. An initial examination revealed problems with her nervous and digestive systems – all probably because of malnourishment.  Four workers at the Wild Animal Park, have been diagnosed with the staph bacterium, known as MRSA. It doesn't respond to common antibiotics and was involved in the death of a 13-year-old Encinitas boy last month. The workers have rashes but are still on the job and are expected to be fine, said Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer. Test results are pending on two others. The elephant barn and veterinary hospital are off-limits to visitors and all workers are wearing gloves.  “It is entirely safe to go to the Wild Animal Park,” Wooten said. Besides, she said, one in a 100 people carries this version of staph on the skin and nasal passages. The mother, Lungile's condition is still guarded. None of the park's other elephants is sick.

Surfers & Environmentalists Oppose So Cal Highway

February 6, 2008  www.nytimes.com     www.latimes.com 

The California Coastal Commission has rejected a $875 million project to end gridlock on Interstate 5 between Orange County and San Diego, which logs more than 125,000 cars a day.  The “Foothill South” would run 16 miles from Oso Parkway in Rancho Santa Margarita to I-5 at Basilone Road south of San Clemente,  through the northern half of San Onofre and pass over the Trestles marine estuary, which is a nature preserve. About 320 of the park's 2,100 acres would be taken for the toll road, including traffic lanes and two ramps along I-5.  Environmentalists said the toll road would destroy habitat for nearly a half-dozen threatened or endangered species, including the Pacific pocket mouse. It would cut 161 camp sites and create a concrete eyesore in the middle of the 2,100-acre San Onofre State Beach. San Onofre is the state's fifth-most popular park and attracts 2 1/2 million visitors a year.  Surfers worried that the road would block sandy runoff from the San Mateo Creek watershed, which they believe creates the wave breaks that earn Trestles its spot on the World Championship Tour.  Transportation officials plan to appeal the decision. The Save San Onofre Coalition: http://www.savesanonofre.com/  Transportation Corridor Agencies: http://www.thetollroads.com/home/maps.htm

$1 million to Louisville Zoo's Glacier Run

February 6, 2008  www.bizjournals.com

John Schnatter, founder of Papa John's International Inc. has made a $1 million personal gift to the Louisville Zoo's Glacier Run project.  The Schnatters previously gave $100,000 to Glacier Run. Their newest gift brings the campaign total to about $12.6 million, more than half of the $25 million goal.  In recognition of the Schnatters' $1 million gift, the zoo has named its splash park "Calistoga Splash Park at Glacier Run."  John Schnatter is an investor in Calistoga Bakery Café, an upscale sandwich shop concept based in Naples, Fla.  Glacier Run will be a 4.3-acre outdoor exhibit based on the theme of an old gold-mining town bordered by a glacier. It will feature polar bears, arctic foxes, snowy owls, reindeer and other arctic animals.  The exhibit also will include classrooms, party rooms available for rental, viewing areas above and below water, and a 200-seat outdoor auditorium for watching animal training demonstrations.

Critical Habitat for Elkhorn and Staghorn Corals

February 6, 2008  www.epa.gov 

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), proposes to designate critical habitat for elkhorn (Acropora palmata) and staghorn (A. cervicornis) corals, which we listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Four specific areas are proposed for designation: the Florida unit, which comprises approximately 3,301 square miles (8,671 sq km) of marine habitat; the Puerto Rico unit, which comprises approximately 1,383 square miles (3,582 sq km) of marine habitat; the St. John/St. Thomas unit, which comprises approximately 121 square miles (313 sq km) of marine habitat; and the St. Croix unit, which comprises approximately 126 square miles (326 sq km) of marine habitat. We propose to exclude one military site, comprising approximately 47 square miles (123 sq km), because of national security impacts.  We are soliciting comments from the public on all aspects of the proposal, including our identification and consideration of the positive and negative economic, national security, and other relevant impacts of the proposed designation, and the areas we propose to exclude from the designation. A draft impacts report prepared pursuant to section 4(b)(2) of the ESA in support of this proposal is also available for public review and comment. Comments on this proposal must be received by May 6, 2008. Submit comments identified by the Regulation Identifier Number (RIN) 0648-AV35, via : Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov   Mail: Assistant Regional Administrator, Protected Resources Division, NMFS, Southeast Regional Office, 263 13th Ave. South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. Facsimile (fax) : 727-824-5309. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted to http://www.regulations.gov   without change. All Personal Identifying Information (for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. For further information contact:  Jennifer Moore or Sarah Heberling, NMFS, at the address above or at 727-824-5312; or Marta Nammack, NMFS, at 301-713-1401.
On May 9, 2006, we listed elkhorn and staghorn corals as threatened under the ESA. At the time of listing, we also announced our intention to propose critical habitat for elkhorn and staghorn corals. We are proposing to designate critical habitat for both species through one rule; due to their similar life histories, distribution, threats, and conservation requirements, critical habitat for these coral species is overlapping.

Bergen County Zoo offers Science Workshop

February 6, 2008  www.paramuspost.com   By Mel Fabrikant   

A special workshop entitled “Supporting Parents in Advocacy, Reform, and Knowledge in Science” (SPARKS) is being offered at the Bergen County Zoo. It provides parents of students in grades kindergarten through eighth an opportunity to get involved in their children’s science education. The program was created by the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo and is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.  The workshop will provide parents with tools to make science enjoyable beyond the classroom.  The three-day workshop runs from Wednesday, April 2 through Friday, April 4 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Activities will take place throughout the zoo, including the zoo’s Education/Discovery Center. Lunch will be provided.  Participants will receive a $50 honorarium and a fun book of science activities for the family.

Javan Brown Langur Born At Belfast Zoo

February 6, 2008  www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk  By Linda McKee

A Javan Brown Langur has been born at the Belfast Zoo.  The species is found on the island of Java and the smaller islands of Bali and Lombok and is threatened by the destruction of its habitat for timber and cultivation.  Currently the species is classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List 2004. They are found in three protected areas in Indonesia - Gunung Halimun National Park, Pangandaran National Park and Ujung Kulon National Park but remain under threat due to active trade in bush meats in this part of the world.  The international breeding program operated by zoos is helping support the small numbers of Javan Brown Langurs.

DASIE - Europe’s Invasive Species Database

February 6, 2008  environment.newscientist.com  By Catherine Brahic

European researchers have compiled the first comprehensive database of Europe’s invaders and alien species.  The database for the "DAISIE" project is the first of its kind, as it not only logs all current invaders, but also possible invaders of the future. It was launched at a meeting in Portoroz, Slovenia on 23 January.  "Not all alien species in Europe are invaders," said David Roy at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, UK and an expert for DAISIE. To be classified as an "invader", a species must cause economic damage or threaten local biodiversity. There are 10,677 alien species on DAISIE, of which roughly 10% are invasive.  Transportation alone is responsible for nearly 10,500 introductions, most of which are unintentional.  But more than 6000 others have become aliens through intentional introductions.  The Sika deer from East Asia, for was released as game. Rose-ringed parakeets have been intentionally released by their owners.
The Harlequin ladybird, Harmonia axyridis, was released in northwestern Europe to control aphids, but when the aphids get scarce, they feed on the soft fruit. Lagocephalus sceleratus, also known as the silverstripe blaasop, can kill if eaten without being prepared properly by a specialist chef. It it is a cousin of the pufferfish. In 2004, eight people died after having eaten the invading pufferfish in Egypt, and by 2005, it had made its way to Crete, and is now spreading westwards along the north Mediterranean coast. Rhopilema nomadica, the giant nomadic jellyfish and the venomous black widow spider are also on the list.

New bird sub-species found in Nepal

February 6, 2008, www.gulf-times.com

KATHMANDU: A team of Nepalese ornithologists has discovered a new sub-species of bird in eastern Nepal, media reports said yesterday.  The bird, named Nepal Rofus-vented Prinia (Prinia burnesii nipalensis), was first spotted in a wildlife reserve in eastern Nepal two years ago but was deemed to be a new sub-species after research.  The bird was discovered by a group of conservationists at Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, about 400km south-east of the Nepalese capital Kathmandu.  The experts believe the new sub-species is found only in Nepal.  Hem Sagar Baral, executive director of Bird Conservation Nepal, said the bird is different from other two sub-species of Rofus-vented Prinia found in Pakistan and Assam in India. It has lighter under-tail coverts and finely streaked head and back and has much darker grey shade on the body.  Due to to habitat loss and degradation, it has been listed as critically endangered.

Laos Protects Tigers

February 6, 2008  www.nytimes.com

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) -- Laos has agreed to improve protection at one of its key tiger reserves, with help from a $250,000 from the British conservation group Panthera Foundation.  The impoverished country has signed an 18-month agreement with the Wildlife Conservation Society that will employ 70 local villagers and fund a campaign to educate villagers about the benefits of protecting the wildlife in the 1,545 square mile Nam Et-Phou Luey reserve in northern Laos.  The Nam Et-Phou Luey reserve is one of 20 protected areas in Laos. It is home to 20 tigers but Arlyne Johnson, the WCS country program co-director estimates it could hold five times that number.  Tiger numbers in Asia have plummeted from 100,000 more than 150 years ago to about 5,000 today.

Purple-Faced Leaf Monkey Research

February 6, 2008  www.telegraph.co.uk   By Paul Eccleston

A team of researchers from Oxford Brookes will receive the Queen's Anniversary Prize for their study of the western purple-faced leaf monkey in Sri Lanka.  Sri Lanka is one of the world's top 10 biodiversity hotspots - much of which is concentrated in the 'Wet Zone' -  less than 23 per cent of the total land area.  The People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) has funded research in the Wet Zone for the past three years to try and solve the problems caused by increasing urbanization. The western purple-faced leaf monkey (Trachypithecus vetulus nestor) - is among the 25 most endangered primates in the world – critically endangered - and  endemic to the Wet Zone of Sri Lanka. No investigation had previously been undertaken to discover its numbers or distribution. The two small areas where it is found are currently unprotected and they have been forced to forage in suburban home gardens which has brought them into direct conflict with human settlers.  Working with members of the NGO Lorris (Land Owners Restore Rainforests in Sri Lanka) and Jetwing Eco Holidays, the Oxford Brookes team found that loss of habitat - particularly the high trees that the monkey prefers - has resulted in local extinctions with no chance of re-colonisation and dangerous in-breeding between fragmented populations.  The monkeys increasingly face being shot as they raid crops and run the risk of electrocution on power lines as they try to make their way through broken-up sections of the forest.  The study concluded that the monkeys may have to be moved to other areas to survive and that unless a conservation plan is drawn up quickly they are likely to disappear altogether.  A new book called 'The Primates of Sri Lanka' by KAI Nekaris and Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne will be published soon.

Aldergrove Zoo Regains Accreditation

February 6, 2008  www.canada.com  By Chantal Eustace

VANCOUVER -- Following years of controversy over the living conditions of its animals, the Greater Vancouver Zoo in Aldergrove has again been accredited by a national zoo association. The zoo, which lost its accreditation in 2004 amidst controversy over animal welfare, learned last week its application for renewal was accepted.  In the past, the zoo has faced scrutiny from animal rights groups and in 2006, was accused by the SPCA of cruelty to animals relating to the housing conditions of Hazina, a baby hippopotamus.  The charge was withdrawn after a new enclosure was built for the hippo.  Renewed membership in the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums proves the zoo's conditions are in line with the rest of the country. Following an extensive written application, three inspectors spent three or four days on-site, interviewing staff, examining the animals and their living conditions and reviewing the zoo's infrastructure.  "We looked at every single facet of that operation and obviously, because of the concerns that had been there for some while, we looked at it very, very carefully," said Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums spokesman Bill Peters.  Peter Fricker, a spokesman for the Vancouver Humane Society, said paid membership in the national zoo association - a private organization - is voluntary. He also questioned whether the zoo association's standards are thorough enough.  "What we're looking for are some standards to be set by the provincial government," He said 

Komodo Dragon Parthenogenesis

February 7, 2008   www.nytimes.com   By A.P.

WICHITA, Kan. -- Two male Komodo dragons have hatched at the Sedgwick County Zoo, apparently without the fertilization of a male.  They are believed to be the first in North America known to have hatched by parthenogenesis, which occurs naturally in some species.  Two other known cases in which Komodo dragons hatched by parthenogenesis were at the London and Chester zoos in England in 2006. DNA tests are being done to document the mother's and the babies' genetic makeup because of the remote chance that a male's sperm was stored on the female's body.  Komodo dragons are one of the few species capable of storing sperm, said Don Boyer, curator of reptiles and amphibians at the San Diego Zoo and species survival plan coordinator for Komodo dragons.  The Sedgwick County Zoo has had this female and one other since 1993, when they were less than a year old. They have been laying eggs since 2000.
Komodo dragons are endangered, with between 3,000 and 5,000 in the wild. Eighty live in 30 zoos in North America. Only six zoos in the nation breed the dragons.

Male Tiger Kills Female Tiger

February 7, 2008  www.int.iol.co.za

Aschersleben, Germany – When a keeper accidentally opened the wrong door of a female white Siberian tigers cage, she was immediately pounced on by Karim, a 2-year-old male Bengali tiger, who bit her throat and killed her.  "We are in a state of shock," zoo director Dietmar Reisky said a day after the incident. "We are at a loss to explain the attack. Tigers are not usually so aggressive."

Charles Coburn Obituary

February 7, 2008  www.latimes.com 

Coburn died of cancer Jan. 25 at his home in Elfin Forest, Calif., said his wife, Jennifer, who was his partner in their San Diego County topiary sculpture business. His favorite gigantic construction was a 17-foot-high, 34-foot-long metal dinosaur named Dorio, one of two duckbill dinosaurs the couple built in 2002 for a park in Nagoya, Japan, and which was designed by the Jerde Partnership, a noted architectural firm. He delighted in using a crane to piece the creature together on site and appreciated that the sculpture's patina rivaled the beauty of the Japanese yew planted with it.  A philosophy major in college, Coburn "was sensitive to the needs of plants and animals" and pointedly related to both as chief of horticulture at the zoo, his wife said.  When a Sumatran rhinoceros was depressed and dying, Coburn sought out a native food that he thought might perk up the animal, and the resulting fig leaf did the job. Soon he was trying to meet the dietary wishes of other animals, growing various eucalyptus trees for koalas or bringing in bamboo to feed the pandas.  "He wanted to make sure that the animals had what they were used to. It was like a 'duh' moment, but he thought that was a wonderful contribution he had made," his wife said.

Coburn joined the zoo's Wild Animal Park as a gardener when it opened in 1972 and earned a master's degree in business from the University of Phoenix in San Diego. By 1987, he was the zoo horticulturist, managing a staff of about 25.  For the debut of the rain forest exhibit Tiger River, Coburn spent four years collecting hundreds of exotic trees and plants. His knowledge of plant and climate systems helped create the panda exhibit, an early rain forest environment in Gorilla Tropics, and the East African Kopje exhibit that showcases animals that thrive on an African plain, said Mike Bostwick, who succeeded Coburn as zoo horticulturist. 

National Elephant Center in St. Lucie

February 7, 2008  www.tcpalm.com  By Jeremy Ashton and Derek Simmonsen

St. Lucie County in Florida is set to become home to the National Elephant Center, an organization formed by zoos around the country to offer assistance to one another in the areas of elephant breeding, research, training and conservation. Officials with the Houston Zoo and Waste Management, which owns the land the center will be on near the Okeechobee County landfill, will announce details about the center during a news conference in Houston today.  The international center r international facility in the field of elephant research, drawing trainers from around the country who would study there and learn from its staff. The center was proposed last year for Arkansas, but negotiations ultimately fell apart, according to news reports.  A web site describing the project will go online today at www.thenationalelephantcenter.org  The site already has come under fire from the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, which issued a press release Wednesday denouncing the center as a breeding facility rather than a sanctuary. "Florida would be a great place for America's aging zoo elephants to retire, but encouraging breeding is irresponsible," Nick Atwood, campaign coordinator for the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, said in a statement. "Zoos breed elephants for one reason: to boost attendance. True conservation of elephants must take place in their native lands." The center should open by the end of 2009. The county is already home to Save the Chimps, an organization which rescues chimpanzees that were used for research purposes, and formerly was home to Tigers for Tomorrow, a sanctuary for big cats and other wild animals that left the state in 2005 for Alabama.

National Elephant Center

February 7, 2008  www.palmbeachpost.com  By JIM REEDER

An average of 15 elephants and possibly as many as 25 elephants will have a temporary home on a 300-acre compound in western St. Lucie County.  It will be a clearinghouse for short-term and long-term rehabilitation of elephants for the 77 zoos accredited by the AZA.  It will be used by zoos who are remodeling or when elephants need to become acquainted with new companions. The National Elephant Center, which has a 40-year lease on property which is agricultural land owned by Waste Management, according to Jeff Sabin, the company's government affairs director.  Construction on barns where the elephants will stay at night should begin in about six months, and the first animals could arrive within a year.  Sabin doesn't anticipate any problems with county officials over using the agricultural property. "This land has been used for grazing cattle for years," he said. "Now it will be used by elephants.

South Asia Wildlife Trade Initiative

February 7, 2008  www.enn.com 

KATHMANDU, Nepal — All eight South Asian nations have agreed to step up cooperation in addressing wildlife trade problems.  Tigers, Asiatic lions, snow leopards, Asian elephants and one-horned rhinoceroses,  are all prime targets of international organized wildlife crime networks. Wildlife trade officials from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka met in Kathmandu last week and defined a series of joint actions under the new South Asia Wildlife Trade Initiative (SAWTI).  SAWTI is charged with developing a South Asia Regional Strategic Plan on Wildlife Trade for the period 2008-2013. The Kathmandu workshop - organised by the Nepal Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology, SACEP, WWF Nepal and TRAFFIC - also agreed on the establishment of a South Asia Experts Group on Wildlife Trade. The group will examine cooperation and coordination between countries and agencies, effective legislation, policies and law enforcement, the sustainability of the legal trade and livelihood security for those engaged in it, and improving intelligence networks and early warning systems.

Mexican Wolf Population Survey

February 7, 2008  www.fws.gov    By Elizabeth Slown

There are 52 Mexican wolves that have been counted in the wild at the end of 2007, according to the annual survey conducted by the Interagency Field Team for wolf reintroduction.  Surveys are completed in January of each year.  Pups born in the summer must survive to December 31 before they are counted into the total Mexican wolf population. There are 29 wolves in Arizona and 23 wolves in New Mexico.  The numbers are down from last year's number of 59 Mexican wolves.  Altogether, 22 wolves were removed from the wild in 2007 compared to 18 the previous year; 19 for depredating livestock (this includes their seven dependent pups), two for dispersing outside the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area and one for nuisance behavior.  The alpha pair of the Durango Pack, along with a pup that would have been included in the count, went missing in November.  Their disappearance is under investigation.  The reintroduction of the Mexican wolf is a cooperative, multi-agency effort between U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Arizona Game and Fish Department, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, White Mountain Apache Tribe, USDA Forest Service and USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service - Wildlife Services.  The agencies have established the Adaptive Management Oversight Committee (AMOC) that jointly manage the wolf reintroduction program in New Mexico and Arizona.

Google Will Fund Green Technologies

February 7, 2008  www.enn.com   By Nichola Groom

INDIAN WELLS, California - Google Inc is prepared to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in big commercial alternative-energy projects that traditionally have had trouble getting financing.  "There are a lot of technologies that get to the pilot scale and look promising, but the first few large commercial projects deploying those technologies, financing those can be extremely difficult," Dan Reicher said in an interview at the Clean-tech Investor Summit in Indian Wells, California.  In addition to considering project finance, Google has already committed $20 million to funding start-up firms researching solar-thermal and high-altitude wind power.  It is also looking closely at several companies with enhanced geothermal systems, Reicher said. Enhanced geothermal systems, or EGS, create power by pumping water into hot rocks in the ground rather than harvesting hot water already there.  "We arrived at these three technologies because we think they have real promise to move down the cost curve and to be competitive with coal and to get to very large scale," Reicher said.  The company has pledged $10 million to Pasadena, California-based eSolar Inc to support research and development on solar thermal power, which concentrates heat from the sun to create steam and spin turbines. It has invested $10 million in Alameda, California-based Makani Power Inc, which is developing high-altitude wind technologies.

Study of Water Shrew’s Hunting Methods

February 7, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

A new study of the hunting methods of the water shrew reveals sophisticated methods for detecting prey that allow it to catch small fish and aquatic insects in the dark as well as in daylight.  About half the size of a mouse, water shrews have such a high metabolism that they must eat more than their weight daily and can starve to death in half a day if they can’t find anything to eat. The water shrew has lightning-fast reflexes and can launch an attack in under a 50th of a second of detecting the presence of prey and opens its mouth in preparation to take a bite in a 20th of a second. Ken Catania, the associate professor of biological sciences at Vanderbilt headed the study with 2 researchers at the University of Manitoba.  They used a high-speed infrared video camera to answer this question. The results of their study are reported in a paper titled “Water shrews detect movement, shape, and smell to find prey underwater” published Jan. 9 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Madagascar’s Turtle & Tortoise Meeting

February 7, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

NEW YORK -– The Wildlife Conservation Society and other groups interested in saving Madagascar’s turtles and tortoises recently met in Madagascar’s capital.  Five of the nine assessed species have been downgraded to critically endangered, with one variety – the ploughshare tortoise – now numbers only a few hundred individuals. The other critically endangered species include the radiated tortoise, flat-tailed tortoise, spider tortoise and Madagascar big-headed turtle, all of which are found nowhere else on earth.  Dr. James Deutsch, director for the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Africa programs said “The good news is that there’s still time to save Madagascar’s tortoises and turtles from extinction, and we know how to tackle the issues.”  The workshop participants concluded that illegal trade continues to be the largest single threat for several of critically endangered species. Ploughshare, spider and flat-tailed tortoises, along with juvenile radiated tortoises, are particularly coveted by collectors and traded as pets on the international black market. Meanwhile, adult radiated tortoises are sold for food in regional markets in Tuléar and Fort-Dauphin. The workshop participants recommended the creation of a “tortoise brigade” to monitor and control illegal trade. Confiscated tortoises could be repatriated to areas where populations had been decimated by illegal trade, and with subsequent enforcement eco-tourism opportunities could follow.

Toxic Toads Threaten Miniature Crocodiles

February 7, 2008  www.nzherald.co.nz  By Nick Squires

NORTHERN TERRITORY, Australia -- Only two populations of the endangered pygmy freshwater crocodile are known to exist. "We need to establish if the pygmies are genetically different from normal freshwater crocodiles, but either way they are unique," said Crocodile expert Dr. Adam Britton.  While normal freshwater crocodiles grow up to 3m, the pygmies reach barely half that length. The pygmies are found around the Bullo River, on the border of the Northern Territory and Western Australia, and in the Liverpool River in Arnhemland, on the opposite side of the Northern Territory. Their population is believed to be in the low hundreds, making them highly vulnerable to extinction.  They are at risk because they prey on cane toads and then die from the amphibians' highly toxic skin.  The cane toads have invaded the Liverpool River, and the Bullo population of pygmies is in the middle of the toads' advance. Dr Britton believes the only hope of saving them is to set up a captive breeding programme at a cost of up to A$200,000 ($229,000). Neither the Northern Territory nor federal governments has agreed to provide funding.

Francois Langur Born at Mesker Park Zoo

February 8, 2008  www.indystar.com

EVANSVILLE, Ind. -- Mesker Park Zoo director Dan McGinn says a female Francois langur was born Saturday.  Only about 300 of the monkeys are left in their natural habitat in China and Vietnam. McGinn says only three were born last year in the 13 North American zoos that have about 60 langurs in captivity.

Zoo Experts Review SF Zoo Policies & Procedures

February 8, 2008  www.sfgate.com  By Anastasia Ustinova

SAN FRANCISCO -- -- A new team of national experts will review the emergency and safety policies and procedures during a visit to the San Francisco Zoo on Saturday.  The seven-member group includes architect Keith Larson with Jones & Jones Architects, who specializes in zoo design, Pat Thomas, general curator at the Bronx Zoo, and Rick Barongi, who leads the Houston Zoo. The zoo has completed the first phase of improvements, including the extension of the concrete moat walls in the big cat grotto. The walls, which now measure 19 feet, exceed the minimum guidelines of 16.4 feet. Hot wire, which emits electric shocks to animals that contact it, has been installed along the moat walls; new lighting and cameras will be added in March. But critics charge that the structural improvements won't fix the internal management and oversight flaws that led to the tragedy.

Deplorable Practices in Chinese Zoos

February 8, 2008  www.abcnews.go.com  by BETH LOYD

BEIJING, China -- The Xiongsen Tiger and Bear Park in Guilin, China, is condemned by international animal rights groups because of the live animal sacrifices and the taunting and torture of animals that have been performed there for years, to mostly enthusiastic audiences. The Guilin zoo is one of China's largest, boasting a tiger farm with over 1,300 cats and scores of other animals.  It is also the prime example of the shocking practice that is common at zoos and animal parks across China, which make them seem more like a sick circus than the kind of zoos you find in the west.  But as the Beijing Olympics approach, critics hope new light will be shed on the controversial zoos.  At most zoos in China, the routine is similar: Tiger and bear trainers prod and poke the animals in order to provoke them. Tigers are trained to ride around the ring atop apparently petrified horses.  At some zoos, lions and tigers are fed live chickens, goats and even horses, triggering a feeding frenzy as the cats devour their hapless prey in front of visitors.

National Zoo Breeding Programs

February 8, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Animals in captivity need to be managed carefully to ensure the most genetically diverse population—which leads to healthier animals and a sustainable population that can safeguard a species from extinction.  The National Zoo facilitates this controlled and strategic breeding through its participation in the Species Survival Plan, a cooperative population management program among the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Species Survival Plans maintain the pedigree of each animal in a particular program and make breeding recommendations for those animals based on which is most genetically important, as well as taking into account whether the facility has space for potential offspring. Without a Species Survival Plan, animal populations are at risk of stagnation and eventual extinction. The plan ensures both a good genetic match and an environment that enables optimal breeding conditions for the animal, such as healthy diets and environmental control. The right genetics is only half the battle, however. The science of managing the animals and ensuring they have the right habitat for their needs are also essential to successful reproduction:

# The Zoo’s cheetah population requires strategic planning prior to breeding times due to their notorious resistance to reproduce. Scientists at the Zoo’s Cheetah Conservation Station found that when two females are housed together, either one or both females will shut down ovulation, making it difficult to breed them with the male cheetahs. In order to create suitable breeding conditions, the Zoo has housed its female cheetahs separately since the opening of the Cheetah Conservation Station in 1992. National Zoo scientists have also monitored cheetah breeding based on age, weight and artificial insemination.

# The kori bustard, a large African bird, requires flat, savanna-like terrain, secluded “hiding” spots and a proper male-to-female ratio to adequately perform during breeding season. Scientists at the National Zoo used a “telemetric” egg placed under the bird to learn more about how this species incubates its eggs. This technology records incubation temperature and the rate of turning, sending the data from the egg to a receiver that records data on each egg for 24 hours a day.

# The Panamanian golden frog, now extinct in the wild, has a unique style of breeding. Male golden frogs are quite persistent when it comes to mating and will attach themselves to a specific female for 120 days before mating with her. Since females must lay their eggs in dark areas, scientists create wet, humid environments by covering the tanks with dark plastic, misting the inside for a prolonged period while the females lay their eggs. The National Zoo is one of six zoos in North America to have a specialized breeding program for this amphibian.

# At the Invertebrates exhibit, biologists began studying how to breed Hercules beetles in captivity. These insects are most active and ready to breed after dark, but when brought into human care, these beetles often lose their interest in mating and spend most of their time eating. The only option for reproduction so far has been hand pairing, which requires a zookeeper to hold the female beetle with one hand and place the male on top of the female’s back in the proper direction to initiate breeding.

# Sometimes two animals might be the right genetic match but moving them to the same facility is not feasible. In these cases, the National Zoo’s world-renowned reproductive science team steps in with assisted reproductive techniques. The Zoo’s female giant panda and one of their elephants have both undergone artificial insemination procedures with sperm from males at different facilities. The Zoo’s first successful elephant birth from artificial insemination occurred in 2001 when Shanthi was artificially inseminated using new catheter and ultrasound techniques developed by Zoo scientists.

African Nations Sign Bamako Declaration to Save Elephants

February 8, 2008  www.prnewswire.com

BAMAKO, Mali, -- Representatives from 17 African states signed a monumental document, the Bamako Elephant Declaration, after holding discussions in Mali for the last two days.  The African elephant range states included Mali, Niger, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau, Cameroun, Ivory Coast, Togo, Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Central African Republic, Rwanda, Southern Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya. Mali and Kenya Governments hosted the meeting,  This meeting symbolized the formal unification of nations on elephant conservation and anti-ivory trade. Patrick Omondi, Kenya Wildlife Service Head of Species, said "It is gratifying that these countries have agreed on a mechanism to implement the decisions made at the 14th Conference of Parties of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) in regards to international trade of ivory particularly in regards to the development of an African Elephant Action Plan on the conservation of elephants,"  Kevin Shields, Director of the Wildlife and Habitat Program at IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare -- http://www.ifaw.org) which facilitated the meeting commended the delegates for their achievements.

Gharial Crisis Management

February 8, 2008  www.enn.com 

More than 90 gharials (Gangeticus gavialis) have been reported dead in the last two months in the National Chambal Sanctuary in India for yet-to-be diagnosed reasons. A team of international veterinarians and crocodile experts is now working with scientists from the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI). Romulus Whitaker — popularly referred to as India’s crocodile man — has been working on reptilian and amphibian species for over 40 years and leads the Gharial Conservation Alliance. Also a member of the Crisis Management GroupEarly results point to levels of heavy metals - lead and cadmium — leading to immune-suppression (or reduction in body’s ability to fight pathogens) making them susceptible to infections. Post mortems show debilitating gout affecting the animals.  The species is already extinct in its former range in Pakistan, Bhutan, and Myanmar, and most likely also in Bangladesh. No more than 1400 specimens remain in the wild today, with less than 200 in their breeding age group. Besides Chambal, gharials are found in isolated stretches of the Ken, Son, Girwa and Ganges rivers in India. Most of gharial mortalities have been reported in the Uttar Pradesh side of the river, near the confluence of the Chambal and the Yamuna that flows Delhi and Agra.  Casualties have been reported only on a 35-kilometre stretch before the confluence, and no deaths have been reported among any other freshwater species.  WWF together with other agencies has stepped up monitoring activities on the Chambal River around the impacted site. WWF-India has established a field station for coordination purposes and as Dr. Parikshit Gautam, Director of WWF-India’s Freshwater and Wetlands Programme, explains: “Our fully equipped crisis-management station in Etawah is coordinating with forest departments and local communities and constantly monitoring the river for any sick or sluggish animal.” “We are now facilitating post mortems on site instead of sending the specimens to labs, thereby saving time, and getting better results.”Dr. Sandeep Behera, Freshwater Species coordinator with WWF-India said, “We are not ruling out any possibility

Protection for Pacific Walrus Sought

February 8, 2008  www.nytimes.com

The Center for Biological Diversity has petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the Pacific walrus, another species threatened by rapid climate change and oil drilling. Shaye Wolf, the biologist who wrote the petition said "With rapid action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, combined with a moratorium on new oil and gas development and shipping routes in the Arctic, we can still save the Pacific walrus, the polar bear, and the Arctic ecosystem."   Sea ice was 39 percent below the long-term average from 1979 to 2000.  Sea ice in the Chukchi Sea receded well beyond the shallow outer continental shelf over water too deep for walruses to dive to reach clams.  As many as 6,000 walruses in late summer and fall abandoned ice over deep water and congregated on Alaska's northwest shore. Herds were larger on the Russian side, one group reached up to 40,000 animals. Russian observers estimated 3,000 to 4,000 mostly young walruses died in stampedes when herds rushed into the water at the sight of a polar bear, hunter or low-flying aircraft. If the walruses congregate on coastlines every summer, they will put tremendous pressure on nearby foraging areas rather than rich offshore feeding areas they historically have reached by living on the edge of the ice pack. The walruses are also likely to be affected by petroleum development. The U.S. Minerals Management Service on Wednesday accepted high bids on 2.76 million acres of Chukchi Sea ocean bottom. Five other lease sales in the Pacific walrus's habitat in the Chukchi, Beaufort and Bering seas off Alaska's shore are planned by 2012.

Kashmir Goats in India Face Starvation

February 8, 2008  news.nationalgeographic.com  By Aijaz Hussain

More than a hundred thousand Himalayan goats faced starvation after their desert habitat was blanketed with snow.  The animals are used to produce pashmina wool and cashmere.  Nomads and Tibetan refugees herd the goats in the remote and barren Ladakh region near the border with China. Despite being high in the Himalayas, Ladakh usually gets almost no rain or snow. Being a cold desert, Ladakh usually receives about 4 inches (10 centimeters) of precipitation in a year, but this year about 2 feet (60 centimeters) of snow has accumulated," said M.K. Bhandari, a local government official.  10 truck loads of fodder had reached the area, and the air force is planning to airlift supplies by helicopter to the worst-hit Tegazong area, where nearly 60,000 goats are starving and pregnant goats had started aborting.

Berkeley Hyenas Face Uncertain Future

February 8, 2008  www.sciencemag.org

Hyenas have a unique reproductive anatomy.  The female has an elongated clitoris roughly the size of the male’s penis, through which she urinates, mates and gives birth.  They usually give birth to 2, 2-kg cubs and about 60% of first born cubs are stillborn. Female dominance hierarchy is central to their society.  The world’s only research colony of spotted hyenas faces a funding crisis.  The Field Station for the Study of Behavior, Ecology and Reproduction at the University of California, Berkeley was established in 1985. It has been funded for 22 years through a grant from the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health but the grant has not been renewed.  It is the only captive hyena research colony in the world and is run by Stephen Glickman who has brought together a diverse network of scientists. He has managed to secure an emergency $200,000 grant from NSF to keep the colony going for another 15 – 18 months while a longterm solution is found. 10 hyenas have been sent to zoos and animal parks and 2 older animals were euthanized.

Singapore Zoo Orangutan Dies

February 9, 2008  afp.google.com

SINGAPORE (AFP) —   Ah Meng, a female orangutan was born in Sumatra and confiscated in 1971 from a family who was keeping her as a pet. She produced 4 children and 6 grandchildren.  In 1982 she was featured in a program called “Breakfast with an Orangutan” In 1992 the Singapore Tourism Board made Ah Meng a special ambassador, the first and only non-human recipient of the award. She died Friday at the age of 48 (equivalent to nearly 95 human years) A "memorial service" will be held on Sunday to allow the public to view the body before it is buried.  To date, the Singapore Zoo has successfully bred 33 orangutans. Indonesia is currently home to nearly 62,000 orangutans.  The IUCN says the number has fallen by over 50% in the past 60 years because of habitat loss, poaching and the pet trade.  The United States' development arm USAID, which is providing funding said a 2004 survey found deforestation has led to the deaths of 3,000 orangutans per year since the 1970s.

Veterinary State Legislative 2007 Year-End Summary

February 9, 2008   www.docuticker.com

43 states now provide felony penalties for animal cruelty. States are also defining new offenses in their statutes, such as removal of an electronic dog collar and interfering with a service animal. Four states passed laws in 2007 enabling family pets to be included in domestic abuse orders of protection, and North Dakota joined the growing list of states allowing pet trusts. Several bills pertaining to microchip identification of dangerous dogs were adopted. In California, a bill calling for mandatory sterilization of dogs and cats was shelved, although a narrower version that addresses irresponsible owners may be introduced next year.  California is bracing for a ballot initiative in 2008 on confinement of pigs, calves, and hens on farms. Several proposals to ban the use of cages to confine egg-laying chickens were defeated in state legislatures. The legislative aftermath of Hurricane Katrina continued in 2007 with eight more states adopting legislation enabling the rescue of domestic or service animals during a disaster. Three states passed legislation specifically authorizing veterinarians to provide volunteer services in the event of a declared disaster.

Leatherback Turtle Swims
~13,000 Miles
February 9, 2008  www.timesonline.co.uk   By Lewis Smith

A 12,774 mile journey has been documented as the greatest distance yet recorded for a leatherback turtle.  The trek extended from a beach in Indonesia to the west coast of the USA and part of the way back. The record would have been even more impressive if the battery on the satellite tagging device hadn’t stopped transmitting data after 647 successive days. The battery ran out close to Hawaii. During the journey the leatherback dived as deep as 1,000 meters (3,300ft) beneath the surface into complete darkness. Scott Benson, of the US National Marine Fisheries Service, estimated that only 5,000 female leatherbacks survive in the Pacific. Tagging turtles in Indonesia helped to confirm the route the species take crossing the Pacific to the US east coast. Previously it had been thought that the leatherbacks off California had all originated from Mexican waters. The tagging program recorded the movements of nine leatherbacks and showed that the species also ranged from the South China Sea to the Sea of Japan to the North Pacific.  A report appears in the journal Chelonian Research.  Leatherbacks, the largest species of turtle, can grow up to 2.75mlong and weigh up to 2,000lbs

Macaque “Voice” Recognition

February 10, 2008  www.newscientist.com  By Nora Schultz

In the human brain, the "voice region" in the auditory cortex activates when we hear others speak. Chris Petkov at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, Germany, and colleagues have found that macaque brains also have a voice region.  They played a variety of sounds to seven macaques and used fMRI to detect any brain areas with increased activity. One region, corresponding to a site close to the voice region in the human brain, lit up in response to macaque coos and grunts, but was less active when the monkeys heard other animals or natural sounds, such as those of insects, thunder and rain.  Further tests on one monkey showed that the same brain area was more sensitive to differences between individual voices than to differences in the sounds uttered by the same macaque.

Tiger Nips Keeper’s Finger at Palm Beach Zoo

February 11, 2008  www.palmbeachpost.com  By Kimberly Miller

WEST PALM BEACH — Officer Jorge Pino, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said zoo keeper Susie Nuttall was using treats to train the Malayan tiger, Mata, but instead of holding her palm flat with the treat, as protocol requires, she used her fingers to offer it.  Mata accidentally nipped the tip of her middle finger. Although zoo officials said the injury was minor and no part of the finger was actually removed, a hand surgeon was called in to repair the damage. Pino, said no charges will be filed against Nuttall or the zoo. "It was just a mistake."  The incident happened after the 5 p.m. closing time in the zoo's night holding facility.  The tiger was being fed through an opening in a steel cage, and there were two keepers in the room when the accident happened.  The zoo does not allow trainers to go into the tiger cages, and all contact is considered "protected" contact, said Keith Lovett, director of living collections at the zoo.  A zoo employee drove Nuttall to the hospital.  She has been at the Palm Beach Zoo for eight months and had a year's worth of experience prior to the incident.  The zoo has two tigers, brothers Rimba and Mata, who were born at the San Diego Zoo and arrived here in December 2006. Mata is 2 years and 8 months old.  and is calmer than his brother and interacts more with keepers.

National Zoo Celebrates Year of the Frog

February 11, 2008  media-newswire.com

2008 has been designated the "Year of the Frog" by AZA and the National Zoo and Friends of the National Zoo will offer:
An Exhibit on how toxins enter the environment and their affect on frogs
Leap Day ( February 29 ) theatrical event for elementary school students
Earth Day focus on importance of clean water to amphibians
ZooFari, Guppy Gala, Boo at the Zoo and other special events will have a frog theme
Special summer camp sessions, science workshops and other public programs
Amphibian-themed merchandise
The National Zoo is one of five zoos in North America to have a significant breeding program for the critically endangered Panamanian golden frog, rearing more than 200 of the species to date.  It is only one of nine zoos with this beautiful species on exhibit.

Jane Goodall Visits Budapest Chimpanzees

February 11, 2008  english.mti.hu

BUDAPEST -- World-famous ethologist and animal rights activist Jane Goodall visited Budapest Zoo on Monday to inspect a new chimpanzee area. Goodall, 74, is the UN Messenger of Peace. "It is good to be back and see the new developments," she said after inspecting the newly completed 1,500 sqm outdoor facility. Goodall will give a lecture at ELTE University in Budapest on Monday evening about sustainable development and what people could do to improve the world.

Edinburgh Zoo Moves Siberian Tigers

February 11, 2008  edinburghnews.scotsman.com  By HAZEL MOLLISON

Edinburgh Zoo's two Siberian tigers have been in residence for more than 9 years and have had 2 litters of cubs. But now they are set to be transferred to Aviemore's Highland Wildlife Park in a few months. The Army is due to help complete their enclosure in Aviemore over Easter.  Iain Valentine, the zoo's head of animals, said it was decided last year to expand the Highland Wildlife Park – which is also run by the Royal Zoological Society Scotland – in a bid to increase the society's breeding program.  Helen Armour, visitor services manager at the Highland Wildlife Park, said she thought Sasha and Yuri would find their new climate and surroundings more agreeable. She said: "We have a section for animals of mountain and tundra. This will suit the Amur tigers, which come from Siberia."  They will be eventually be replaced with smaller Sumatran tigers. 

New Expansion Plan for Blank Park Zoo

February 11, 2008  www.desmoinesregister.com  By JASON PULLIAM

DES MOINES, Iowa -- County officials weren't entirely comfortable with a proposal that allowed the zoo to take over roughly 15 acres of timber on the northwest side of Fort Des Moines Park, as well as the tip of its lake, but a new plan that would use a comparable amount of county parkland, but would not tap any of the lake for zoo exhibits is seen as more desirable. The new plan offers areas where the public can freely view zoo exhibits from the park and will improve park access.  Blank Park Zoo Chief Executive Officer Terry Rich said the current plan will allow the zoo to grow and remain financially viable. Rich traveled to Ohio last week to meet with the zoo's planner and gather additional ideas for the expansion. Land currently proposed for the expansion doesn't have the same mature tree growth they had hoped for but the zoo's planner is confident they can make it work.  Zoo officials have privately raised about $2 million for the expansion and have said they can collect more with the right plan.  Nearby residents are still cautious about the plan, and the adequacy of a 150-foot buffer that is proposed between the neighborhood's southern border and land proposed for the zoo expansion.  Some 10 African animal exhibits are being proposed for land that is currently part of a golf course. The prospect of having the zoo on county parkland has faced staunch opposition from conservationists and other members of the public.

Antarctic King Penguins Endangered

February 11, 2008  www.enn.com  By Reuters

WASHINGTON, D.C.  King penguins, the second-largest species after emperor penguins, are at the top of the food chain in their sub-Antarctic environment, thriving on small fish and squid.  After a 9-year study of the king penguins on Possession Island in the southern Indian Ocean, scientists at the CNRS Institut Pluridisciplinaire Hubert Curien in Strasbourg, France, find that high sea surface temperatures in the area where the penguins spend winters cut the amount of available marine prey, which in turn cuts their survival rate.  Their study found a 9 percent decline in the adult penguin population for every 0.46 degree F (0.26 degree C) of sea surface warming.  This means these penguins could be at high risk under current global warming scenarios, which predict an average increase of 0.36 degree F (0.2 degree C) per decade for the next 20 years. The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

WalMart Mandates Reduction in Packaging

February 11, 2008  www.enn.com   By Amy Westervelt

Wal-Mart announced in late 2006 its intention to reduce packaging in its stores by 5 percent, globally, by 2013. To achieve its goal, Wal-Mart developed a packaging scorecard, which was sent out to suppliers in late 2006 and early 2007. The cards help suppliers evaluate progress in areas such as carbon dioxide per ton of production, product-to-packaging ratio, transportation, recycled content, recovery value and renewable energy use. Throughout 2008 and beyond, Wal-Mart will be using information obtained through the cards to determine purchasing choices and to educate its customers about the impact of packaging. In addition to the scorecards, Wal-Mart also launched a Packaging Supplier Virtual Tradeshow Web site, which allows its product suppliers to find packaging suppliers that conserve resources. By reducing the packaging of about 300 toys, Wal-Mart estimates that in one year alone it saved 3,425 tons of corrugated materials, 1,358 barrels of oil, 727 shipping containers and $3.5 million in transportation costs. According to Dr. Andrew Hutson of Environmental Defense, which is helping the retailer “green” its supply chain, a number of the steps Wal-Mart is taking towards sustainability make good economic sense as well. “If you think about it, a lot of times carbon is a substitute for energy, and energy is expensive, so if you lower carbon, you lower your costs,” he says.  When you have 10% of the global retail market cornered, companies tend to pay attention to what you do.

Biologists Hope to Protect Northwestern Cougars

February 11, 2008  www.plosbiology.com 

Cougars (Puma concolor)  were eliminated in the Eastern U.S. (except for a remnant population in Florida) during the 1880s, and now the same forces are threatening existing populations in Washington State. Now, Washington State’s cougar population is under “friendly fire” from well-meaning voters. Ironically, a ballot initiative to ban the traditional practice of hound hunting and, it was assumed, to protect the state’s cougars, has further endangered its few thousand remaining animals.  An article in a recent PLoS Biology, “No Place for Predators?”  Liza Gross, shows that good intentions are no substitute for sound science. “Contrary to popular belief,” she reports, “and the rationale behind legislation authorizing emergency and public safety hunts,” the hound-hunting ban did not help the cougar. Washington State’s ranchers, relying on hearsay and anecdotal evidence, insisted the big cats’ numbers were growing. “But as complaints were going up, the population was actually tanking,” said Rob Wielgus, director of the Large Carnivore Conservation Laboratory.  Like other researchers investigating the reality of predator management in the Pacific Northwest, Wielgus has found that perception is often at odds with the science—and that false assumptions benefit neither the state’s people nor its predators.  Biologists’ ability to communicate accurate information to the public and elected officials—may hold the key to cougars’ survival.

Bat disease a mystery to scientists

February 11, 2008  www.benningtonbanner.com   By ANDY McKEEVER

A new disease called the white-nose syndrome is killing bats in New York, Vermont and now Indiana.  Susi von Oettingen of the USFWS said "We don't know what it is and there are more than 10 labs working on it now."  It was found last year when the New York Department of Environmental Conservation found a white fungus on bats' noses in one cave. Upon returning to the cave this year, researchers found that 90% of the population was gone and the fungus was present in seven other caves in New York and one in Vermont.  "Most biologist are saying that (the fungus) is a symptom and not a cause," said Oettingen.  So far, researchers have found that four species of bats are effected by the disease and not only have the fungus but also have been acting abnormally. Ottingen said that the bats are using more energy during hibernation and are often found in colder parts of caves, where the bats should not be. Vermont Wildlife Biologist Scott Darling said that lung congestion and pneumonia are coupled with the fungus.  The disease effects Little Brown bats, Northern Long-eared and Eastern Pipistrelle as well as Indiana bats.  Until more research is complete, state and wildlife agencies are requesting the caving and spelunking community to avoid entering caves. There is no evidence that the disease harms humans but there is some evidence suggesting that it may be spread by humans.

King Penguins Decline Due to Global Warming  

February 11, 2008   news.nationalgeographic.com

Populations king penguins on Possession Island in the Indian Ocean's Crozet Archipelago are declining as sea temperatures warm and the birds are forced to travel longer distances to find food. A study on their breeding and survival by Yvon Le Maho, research director at the National Center for Scientific Research in Strasbourg, France, appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  Because king penguins are at the top of the food chain, they are particularly vulnerable to environmental changes. In recent years, many of the prey species have died or migrated as the ocean warms and the algae that those animals eat are impacted. Warming temperatures also force fish to swim into cool waters farther away from the island, causing penguins to travel greater distances to hunt. The longer time away from home reduces chick feedings, the researchers found. So during years when seas become warmer, penguins do not breed as successfully, Le Maho and colleagues found. Ron Swaisgood, a conservation biologist at the San Diego Zoological Society, also compared the king penguins' struggles to that of polar bears. "Polar bears traverse the ice in search of seals, [and] the sea ice is disappearing," he said. "Loss of sea ice means that polar bears will not have access to their primary prey.

Stone Zoo Accepts 2 Rescued Black Bears

February 12, 2008  www.wickedlocal.com  By Jesse Kawa

STONEHAM, Massachusetts -- The Stone Zoo is building a $700,000 habitat to house a pair 2-year-old black bears from the Appalachian Bear Rescue in Tennessee.  The animals have been raised there since they were confiscated as cubs from breeders in Georgia. The new exhibit will be on the site that was previously home to Major, polar bear who died in 2000.  “New England has a large population of black bears in the wild and the separation between their habitat and ours is shrinking,” said John Linehan, president and chief executive officer of Zoo New England, “By building this new exhibit and giving a much-needed home to these bears, we hope to educate people about these incredible animals and the ecosystem we all share.” The new exhibit, scheduled to open this spring, will be constructed by Commodore Builders in the zoo’s Yukon Creek section, which displays North American animals such as bald eagles, Canada lynx, gray fox, and porcupine.  It is the first time in years that either the Stone Zoo or Franklin Park Zoo, both operated by Zoo New England, have had a bear exhibit

Sumatran Tiger Faces Extinction

February 12, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com   By Michael Casey

BANGKOK, Thailand – TRAFFIC, a British-based international wildlife trade monitoring network, said it found tiger bones, claws, skins and whiskers being sold openly in eight cities on Indonesia's Sumatra island in 2006, despite tough laws banning such trade. The group estimated that 23 tigers had been killed to supply the parts found for sale in souvenir, Chinese medicine and jewelry stores. Prices ranged from the equivalent of $14 for a tiger claw to about $52.50 per pound of tiger bones.  The Sumatran tiger, (Panthera tigris sumatrae), is the world's most critically endangered tiger subspecies – WWF estimates fewer than 400 remain in the wild in comparison to about 1,000 in the 1970s. The tigers' diminishing population is largely blamed on poaching and the destruction of their forest habitat for palm oil and wood pulp plantations. Indonesia launched a 10-year plan to protect the Sumatran tiger in December last year. But conservationists complain that Indonesian commitments to preserving wildlife are rarely supported by enforcement measures.  “There is no effective enforcement on the ground,” said Chris Shepherd, senior program officer for TRAFFIC, who has been tracking the Indonesian tiger trade for nearly 15 years.

2 Cleveland Zoo Gorillas have Heart Disease

February 12, 2008  blog.cleveland.com

The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's gorillas are participating in a national study of gorilla health, after previous research found that gorillas in captivity are prone to heart disease.  Mokolo, 20 showed signs of early heart disease -- the left side of his heart is enlarged. Bebac, 23 has advanced disease.  Veterinarian, Albert Lewandowski said they will be placed on beta blockers or ACE inhibitors, drugs familiar to people with high blood pressure and heart disease."Catching heart disease early, allows more effective management of their health and well-being, and will help stem the progression of the heart disease and hopefully improve their long-term survival."  Bebac and Mokolo came to Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in 1994 from Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.

Mating Photos of Wild Western Gorillas

February 12, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society and Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology have released the first known photographs of western gorillas performing face-to-face copulation in the wild. The photographs were part of a study in Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo that appeared in a recent issue of The Gorilla Gazette. Thomas Breuer was the lead author of the study. “It is also interesting that this same adult female has been noted for innovative behaviors before. Nicknamed “Leah” by researchers, she made history in 2005 when she was observed using tools – another never-before-seen behavior for her kind in the wild. Breuer and others witnessed Leah using a stick to test the depth of a pool of water before wading into it in Mbeli Bai, where researchers have been monitoring the gorilla population since 1995.  Besides humans, only bonobos have been known to frequently employ ventro-ventral mating positions. On a few occasions, mountain gorillas have been observed in ventro-ventral positions, but never photographed. Western gorillas in captivity have been known to mate face-to-face, but not in the wild.  The study is funded by the Brevard Zoo, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, Max Planck Society, Sea World & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, Toronto Zoo, Wildlife Conservation Society and Woodland Park Zoo. Scientists estimate that western gorillas have declined 60 percent in recent years due to habitat loss, illegal hunting, and Ebola hemorrhagic fever. The Wildlife Conservation Society, which is the only organization working to protect all four gorilla sub-species (including the Cross River Gorilla, the mountain gorilla, and the Grauer’s gorilla), has been studying gorillas and other wildlife in the Republic of Congo since the 1980s. In 1993, the Congolese Government, working with technical assistance from WCS, established Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park.

Lowry Park Zoo Releases Manatee

February 12, 2008  www2.tbo.com   BY NEIL JOHNSON

TAMPA - Born and raised in captivity, a 24-year-old manatee named Hurricane was taken from Lowry Park Zoo and released at Blue Spring State Park in Volusia County.  Two manatees from SeaWorld - Annie and Rocket, who both were rescued as orphaned calves - also were released.  Hurricane was born at Miami Seaquarium on Nov. 20, 1983. He, along with Rocket and Annie, were equipped with a satellite tracking device and will be checked three times in the next year to be sure they're feeding, said David Murphy, staff veterinarian at the zoo.  The release site was picked because the spring-fed water is consistently about 72 degrees, considered warm for February, and the park is a manatee refuge near the St. Johns River. The three manatees released Monday join an estimated 2,800 others in Florida waters. Because Hurricane never had to forage for food, he can learn from the other manatees. Workers at the zoo have been introducing him to the aquatic vegetation he'll encounter in the wild.  Wildlife officials are also monitoring the progress of Dundee, a captive-born manatee released from Lowry Park Zoo a year ago.  "He's having some trouble. He's losing weight. He's an animal we're watching very closely," Spellman said.  But Gene, Dundee's father, also was released from the zoo and is doing well. 

Aukland Zoo Releases Tuatara

February 12, 2008  www.scoop.co.nz

AUKLAND, NZ -- The Aukland Zoo is the only captive facility in New Zealand breeding Cuvier-origin tuatara as part of the New Zealand Department of Conservation’s ‘Headstart’ tuatara breeding recovery program. The DOC relocated six Northern tuatara to the Zoo in 1990 to begin a pest eradication program on Cuvier Island, and by 1993, and successfully cleared the island of the Kiore (Pacific rat).  So far, the zoo has released 18 captive-bred tuatara to Cuvier island and today, 2 more 4-year-olds will be released.  The last release from the zoo (11 animals) was in 2003.  A further 14 zoo-bred young are expected to be relocated to Cuvier Island this spring, provided they reach the required 80grams – the size at which they can adequately defend themselves from natural predators, including adult tuatara. In addition, four tuatara eggs from a clutch laid last December at the zoo, are currently incubating at Victoria University, and are expected to hatch between April and June. Another key partner in the recovery programme, Victoria University’s role in incubating the eggs is enabling it to carry out important research into the influence of temperature on tuatara sex, as well as the effects of global warming.  Overall since 1995, Auckland Zoo has released a total of 50 tuatara (Red Mercury Island, Cuvier Island, and Stanley Island) onto their respective islands.

How Mimicry Affects Interpersonal Persuasion

February 12, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Social scientists have long been intrigued by the human tendency to mimic the behavior of others. Now, a new study from researchers at Duke, U. of Maryland and U. of Amsterdam expands the field, exploring the potential for mimicry to influence product consumption. The researchers find that watching someone else eat a certain food—for example, cheetahs or ice cream – will cause the viewer to be inclined to eat the same thing. In another experiment, it was found that participants who had their posture and speech mimicked by a salesperson rated the product higher and consumed more of it. The article  “Of Chameleons and Consumption: The Impact of Mimicry on Choice and Preferences.” Appears in the April 2008 Journal of Consumer Research.

Farmed Salmon Kill Wild Salmon

February 12, 2008  news.nationalgeographic.com  By James Owen

The first worldwide assessment of the impact of cultivated salmon on wild stocks found that where native populations encounter salmon farms, the numbers of wild fish crash, on average, by more than 50 percent.  The farmed fish spread diseases and parasites to wild salmon. Some cultivated escapees also interbreed with the native fish, reducing the ability of their offspring to survive, researchers say.  "The overall trend, over and over again around the world, is that salmon farming seems to have a negative impact on wild salmon," said lead researcher Jennifer Ford of Dalhousie University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  "The mortality from farming that we find is really large in many cases—more than 50 percent reductions every year," she added. "That is not sustainable for any populations."  The findings appear in this week's issue of the journal Public Library of Science Biology.

Endangered Species Permit Applications

February 13, 2008   www.epa.gov

The public is invited to comment on the following applications to conduct certain activities with endangered species on or before March 14, 2008. Written data or comments should be submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Endangered Species Program Manager, Region 8, 2800 Cottage Way, Room W-2606, Sacramento, CA, 95825 (telephone: 916-414-6464; fax: 916-414-6486). Please refer to the respective permit number for each application when submitting comments. All comments received, including names and addresses, will become part of the official administrative record and may be made available to the public.  For further information contact: Daniel Marquez, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, see ADDRESSES, (telephone: 760-431-9440; fax: 760-431-9624).

Permit No. TE-815214
    Applicant: Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, Arroyo Grande, California. The applicant requests an amendment to take (salvage, replace, and transfer non-viable eggs) the California Least Tern (Sterna antillarum browni) in conjunction with surveys and population monitoring in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties, California, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-170381
    Applicant: William F. Stagnaro, San Francisco, California. The applicant requests a permit to take (harass by survey, capture, mark, and monitor) the San Francisco garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia), and the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) in conjunction with surveys and population monitoring activities throughout the range of each species in California, for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Permit No. TE-084606
    Applicant: David F. Moskovitz, Diamond Bar, California. The applicant requests an amendment to take (capture, collect, and kill) the Conservancy fairy shrimp (Branchinecta conservatio), the longhorn fairy shrimp (Branchinecta longiantenna), the Riverside fairy shrimp (Streptocephalus wootoni), the San Diego fairy shrimp (Branchinecta sandiegonensis), and the vernal pool tadpole shrimp (Lepidurus packardi) in conjunction with surveys throughout the range of each species in California, for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Permit No. TE-170389
    Applicant: Travis B. Cooper, San Juan Capistrano, California. The applicant requests a permit to take (harass by survey, and nest monitor) the least Bell's vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus), and the Southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) in conjunction with surveys and monitoring throughout the range of each species in California, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-004939
    Applicant: Gordon F. Pratt, Riverside, California. The applicant requests an amendment to take (capture, release, remove from the wild, and captive breed) the El Segundo Blue butterfly (Euphilotes battoides allyni) in conjunction with genetic research at Vandenberg Air Force base, Santa Barbara County, California, for the purposes of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-170403
    Applicant: Melissa A. Amarello, Carbondale, California. The applicant requests a permit to take (harass by survey, capture, mark, and monitor) the San Francisco garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia) in conjunction with population monitoring and research activities at the Cloverdale Ranch, San Mateo County, California, for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Permit No. TE-795930
    Applicant: Helm Biological Consulting, Lincoln, California. The permittee requests an amendment to take (harass by survey, capture, handle, and release) the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) in conjunction with surveys throughout the range of the species in California, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-168282
    Applicant: Normandeau Associates, Inc., Stevenson Washington. The permittee request a permit to take (harass by survey) the razorback sucker (Xyrauchen texanus) and bonytail chub (Gila elegans) in conjunction with surveys and backwater inventories along the lower Colorado river in Imperial County, California, for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Permit No. TE-170681
    Applicant: Stanley C. Spencer, Riverside, California.The applicant requests an amendment to take (survey by pursuit) the Quino checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha quino) and Delhi sands flower loving fly (Rhaphiomidas terminatus abdominalis), and take (capture, collect, and kill) the Conservancy fairy shrimp (Branchinecta conservatio), the longhorn fairy shrimp (Branchinecta longiantenna), the Riverside fairy shrimp (Streptocephalus wootoni), the San Diego
fairy shrimp (Branchinecta sandiegonensis), and the vernal pool tadpole shrimp (Lepidurus packardi) in conjunction with surveys throughout the range of each species in California, for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Permit No. TE-053085
    Applicant: Bureau of Reclamation, Boulder City, Navada. The permittee request a permit to take (harass by survey, electroshock, capture, collect, mark, transport, captive rear, captive propagate, reintroduce) the razorback sucker (Xyrauchen texanus) and bonytail chub (Gila elegans) in conjunction with surveys, population monitoring, and research along the Colorado river in Clark County, Nevada, and San Bernardino, Riverside, and Imperial County, California,
for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Critical Habitat for Berberis nevinii (Nevin's barberry)

February 13, 2008    www.epa.gov
The USFWS is designating critical habitat for Berberis nevinii (Nevin's barberry).  In total, approximately 6 acres (ac) (3 hectares (ha)) in Riverside County, California, fall within the boundaries of the final critical habitat designation.  This rule becomes effective on March 14, 2008.  The final rule, final economic analysis, and map of critical habitat will be available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov  and http://www.fws.gov/carlsbad/ Supporting documentation we used in preparing this final rule will be available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, 6010 Hidden Valley Road, Carlsbad, CA 92011; telephone 760-431-9440; facsimile 760-431-5901.  For further information contact:  Jim Bartel, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, telephone 760-431-9440

Berberis nevinii is a 3 to 13 foot (ft) (1 to 4 meter (m)) tall rhizomatous, evergreen shrub in the barberry family (Berberidaceae) that is endemic to southern California.  In general, Berberis nevinii has a limited natural distribution; it typically occurs in small stands (less than 20 individuals, and often only one or two) in scattered locations in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside Counties, California, with the largest native occurrence (as defined by the California Natural Diversity Database (CNDDB)) consisting of several stands and totaling about 134 individuals to the south of Vail Lake in Riverside County.

‘Genetic Corridors’ Needed to Save the Tiger

February 13, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

NEW YORK – The Wildlife Conservation Society and the Panthera Foundation announced plans to establish a 5,000 mile-long “genetic corridor” from Bhutan to Burma that would allow tiger populations to roam freely across eight countries.  Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, director of Science and Exploration Programs at the WCS, said that genetic corridors, where tigers can travel with less risk of inbreeding, are crucial for their survival in Asia. The proposed corridor includes extensive areas of Bhutan, northeast India, Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia, along with potential connectivity to Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Rabinowitz, the co-director of Tigers Forever – a WCS/Panthera Foundation collaboration corridors did not have to be pristine parkland but could in fact include agricultural areas, ranches, and other multi-use landscapes – just as long as tigers could use them to travel between wilderness areas.  “We’re not asking countries to set aside new parks. This is more about changing regional zoning in tiger range states to allow tigers to move more freely between areas of good habitat.”  Twelve of 13 tiger range states were represented by delegates at the UN meeting. Also present were  representatives from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Save the Tiger Fund, Conservation International, Rare Conservation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Tigers Forever was launched in 2006 as a plan to grow tiger numbers by 50 percent at key sites over a ten year period. This increase is being achieved through collecting baseline data and long-term scientific monitoring of tigers, their prey, and their threats, to ensure that the goals can be met. Key threats are the direct killing of tigers, poaching of tiger prey, and habitat loss – all of which are being targeted and mitigated.

Big Horn Sheep Recovery Plan Available

February 13, 2008  www.fws.gov   By Lois Grunwald

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has completed a cooperative plan to recover the Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep to a sustainable level where it can be removed from the federally protected category.  "We strongly believe that a collaborative stewardship approach, involving government agencies and the private sector is critical to achieving the ultimate goal of recovery," said Steve Thompson, regional director of the Service's California and Nevada Region. A copy of the recovery plan and other information are available on the Internet at: http://ecos.fws.gov/tess_public/SpeciesRecovery.do?sort=2
The Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep was listed as endangered on January 3, 2000 following emergency listing on April 20, 1999. In 1999, only about 125 bighorn sheep remained in the Sierra Nevada, living in five separate areas on mountainous, federally-owned land primarily in California’s Inyo and Mono counties. Their population has since increased to at least 400 individuals. Even though their habitat is primarily on federal land and is relatively undisturbed, their distribution has been greatly reduced and fragmented over the past 150 years, which leaves the sheep more vulnerable to extinction.

Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep are large animals that inhabit the east side and crest of the southern and central Sierra Nevada. They are sure-footed and agile with specialized hooves that enable them to easily negotiate steep, rocky terrain. The sheep breed in the fall, and the ewes give birth to one lamb in the spring or early summer.  Diseases spread by domestic sheep beginning in the 1860s coupled with indiscriminate hunting during that time period and possible predation by mountain lions in recent decades are considered the primary reasons for the decline of the bighorn sheep. From February through April, the sheep may be more vulnerable to predators when they attempt to move to lower elevations to forage on new, nutritious plant growth and avoid harsh winter conditions at higher elevation before lambs are born. During the 1980s bighorn sheep began remaining at higher elevations throughout the winter. This behavior led to greater risk of mortality due to exposure, avalanches, and an inadequate food supply, and was followed by a steep population decline. Some believe that when the bighorn sheep herd size gets small, they will remain at higher elevations to avoid predation by mountain lions.

One of the recovery criteria outlined in the plan is to maintain specific population sizes for each recovery unit for seven consecutive years.  Another recovery criteria is to ensure that Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep of both sexes occupy at least two essential herd units in the Kern Recovery Unit, six in the Southern Recovery Unit, two in the Central Recovery Unit, and two in the Northern Recovery Unit. Currently, seven essential and one non-essential herd unit are occupied by Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep. The rest of the units are currently not occupied by the Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep. One of the actions in the recovery plan for the Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep is protecting them from mountain lions until herd sizes increase sufficiently. The plan calls for removing lions that are a threat while ensuring the viability of the mountain lion population. This temporary measure may help herds obtain forage at lower elevations in late winter, resulting in a boost in the sheep population.

Another criteria is to eliminate contact between Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep and domestic sheep and goats. Domestic sheep and goats can carry pathogens that are linked to fatal pneumonia in bighorn sheep, and can quickly devastate a bighorn population.  Other actions to help sheep recover include translocating Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep from large wild herds to supplement depleted herds and reestablish extirpated herds. Captive breeding would only be used if recovery goals for wild herds cannot be reached through translocation of bighorn sheep. This method would help maintain the genetic diversity of this subspecies, increase population size, and reduce the level of population fragmentation. "Years of hard work and planning have resulted in a plan that we believe will recover this magnificent keystone species of the high Sierra," said Thompson.

The Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep population was thought to be part of a larger California bighorn sheep subspecies, but genetic and morphological research now indicates that Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep should be classified as a separate subspecies. The Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep is also listed by the state as endangered. The California State Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is the lead agency in this multi-agency effort to recover Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep. Immediately following listing, DFG established a recovery program based on the allocation of funds by the California legislature specifically for that purpose. The recovery program has focused on monitoring population trend, identifying limiting factors, and implementing recovery actions. Recovery actions that are currently being implemented include translocations to reestablish populations, use of prescribed fire to enhance habitat, grazing management to minimize disease risk, and predator management.

Bat Flight Evolved Before Echolocation

February 13, 2008  www.nature.com

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---The discovery of a remarkably well-preserved fossil representing the most primitive bat species known to date demonstrates that the animals evolved the ability to fly before they could echolocate.  The new species, named Onychonycteris finneyi, was unearthed in 2003 in southwestern Wyoming and is described in a study in the Feb. 14 issue of the journal Nature. Bats represent one of the largest and most diverse orders of mammals, accounting for one-fifth of all living mammal species. The well-preserved condition of the new fossil permitted the scientists to take an unprecedented look at the most primitive known member of the order Chiroptera. A careful examination of Onychonycteris's physical characteristics revealed several surprising features: It had claws on all five of its fingers, whereas modern bats have, at most, claws on only two digits of each hand. The limb proportions of Onychonycteris are also different from all other bats---the hind legs are longer and the forearm shorter---and more similar to those of climbing mammals that hang under branches, such as sloths and gibbons. It may have been a skilled climber, but could also fly like modern bats. It had short, broad wings, which suggest that it probably could not fly as far or as fast as most bats that came after it. Instead of flapping its wings continuously while flying it may have alternated flapping and gliding while in the air. Its teeth indicate that its diet consisted primarily of insects, just like that of most living bats.

Animal Symbolism for Anniversary Years

February 13, 2008  www.praguepost.com   By Jacy Meyer

Compiled by Zoo and Aquarium Visitor magazine CEO Rudy Socha
Year 1 - Shark: Circling each other to determine dominance and territories.
Year 2 - Largemouth Bass: Neither party has yet learned when to keep his or her mouth shut.
Year 3 - Tiger: Recognizing each other’s individual stripes.
Year 4 - Hummingbird: Enjoying the sweet nectar of marriage.
Year 5 - Dolphin: Swimming together.
Year 6 - Deer: Controlling the buck becomes important.
Year 7 - Monkey: Sitting around picking off each other’s fleas.
Year 8 - Wolf: Realizing it’s time to start a pack.
Year 9 - Horse: Galloping toward 10 years of bliss.
Year 10 - Bear: Glad I found my honey.
Year 11 - Lion: Proud of their pride.
Year 12 - Whale: Married life makes them larger and happier.
Year 13 - Parrot: Both chatter and finish each other’s sentences.
Year 14 - Moose: Ponds, pools and hot tubs are favorite leisure spots.
Year 15 - Elephant: He finally realizes it’s the matriarch who runs the herd.
Year 16 - Eagle: Have found a destination to fly off to every year.
Year 17 - Trout: Have swum upriver many times together.
Year 18 - Penguin: Still look good dressed up together.
Year 19 - Turtle: Taking things a little slower.
Year 20 - Giraffe: Reaching what most others cannot.
Year 21 - Duck: Serene above water, lots of movement below.
Year 22 - Frog: On the shore, waiting for dinner.
Year 23 - Squirrel: Worried about how many nuts are stored.
Year 24 - Skunk: Survived even the stinky stuff.
Year 25 - Peacock: Time to strut our stuff.

Reduced Critical Habitat for Peirson’s Milk-vetch

February 14, 2008   www.epa.gov
The USFWS is designating critical habitat for Astragalus magdalenae var. peirsonii (Peirson's milk-vetch). In total, approximately 12,105 acres (ac) (4,899 hectares (ha)) fall within the boundaries of the revised critical habitat designation for A. m. var. peirsonii. The revised critical habitat is located in Imperial County, California. We are excluding Unit 2 from this revised designation based on the disproportionate economic and social impacts associated with the
designation of this unit relative to the other units designated as critical habitat. This final revised designation constitutes a reduction of 9,758 ac (3,949 ha) from our 21,863 ac (8,848 ha) previous final designation of critical habitat published in 2004.  The rule becomes effective on March 17, 2008.  This final rule is available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov In addition, the final revised rule, economic analysis, and maps are available at http://www.fws.gov/carlsbad/

Taronga Zoo Asian Elephant is Pregnant

February 14, 2008   www.abc.net.au

Taronga Zoo’s 8-year-old Asian elephant, Thong Dee is five months pregnant and expected to give birth in June 2009.  There was concern that Thong Dee, one of four female elephants brought to Taronga Zoo from Thailand in 2005, was too young to be sexually active. The ultrasound shows that the foetus is very healthy and very active and it will be a process of continuing to monitor the progress of the gestation period.

Houston Zoo Wins 2007 Marketing Award

February 14, 2008  www.bizjournals.com

The Houston Chapter of the American Marketing Association has named the Houston Zoo as its 2007 Marketer of the Year. The Zoo was recognized for a multifaceted marketing program that increased attendance and revenue, while spotlighting the zoo's core missions of education and conservation.

Young Orang-utan hangs herself at Singapore Zoo

February 14, 2008 www.smh.com.au

A young orang-utan has died of a dislocated neck in a "freak accident" at the Singapore Zoo. Atina caught her neck in a hanging noose that was part of a hammock in the ape enclosure, and her mother, Anita, and other orang-utans tried to free the infant, by tugging at her neck.  Zookeepers could not reach Atina in time to save her because the mother kept pushing them away. All hanging nooses have been removed from the enclosure.

Reid Park Zoo Opens ‘Green’ School

February 14, 2008  www.tucsoncitizen.com

TUCSON, Arizona -- The Lee H. Brown Family Conservation Learning Center at the Reid Park Zoo is providing a new place for people to learn about animals, and is one of the most environmentally sensitive buildings in the state.  Old blue jeans are used for insulation, rain water is harvested and furniture and flooring are made from recycled milk jugs.  Solar panels, allow the buildings to use 80 percent less energy than conventional buildings of the same size.  Zoo officials hope the building will be certified as platinum, the highest certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

San Diego Zoo’s "Garden of Senses"

February 14, 2008  www.imperialvalleynews.com by San Diego Zoo  

SAN DIEGO -- This year's annual Garden Celebration focuses on how the five senses are stimulated by gardens and plants: taste, touch, hearing, sight and smell.  There will be beautiful foliage and flowers to see: tasty food and beverages, fragrant blossoms to delight the sense of smell, the sound of breezes rustling thru trees and bamboo; and the feel of bark and foliage on the skin. Each display offers unique sensations in the Zoo's garden setting. Dan Simpson, associate horticulturist for the San Diego Zoo said "In this event we are highlighting how sensory cues from plants enrich our lives on a daily basis." A free botanical bus tour will highlight plants at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. There will also be self-gudied walking tours showcasing the magnificence of these plants throughout the Zoo.

Counting Giant Octopuses in Puget Sound

February 14th, 2008   www.thenewstribune.com

PUGET SOUND REGION -- Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium and the Seattle Aquarium are enlisting local scuba divers this weekend in an effort to count giant Pacific octopuses in the Puget Sound.  The annual census will be used to establish baseline data on the number of octopuses in the region, then later determine whether the species is declining.  The count will take place Saturday through Monday. Divers should report: Date, time of day, exact dive site, exact depth, den information, indication of octopus size (tennis ball, cantaloupe, basketball or bigger), indication of where the den is in relation to the entry point of the dive, and number of divers.

New Website Creates Online Condor Community

February 14, 2008  www.ewire.com

SAN DIEGO – A new web site, "California Condor Conservation," has been created with new technology to provide the latest information from all of the organizations involved in this species' recovery.  Researchers, field biologists, keepers and many other partners involved in the California Condor Recovery Program will be posting blogs and providing photos and video from the field. Anyone from a student studying conservation to a bystander who witnesses a condor in the wild will have the opportunity to log on to www.cacondorconservation.org to ask the experts questions about the species.  Web videos will give viewers an up-close view of the wild condor population or an inside look at zoo breeding centers. This month's news video, in both English and Spanish, discusses the recent outbreak of lead poisoning at the Baja California, Mexico condor release site and what is being done to prevent a recurrence.  Included will be classroom tools, a newsletter, news releases from the recovery program partners and even bios of some of the condors.  The California Condor Recovery Program is implemented by the USFWS and includes partnership with other U.S. and Mexican government agencies, the Zoological Society of San Diego, Los Angeles Zoo, The Peregrine Fund, Oregon Zoo, Chapultepec Zoo, Ventana Wilderness Society and the National Park Service.

Sedgwick County Zoo’s New Tiger Exhibit

February 14, 2008  www.bizjournals.com

The Slawson family is the lead donor to the Sedgwick County Zoo's fund-raising efforts to bring in a new Asian tiger exhibit. "They approached us with the idea of bringing tigers back to the zoo," says Mark C. Reed, executive director, in a written statement. "It's been more than 10 years since tigers have been part of the zoo family."  The Slawsons donated the first $1 million in November 2006 and challenged the Zoo Foundation to raise a second million. The challenge was met in December 2007 with the completion of the zoo's successful fund-raising campaign. The Slawsons responded with the donation of another million dollars to cover the new exhibit's projected $3 million cost.  This state-of-the-art exhibit will be located next to the Asian Forest and north of the Downing Gorilla Forest's Nganda Island. It will provide complete management resources for maintaining tigers.  Site work is projected to begin in late February and the exhibit's anticipated opening is May 2009.

Human Influences on Global Ecosystems

February 14, 2008  www.science.org

A team of researchers combined 17 data sets of different human activities – from fishing and fertilizer run-off, to commercial shipping and pollution – and analyzed their effects on marine ecosystems, continental shelves and the deep ocean. The results, highlighted on a map available on NOAA.gov, reveal that more than 40 percent of the world’s oceans are heavily impacted by human activities.  The most heavily affected waters include the East Coast of North America, North Sea, South and East China Seas, Caribbean Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, Persian Gulf, Bering Sea and areas off the western Pacific Ocean. Dr. Kenneth Casey, with NOAA’s National Oceanographic Data Center is a co-author of the study “A Global Map of Human Impact on Marine Ecosystems” that will appear in the journal Science. Casey said three measures of human-induced climate change were examined by the research team, including changes in sea surface temperatures, UV radiation, and ocean acidification. These measures were found to be among the most important factors in determining the global impacts. According to the study, the ecosystems most at threat are: coral reefs, which house more than 25 percent of all marine life and protect against wave erosion; seagrass beds, which are nursery grounds for young fish and mangroves, which grow in coastal habitats and also help ward off erosion. For the full study see: http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/SatelliteData/Cortad/

Yellowstone's Jack Rabbits Gone

February 14, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

NEW YORK– A new study by the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society found that jack rabbits living in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem have vanished. There have been no confirmed sightings in Yellowstone since 1991 and only three in Grand Teton since 1978. The study appears in the latest issue of the journal Oryx, and speculates that their disappearance may be having wide impacts on a variety of other prey species and their predators. Historical records from more than 130 years ago indicate that white-tailed jack rabbits were once locally abundant in the 23,166 square mile Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. The study’s lead author, Dr. Joel Berger, a WCS conservationist, and professor at the University of Montana, said “It could be disease, extreme weather, predation or other factors, there is no way to know the underlying cause.”  Dr. Berger believes that the absence may be causing elevated predation by coyotes on juvenile elk, pronghorn and other ungulates. Berger suggests that wildlife managers should consider reintroduction of white-tailed jack rabbits into Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. “Reintroduction may result in the establishment of dynamic ecological processes that were intact before rabbits vanished from the ecosystem,” Dr. Berger said.

New Butterfly Exhibit at Smithsonian

February 14, 2008  www.physorg.com  By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID

"Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution," is the Museum of Natural History’s latest exhibit.  The exhibit tells the story of millions of years of co-evolution of butterflies and plants, a 200-million year relationship in which each has influenced changes in the other, said entomologist Ted Schultz.  Butterflies were around in the Jurassic era and have outlived the dinosaurs.  Within the exhibit is the 1,200 square foot butterfly pavilion, a controlled tropical garden which will have ~400 butterflies at any given time.  Exhibit manager Nate Erwin said a $6 admission charge is needed to help cover the pavilion's operating costs, estimated at up to $1 million a year.  There is a staff of 10 to tend the plants and butterflies, and new butterflies must be purchased from around the world constantly. In addition, the Smithsonian horticultural division has devoted an entire greenhouse to growing pesticide-free tropical plants for the exhibit.  Butterflies have an average lifespan of two to four weeks, Erwin said, and Agriculture Department regulations prohibit the museum from breeding nonnative species. Those in the pavilion come from Asia, Africa and North and South America.  More information is at: www.mnh.si.edu

Project BudBurst

February 14, 2008  www.budburst.org

A nationwide initiative starting this week will enable volunteers to track climate change by observing the timing of flowers and foliage. Each participant in Project BudBurst selects one or more plants to observe. The project Web site suggests more than 60 widely distributed trees and flowers, with information on each. Users can add their own choices.  The Project is operated by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) and a team of partners, allows students, gardeners and other citizen scientists in every state to enter their observations into an online database that will give researchers a detailed picture of our warming climate.  It will  operate year round so that early- and late-blooming species in different parts of the country can be monitored throughout their life cycles. The project builds on a pilot program carried out last spring, when several thousand participants recorded the timing of the leafing and flowering of hundreds of plant species in 26 states.  The Chicago Botanic Garden, Universities of Montana, Arizona, California, Santa Barbara, Wisconsin, the Plant Conservation Alliance; and the USA-National Phenology Network are collaborators on Project BudBurst, which was funded with a grant from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The project is also supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Windows to the Universe, a UCAR-based Web site that will host the project online as part of its citizen science efforts.

LA Zoo’s Elephant Exhibit Can Be Built

February 14, 2008  www.dailybreeze.com

LOS ANGELES -- A judge has ruled that work on a new elephant building at the Los Angeles Zoo can continue and that the zoo's lone elephant can remain, thwarting efforts by actor Robert Culp to close the exhibit and stop another from being built, according to court papers released Thursday.  In his 4-page ruling, Superior Court Judge Reginald A. Dunn wrote that there were no grounds for issuing an injunction sought by Culp while he and another man pursue a lawsuit seeking to keep elephants out of the zoo because of allegations that staff mistreated the animals. The Plaintiff's lawyer David Casselman said they intended to appeal the order.

Spotted Hyenas at San Diego Zoo

February 14, 2008  www.imperialvalleynews.com

SAN DIEGO -- Two spotted 9-year-old hyena brothers named Zephyr and Turbo are now living near the top of Sun Bear Forest at the San Diego Zoo. The San Diego Zoo also houses striped hyenas, but not the brown hyena. Zookeeper Hali Anderson, said “They play in the water and even hide the bones we give them in the pool. They acclimated really quickly and seem to be enjoying all the experiences, especially people watching.” Native to many areas in Africa and live in large clans, which are led by a female and can reach over 70 individuals. Their strong jaws can produce pressure up to 800 pounds per square inch and easily crush bones.

Red Pandas Escape from Scottish Conservation Park

February 14, 2008  news.scotsman.com   By Louise Kerr

KIRKCUDBRIGHT, Scotland -- Two red pandas have been missing for a week after escaping from their enclosure at the Galloway Wildlife Conservation Park.  Mother Pichu and her daughter Isla escaped after a tree fell onto their pen during a storm. The father, Mushu, remained behind.  John Denerley, owner of the wildlife park, said "Pichu and Mushu are both on breeding loans. Mushu was from Cotswold Wildlife Park and Pichu was from Curraghs Wildlife Park, Isle of Man. Their daughter was born last year, in June 2007.”  More Red Panda cubs have been born at the Kirkcudbright conservation park, established in 1989, than any zoo in Britain.

Socialization of Alaska Zoo’s Elephant Maggie

February 15, 2008 www.and.com   By JULIA O'MALLEY

On Tuesday at the Performing Animal Welfare Society sanctuary in California the fence separating Maggie from Mara, Ruby, Lulu and 71 was removed, for a little while anyhow.  "She marched right up to them, got right in the middle of them, ... she did a big rumble," said Pat Derby, founder and director of PAWS. "They all got excited and started rumbling and trumpeting." And they didn't do any of the things keepers feared: The bigger elephants didn't lean on her and knock her over; they didn't fight; she wasn't scared of all the company after her lonely life in Alaska.  Maggie, once a resident of the Alaska Zoo, was kept in a private yard since she arrived at the sanctuary in November. Over time, she gradually began communicating with the other elephants across the fence. On Tuesday she was allowed to join them for an hour. The sanctuary will continue to increase her socialization time each day until she's integrated with the herd.

New Phoenix Islands Protected Area

February 15, 2008  news.nationalgeographic.com  By Ray Lilley

The Phoenix Islands Protected Area, or PIPA, lies about halfway between Hawaii and Fiji.  It will conserve one of Earth's last intact oceanic coral archipelago ecosystems. "The coral reefs and bird populations of the islands are unique, virtually untouched by man," said Kiribati Environment Minister Tetapo Nakara as he announced the new marine reserve.  Nakara said his ministry hopes to fully establish the 164,200-square-mile area as a protected zone by the end of the year, with the goal of attracting more tourists to Kiribati—an impoverished coral atoll nation of about 95,000 people. About 50 people live on one of the protected atolls. Some commercial fishing in the area will be restricted, meaning the Kiribati government will forego some revenue from foreign commercial fishing licenses, but it is hoping to recoup some of the losses by boosting tourism, which now accounts for 20 percent of the gross domestic product.  It has already applied to have the marine reserve listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Kiribati and Boston-based New England Aquarium conducted joint scientific research in the area over several years with funding and technical aid from Conservation International.

Zoo Moves to Burma’s New Capital

February 15, 2008   news.bbc.co.uk   By Steve Jackson

YANGON, Myanmar  --  Burma's military government is moving hundreds of zoo animals from Rangoon’s Zoological Garden in Yangon to Naypyidaw, the country's new capital nearly 250 miles from the main city's 100-year-old zoo.  The new city of Naypyridaw has been built in the middle of an area of tropical scrubland, away from the main centers of population. And now the military leadership appears to feel that a capital city needs a zoo, so approximately half of the creatures from Rangoon's zoo are being moved to a newly-built complex in Naypyidaw.  Hippos, monkeys, tigers and bears are reportedly being transported this week in small cages loaded onto trucks.  One zookeeper said the elephants had howled and refused to eat when their herd was split up.  While Burmese officials say the new zoo will be world class, eyewitnesses have said it lacks the infrastructure and the vegetation the animals will need.  No official reason has been given for the move, but the military government has been anxious to give an air of legitimacy to its new capital.

Dubai World Africa Plans “Conservation Resort”

February 16, 2008  www.albawaba.com

Dubai World Africa today announced that it will invest $200 million in the Bilene Hotel, a luxury beach resort, golf estate and eco development along 4km of exquisite prime beachfront in Mozambique.  Situated just north of Maputo, the resort spans a 1,000ha and encompasses 18km Sao Martinho Lagoon, nature reserve and turtle breeding area. This area is home to the leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea). The nature reserve will be managed by Dubai World Conservation Africa and eco tourism will be of prime focus. The pristine coral reefs will be available to wildlife and water recreational sports enthusiasts.  Conservation is a key focus area for the company, which is currently establishing Dubai World Conservation Africa as a holding company for a number of prime reserves in Africa.  The Dubai state-owned company, with interests ranging from real estate to ports, will invest $150 million in the creation of an international competition standard golf course, a 5 star hotel as well as 500 golf course and beach villas and condos. The resort will be served by its own airport, Bilene Praia. The Bilene Hotel will also feature a diving centre allowing to experience some of the best scuba diving and snorkelling on the coast of east Africa.

Spoon-billed Sandpipers Discovered

February 17, 2008  commercialappeal.com  By Michael Casey

BANGKOK, Thailand -- The World Conservation Union lists the spoon-billed sandpiper as endangered with only 200 to 300 pairs left in the wild.  However the recent discovery of 84 birds wintering in Myanmar -- only one of which appears to have come from Siberia -- raises the prospect of breeding grounds elsewhere. The birds' migration route takes them from Siberia down through Japan, North Korea, South Korea, mainland China and Taiwan, to their main wintering grounds in South Asia. Simba Chan, senior conservation manager at BirdLife's Asia Division, said "If present trends continue, the spoon-billed sandpiper faces extinction in the next few years. If we are to save the species, we need to identify and conserve not only its breeding sites, but its migration stopover sites and wintering grounds too."  Spoon-billed sandpipers face myriad threats because of their complicated migration routes, from expanding shrimp farms and salt pans in Bangladesh to coastal development in China and South Korea.

Crop Biofuels Create Carbon Debt

February 17, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com

Two studies published in the journal Science have shown that changes in land use to produce crop-based biofuels can actually result in more greenhouse-gas emissions than burning fossil fuels. The reasons are complex: corn and canola require a lot of nitrogen fertilizer to grow, and making nitrogen fertilizers is very energy intensive. In the case of corn ethanol, distilling the ethanol requires energy. We don't have ethanol pipelines, so ethanol has to be transported in trains and trucks. For these and other reasons, the greenhouse gas balance – greenhouse gases removed from the atmosphere minus greenhouse gases released – is unfavorable for corn ethanol. Also, when fuel is derived from crops, food prices rise.  Fortunately, ethanol can also be made from cellulose, the large linear molecule of plants consisting entirely of glucose that is the most abundant natural material in the world. Cellulose is the main ingredient in wood and in the new so-called biomass crops such as miscanthus that do not require much nitrogen fertilizer and have yields of 20 tons of biomass per acre. Sugar can also be fermented directly into gasoline-like molecules, such as alkanes, that do not need to be distilled. This would require us to create new superbugs. Remember the superbugs that ate oil spills? Our new superbugs would produce oil-like molecules for transportation.  And oil can be produced by microalgae living in shallow ponds using the nutrients in municipal wastewater. With such plant and algal sources and with new industrial processes and fermentations, we could have a true greenhouse gas neutral transportation system that prevents further buildup of carbon dioxide and the two other greenhouse gases released as a result of agricultural practices – methane and nitrous oxide – into the atmosphere.

What should our focus be here in Southern California where transportation accounts for 40 percent of carbon dioxide release?  300 scientists recently met at UCSD to discuss new ways of producing ethanol from plants and other biofuel research. Two research and development goals are clearly within the grasp of San Diego-area scientists: oil produced by microalgae and novel fermentations that convert cellulose-derived sugars into oil-like molecules. Our intellectual resources include world-renowned microbiologists, geneticists, engineers and experts on algae. San Diego biotechnology companies such as Synthetic Genomics, Verenium and Sapphire Energy have already acquired impressive expertise. We also have some unusual, but ideal, physical resources – degraded land around the Salton Sea that has become unsuitable for agriculture, but suitable for algae ponds – and abundant sunshine. The R&D done right here in San Diego can help our local energy company, Sempra Energy Utilities, meet California's mandated climate change guidelines for renewable energy.

Male Asian Elephant Born at Dublin Zoo

February 18, 2008   www.rte.ie

DUBLIN -- A male elephant has been born at Dublin Zoo - the second elephant to be born at the zoo in the past year. The calf was born about one or two weeks earlier than expected, but could not be described as premature.  Once mother Yasmin's water broke, it was about 30 minutes until the baby was born at 5:27 a.m. and he was up and walking within about 30 minutes.  Both are doing well and the other four female elephants at the zoo, are smelling and touching the new arrival.  Last May, a female elephant, Asha, was born last May.  The three adult elephants in the herd were imported from Rotterdam in October 2006. Two of them were already pregnant. The zoo is now looking for an adult bull elephant who can mate with the ladies when they are ready to conceive again in a few years.

Phoenix Zoo’s Stingray Bay Now Has Sharks

February 18, 2008 www.azcentral.com  By Astrid Galvan

With 35 stingrays, Phoenix Zoo’s Stingray Bay was one of its most popular seasonal exhibits. Now the 17,000-gallon pool has 11 sharks and is even more popular.  The interactive exhibit allows visitors to pet the animals.  It is a traveling exhibit sponsored by Centex Homes and costs an additional $3 entrance fee. ($1 for Zoo members). The sharks are all rather small, ranging from 1 1/2 to almost 5 feet in length.  Rosie, a nurse shark, is the largest one, and will never grow past 11 feet, according to exhibit supervisor, Erin Mayall.  Once she reaches 5 or 6 feet, she'll be too large for the exhibit.  Bamboo and nurse sharks are nocturnal, Mayall said, so they are mostly dormant during the day, lying in stacks of four or five sharks near a dark corner.  The sharks and stingrays are fed 27 pounds of smelt and shrimp each day so that they don't prey on each other. Once the exhibit closes in May, it will travel to a Cleveland Zoo, but Phoenix already has plans to bring the exhibit back next year.

Lesser Spot-Nosed Guenon Born at Central Florida Zoo

February 18, 2008  www.wesh.com

SANFORD, Fla. -- The Central Florida Zoo is asking for help to name a lesser spot-nosed guenon born one week ago. According to curator Bonnie Breitbeil, viewers can see what mother and baby are doing at WESH.com.

Hogle Zoo Elephant is Pregnant

February 18, 2008   www.sltrib.com

Christie, a 22-year-old elephant at Utah's Hogle Zoo, is pregnant after three attempts to artificially inseminate her since summer 2006.  The pregnancy was confirmed Saturday by ultrasound, and the birth is expected to occur in late summer 2009.  The semen was from an elephant in Pittsburgh and this will be the first African elephant to be born at Hogle.

Calgary Zookeepers Hand-raise Baby Elephant

February 18, 2008  calsun.canoe.ca   By MICHAEL PLATT
Malti, the Calgary Zoo’s 242-kg elephant “toddler” drinks 25 litres of milk a day and is gaining up to a kilogram of mass a day. Keepers at the Calgary Zoo, have been hand-raising Malti since her birth on August 9, and half of that milk now comes directly from the baby's mom.  "Each day it gets better, with mom showing more interest in her baby," said Bob Kam, head elephant keeper at the Calgary Zoo.  "Her instincts are kicking in very slowly."  Mother, Maharani's first attempt at motherhood in 2004 ended badly when she rejected her sickly calf and it later died.  Maharani's initial refusal to embrace Malti was a serious concern, until the little elephant proved she was sticking around, with or without mom's help.  Taking to human-fed formula, Malti has gained 102 kg since birth. "We're certainly not going to give up on establishing that bond, because elephants nurse for two years minimum," said Kam.  Kam describes the current relationship as cordial, but said Maharani isn't yet showing the protective instinct expected in a mother elephant. "It's not quite bonding at this point -- but mom is more accepting of the baby," said Kam. The next step for keepers is to introduce a third elephant to the equation, to see if a bit of jealousy can spur Maharani to take more of an interest.

Tracking White Sharks

February 18, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Advances in satellite tracking systems and acoustic sensors are giving researchers insights into the behavior and lifestyle of the elusive white shark. Researchers from several institutions, including Stanford University, have joined their efforts in a Census of Marine Life project called Tagging of Pacific Predators (TOPP). Since the project began in 1999, they have attached more than 3,000 tags to sharks, seals, whales, tunas, squids, turtles, albatross and more. For the first time, these TOPP researchers are getting a glimpse of a pelagic ecosystem from the California Current to the North Pacific at daily, seasonal and yearly time scales.  Along with the white shark, the TOPP researchers also have been studying the routes and habits of two cousins of the white shark: the salmon shark, whose range extends from the glaciers of Alaska down to Baja California, where it crosses over the white sharks' territory along the continental coast, and the mako shark, which resides along the continental shelf off California. The team also has tagged thresher sharks and blue sharks.

National Zoo Studies Migratory Birds

February 18, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

How young migratory birds choose the nesting location of their first breeding season has been the focus of a study by the University of Maryland and Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center of the National Zoo. Their study of the of the American redstart suggests that the environmental conditions the birds face in their first year may help determine where they breed for the rest of their lives, a factor that could significantly affect the population as climate change makes their winter habitats hotter and drier.  “We found that where the birds go in their first winter, a process called natal dispersal, may determine the area, within several hundred miles, where they will breed over their lifetime,” said Colin Studds, the University of Maryland PhD student who led [C1]the study. “An important factor appears to be the availability of water in their winter habitat.” The study appears in the February 18 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Co-authors of the paper are Peter Marra, of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, and Kurt Kyser, of Queen’s University, Ontario.

Amazon’s Corridors are Too Narrow

February 18, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

The 7 million km2 Amazon rainforest contains around a quarter of the world’s terrestrial species, yet is being cleared at a rate of 25,000 km2 per year. Eighty per cent of the deforestation has been in Brazil and 70 per cent of that can be directly attributed to cattle ranching.  Brazilian forestry legislation currently requires that all forest strips alongside rivers and streams on private land be maintained as permanent reserves and it sets a minimum legal width of 60m. But after investigating the effects of corridor width on the number of bird and mammal species, Alexander Lees and Dr Carlos Peres of the University of East Anglia say a minimum critical width of 400m is necessary. The UEA research team surveyed 37 remnant and intact riparian forest sites in the State of Mato Grosso, southern Brazilian Amazon, around the town of Alta Floresta, a 30-year-old deforestation frontier.  The wider and better-preserved the corridors were, the greater the number of species found using them. Along with proposing a new minimum width threshold, the study also recommends fencing off large areas to allow regeneration following heavy browsing by livestock. They have published their findings in the March 21 journal Conservation Biology. 

St Louis Zoo’s “Awesome Amphibians”

February 18, 2008   www.stltoday.com   By Kim McGuire

A St. Louis Zoo employee was visiting an area pet store back in the late 1980s when he noticed some wriggly creatures being advertised as "Bait for Sale."  They were actually Chinese giant salamanders, the largest amphibians in the world and incredibly rare outside of their native range. "He knew exactly that we should buy them up," said Mark Wanner, the Zoo's manager of reptiles and amphibians. "It was just one of those once-in-a-lifetime kind of events."  Today, only four zoos in the United States have a Chinese giant salamander, including the St. Louis Zoo, which has two. The salamanders, which are about 3 feet long, will be one of the main attractions in the Zoo's new exhibit, "Awesome Amphibians." It opens Feb. 29 —Leap Day.  The year-long exhibit will showcase more than 150 frogs, salamanders and toads in a new 3,000-square-foot space in The Living World area. The exhibit will emphasize pollution, disease and habitat loss affecting amphibians.  "We want our visitors to know that widespread extinction of amphibians would be catastrophic," said Jeffrey P. Bonner, president of the Saint Louis Zoo and chairman of Amphibian Ark, a worldwide effort to save amphibians.  Featured species include:  The Panamanian golden frog, European fire salamander, Mexican caecilian and Chacoan waxy tree frog. 

Hammerhead Shark Added to Endangered List

February 18, 2008, www.thewest.com.au

The scalloped hammerhead, so called because of its extraordinary hammer-shaped snout, has fallen victim to fishing by-catch and the high value placed on its fins, by the Chinese.  Later this year it will be designated as “endangerd” on the World Conservation Union’s Red List of threatened species.  Declines of 98 per cent have been recorded off the US east coast since the 1970s, and losses of 90 per cent in other areas.  Unlike most other sharks, the scalloped hammerhead swims in large schools which tend to congregate in specific locations, such as the Galapagos Islands and Costa Rica. A fishing vessel stumbling upon one of these gatherings can easily wipe the whole school out.  A total of 233 types of shark are currently on the Red List, 12 of which are considered “critically endangered”. Nine, including the scalloped hammerhead, added this year. Among them are some well known species, such as the common thresher, the shortfin mako, and the tiger and bull shark.  Marine ecologist Dr Julia Baum, from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, who has studied the threat status of the world’s sharks, said “Right now the oceans are being emptied of sharks. If we carry on the way we’re going we’ll be looking at a very high risk of extinction for some of these shark species in the next few decades.”

Overview of the Las Vegas Zoo

February 19, 2008  www.viewnews.com    By BROCK RADKE

The Southern Nevada Zoological and Botanical Park  or Las Vegas Zoo was founded by Pat Dingle. "Las Vegas has a far better reputation in the zoo world than in our own community," said Dingle, a 46-year Las Vegan. "The San Diego Zoo has been our mentor for years, and they put rare animals that most other zoos in the U.S. would kill for with us, because they know we care for these animals."  One of the best examples of that is the zoo's fossa exhibit. A fossa is a mammal similar to a mongoose and native to Madagascar. In fact, it's the largest predator from that region. Very little is known about the animal, Dingle said, although it was made somewhat popular due to the characters in the 2005 animated film "Madagascar."  "It comes from a very secluded place and it's not related to anything else on Earth," Dingle said. "There were only 30 in the U.S. a year ago, and the San Diego Zoo put a breeding pair with us." Protocol requires regular inspection of the zoo habitats of such animals, and when Carmi Penny, curator of mammals at the San Diego Zoo, visited Las Vegas to check on the fossas, he was beyond impressed. "He basically said this is the best fossa exhibit in the country," Dingle said. "It's constructed in a bamboo grove and it's twice the size of anything else out there." San Diego gave the local zoo a pair of Barbary apes 25 years ago, and Las Vegas has become the most successful facility in breeding that species since then.  "We're the only zoo with a family of these apes, and Harvard has done DNA studies on our animals as a result," Dingle said.

Time Warner Cable Partners with Buffalo Zoo

February 19, 2008   www.bizjournals.com

Time Warner Cable and the Buffalo Zoo have announced a two-year partnership with a focus on the animal conservation. Time Warne, the cable TV franchise holder for most of Western New York will work with the zoo to encourage education about proper interaction with animals in captivity. They will also create and distribute 10,000 educational bookmarks that highlight proper zoo etiquette.  The company is also serving as the main sponsor of the new Amur tiger cubs, born on Oct. 7, 2007. They are the first surviving tiger cubs to be born at the Buffalo Zoo since 1988. The cubs have been named Thyme (female) and Warner (male) and will be on exhibit to the general public starting Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Detroit Zoo’s Penguinarium

February 19, 2008  www.mlive.com  By CHRISTY STRAWSER

ROYAL OAK, Mich. — The Detroit Zoo’s Penguinarium was the first exhibit in North America devoted to penguins when it opened in 1968. The Penguinarium has a continuous pool that lets penguins swim at high speeds, and it has a light cycle that mimics the exposure to light they would get in the wild.  Tom Schneider, the zoo’s curator of birds, has overseen all of the bird exhibits for 22 years. He learned early on that penguins have personalities, with some eager to form friendships and engage the public and others that avoid everyone.  Rockhopper and macaroni penguins, are especially friendly and like to check out visitors.  The Zoo allows groups of four to come into the Penguinarium after hours for "macaroni mingler" events. Each group pays $500 to spend time up close and personal with the birds.  The zoo had five macaroni chicks last year, and Schneider said breeding programs are one of the most important parts of his job. "I've really helped integrate the animals into management programs," Schneider said.  He serves on the management committee of the penguin advisory group for AZA,  where decisions are made about penguin protocol at zoos around the country.  Schneider hopes for an updated facility in the future with new equipment and room for more penguin species, including puffins.

Cats Returned to Improved S.F. Enclosure

February 19, 2008 by  www.examiner.com  David Smith

SAN FRANCISCO -- Fifty-four days after a Siberian tiger escaped her grotto at the San Francisco Zoo, killing a young man and mauling his two friends, the big cats are back in their modified enclosures. The four lions and three tigers roamed the habitat, smelling and marking territory with new scents.  Safety improvements cost The City an estimated $1.7 million.  Bob Jenkins, director of Animal Care and Conservation at the zoo said the zoo hoped to reopen the grottoes to the public by the end of this week with public feedings potentially resuming next week. The new barrier with added glass panes and wire-meshing brings the height to at least 19 feet from the bottom of the moat, and a “hot wire” with 8,000 volts of electricity running through it — no watts, zoo officials emphasized — lines the barrier separating the viewing public from the big cats. When the improvements are complete, the hot wire will rim the perimeter, and stainless-steel mesh will replace the current chain-link fencing to better resist the natural salinity of the air caused by the zoo’s proximity to the ocean, Jenkins said.

Loggerhead Turtles Suffer PFC Contamination

February 19, 2008  www.enn.com 

A scientific team monitoring the blood plasma of loggerhead turtles along the U.S. East Coast consistently found significant levels of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs). PFCs are used as nonstick coatings and additives in a wide variety of goods including cookware, furniture fabrics, carpets, food packaging, fire-fighting foams and cosmetics. They are very stable, persist for a long time in the environment and are known to be toxic to the liver, reproductive organs and immune systems of laboratory mammals. Jennifer Keller, a researcher at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in S.C., said that in a 2005 study,* PFC concentrations measured in the plasma of turtles found along the coast from Florida to North Carolina indicated that PFCs have become a major contaminant for the species. The levels of the most common PFC, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), were higher in turtles captured in the north than in the south. Data recently evaluated by NIST and College of Charleston graduate student Steven O’Connell shows that this northern trend of higher PFOS concentrations continues up into the Chesapeake Bay.

Brookfield Breaks Ground on Bear Exhibit

February 19, 2008  www.rblandmark.com   By BOB UPHUES

Brookfield Zoo is demolishing Ibex Island to make room for a new North American exhibit that will include a state-of-the-art bear exhibit and a new space for the zoo's bison. Opened in 1936, the craggy, concrete exhibit was built to house the zoo's sea mammal collection. Sea lions originally swam in the water-filled moat surrounding the island.  The sea mammals remained at the location until the construction of the Seven Seas Panorama exhibit in 1961.  After that, the island was home to Dall sheep in 1967. The ibex, originally located at the present-day Baboon Island exhibit, were introduced into the Ibex Island complex later. Over the years, the zoo's collection included as many as 25 ibex and some 300 ibex were born at the zoo.  Just two ibex remain at the zoo; they have been relocated to the former Dall Sheep Ridge by the East Mall.  That relocation sets the stage for the construction of Great Bear Wilderness, which zoo officials hope will be open by Memorial Day 2009, according to Jo-Elle Mogerman, vice president of planning and community relations for Brookfield Zoo. The exhibit will incorporate larger exhibit areas for the zoo's bison, bear and eagle collections, a new retail store and a refurbished restaurant.  Set adjacent to the Wolf Woods exhibit and the Indian Lake nature area, the entire ensemble will be dedicated to North American species.

Taronga Zoo’s Frog Breeding Program

February 19, 2008   news.smh.com.au

Fewer than 5,000 booroolong frogs are believed to remain in the wild.  One year after Sydney's Taronga Zoo started a breeding program with 34 frogs, more than 600 have been released in south-western NSW. The programs unprecedented success bodes well for the future breeding of the endangered corroboree frog from the same area.  The corroboree frog's population has been devastated by the deadly chytrid fungus, with only 50 remaining in the National Park, Ms Mason said. "Taronga Zoo is continuing to conduct field research and breeding to boost corroboree frog numbers.

Chimps Eat Dirt, Leaves to Fend Off Malaria

February 19, 2008  news.nationalgeographic.com  By Scott Norris

Clay soils consumed by both chimps and humans in Uganda's Kibale National Park contain high concentrations of the mineral kaolinite, a main ingredient in some anti-diarrheal medications.  Experts had previously suggested that chimps ate the fine-grained clay to help ward off intestinal ailments or to obtain added minerals in their diet.  But a French team recently observed that the chimps eat dirt before or after consuming leaves from the Trichilia rubescens plant, which contains potent medicinal chemicals.  Eating the bitter leaves alone gives no health benefit, but  the plant's malaria medicine is activated when fine soil particles bind with chemicals in the leaves.  Chimps often select dirt that has been exposed on the roots of newly fallen trees, added study co-author Sabrina Krief, of the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris.  "This may be to avoid worms, bacteria, and stones," she said.  The research appears in the January issue of the journal Naturwissenschaften.  Jim Moore an anthropologist at the University of California, San Diego, who was not involved with the new study said "It's been known for a long time that chimpanzees selectively eat certain plants in ways and at times that only really make sense if they are self-medicating.  This paper is the first I'm aware of to suggest synergistic action of soil and a putatively medicinal plant, and that's important." But Moore noted that the anti-malaria effect has only been shown in the researchers' model and not yet in living chimps.  "It isn't clear that chimpanzees are seeking the synergy [between leaves and soil]," Moore said.

Bats May be the Virus Source of SARS

February 19, 2008  researchnews.osu.edu  By Daniel Janies

COLUMBUS, Ohio –  In 2004 thousands of palm civet cats in China were identified as the source of SARS and killed in an effort to eliminate the risk of new outbreaks. But according to a new analysis that traces the viruses’ paths through human and animal hosts, it appears that humans were actually the source of the virus found in those civets. SARS infected more than 8,000 and killed more than 900 people worldwide during a nine-month outbreak that ended in the summer of 2003, according to the World Health Organization. No human infections have been reported since early 2004.  Scientists at the University of Ohio led by Daniel Janies have studied the genome of the virus that caused severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and say their comparisons to related viruses offer new evidence that the virus infecting humans originated in bats. To illustrate the speed of the SARS outbreak as part of the investigation, Janies and colleagues also designed an interactive map that traces the genetic, geographic and evolutionary history of SARS. The map also shows when and where the virus shifted from animal to human hosts. The map is projected onto a virtual globe using Google Earth and can be downloaded at: http://supramap.osu.edu/cov/janiesetal2008covsars.kmz.  The research appears in the online early edition of the journal Cladistics.

Texas A & M Tests Oral Contraceptives for Animals

February 19, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

COLLEGE STATION – A birth control pill for animals is being developed at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. The concept would be to get it to wild animals through baited food.  Duane Kraemer, a professor in veterinary physiology and pharmacology and a world leader in embryo transfer who has been involved in cloning four different species in recent years, is one of the pill’s creators. “This approach inhibits maturation of the egg and therefore prevents fertilization. The animals continue to cycle, so it will not yet be ideal for many pet owners. But there is an advantage for use in wild and feral animals.”  Kraemer says the research team has recently started tests on domestic models for predators – animals such as feral pigs and cougars – but if successful, it could be used on a wide variety of animals, including dogs and cats, he explains. The drug is called a phosphodiesterase 3 inhibitor, and it is one member of a family of drugs being tested.  The compound can be mixed with animal feed and must be eaten daily during the critical time. It may also be encapsulated to decrease the frequency it has to be consumed, Kraemer says.  The team also has submitted grant applications for similar projects on coyotes and deer.  “A spinoff of this contraceptive could probably be used on many different species,” he adds. The $90,000 project is being funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and private donations.

Digital Implants for Chongging Zoo Animals

February 19, 2008   news.xinhuanet.com

CHONGQING, China -- Chongqing Zoo is one of the largest in China with more than 4,000 animals of more than 230 species. Zookeepers there have begun implanting digital identification chips in the animals there. Three stitching-needle-sized chips, containing information about the animal's name, age, gender, species, birth date and birthplace, blood type, and DNA, among others, were injected into the necks of an eight-year-old Siberian tiger, a seven-year-old African lioness and a five-year-old African lion raised at the Chongqing Zoo. The chips, comprising a 64-bit code of binary numbers system, are radio frequency implants that are widely used worldwide to identify and manage animals, said Yin Yuzhong, the zoo's deputy head. “The digital ID chips will be helpful for the identification and management of animals, breeding control and epidemic prevention."  Chips will be implanted into more than 120 animals that belong to 20 species raised in the Chongqing Zoo this year. The Beijing Zoo will join Chongqing next month as the first two zoos in the country to launch such a program and help animals "go digital". Nationwide, all zoos are now required by the State Forestry Administration to implant digital ID chips in 17 species of animals this year. These included tigers, lions, elephants, giant panda, bears, golden monkeys, cranes and swans.

Proposed Veterinary Reptile And Amphibian Specialty

February 20, 2008  www.avma.org

The Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians (www.arav.org ) petitioned the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP) in 2006 to begin the process toward recognition of the Reptile and Amphibian Practice specialty. In April 2007 the specialty guidelines were posted at:   http://www.avma.org/education/abvs/abvs_policies_III.asp  The ABVP is now seeking comments on the new specialty.  Certification would be under the ABVP umbrella, with credentialing and examination requirements the same as for the current ABVP-recognized veterinary specialties of Avian Practice, Beef Cattle Practice, Canine and Feline Practice, Dairy Practice, Equine Practice, Feline Practice, Food Animal Practice, and Swine Health Management (www.abvp.com ). The petition further indicates that there are more than 175 current members of the Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians who would pursue board certification in the ABVP Reptile and Amphibian Practice specialty once it were recognized.  The ABVS requests that individuals commenting on the proposal refer to the ABVS Policies and Procedures Manual, available online at www.avma.org/education/abvs/abvs_pp.asp   Comments must be signed and received no later than Nov. 1, 2008, by Dr. Beth Sabin, AVMA Education and Research Division, 1931 N. Meacham Road, Suite 100, Schaumburg, IL 60173-4360, or via e-mail at esabin@avma.org. Questions regarding the recognition guidelines or the proposed new specialty may be directed to Dr. Sabin via e-mail or by phone, (800) 248-2862, Ext. 6675.

Wildlife Trading Ring Busted

February 20, 2008  www.enn.com  By WWF

Key members of a smuggling ring trading tiger skins and bear parts from Russia to China will face trial in March after a 6 month sting operation in which WWF and TRAFFIC provided technical assistance to customs, police and navy officials.  The smuggling ring became known to authorities early last year after officials became suspicious of a load of supposed potatoes being transported into China. Inspection revealed eight bags of bear paws, three tiger skins, several horns and fragments of different animals’ carcasses. Although the driver provided no information, police were able to identify first the details of the logistics on the Russian side of the smuggling operation. The key actor was then identified as a Chinese citizen with the Russian given name of Kolya. Authorities set up a sting operation, and all parties involved will face trial on charges of smuggling and illegal border crossing with potential prison terms of 7 to 12 years.  During 2007, WWF regularly informed authorities of instances of illegal wildlife products destined for China from the Russian far east. WWF and TRAFFIC experts assist in the investigations of criminal cases and are available to advise on detained goods.

Valencia's New Zoo

February 20, 2008  www.thinkspain.com

VALENCIA, Spain -- On February 28th the new zoo in the Bioparc next to the Parque de la Cabecera in Valencia will open its doors to the public for the first time.  The Defensa Animal (www.defensanimal.org) non profit-making organisation has organised an opening-day counter demonstration outside the zoo to protest at what they describe as "Europe's largest non-human animal prison." 

Genetic Basis of Mocker Butterfly Wing Pattern

February 20, 2008  www.enn.com 

The mocker swallowtail (Papilio dardanus) is found in sub-Saharan Africa and has a wingspan of between three-and-a-half, and four-and-a-quarter inches. Only females of the species exhibit the wing patterns that mimic other butterflies. All the males are yellow, with black markings and have the typical tails of most swallowtail butterflies. When the female emerges from its chrysalis it has a large number of different possible wing patterns and colors. (Not all patterns mimic toxic species)  Scientists realized there must be a genetic 'switch' controlling which possible wing patterns is expressed, and gene has now been identified.  A study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, shows how a team of biologists used molecular tags and DNA sequencing in order to pinpoint the part of its genetic code that determines wing pattern and color. Their study suggests that a developmental gene called 'invected', which was already known to be involved in the early embryonic development of butterflies, is behind the allocation of different wing patterns in mocker swallowtails.  Professor Alfried Vogler of Imperial College London's Department of Life Sciences and the Natural History Museum, one of the authors says "Identifying the area of the genome involved in this process is just the first step - we now need to look in more detail at the differences in the invected gene, and another gene located next to it, to find out exactly how they produce the different forms," he said. "You could argue that there would be little point in a species which slowly evolved to mimic a poisonous butterfly over the course of generations - the disguise is only useful if full and complete. This could suggest the possibility of sudden leaps in evolution occurring in this species.  By studying the changes in gene sequences we will find out if this happened or not."

Autism and Animal Cognitive Thought Patterns

February 20, 2008  www.enn.com 

In 2005, Temple Grandin argued that animals and autistic savants share cognitive similarities in her book Animals in Translation. Grandin, a professor of animal science argued that her personal autism gives her special insight into the inner workings of the animal mind. She based her proposal on the observation that animals, like autistic humans, sense and respond to stimuli that nonautistic humans usually overlook.  Now, a new essay published in “PLoS Biology”, Giorgio Vallortigara and his colleagues, argue that, while Grandin’s book “shows extraordinary insight into both autism and animal welfare,” the question of equivalent cognitive abilities between savants and animals “deserves scrutiny from scientists working in animal cognition and comparative neuroscience.”  Vallortigara et al. argue that savant abilities—for example, exceptional skills in music, math, or art—come at a cost in other aspects of processing and, therefore, appear to be unrelated to the extraordinary species-specific adaptations seen in some taxa. Furthermore, the authors argue, rather than having privileged access to lower level sensory information before it is packaged into concepts, as has been argued for savants, animals, like non-autistic humans, process sensory inputs according to rules, and that this manner of processing is a specialized feature of the left hemisphere in humans and nonhuman animals. At the most general level, they argue, “the left hemisphere sets up rules based on experience and the right hemisphere avoids rules in order to detect details and unique features that allow it to decide what is familiar and what is novel. This is true for human and nonhuman animals, likely reflecting ancient evolutionary origins of the underlying brain mechanisms.”   Grandin, who responds to the authors’ critique in a special commentary, suggests that “the basic disagreement between the authors and me arises from the concept of details—specifically how details are perceived by humans, who think in language, compared with animals, who think in sensory-based data. Since animals do not have verbal language, they have to store memories as pictures, sounds, or other sensory impressions.”And sensory-based information, she says, is inherently more detailed than word-based memories. “As a person with autism, all my thoughts are in photo-realistic pictures,” she explains. “The main similarity between animal thought and my thought is the lack of verbal language.”

Gorilla Project Unites Uganda, Rwanda and Congo

February 20, 2008  www.enn.com By Francis Kwera

KAMPALA -- Fewer than 720 mountain gorillas are believed to exist in the Virunga hills where Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Rwanda meet.  They are an important source of income, as high-end tourists pay $500 a day for tracking permits to see them. "For the first time, the three countries have decided to protect the great apes which are threatened with extinction and insecurity in the region," Moses Mapesa, the head of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), told a news conference in Kampala.  His Rwandan counterpart, Rosette Rugamba, said "The 10-year trans-boundary strategic plan will identify groups and communities which affect the life in the Virunga area and directly address encroachment and poaching," she said.  The first four years of the plan, costing 4.1 million euro ($6.03 million), is being funded by the Dutch government.  According to the UWA, the number of gorillas in southwest Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, a stand-alone enclave for the primates, is 340 -- making it the single largest population. Another 250 are thought to roam on the Rwandan side of the border. A smaller number are in Congo, where wildlife officials say at least 10 were killed last year.  Gorilla numbers across the region fell to a low of around 370 in the 1980s. But renewed conservation efforts, coupled with the primates' growing value as tourist attractions, has seen numbers recover. Bwindi has seen 12 percent population growth over the last decade due to better protection from poachers.

Beavers Can Help Ease Drought

February 20, 2008    www.eurekalert.org

Beavers can help mitigate the effects of drought, and because of that, their removal from wetlands should be avoided, according to researcher Glynnis Hood, lead author on a study of Alberta’s wetlands in Elk Island National Park over a 54-year period.  Hood and co-investigator, Suzanne Bayley, discovered that the presence of beaver and their dams increased by up to nine times, the presence of open water.  Climate models predict the incidence of drought in parts of North America will increase in frequency and length over the next 100 years, and beaver will likely play an important role in maintaining open water and mitigating the impact, Hood said. The infilling and drainage of wetlands has increased to make way for urban and industrial expansion, and beaver colonies are being removed both inside and outside of protected areas, which means a continued loss of water resources.  The study, was published recently in the online edition of Biological Conservation.  It also found that temperature, precipitation and other climate variables were much less important than beaver in maintaining open water areas in the wetlands of the mixed-wood boreal forest.

Giant Frog Fossil Found in Madagascar

February 20, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

A team of UK and US scientists,  led by Stony Brook University paleontologist David Krause recently found a 70-million-year-old fossil of a giant frog in Madagascar.  The amphibian had a body length of about 16 inches and weighed about 10 lbs.  Named Beelzebufo, or devil frog, it links a group of frogs that lived 65 to 70 million years ago with frogs living today in South America. "This frog, a relative of today's horned toads, would have been the size of a slightly squashed beach-ball, with short legs and a big mouth," explained Susan Evans.  Evans is a fossil frog expert Susan Evans, and lead author of the PNAS article detailing the study. The authors concluded that the new frog represents the first known occurrence of a fossil group in Madagascar with living representatives in South America.  "Beelzebufo appears to be a very close relative of a group of South American frogs known as 'ceratophyrines,' or 'pac-man' frogs, because of their immense mouths," said Krause. The ceratophryines are known to camouflage themselves in their surroundings, then ambush predators. The discovery is significant in that it may provide direct evidence of a one-time land connection between Madagascar, the largest island off Africa's southeast coast, and South America.  The largest living frog today is the goliath frog of West Africa, which can reach 12.5 inches in length and weights of 7.2 pounds. The largest frog alive on Madagascar today, is just over four inches long.

Emerging Infectious Diseases Rising

February 20, 2008  www.nature.com

ATHENS, Ga. – A team of scientists has shown that emerging infectious diseases such as HIV, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), West Nile virus and Ebola are on the rise. The team – including University of Georgia professor John Gittleman and scientists from the Consortium for Conservation Medicine, the Institute of Zoology (London) and Columbia University – recently published their findings in the journal Nature.  By analyzing 335 incidents of previous disease emergence beginning in 1940, the study has determined that zoonoses – diseases that originate in animals – are the current and most important threat in causing new diseases to emerge. And most of these, including SARS and the Ebola virus, originated in wildlife. Antibiotic drug resistance has been cited as another culprit, leading to diseases such as extremely drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR TB).  The scientists also found that more new diseases emerged in the 1980s than any other decade, “likely due to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which led to a range of other new diseases in people,” said Mark Levy, deputy director of the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESN) at Columbia University.  To help predict and prevent future attacks, sophisticated computer models were used to help design a global map of emerging disease hotspots.  Gittleman, dean of the Odum School of Ecology, who developed the approach used in analyzing the global database, said “Our study has shown that bringing ecological sciences and public health together can advance the field in a dramatic way.”

Red Pandas Killed at Nuremberg Zoo

February 20, 2008  www.spiegel.de

Two red pandas, a male and a female, have been found dead with their bellies slit open by a sharp instrument at the Nuremberg Zoo.  The police have been brought in to investigate the incident.  "The injuries to the two pandas are virtually identical and an examination by the Federal Office for Health and Food Safety found that they weren't caused by knife cuts but probably by a sharp instrument."  The pandas shared their enclosure with three muntjac deer which have sharp teeth, However the deer have been ruled out as culprits because they have been living with the bears for a decade and got on well with them, "They regularly visited each other in their stables," the statement said.  In early January, the zoo faced criticism after a polar bear ate her two cubs. That tragedy prompted the zoo to hand-rear its last remaining cub, Snowflake.

Knut Earned Berlin Zoo €5 Million Last Year

February 20, 2008  www.spiegel.de 

Polar Bear Knut made a profit of about €5 million ($7.4 million) for Berlin Zoo last year and helped attract an extra 500,000 visitors. Now the owner of Knut's father Lars, a northern German zoo, Is sueing for a share of the profits. Berlin Zoo has refused to pay out and the two zoos are in contact through their lawyers.  Berlin Zoo director Bernhard Blaszkiewitz said most of the profit came from higher ticket sales as visitor numbers surged by 500,000 in 2007, with the cub accounting for around two thirds of that increase.  License income from the sale of merchandise such as Knut-shaped marshmallows, cuddly toys, games, costume jewellery and even a porcelain figurine amounted to €750,000.

USFWS Teams with Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology

February 20, 2008  www.fws.gov

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology outlining efforts to promote birding, habitat conservation and citizen science throughout the U.S.  The partnership with the Cornell is another step forward in the Service's National Wildlife Refuge System Birding Initiative.  The initiative was launched by Service Director H. Dale Hall in 2006 to raise awareness among birders of opportunities and conservation programs on units of the National Wildlife Refuge System.  The Birding Initiative's 14-member Birding Team is exploring new ways to enhance birding on national wildlife refuges, as well as making information about the latest sightings more easily available to avid bird watchers.  The Refuge System already has more than 2,500 miles of land and water trails that are often perfect places to see birds.  Other outstanding viewing experiences are available from the scores of observation decks, viewing blinds and boardwalks built on national wildlife refuges.

Conservation of Wildlife May Prevent Emergent Diseases

February 20, 2008  www.ens-newswire.com

NEW YORK, New York -- Deadly emerging diseases have roughly quadrupled over the past 50 years, according to new research by an international team of scientists who have mapped the outbreaks' main sources. New diseases originating from wild animals in poor countries are the greatest threat to humans, the scientists warn.  These diseases spread to humans who move into shrinking pockets of biodiversity and have contacts with wildlife there.  Kate Jones, an evolutionary biologist at the Zoological Society of London and first author of the study, said the work urgently highlights the need to prevent further intrusion into areas of high biodiversity. "We are crowding wildlife into ever smaller areas, and human population is increasing," said coauthor Marc Levy, a global change expert at the Center for International Earth Science Information Network, an affiliate of Columbia University's Earth Institute. "The meeting of these two things is a recipe for something crossing over." The study appears in the February 21 issue of the scientific journal "Nature." The research was funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation.

USFWS Will Raise Wildlife Trade Fees

February 20, 2008  www.fws.gov  By Nicholas Throckmorton

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will propose on Monday, February 25, to gradually increase inspection fees and update license and fee requirements for importing and exporting wildlife, in order to recover more of the costs of inspecting shipments from those who use these services.  The Service is also proposing to add new fees for certain types of shipments and eliminate some exemptions from import/export license and inspection fee requirements. Under the fee schedule outlined by the Service, commercial importers and exporters will see fees rise gradually over the next five years, but they will be able to plan ahead for increased costs through 2012.  The flat rate "base" inspection fee for a commercial shipment inspected at a designated port (including ports that function as "designated" for particular types of shipments) during normal business hours will increase from $55 to $85 in 2008.  This fee will rise incrementally each year thereafter until it reaches $93 in 2012.  The 2008 base inspection fee for all shipments imported or exported at other ports will be $133.  This fee will also increase by small amounts each year, rising to $145 in 2012.  All importers and exporters using ports where Service inspectors are not stationed will also pay travel, transportation, and per diem costs associated with inspection of their shipments.

The proposed fee structure also provides for overtime fees when shipments are inspected outside of normal business hours.  As in the past, the Service will collect overtime fees at all ports from both commercial and non-commercial importers and exporters. The Service is also proposing to charge special "premium" fees for shipments consisting of live wildlife or protected species.  Businesses dealing in such wildlife will pay the new premium fees in addition to the appropriate base inspection fee. Premium fees, however, will also apply to some non-commercial imports and exports involving live specimens or protected species.  Importers and exporters will pay premium fees for shipments moving by air, ocean, rail or truck cargo at a designated port and for any import or export of live or protected wildlife at other ports.  "Right now, only businesses pay most of the inspection fees.  But many of the more complex and time-consuming inspections our officers conduct involve live wildlife or protected species imported and exported for non-commercial purposes.  We're no longer going to rely on businesses to subsidize these inspections," said Service Law Enforcement Chief Benito Perez.

During the first year under the new fee schedule, the Service will collect a $19 premium fee for imports or exports of live wildlife.  A separate $19 premium fee will be charged for imports or exports of species protected under Federal law.  Such wildlife includes federally listed endangered or threatened species, migratory birds, marine mammals, injurious species, and wildlife protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. If a shipment contains both live wildlife and species protected under Federal law, the importer or exporter will pay two premium fees.  Premium fees will increase each year over the five years covered by the proposed fee schedule, rising from $19 in 2008 to $93 in 2012.

The Service is also proposing to remove some exemptions waiving license and/or fee requirements for specific businesses.  Under the new rules, circuses and animal shows and those dealing in furs from certain captive-bred species would be required to obtain a Service import/export license and pay inspection fees.  Exports of captive-bred bison, emu, and ostrich meat and aquacultured sturgeon food items would no longer be exempt from inspection fees.
Details of the Service's proposal will publish in Monday's Federal Register; a link to the proposed will be available on Monday at http://www.fws.gov/le/ .  Written comments, which will be accepted beginning Monday, February 25, may also be submitted to the Federal eRulemaking portal at http://www.regulations.gov or mailed or hand-delivered to:  Public Comments Processing, Attn:  RIN 1018-AV31, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Policy and Directives Management, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222, Arlington, Virginia 22203.  Written comments must be received by April 25, 2008.

San Diego Zoo Wild Animal Park Summer Camps
February 21, 2008  www.imperialvalleynews.com

SAN DIEGO, California - Summer camp at the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park will offer fun subjects, like "Grossology" (the study of all things yuck!) for grades 4-6. In "The Big Picture" campers in grades 7-9 will learn how to take great photos of wildlife.  Campers can sign up for up to 5 days of summer fun and activity and learn about some of the Park's animal ambassadors, up close and personal. A list is at http://www.sandiegozoo.org/calendar/wap_summer_camp.html  

Henry Doorly Zoo Scientists Identify New Lemur Species

February 21, 2008  www.omaha.com   BY JANE PALMER

Scientists at Henry Doorly Zoo's Center for Conservation and Research have identified two new species of lemurs in Madagascar.  One of the animals is named in honor of the Suzanne and Walter Scott Jr. Foundation. The foundation, established by the Omaha couple, has supported the zoo's conservation efforts.  The Scott's sportive lemur is an agile animal with grayish brown fur and a black-tipped tail. Its scientific name is Lepilemur scottorum.  The second lemur is the Moore's woolly lemur, Avahi mooreorum. It has brown-gray fur and a reddish tail. Its name honors the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation of San Francisco. The foundation has supported conservation and biodiversity in endangered areas.  The Omaha zoo has identified 18 new lemur species in Madagascar in the last three years.  The discoveries demonstrate the need to learn more about the flora and fauna of that country, says Edward Louis, director of the zoo's Madagascar Biodiversity & Biogeography Project.

African Bank Provides Funds for Forests

February 21, 2008  www.enn.com  By Sonia Ounissi

TUNIS (Reuters) - The African Development Bank (AfDB) will provide $814 million over the next two years to help safeguard Central African forests threatened by war, poverty and poor governance. The money will go to 13 projects aimed at improving the management of natural resources in 2008-2010 in the Congo Basin, home to 37 percent of the world's remaining tropical forests.  The bank previously provided a total of $2.7 billion to Central African states to improve farming and protect forests.

Gray Wolf No Longer Endangered in Rocky Mountains

February 21, 2008  www.fws.gov

The gray wolf population in the Northern Rocky Mountains will be removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species.  Deputy Secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett said "The wolf population in the Northern Rockies has far exceeded its recovery goal and continues to expand its size and range. States, tribes, conservation groups, federal agencies and citizens of both regions can be proud of their roles in this remarkable conservation success story.  There are currently more than 1,500 wolves and at least 100 breeding pairs in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming.”  The minimum recovery goal for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains was set at 30 breeding pairs (a breeding pair represents a successfully reproducing wolf pack) and a minimum of 300 individual wolves for at least three consecutive years. This goal was achieved in 2002, and the wolf population has expanded in size and range every year since. State management plans will be in effect once protection is removed.  The northern Rocky Mountain DPS includes all of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, as well as the eastern one-third of Washington and Oregon, and a small part of north-central Utah.  For more information on northern Rocky Mountain gray wolves, visit www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/

Conservation Halts “Cross-species” Plagues

February 21, 2008   www.timesonline.co.uk    Mark Henderson

Human encroachment on animal habitats could generate infections that will have the same impact as HIV/ Aids, Sars and H5N1 flu, according to a study that identifies conservation as a key element in the fight to contain new germs. National parks that keep wild animals away from dense human settlements would minimise the chances of bacteria and viruses crossing the species barrier, as happened when HIV and Ebola spread from chimpanzees. The hotspots from which future threats are likely to come are in tropical parts of Africa, Central America and Asia, yet resources devoted to the issue are concentrated on Western Europe and North America. In the study, published in the journal Nature, a team led by Dr Kate Jones of the Zoological Society of London, examined details of 335 infectious diseases that emerged in humans between 1940 and 2004 to seek clues to their origins and how similar outbreaks might be avoided in future. They found that the rate at which new diseases arise or spread into new regions has quadrupled over the study period. The number peaked in the 1980s, when the advent of HIV/Aids is thought to have made affected people more vulnerable to new pathogens.  About 60.3 per cent of these new infections emerged from animals, and of these 71.8 per cent came from wildlife.  Those that crossed to humans from domestic animals include new-variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) in the UK, the human version of “mad cow” disease. Other emerging conditions include drug-resistant infections such as MRSA and tuberculosis, and food-borne ones such as new strains of E. coli and salmonella.

Uneventful Tiger Escape at Honolulu Zoo

February 22, 2008  starbulletin.com

HONOLULU -- Berani, 8, is the Honolulu Zoo's only male tiger. He slipped out of his enclosure at about 8:15 a.m. Thursday morning before the zoo opened, when a zookeeper failed to follow  protocol -- lock one door, go through and lock another door before going on to his tasks." Berani got out of the new tiger exhibit that was completed in November through two gates in the holding area which were left open. He was free to escape when he walked across an open area of the zoo, but instead,  he walked past a zoo volunteer and back into another enclosed holding area. The zoo volunteer then closed the door behind him and radioed an emergency call.  Zoo personnel were on scene in minutes when he was in his holding area and he did not have to be tranquilized.  Berani was raised by humans and the most docile of the three Sumatran tigers at the Honolulu Zoo.  Zoo officials said they believe the tiger may have been looking for his partner Chrissie. Officials are considering whether to enclose the two holding areas behind another gate to avoid such an incident from happening again.

Assiniboine Park Zoo Welcomes Indian Fruit Bats

February 22, 2008  www.winnipegfreepress.com  By Meghan Hurley

Four Indian fruit bats are the newest addition to the Assiniboine Park Zoo. They  went on display in the zoo's Kinsmen Discovery Centre a week ago, after being in quarantine for more than a month at the zoo hospital.  They share the exhibit with a few South American turtles and 2 tawny frogmouth birds.   Bob Wrigley, the zoo's curator, thought the birds would mesh well with the bats, since both species are active at night. At night, the bats usually walk upside down along the steel grid on the ceiling. Their water and feeding dishes are suspended from the ceiling so they don't have to invade the turtle's space. Originally from India and Pakistan, the bats are also known as flying foxes because of their reddish-brown fur and well-defined face.

Chester Zoo Update

February 22, 2008  www.eveningleader.co.uk

CHESTER ZOO annual memberships are at an all time high - 31,000 individuals. Members receive free admission to Chester and other leading zoos, a 20 per cent discount in the zoo gift shops, restaurants and cafes and a quarterly full color zoo magazine. Planned for this year: cheetahs return to the collection, Philippine crocodiles and new African aviaries

Emperor Tamarins at Wellington Zoo

February 22, 2008  www.scoop.co.nz

NEW ZEALAND -- The Emperor tamarins at Wellington Zoo are part of an international breeding program . The small primates are native to tropical rainforest in parts of Peru, Brazil and Bolivia, and are currently not under threat of extinction The Emperor tamarin’s name comes from the fact that they have a prominent moustache, similar to the German Emperor Wilhelm II.  The pair at Wellington are nearly four years old, and come from the Melbourne Zoo. We hope that they will form a breeding pair."  See: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/AK0802/S00249.htm

Thesis on Learning in Great Apes

February 22, 2008  www.sciencedaily.com

Tomas Persson, a graduate student at Lund University in Sweden has completed his dissertation on the cognitive abilities of apes after many years of studying gorillas at Givskud Zoo in Denmark.  Entitled “Pictorial Primates - A Search for Iconic Abilities in Great Apes, Persson concludes that it is not easy to teach an ape to relate a picture to reality. There are many ways for animals to understand the relation between a picture and reality, but it is only the special case when they understand that the picture represents reality that the picture is being interpreted by being placed it in its proper context and having the missing information filled in.  Language-trained bonobos at Great Ape Trust of Iowa in the U.S. can readily name simple non-realistic images that they have never seen before.  But it is unclear whether this is a matter of the training method or the capacity of the apes.  A new research station is being established with help from cognitive scientists from Lund University.  It will be located at Furuvik Zoo in Gävle, Sweden.

Indian Survey Finds Tigers in Decline

February 22, 2008  www.sciencemag.org  By Ballava Bagla

NEW DELHI, India – The use of new sampling techniques by the Indian government puts the number at of tigers at 1411, compared with 3642 in 2002.  Experts say the decline reflects more than just a change in methodology. Previous estimates were based primarily on tallying tiger “pugmarks” or footprints.  The present survey, conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India deployed 88,000 observers across India, matching their findings with satellite imagery to estimate tiger densities in each of India’s 28 states. Camera-trap surveys, line-transect sampling and occupancy modeling were utilized.  It omitted the Sundarbans forest however and the margin of error is thought to be 17%.  The effort cost $2 million and will be repeated every 4 years.

Naples Zoo 20-year Expansion Plan

February 22, 2008  www.naplesnews.com   By Eric Staats

The Naples Zoo has introduced a 15- to 20-year master plan in hopes of becoming the best medium-sized zoo in the U.S., according to Zoo Director David Tetzlaff.  In 2004, voters approved a referendum to save the zoo by buying the land beneath it and it was transformed into a nonprofit organization in 2005.  Working with CLRdesign in Philadelphia, the zoo plans to add $70 million-worth of exhibits representing the tropical Americas, Asia and Africa and build on the zoo’s conservation interests.  In Florida,  black bears are a threatened subspecies of the American black bear. They are frequently coming in contact with people.  So the first exhibit to be built will be “Black Bear Hammock”.   It will mimic a typical backyard to teach people how to live in bear habitat.  In a wilder part of the exhibit, visitors will be able to walk into a replica of an abandoned hunting shack and look through a wall of glass to watch the bears climbing on a railroad trestle and over fallen cypress logs.  The exhibit’s price tag is $1 million, and it could open in 2009, Tetzlaff said.  The new master plan shows room to showcase sun bears, pygmy hippos, okapi, bongo and red wolves. Among the highlights: a walk-through aviary, an indoor theater, an elevated boardwalk through the trees, and lion and reef exhibits so original that Tetzlaff said he doesn’t want to talk about them for fear other zoos will steal the ideas.  A colorful cliff-like exhibit with jaguars and macaws would greet visitors through a new entry plaza.  The plaza will face a 500-space parking lot with possible shared access with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.  Plans can be viewed at:

First Observed Birth of a Western Lowland Gorilla in the Wild

February 22, 2008  www.worldwildlife.org

Just last month, staff of the WWF-funded Dzanga-Sangha Primate Habituation Programme witnessed the birth of a new infant into the Makumba group of western lowland gorillas, which lives in the Central Africa Republic's Dzanga-Ndoki National Park. The newborn was named Mowane - meaning "gift of God" in the local Bantu language. Malui gave birth to Mowane in a tree nest as Makumba - her father - fed nearby. Malui was then observed biting Mowane's umbilical cord free, after which she climbed down and made three more nests on the ground. At this point her other offspring came and watched Malui groom their new sister. Makumba, the protective father, was observed leading his group away from the threat of a solitary male a week after the birth. Mowane is getting stronger by the day and has graduated from being carried on Malui's belly to being on her mother's back, and more recently on her arm.  Makumba's group is one of four in varying stages of habituation, along with a group of agile mangabey monkeys. Established in 1997 and funded by WWF, the Dzanga-Sangha Primate Habituation Programme (PHP) works to gradually acclimate western lowland gorillas to human contact for tourism and research.

Miami MetroZoo’s Exotic Pet Rescue Program

February 23, 2008  www.nbc6.net  By RASHA MADKOUR

MIAMI — More than 100 South Floridians surrendered their exotic animals Saturday at a zoo event designed to give owners an alternative to simply turning them loose. Of the more than 150 pets handed over on "Exotic Pet Amnesty Day" by people who could no longer care for them, all but six found new homes.  Among the more bizarre submissions were a rhino iguana, a spotted African serval cat and a coatmundi.  Regulations on owning exotic pets have tightened in the past year and will continue to get stricter, said Scott Hardin, who works in the nonnative species division of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.  Tighter restrictions usually mean more animals are released into the wild, which can be difficult for domesticated exotic animals and harm others, too. Burmese pythons eat the already rare Key Largo wood rat; parakeets cause power failures because they nest in transformers; and iguanas consume landscape vegetation.  Months before the event, fish and wildlife workers held a drive to register adopters and start what they hope will become a statewide database.  Exotic pet veterinarian Thomas Goldsmith, examined the submissions, and information on the pets eating habits and temperaments were obtained and passed along to the new owners. 

Re-invention of Micke Grove Zoo

Febrary 23, 2008  www.recordnet.com   By Zachary K. Johnson

LODI - Micke Grove Zoo has begun crafting a master plan that will guide as it grows over the next decade. Unique interaction with animals is one way that can happen, said David Walsh, a consultant from Philadelphia-based Schultz & Williams. "Giraffe feeding is very hot these days," he said.  Walsh said whatever plan takes shape will balance many factors, like the size of the zoo, available resources, current animals on display and the needs of the public. The consultants talked about the desire to make the zoo a fun and educational place that could draw repeat visitors.  Two visions were on display at the meeting. They were largely similar, with the zoo divided among geographical themes with one spot for rotating exhibits. But they differed in the area near the entrance. One version had a petting zoo and play area for children, and the other had a larger spot for California animals.  The consultants and zoo officials cautioned that the plan is in its early stages and will change. Specific details are few, including what new animals would be at the future zoo.

Brush Fires in Kenya’s Lake Nakuru National Park

February 23, 2008  www.enn.com  By Jack Kimball

NAKURU, Kenya -- Using branches to beat back flames, Kenyan rangers and residents struggled for a second day on Saturday to control bush fires that have engulfed a third of one of the nation's best-known wildlife parks.  At least 100 local citizens joined wildlife officials to help put out the fire, which was accidentally started in a nearby village and has already destroyed large patches of the 188 square km Lake Nakuru National Park. The blaze at one of Kenya's most popular destinations is another hit to the ailing tourism industry, which has seen declining numbers and profits since a post-election crisis that killed more than 1,000 people. Most famous for the hordes of flamingos that gather on its lake shore, the park in central Kenya is home to 450 species including white rhinos, giraffes and lions.

When Animals Clone Themselves

February 24, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By Neil Shubin

Last year, Keepers at Wichita’s zoo found developing eggs inside the Komodo dragon compound. Two of which hatched a few weeks ago and developed from a female that had no male contact.  A similar incident occurred several years ago in Britain. Virgin birth, or parthenogenesis has been seen in other species over the years. Some lizards occasionally produce offspring in this way. So do several species of fish, including a female hammerhead shark at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha that produced offspring without a male last year.  The shark example is particularly striking because sharks are very primitive living fish, having shared a common ancestor with us over 400 million years ago. Biological cloning is not a recent invention of scientists; it is an ancient ability. And sharks, fish and lizards are probably only the tip of the iceberg. We know of virgin birth only in those rare instances when we’ve been lucky enough to see it. Nobody knows how common it is because there has been no systematic search for the phenomenon.

Stone Zoo Teaches Frog Monitoring Skills
February 24, 2008  www.boston.com

STONEHAM, Massachusetts - The Stone Zoo will be training volunteers 14 and older on Saturday to help survey the frogs in their neighborhoods.  The free 2-hour workshops will teach participants how to identify frogs by their calls and how to report their findings to Frogwatch USA.  The Frogwatch program was created by the National Wildlife Federation as a way of monitoring the environment. The survey, which takes participants as few as 20 minutes a week, tracks amphibian populations as an indicator of overall environmental health.  More information can be found at http://nwf.org/frogwatchUSA  .

What the Extinction of  the Carolina Parakeet Tells Us

February 24, 2008  www.latimes.com  By Jonathan Rosen

A portrait by John James Audubon, depicts the Carolina parakeet, once found from the Ohio Valley to the Gulf of Mexico but now extinct.  In the extinction of the Carolina parakeet is a parable on the relationship of man and nature.  Once upon a time, there were parrots living in America. Not the escaped kind we know today that steal away from airports and apartments to find improbable refuge in Brooklyn or Chicago, but wild parrots that evolved here in their own slow, mysterious way.  They were large, colorful, noisy birds, found from the Ohio Valley to the Gulf of Mexico. John James Audubon noted the decline in the Carolina parakeet back in the mid-19th century, but the birds hung on in the wild until the turn of the 20th century. The last known Carolina parakeet died in the Cincinnati Zoo 90 years ago, on Feb. 21, 1918. His name was Incas. He had outlived Martha, the very last passenger pigeon -- which also died in the Cincinnati Zoo -- by four years.  Once you get a celebrity cage and a human name, it is usually over for your species.

South Africa Allows Culling of Elephants

February 25, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By A.P.

PRETORIA, South Africa -- South Africa said Monday that it will start killing elephants to reduce their growing numbers and rising conflicts with humans. South Africa had just 200 elephants at the beginning of the 20th century, but now South Africa, Namibia and Botswana all have booming populations as a result of their conservation efforts, while those of east and west African nations are struggling because of large-scale poaching.  South Africa has about 18,000 elephants and and Botswana has 165,000 – the most.  South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana, all used to kill elephants before international outrage forced an end to the killing and South Africa remains fearful of upsetting tourists who flock to see them.  Animal Rights Africa, is threatening to promote tourist boycotts, but the World Wildlife Fund cautiously welcomed the government's move.  ''They are doing the responsible thing,'' said Rob Little, acting chief executive of WWF South Africa. Elephants can turn woodlands to grass in a matter of years. Elephants can reduce a forest to grass in a few years.  They need to roam widely to get their daily diet of about 660 pounds of grass, leaves and twigs and up to 52 gallons of water. And they increasingly clash with people. The number of elephants, which have no natural predators other than humans, is growing at a rate of more than 5 percent a year and is expected to double by 2020.  The new regulations, effective May 1, say killing must be through ''quick and humane methods,'' preferably by a single lethal shot to the brain by a marksman in a helicopter.

Safe Harbor Agreement for California Endemic Butterflies

February 25, 2008   www.epa.gov 

The Pacific Gas and Electric Company has applied to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for an enhancement of survival permit.  The permit application includes a proposed Safe Harbor Agreement between the Applicant and the Service for the federally-threatened bay checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha bayensis), the federally-endangered Metcalf Canyon jewelflower (Streptanthus albidus albidus), and the federally-threatened Santa Clara Valley dudleya (Dudleya setchellii). The Agreement is available for public comment. Written comments should be received on or before March 26, 2008.  Comments should be addressed to Mr. Rick Kuyper, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way, W-2605, Sacramento, California 95825. You may obtain copies of the documents for review by contacting the individual named above. You may also make an appointment to view the documents at the above address during normal business hours.

Detroit Zoo’s Arctic Ring Exhibit

February 25, 2008   www.macombdaily.com  By Christy Strawser

Rick Wendt, 37, of St. Clair Shores, is principal zookeeper at the Detroit Zoo's Arctic Ring of Life.  He is planning to receive two polar bears, Neil and Buzz from the Como Zoo in St. Paul, Minn. "Their keepers will be coming here to get familiar with us," Wendt said.  Neutered males Neil and Buzz will be slowly introduced to the Detroit Zoo's two female polar bears. Norton, an unaltered male, will stay separate.  Polar bears are fierce predators and it's a complex job to make sure they greet newcomers amicably.  "At first they'll be mesh to mesh so they can't get at each other,” Wendt said.  He predicts after some time all the bears will become friends, especially with Talini, the first polar bear cub born at the Detroit Zoo.  Wendt and other staffers feed the Arctic residents their favorite meals, which include a specialized chow, plus herring and mackerel with fruits and vegetables.  Neil and Buzz will stay in Royal Oak for up to two years while their home undergoes a $14.3-million facelift.

Butterfly Fish May Face Extinction

February 25, 2008  www.enn.com 

In a study published in the journal Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology, Dr Morgon Pratchett and Dr Michael Berumen of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution warn that the highly specialized nature of the feeding habits of the Chevroned Butterflyfish (Chaetodon trifascialis) make it an extinction risk as the world’s coral reefs continue to degrade due to human over-exploitation, pollution and climate change.  “The irony is that these butterflyfish are widespread around the world, and you’d have thought their chances of survival were pretty good. But they only eat one sort of coral — Acropora hyacinthus — and when that runs out, the fish just disappear from the reef.”  The team found it hard to believe a fish would starve rather than eat a mixed diet, so they tested C. trifascialis in tank trials on a range of different corals. The fish grew well when its favourite coral was available — but when this was removed and other sorts of corals offered, it grew thin, failed to thrive and some died.  “We call these kinds of fish obligate specialists.” Dr Pratchett says.

Cincinnati Zoo Seeks Additional Funding

February 26, 2008  news.enquirer.com   BY JESSICA BROWN

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is seeking a five-year, 0.46-mill levy to pay for care of the animals and building maintenance and animal food.  $1.5 million is spent on food said Thane Maynard, the zoo's executive director. The elephants eat 50 bales of hay a week, and  the Sumatran rhino, required imported fig and ficus leaves.  Levy money typically accounts for between 25 percent and 30 percent of the zoo's total revenue.  Voters historically support zoo levies, passing all but one since the first was sought in 1982. The single defeat came in 1997 when the zoo sought nearly twice the millage of the previous levy to jump-start plans to expand the elephant exhibit and add parking. After the defeat the millage was reduced, the parking plan removed and the levy put back on the ballot, where it passed with 62 percent of the vote.  . The zoo notes it only gets a quarter of its roughly $22.7 million operating budget from local taxes, whereas 55 percent is funded by gate and other revenue. The remainder is generated by private donations.  Cincinnati's zoo is the least subsidized of the five zoos in Ohio at $6.2 million, followed by Akron ($8.1 million), Cleveland ($14.5 million), Toledo ($16.1 million) and Columbus ($19.5 million).  None of the March 4 levy dollars would be used on new buildings or exhibits, Maynard said. Those types of improvements - such as a new giraffe exhibit that's scheduled to open this summer - are paid for with private donations.

Status Review for the Greater Sage-Grouse

February 26, 2008  www.epa.gov 

The USFWS is initiating a status  review for the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). Through this action, we encourage all interested parties to provide us information regarding the status of, and any potential threats to, the greater sage-grouse.  Data, comments, and information should be submitted to us on or before May 27, 2008.  Submit to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov of US mail: Public Comments Processing,
Attn: FWS-R6-ES-2008-0022; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203. We will not accept e-mail or faxes. We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov   For further information contact U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Wyoming Ecological Services Field Office, 5353 Yellowstone Road, Suite 308A, Cheyenne, Wyoming 82009; telephone 307-772-2374.

Arctic Seed Vault Opens

February 26, 2008  www.enn.com  

LONGYEARBYEN, Norway — The Svalbard Global Seed Vault opened today on a remote island in the Arctic Circle, receiving inaugural shipments of 100 million seeds that originated in over 100 countries. With the deposits ranging from unique varieties of major African and Asian food staples such as maize, rice, wheat, cowpea, and sorghum to European and South American varieties of eggplant, lettuce, barley, and potato, the first deposits into the seed vault represent the most comprehensive and diverse collection of food crop seeds being held anywhere in the world. Built near the village of Longyearbyen on the island of Spitsbergen, 130 meters inside a frozen mountain, the vault at its inception contains 268,000 distinct samples of seeds—each one originating from a different farm or field in the world. Each sample may contain hundreds of seeds or more. In all, the shipments of seeds secured in the vault today weighed approximately 10 tonnes, filling 676 boxes. The diversity of our crops is essential for food production, yet it is being lost. This “fail-safe” facility, will secure for centuries, or longer, hundreds of millions of seeds representing every important crop variety available in the world today. As well as protecting against the daily loss of diversity, the vault could also prove indispensable for restarting agricultural production at the regional or global level in the wake of a natural or man-made disaster. Contingencies for climate change have been worked into the plan. Even in the worst-case scenarios of global warming, the vault rooms will remain naturally frozen for up to 200 years.

Online Encyclopedia of Life Will Launch

February 26, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By CARL ZIMMER

There are 1.8 million known species, and scientists estimate there are 10 times more undiscovered species. An international team of scientists is building a Web site called the Encyclopedia of Life (www.eol.org ) devoted to describing all species and on Thursday, plan to introduce the first 30,000 pages.  Within a decade, they plan to have the other 1.77 million. The authors hope that the world’s scientific community will pool all of its knowledge on the pages. Unlike a page of paper, a page of the Encyclopedia of Life can hold as much information as scientists can upload. Edward O. Wilson, the Harvard biologist spearheaded the project and now serves as its honorary chairman. This is not the first attempt to catalog every species and previous efforts have failed.  Dr. Wilson has been involved with some of those failed attempts. But in the past few years major advances in databases have made the goal more realistic. Today biologists can consult databases that hold DNA sequences from hundreds of thousands of species, for example. There are also more detailed databases about groups of species, like mammals, fungi and parasites. In 2003, he and his colleagues persuaded the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to contribute money to a consortium of universities, museums and scientific institutions. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and some of the partners are adding money as well. The encyclopedia will have a budget of about $50 million in its first five years.

Coral Reef Study Spearheaded by SIO

February 26, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By Cornelia Dean

Researchers, from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and elsewhere, surveyed every form of life last summer in the northern Line Islands, a chain south of Hawaii. Their survey encompassed everything from microbes to sharks and other big fish at the top of the food chain. “Reefs without people” were healthier than populated reefs, they say in a report to be posted Wednesday in the online Public Library of Science Biology. The ecosystems at Kingman and Palmyra, the northernmost and least populated atolls, are dominated by large predators like sharks and groupers, and corals there are robust, they said, while Tabuaeran and Kiritimati to the south, the most populated atolls, are characterized by fleshy algae, small plankton-eating fish and degraded corals.  Nancy Knowlton and Jeremy B. C. Jackson, coral experts at Scripps and the Smithsonian Institution, said the new work was notable because it produced data at sites “across a full spectrum of human impacts.” Without this kind of data, they write, studying coral reefs is like trying to discern the ecological structure of the Amazon rain forest by looking at the cattle ranches and soybean fields that have replaced much of it.

Mapping the Ocean & Human Impact

February 26, 2008 www.nytimes.com  By ANDREW C. REVKIN

A paper in the Feb. 15 issue of the journal Science is the first effort to map 17 kinds of human ocean impacts like organic pollution, including agricultural runoff and sewage; damage from bottom-scraping trawls; and intensive traditional fishing along coral reefs.  About 40 percent of ocean areas are strongly affected, and just 4 percent pristine, according to the review. Polar seas are in the pristine category, but poised for change. Some human impacts are familiar, like damage to coral reefs and mangrove forests through direct actions like construction and subtler ones like the loss of certain fish that shape ecosystems. Others were a surprise, said Benjamin S. Halpern, the lead author. He said continental shelves and slopes proved to be the most heavily affected areas, particularly along densely populated coasts.  The most widespread human fingerprint is a slow drop in the pH of surface waters around the world as a portion of the billions of tons of carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere from fuel and forest burning each year is absorbed in water, where it forms carbonic acid.  That progressive shift in ocean chemistry could eventually disrupt shell-forming plankton and reef-building species, particularly where other impacts, including rising temperatures from human-caused global warming, create simultaneous stresses, many marine biologists say.

New Vaccine Protects Monkeys from Ebola & Marburg

February 26, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

An experimental, combination vaccine against Ebola and Marburg viruses using virus-like particles (VLPs) provides complete protection against infection in monkeys. Researchers from the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases report the breakthrough at the 2008 ASM Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting.  “VLPs are one of the most promising candidates for protecting humans against Ebola and Marburg virus infections,” says Dr. Kelly Warfield. They could also be safer.  Traditionally vaccines against viral diseases have consisted of whole viruses, either the one that causes the disease in a weakened or dead state (like the polio vaccine) or a genetically similar virus that does not usually cause disease but elicits a protective immune response. The problem with this approach is there is a small risk of viral reactivation and infection.  “Since the VLP vaccine does not use a whole virus, there is no chance of infection,” says Warfield, who notes that some VLP-based vaccines, such as the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, are already on the market.

Northern Rocky Mountain Population of Gray Wolf Delisted

February 27, 2008  www.epa.gov

The USFWS has ruled to establish the gray wolf (Canis lupus) in the Northern Rocky Mountains a distinct population segment (DPS) and removes this DPS from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. The NRM gray wolf DPS encompasses the eastern one-third of Washington and Oregon, a small part of north-central Utah, and all of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Based on the best scientific and commercial data available, the NRM DPS is no longer an endangered. The DPS has exceeded its biological recovery goals, and all threats in the foreseeable future have been sufficiently reduced or eliminated. The States of Idaho (2002) and Montana (2003) adopted State laws and management plans that meet the requirements of the Act and will conserve a recovered wolf population into the foreseeable future. In 2007, following a change in State law, Wyoming drafted and approved a revised wolf management plan (Wyoming 2007). We have determined that this plan meets the requirements of the Act as providing adequate regulatory protections to conserve Wyoming's portion of a recovered wolf population into the foreseeable future. Our determination is conditional upon the 2007 Wyoming wolf management law being fully in effect and the wolf management plan being legally authorized by Wyoming statutes. If the law is not in effect (discussed in more detail below) within 20 days from the date of this publication, we will withdraw this final rule and replace it with an alternate final rule that removes the Act's protections throughout all of the DPS, except the significant portion of the gray wolf's range in northwestern Wyoming outside the National Parks. This rule becomes effective March 28, 2008, and  is available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov

Gray wolves are the largest wild members of the dog family (Canidae). Adult gray wolves range from 18-80 kilograms (kg) (40-175 pounds (lb)) depending upon sex and region (Mech 1974, p. 1). In the NRM, adult male gray wolves average over 45 kg (100 lb), but may weigh up to 60 kg (130 lb). Females weigh slightly less than males. Wolves' fur color is frequently a grizzled gray, but it can vary from pure white to coal black (Gipson et al. 2002, p. 821). Gray wolves have a circumpolar range including North America,Europe, and Asia. As Europeans began settling the U.S., they poisoned, trapped, and shot wolves, causing this once widespread species to be eradicated from most of its range in the 48 conterminous States. Gray wolf populations were eliminated from Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, as well as adjacent southwestern Canada by the 1930s. 

Wolves primarily prey on medium and large mammals. Wolves normally live in packs of 2 to 12 animals. In the NRM, pack sizes average about 10 wolves in protected areas, but a few complex packs have been substantially bigger in some areas of Yellowstone National Park. Packs typically occupy large distinct territories from 518 to 1,295 square kilometers (km\2\) (200 to 500 square miles (mi\2\)) and defend these areas from other wolves or packs. Once a given area is occupied by resident wolf packs, it becomes saturated and wolf numbers become regulated by the amount of available prey, intra-species conflict, other forms of mortality, and dispersal. Dispersing wolves may cover large areas (See Defining the Boundaries of the NRM DPS) as they try to join other packs or attempt to form their own pack in unoccupied habitat.  Typically, only the top-ranking (``alpha'') male and female in each pack breed and produce pups. Females and males typically begin breeding as 2-year-olds and may annually produce young until they are over 10 years old. Litters are typically born in April and range from 1 to 11 pups, but average around 5 pups. Most years, four of these five pups survive until winter. Wolves can live 13 years, but the average lifespan in the NRM is less than 4 years. Pup production and survival can increase when wolf density is lower and food availability per wolf increases. Pack social structure
is very adaptable and resilient. Breeding members can be quickly replaced either from within or outside the pack and pups can be reared by another pack member should their parents die. Consequently, wolf populations can rapidly recover from severe disruptions, such as very high levels of human-caused mortality or disease. After severe declines, wolf populations can more than double in just 2 years if mortality is reduced; increases of nearly 100 percent per year have been documented in low-density suitable habitat, For detailed information on the biology of this species see the ``Biology and Ecology of Gray Wolves'' section of the April 1, 2003, (68 FR 15804).

In 1974, four subspecies of gray wolf were listed as endangered, including the NRM gray wolf (Canis lupus irremotus), the eastern timber wolf (C.l. lycaon) in the northern Great Lakes region, the Mexican wolf (C.l. baileyi) in Mexico and the southwestern U.S., and the Texas gray wolf (C.l. monstrabilis) of Texas and Mexico. In 1978, we published a rule (43 FR 9607, March 9, 1978) relisting the gray wolf as endangered at the species level (C. lupus) throughout the conterminous 48 States and Mexico, except for Minnesota, where the gray wolf was reclassified to threatened. At that time, critical habitat was designated in Minnesota and Isle Royale, Michigan. On February 8, 2007, we established a Western Great Lakes (WGL) DPS and removed it from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife (72 FR 6052). On November 22, 1994, we designated portions of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming as two nonessential experimental population areas for the gray wolf under section 10(j) of the Act including the Yellowstone Experimental Population Area and the Central Idaho Experimental Population Area. These designations, which are found at 50 CFR 17.40(i), assisted us in initiating gray wolf reintroduction projects in central Idaho and in the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA). In 2005 and 2008, we revised these regulations to provide increased management flexibility for this recovered wolf population in States with Service-approved post-delisting wolf management plans (70 FR 1286, January 6, 2005; 73 FR 4270, January 28, 2008). The revisions are at 50 CFR 17.84(n).

The NRM wolf population is a metapopulation comprised of three core recovery areas. It has a range (wolf breeding pairs, wolf packs, and routine dispersing wolves) that encompasses all of Idaho, most of Montana and Wyoming, and parts of adjacent States (Service 2005, p. 1- 2). It achieved its numerical and distributional recovery goals at the end of 2000 (Service et al. 2007, Table 4). The temporal portion of the recovery goal was achieved in 2002 when the numerical and distributional recovery goals were exceeded for the third successive year (Service et al. 2007, Table 4). To meet the Act's requirements, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming needed to develop post-delisting wolf management plans to ensure that adequate regulatory mechanisms would exist should the Act's protections be removed.

Invasive Species in the Great Lakes

February 27, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By MONICA DAVEY

CHICAGO — Regional government agencies around the Great Lakes spend some $15 billion a year to protect the lakes from invasive species, contaminated sediment and sewage overflows, according to a new study. But local officials say that still more protection is needed and that the United States and Canadian governments should pay for it.  The five lakes hold 20 percent of the world’s fresh water, and several mayors said the lakes should not be considered local concerns, but seen as a broader issue, akin to assisting the New Orleans region after Hurricane Katrina or restoring the Everglades in Florida. The study, arranged by the Great Lakes Commission and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, both advocacy groups, concluded that the 688 local governments in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River region spend much of the money on aging wastewater systems, which can release sewage when overwhelmed with rain. It is uncertain exactly what federal authorities in the United States and Canada now spend on the Great Lakes, in part because so many agencies and programs are tied to the lakes, but the Clean Water State Revolving Fund dropped to $689 million in the 2008 fiscal year, from $1.08 billion a year earlier.

Elephant Born at Whipsnade Zoo

February 27, 2008  www.hertfordshire.com

A male calf has been born to 24-year-old mother Azizah at the Whipsnade Zoo.  The calf was born after a 630-day gestation period on Thursday 17th January at 1:10pm. -- the first daytime delivery of an elephant calf born at the zoo. He is Azizah’s second calf and weighed in at a 103 kg (220 lbs).  The calf was up on his feet within 20 minutes and is feeding well. Father Emmett is also father to Euan, who is nearly three and a half and Leelee who is just over one. ZSL Whipsnade Zoo’s nine Asian elephants share the seven acre paddock at the zoo, which comprises five linked outside areas including a large grass paddock as well as two separate houses. Additional facilities include two pools, mud wallows, dust baths and rubbing posts and high feeders.

Brothers join Denver Zoo's gorilla troop

February 27, 2008  www.denverpost.com

Charlie, shown, at 434 pounds, and his older brother, Curtis, have joined the bachelor group at the Denver Zoo. Curtis is 13 years old, weighing in at 454 pounds, Charlie is 11, and tips the scales at 434 pounds.  The Western lowland gorillas are transplants from North Carolina. Zoo officials say “ In the wild, male gorillas will form bachelor groups starting around the age of 8 years, until the male gorilla can get a female or females to coexist with them to form a family group."

Colchester Zoo Saves Estuarine Moth

February 27, 2008  www.eveningstar.co.uk

The Colchester Zoo is working with the Centre for Environment and Rural Affairs at Writtle College to save the Fisher's Estuarine Moth which is mainly found in the north Essex coast. Areas of the moth's habitat are being lost each year and it is predicted that the threat will become even more severe as a consequence of sea level rise. New areas of habitat are being sought for the species inland and away from the threat of the sea and the Zoo’s new captive breeding program will provide a readily available supply the Moths for introduction at the newly created areas of habitat.  Rebecca Perry, conservation officer at the zoo, said: “We are particularly keen to get involved in this project as it highlights the threatened status of native species here on our doorstep in Essex, and we value being involved in helping to secure the future of our local species.”

Bat Navigation Studied with Satellites

February 27, 2008  www.enn.com 

Researchers have discovered that bats use a magnetic substance in their body called magnetite as an ‘internal compass’ to help them navigate.  Magnetite is actually found in the cells of many birds and mammals, including humans. Dr Richard Holland from Leeds' Faculty of Biological Sciences was part of the team that discovered in 2006 that bats used the Earth’s magnetic field to navigate. In the new study, he and Martin Wikelski from Princeton studied the directions in which different groups of Big Brown bats flew after they had been given different magnetic pulses and released 20km north of their home roost. Big Brown bats were put through a magnetic pulse 5000 times stronger than the Earth’s magnetic field, but orientated the opposite way. The researchers used radio transmitters on the bats which were monitored from the ground and from a plane. This kind of monitoring is limited to short distances, so the team is now in discussions with NASA and ESA about using satellites to help track smaller migratory birds and mammals.  The satellites currently used by scientists can only track larger sea birds over 300g, although 60 per cent of mammals and 80 per cent of birds are below this size. The technology exists to track this size of target, but no satellite has yet been launched.  Dr Holland believes tracking this size of bird or mammal is of key importance. “Birds and mammals carry and spread diseases, such as rabies or bird flu, and plotting their migration and movement can help us predict this spread. Large movements of birds can act as pests in themselves, but other species are scarce and need conservation support. We were only able to make our discovery through studying bats in the wild. But for many creatures, satellite tracking is the only way to study them in their natural habitat to help tackle these issues.”  The findings are published in the current issue of PLoS ONE.

Breakthrough in plant research

February 27, 2008   www.nature.com 

Researchers from the University of Helsinki and the University of California in San Diego have discovered a gene that is centrally involved in the regulation of carbon dioxide uptake for photosynthesis and water evaporation in plants. The discovery can aid the development of drought-tolerant crops. The article is published online ahead of print in Nature’s Advance Online Publication (AOP) on 27 February 2008.  Climate change makes it all the more important to know about the mechanisms involved in stomata regulation. Aridity is on the increase across the globe, as is the world population. Increasingly dry areas should be taken into cultivation to ensure food production. When developing crops that thrive in dry areas, it is important to know well the mechanisms that regulate stomata, through which plants evaporate moisture.

Deforestation Threatens Indonesian Elephants

February 27, 2008  www.enn.com 

According to a report by WWF and partners RSS GmbH (a German forest monitoring group) and Japan's Hokkaido University, Indonesia’s Riau province, covering one fifth of Sumatra, has lost 65 percent of its forests in the past 25 years as companies use the land for pulpwood and palm oil plantations. Big peat swamps have also been cleared. The report said Riau accounted for average annual carbon emissions equivalent to 58 percent of Australia's yearly emissions, 39 percent of British emissions or 122 percent of the Netherlands' emissions. In the past 25 years, elephant populations in Riau fell 84 percent to only 210 animals, while tiger populations were estimated to have tumbled by 70 percent to perhaps just 192 animals, the report said. Driven from forests, they came more often into conflict with people and were killed. The main companies operating in Riau were Singapore-based Asia Pulp & Paper and Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Ltd (APRIL).  Both have previously denied using timber from illegal sources. Staples Inc, the largest U.S. office supplies retailer, said on February 8 that it stopped doing business with Asia Pulp & Paper because of environmental concerns.

Irrawaddy Dolphin Census in Orissa

February 27, 2008  www.newkerala.com 

ORISSA, India -- The number of endangered Irrawaddy dolphins in Orissa's Chilika Lake has increased to 138 against last year's 135. The Chilika Lake, is spread over Puri, Khordha and Ganjam districts of the state and is home to the largest congregation of migratory birds in the country.  Irrawaddy dolphins were first recorded in this lake in 1915, and although they not hunted for their meat, mechanised fishing trawlers and tourist boats with large propellers often affect the mammals.  The census was carried out with help from local fishermen, scientists from Japan University, Tokyo, Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi, Natural History Society, Mumbai, World Wildlife Fund and a few other organizations.  There are thought to be fewer than 1,000 Irrawaddy dolphins in the world. They are also found in the Songkhla Lake in Thailand. While it is difficult to spot them in Thailand, the dolphins can be easily sighted in Orissa, where the census was carried out with head count as well as by using a system that records the sound of the dolphins.  Adult Irrawaddy dolphins range from 2 to 2.75 meters in length and are believed to reach sexual maturity at the age of three or four years. Adult females probably have only one calf every two to three years.

Future Conservation Battlegrounds Will Be Different

February 27, 2008  ucsdnews.ucsd.edu

Biologists at the University of California, San Diego have developed a series of global maps that show where projected habitat loss and climate change are expected to drive the need for future reserves to prevent biodiversity loss.  Their study, published online today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, provides a guide for conservationists of the areas of our planet where conservation investments would have the most impact in the future to limit extinctions and damage to ecosystems due to rapid human-driven climate and land-use change. The researchers found that many of the regions that face the greatest habitat change in relation to the amount of land currently protected —such as Indonesia and Madagascar—are in globally threatened and endemic species-rich, developing tropical nations that have the fewest resources for conservation. Conversely, many of the temperate regions of the planet with an already expansive network of reserves are in countries—such as Austria, Germany and Switzerland—with the greatest financial resources for conservation efforts, but comparatively less biodiversity under threat.

“There’s a huge discrepancy between where the world’s conservation resources are concentrated and where the greatest threats to biodiversity are projected to come from future global change,” said Walter Jetz, an assistant professor of biological sciences at UC San Diego, who headed the study. “The developed nations are where the world’s wealth is concentrated, but they are not the future battlegrounds for conservation.”  “While many details still have to be worked out, our study is a first baseline attempt on a global scale to quantitatively demonstrate the urgent need to plan reserves and other conservation efforts in view of future global change impacts,” he added. “Reserves have often been set up haphazardly, following some national goal, such as to preserve 10 percent of a country’s area, or in response to past threats. But little consideration has been given to the actual geography of future threats in relation to biodiversity. Yet it’s those future threats that expose biodiversity to extinction.”

Virtual Border Fence Delayed

February 27, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com

WASHINGTON – Technical problems have forced the Bush administration to retool a high-tech “virtual fence” along the U.S.-Mexico border and will delay the first phase for at least three years, the Washington Post reported Thursday.  There are an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States, many from Mexico. Department of Homeland Security officials and congressional auditors told lawmakers Wednesday that problems found in the 28-mile pilot project built near Nogales, Arizona, by Boeing Co. will require a change in plans.  The $20 million "Project 28" - including sensor towers and advanced mobile communications was supposed to be completed in mid-2007 but had been delayed by software problems. The surveillance system was designed to complement a planned 700-mile border fence that has drawn opposition along its route.  The Department of Homeland Security took over the high-tech project from Boeing last week.  The department official responsible for border security, Gregory Giddens, said construction of the physical fence was costing about $4 million per mile but that the Department of Homeland Security hoped to cut the average cost to $3 million per mile.

Amur Leopard Cub at Marwell Zoo

February 28, 2008  www.telegraph.co.uk

HAMPSHIRE, U.K. -- Born in captivity, a female Amur leopard cub has now ventured outside of her birthing den at Marwell Zoological Park.  Born last November to mother Ascha, she is part of a European breeding programme.  Fewer than 35 Amur leopards thought to exist in the wild. Her father Akin is the zoo's other Amur leopard.  The species used to roam a wide area, living in the forests and mountains of Russia, Korea and China. Over the last few years their range has become smaller and smaller and they now only live in the Far East of Russia.  Incredible pictures are at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2008/02/28/ealeopard128.xml

Endangered Species Permit Applications

February 28, 2008   www.epa.gov 

Documents and other information submitted with the applications are available for review, by any party who submits a written request for a copy of such documents to the following office within 30 days of the date of publication of this notice: Fish and Wildlife Service, 1875 Century Boulevard, Suite 200, Atlanta, Georgia 30345 (Attn: David Dell, HCP Coordinator).  For further information contact David Dell,  telephone 404/679-7313; facsimile 404/679-7081.  The public is invited to comment on the following applications to conduct certain activities with threatened and endangered species by March 31, 2008.  You may mail comments to the Fish and Wildlife Service's Regional Office above or via electronic mail david_dell@fws.gov . Please include your name and return address in your e-mail message.

Applicant: Archbold Biological Station, Lake Placid, Florida, TE083085.
    The applicant requests authorization to amend an existing permit to collect seeds of scrub plum (Prunus geniculata) from throughout the species range in Florida for use in propagation and research.

Applicant: Robert Shane Prescott, Compliance Monitoring Labs, Inc., Chapmanville, West Virginia, TE148279.
    The applicant requests authorization to survey, capture and attach radiotransmitters to Virginia big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus), gray bat (Myotis grisescens) and Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis). Activities will occur throughout West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Kentucky.

Applicant: Jack D. Wilhide, Compliance Monitoring Labs, Inc., Chapmanville, West Virginia, TE148282.
    The applicant requests authorization to survey, capture and attach radiotransmitters to Virginia big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus), gray bat (Myotis grisescens), and Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis). Sampling will occur throughout West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas.

Applicant: Byron J. Freeman, Institute of Ecology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, TE132114.
    The applicant requests amendment of an existing permit to capture and sacrifice for genetic research, amber darter (Percina antesella), from the Etowah River and the Conasauga River. The applicant also requests to collect Cherokee darter (Etheostoma scotti) from Hickory Log Creek. The applicant also seeks permission to hold Etheostoma scotti from multiple locations, collect trematode parasites and release the fish.

Applicant: Gary D. Schnell, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, TE040080.
    The applicant requests authorization to amend an existing permit to add Texas to their authorized work area. Activities authorized are the capture, tagging and translocation of American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus).

Applicant: Carol E. Johnston, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, TE163433.
    The applicant requests authorization to study spawning of the Cape Fear shiner (Notropis mekistocholas) in Chatham and Lee Counties, North Carolina.

Applicants: Steven Bradford Cook, Tennessee Technological University, Cookeville, Tennessee, TE083014. Matt A. Kulp, National Park Service, Tennessee, TE148237.
    The applicant requests an amendment to his current permit to capture, mark, and monitor spotfin chub (Erimonax monachus), duskeytail darter (Etheostoma percnurum), smoky madtom (Noturus baileyi), and yellowfin madtom (Noturus flavipinnis) in Abrams Creek watershed, Sevier County, Tennessee.

Applicant: Stuart W. McGregor, Geological Survey of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, TE027346.
    The applicant requests an amendment to his current permit to salvage shells of endangered and threatened fresh water mollusks via wading, snorkeling, or scuba diving in the Chattahoochee River drainage in Alabama and Georgia.

Applicant: Paul D. Johnson, Alabama Aquatic Biodiversity Center, Marion, Alabama, TE130300.
    The applicant requests an amendment to his current permit to collect, identify, sacrifice, temporarily hold, permanently hold, and release the following mollusks and fish species: rough pigtoe (Pleurobema plenum), black clubshell (Pleurobema curtum), Alabama heelsplitter (Potamilus inflatus), and Alabama sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus suttkusi). The activities will occur while conducting surveys, population estimates and genetic, morphological, anatomical, and
captive propagation studies.

Applicant: Thomas S. Risch, Arkansas State University, Jonesboro, Arkansas, TE075913.
    The applicant requests an amendment to his current permit to conduct mist netting of Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis) in Arkansas, Kentucky, western Virginia and eastern Ohio for population

Applicant: Steven E. Buler, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, TE163451.
    The applicant requests authorization to capture and sacrifice blue shiner (Cyprinella caerulea), palezone shiner (Notropis albizonatus), Cahaba shiner (Notropis cahabae), slackwater darter (Etheostoma boschungi), boulder darter (Etheostoma wapiti), goldline darter (Percina aurolineata), and snail darter (Percina tanasi) as voucher specimens from streams throughout Alabama.

Applicant: Arthur C. Benke, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, TE163435.
    The applicant requests authorization to capture and release the following species: cylindrical lioplax (Lioplax cyclostomaformis); flat pebblesnail (Lepyrium showalteri); round rocksnail (Leptoxis ampla); fine-lined pocketbook (Lampsilis altilis), and orange-nacre mucket (Lampsilis perovalis) for research and surveys on Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge, Bibb County, Alabama.

Applicant: Barry S. Payne and Mark D. Farr, USACE/ERDC, Vicksburg, Mississippi, TE163434.
    The applicants request authorization to capture and release fat threeridge mussels (Amblema neislerii) as part of a study to determine depth distribution of the species in the Apalachicola River, Florida.

Applicant: Lee E. Carolan, Palmer Engineering. Winchester, Kentucky, TE156345.
    The applicant requests permission to conduct presence/absence surveys on a contract basis for four endangered bat species, seven threatened or endangered bird species, two threatened reptiles, thirty endangered mussels, twelve threatened or endangered fish, one endangered snail, four endangered insects, one endangered crustacean and seven threatened or endangered plants. Depending on the contracts let, species may be sampled in Missouri, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Virginia.

Applicant: Ya Yang, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, TE156323.
    The applicant requests permission to collect leaf samples from Chamaesyce deltoidea, Chamaesyce garberi, Chamaesyce hooveri, and Euphorbia telephioides as well as two herbarium vouchers for each species. All species will be collected in Dade, Monroe, or Collier County, Florida for research purposes.

Applicant: Andrew Case Miller, Ecological Applications, Tallahassee, Florida, TE156374.
    The applicant requests authorization to capture and release the endangered threeridge mussel (Amblema neislerii) for population surveys in the Apalachicola River, Florida.

Applicant: Peter Scott Floyd, Sr., Pascagoula, Mississippi, TE156426
    The applicant requests authorization to trap, radio-tag, and release the endangered Alabama redbellied turtle (Pseudemys alabamensis), for research and surveys throughout the species range in Alabama.

Applicant: Gerald R. Dinkins, Dinkins Biological Consulting, Powell, Tennessee, TE069754.
    The applicant requests renewal of his permit to capture, identify, and release federally listed fish and mussels for population surveys throughout their ranges in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Iowa, and Minnesota.

Applicant: Roberg Environmental Consulting Services, Cabot, Arkansas, TE105626.
    The applicant requests renewal and amendment of his current permit to capture, mark, and release the American burying beetle for population surveys throughout the species range in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Revised Critical Habitat for Canada Lynx

February 28, 2008    www.epa.gov
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to revise designated critical habitat for the contiguous United States distinct population segment of the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) (lynx).  The lynx generally inhabits cold, moist boreal forests. Approximately 42,753 square miles (mi\2\) (110,727fall within the boundaries of the proposed revised critical habitat designation. The proposed revised designation would add an additional 40,913 mi. to the existing critical habitat designation of 1,841 mi. The proposed revised critical habitat is located in Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Washington and Wyoming. Maps of the area are at: http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/lynx
Comments must be received before April 14, 2008 and may be submitted via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov  or by mail to Public Comments Processing,  Attn: [FWS-R6-ES-2008-0026]; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.  For further information contact: Mark Wilson, Field Supervisor, Montana Ecological Services Office, 585 Shepard Way, Helena, MT, 59601; telephone 406-449-5225.

California Sues U.S. Over Forest Plan

February 28, 2008   www.nytimes.com  By A.P.

LOS ANGELES -- California sued the U.S. Forest Service on Thursday for adopting a management plan that would allow for the construction of roads and oil drilling in the state's largest national forests. The lawsuit, filed by the state attorney general's office in federal court, claims the plan ignores a state moratorium on road construction in pristine areas of national forests and asks for an injunction. The California Resources Agency and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection are also plaintiffs. The plan would open up more than 500,000 acres in the Angeles, Los Padres, Cleveland and San Bernardino national forests to road construction. It also would allow for oil drilling on more than 52,000 acres in or around Los Padres National Forest.  The lawsuit accuses the Forest Service of violating federal environmental laws that require it to draft the management plans in coordination with state laws and policies. The Forest Service did not consider the environmental impacts of making more trails available to off-road vehicles and the potential harm to the endangered California condor from more oil and gas exploration, the lawsuit says.  The forests stretch from Big Sur on the Central Coast to the Mexican border and provide habitat for at least 31 animal species and 29 plants that are federally listed as threatened or endangered, as well as 34 sensitive animal species.

Perissodactyl, Ceratomorph & Equid Karyotypes

February 28, 2008  www.springer.com

Marlys Houck, a researcher with the Conservation and Research for Endangered Species, Zoological Society of San Diego, contributed to a recent article in the Journal Chromosome Research (2008) 16:89–107, reports the first genome-wide comparative chromosome maps of African rhinoceroses, four tapir species, four equine species, and humans. These maps were established by multidirectional chromosome painting, with paint probes derived from flow-sorted chromosomes of Equus grevyi, Tapirus indicus, and Ceratotherium simum as well as painting probes from horse and human. The Malayan tapir (Tapirus indicus), Baird_s tapir (T. bairdii), mountain tapir (T. pinchaque), lowland tapir (T. terrestris), and onager (E. hemionus onager), were studied by cross-species chromosome painting for the first time. Results, when integrated with previously published comparative chromosome maps of the other perissodactyl species, have enabled the reconstruction of perissodactyl, ceratomorph, and equid ancestral karyotypes, and the identification of the defining evolutionary chromosomal rearrangements along each lineage. The results allow a more reliable estimate of the mode and tempo of evolutionary chromosomal rearrangements, revealing a striking switch between the slowly evolving ceratomorphs and extremely rapidly evolving equids.

Argentine Ants - One of Worlds Worst Invasive Species

February 28, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com  By Scott LaFee

The Argentine ant (Linepithema humile), originally from South America, is now found on all continents except Antarctica. It is believed to have entered United States in 1890s. with the first California sighting in 1907.  It prefers areas that are moist year-round, and is able to form supercolonies that may include millions of nests linked over hundreds of miles and is extremely aggressive with other ants and insects. The largest of these supercolonies stretches 600 miles, along the coast from Mexico into Northern California. It has no known serious predators and is a pest and ecological threat in every place it has invaded.  The World Conservation Union identifies Argentine ants as among the world's worst invasive species. David Holway, of UCSD, specializes in the study of the ant. In a 2005 study, he reported that of 232 non-native ant species discovered entering U.S. ports between 1927 and 1985, just 28 species – 12 percent – successfully established themselves as permanent residents. One key to their success is nesting preference – or lack of it. Ground-dwelling ants fare better than tree-dwellers.  In a study published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Holway, and colleagues documented what the ants consume.  For eight years, they studied a population of ants in the foothills southeast of San Diego, chronicling the colony as it attempted to expand and maintain its territory.  When they first move into an area dominated by native ants and other insects, they are violent predators,  “Often they're much smaller than native species, such as harvester ants, but they make up for that in numbers and aggression.  As long as there is significant outside competition, Argentine ants are protein-hungry carnivores, feeding on the blood of native ants and other insects. But as their competitors (and primary food source) begin to dwindle in number, Argentine ants switch to a carbohydrate-rich, sugary diet of honeydew nectar – digested plant sap excreted by aphids and scales. Such dietary flexibility allows Argentine ants to adapt readily to changing conditions. Other traits allow them to build enormously large, collaborative colonies. In California, scientists say Argentine ants have established at least five “supercolonies” – millions of smaller nests linked to one another. Among nests within the same supercolony, Argentine ants are remarkably docile and cooperative, even if the ants come from well-separated nests. The reason, scientists reported in a 2006 paper, is genetics. Within a supercolony, all of the ants are genetically similar and so don't attack one another.  Unlike honeybee hives, an Argentine ant colony may have many queens, each laying up to 60 eggs a day. When colony density becomes too high, some queens break away to establish new nests, starting house with as few as 10 workers.

Shortage of Large Animal Vets in U.S.

February 28, 2008  www.usatoday.com 

A shortage of veterinarians who treat farm animals is stressing the nation's food inspection system, prompting the federal government to offer bonuses and moving expenses to fill hundreds of vacancies.  Veterinarians increasingly have chosen to live in metropolitan areas and pursue more lucrative practices specializing in pets.  The result is a shortage of veterinarians who treat farm animals or work as government inspectors. The scarcity is most severe in the USA's Farm Belt, the lightly populated rural areas in the Midwest that produce much of the nation's meat. The number of vets needed will grow by 22,000 by 2016, making it one of the fastest-growing professions, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. The nation's 28 veterinarian schools produce 2,500 graduates a year, a number that hasn't changed in three decades. Baby boomer retirements - especially among farm vets - hasten the shortage. "It's hard to be a farm vet after age 50. It's a very physical job,"says Troy Walz, an extension agent.

Endangered Species Permit Applications

February 29, 2008   www.epa.gov

The Public is invited to comment on the following applications to conduct certain activities with endangered species. Comments on these permit applications must be received on or before March 31, 2008.  Submit to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Endangered Species Program Manager, Region 8, 2800 Cottage Way, Room W-2606, Sacramento, CA 95825 (telephone: 916-414-6464; fax: 916-414-6486). Please refer to the respective permit number for each application when submitting comments. All comments received, including names and addresses, will become part of the official administrative record and may be made available to the public.  For further information contact:  Daniel Marquez, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, telephone: 760-431-9440

Permit No. TE-174276  Applicant: Bio Spatial Solutions, LLC, Elk Grove, California.
    The applicant requests an amendment to take (capture, collect, kill, and hatch cysts) the Conservancy fairy shrimp (Branchinecta conservatio), the longhorn fairy shrimp (Branchinecta longiantenna), the Riverside fairy shrimp (Streptocephalus wootoni), the San Diego fairy shrimp (Branchinecta sandiegonensis), and the vernal pool tadpole shrimp (Lepidurus packardi) in conjunction with surveys and research throughout the range of each species in California, for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Permit No. TE-174305  Applicant: Vandenberg Air Force Base, Vandenberg AFB, California.
    The applicant requests an amendment to take (survey, locate, and monitor nests) the least Bell's vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus) and the Southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus); take (survey, capture, and release) the unarmored threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus williamsoni) and tidewater goby (Eucyclogobius newberryi); take (survey by pursuit) the El Segundo Blue butterfly (Euphilotes battoides allyni), and remove/remove to possession the Rorippa gambellii (Gambel's watercress), Hemizonia increscens ssp. villosa (Gaviota tarplant), Layia carnosa (Beach layia), Eriodictyon capitatum (Lompoc Yerba Santa), and Cirsium loncholepis (La Graciosa thistle) from Federal lands, in conjunction in with surveys and population monitoring throughout Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-058073  Applicant: Susan Christopher, Santa Margarita, California.
    The permittee requests an amendment to take (harass by survey, capture, handle, and release) the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) in conjunction with surveys throughout the range of the species in California, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-172629 Applicant: Christina Sloop, Santa Rosa, California.
    The applicant requests an amendment to remove/remove to possession the Limnanthes floccosa ssp. Californica (Butte County meadowfoam), Limnanthes vinculans (Sebastopol meadowfoam), Lasthenia burkei (Burke's goldfields), and Plennosperma bakeri (Sonoma sunshine) from federal lands in conjunction with genetic sampling for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Permit No. TE-122602  Applicant: Joseph B. Platt, Irvine, California.
    The applicant requests an amendment to take (harass by survey) the Southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) in conjunction with surveys throughout the range of the species in California and Arizona, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-875386   Applicant: California Cooperative Research Unit, Arcata, California.
    The applicant requests an amendment to remove/remove to possession the Amsinckia grandiflora (Large flowered fiddleneck), Cordylanthus mollis spp. mollis (Soft bird's beak), Erysimum captitatum ssp. angustatum (Contra Costa wallflower), Lasthenia conjugens (Contra Costa goldfields), Oenthera deltoids ssp. howelii, (Antioch Dunes evening primrose), Orcuttia tenuis, (Slender orcutt grass), Orcuttia viscida, (Sacramento Orcutt grass), and Tuctoria mucronata, (Solano grass) from federal lands in conjunction with botanical surveys for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Permit No. TE-175385  Applicant: Ammon M. Rice, Roseville, California.
    The applicant requests an amendment to take (capture, collect, and kill) the Conservancy fairy shrimp (Branchinecta conservatio), the longhorn fairy shrimp (Branchinecta longiantenna), the Riverside fairy shrimp (Streptocephalus wootoni), the San Diego fairy shrimp (Branchinecta sandiegonensis), and the vernal pool tadpole shrimp (Lepidurus packardi) in conjunction with surveys throughout the range of each species in California, for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Permit No. TE-108093  Applicant: Daniele Tannourji, Santa Cruz, California.
    The applicant requests an amendment to remove/remove to possession the Lasthenia conjugens (Contra Costa goldfields) from federal lands in conjunction with botanical surveys and germination studies for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Gabon Rainforest Logging Imperils Sea Turtles

February 29, 2008  www.nytimes.com

The growth of logging in the rain forests of central Africa appears to be posing a long-distance threat to one of the world’s most important nesting grounds for several species of rare sea turtles — the coast of Gabon.  Critically endangered leatherback turtles and turtles of other species have been found dead or unable to build viable nests amid mazes created by thousands of stray logs washed up on Gabon’s shore along the Gulf of Guinea, according to a new study published in the journal Oryx.  The study involved aerial surveys in two recent nesting seasons that counted 11,000 logs, worth an estimated $11 million as lumber, blocking the turtles’ access to long stretches of important nesting grounds. At Pongara Beach, a critical nesting area for leatherbacks, about a third of the beach was blocked by logs. 8 to 14 percent of all nesting attempts during a two-year monitoring period failed because of the barriers.  The most frequent disruptions occurred when barriers forced females to dig their nests below the high-tide line, where saltwater would almost surely drown the eggs, or when they aborted the nesting attempt altogether.  The research was led by William F. Laurance of the Smithsonian Institution and J. Michael Fay of the Wildlife Conservation Society. Slightly more than one in 100 females of the endangered species were dying in the tangle of timber, the scientists said.

Leap Day Focus on Frogs

February 29, 2008  www.associatedcontent.com   By Shirley Gregory

The Year of the Frog starts today, Feb. 29 being Leap Day.  It’s a global campaign aimed at helping to conserve frog and other amphibian populations around the world. The main goal is to increase public awareness about the threats to frogs and raise funds to help pay for research and conservation efforts.  Among the groups actively promoting the Year of the Frog are the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Amphibian Ark, the World Conservation Union, the Species Survival Commission, the Amphibian Specialist Group and other zoo, aquarium and conservation groups around the globe.  "It's imperative that the world zoo and aquarium community plays an active role in working to save the planet's critically endangered amphibian species," said Karen Sausman, president of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. "As leading partners in animal conservation, it's both our obligation and our privilege to help these glorious animals. We invite all people around the world to help amphibians survive by signing our global petition and contributing to fund this initiative."  An online petition at Amphibian Ark asks politicians and governments around the world to commit the resources needed to protect and conserve frog and amphibian populations. 

Numerous zoos and parks around the world are planning special events and exhibits to promote the Year of the Frog. They include a day of "froggy fun" at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando; a Leap Day celebration on Saturday, March 1, at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo; a weekend full of frog-related activities at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo; the opening of a new amphibian exhibit at the New York Aquarium in Brooklyn; a day of frog-related activities during the April 19 "Zoo Run! Run!" celebration at the Fort Worth Zoo in Texas; and a variety of hands-on activities on Saturday, March 1, at the Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco.  To find other activities across the U.S., search the "Leap Day" events database at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Website: www.aza.org

Conservationists Fight Internet Sales of Wildlife Products

February 29, 2008  www.enn.com 

Chinese conservationists met major internet auction site companies in January, urging action on illegal virtual trade in thousands of products made from threatened wildlife.  4300 advertisements for wildlife products, including elephants, tigers, rhinoceroses and marine turtles, have been found for sale on Chinese-language internet sites.  The meetings with authorities in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan follows an eight month survey of popular Chinese language auction sites by the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC.  The survey included Yahoo, eBay and several independent websites.  Joyce Wu, Programme Officer for TRAFFIC East Asia said, “Government authorities must also ensure that wildlife trade on the internet conforms to the same regulations as wildlife in physical markets.”  As a result of the survey, several advertisements were removed, deliveries intercepted and those involved convicted. Once the report World Without Borders was published, TRAFFIC met the China Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Management Authority and the China Internet Information Security Monitoring Bureau to address different standards in physical and virtual trade.

4,000 Endangered Chinese Plant Species

February 29, 2008  english.people.com.cn

China has one of the greatest varieties in plant species: over 30,000 higher plants and 15,000-18,000 plant endemic species. In the last three decades, with the rapid economic development and population increase, the ecological environment has been damaged. Consumption of plant resources has accelerated; and the number of endangered species increases rapidly.  Between 4,000 to 5,000 higher plants are endangered according to "New Express" reports - nearly one fifth of domestic plant species. To combat this imminent threat, China has recently issued the nation's "plant protection strategy." And the strategy will become a guiding principle for China's conservation and management of wild plants. 

Bloomington Zoo Tiger Gets Root Canal

February 29, 2008  www.pantagraph.com   By Huey Freeman

BLOOMINGTON, Illinois -- Dr. Larry Baker, a Decatur-based veterinary dentist, worked alongside a human endodontist, three veterinarians, a veterinary technician, a human dentist, two dental assistants and two veterinary students, to repair a broken lower canine tooth of Besar, a 16-year-old Sumatran tiger. The procedure took two-and-a-half hours.  Three or four people were closely monitoring vital signs at all times.  The anesthetic, isoflurane, was administered to Besar, along with oxygen, throughout the procedure through a tube inserted in his trachea. But when a veterinary student proclaimed that his heart rate had dropped to 60 beats per minute and his breathing appeared to dramatically slow down, the anesthetic was shut off.  About 2 minutes after the anesthesia was stopped, Dr. Keith Evans, the endodontist felt the tiger’s tongue move around, and began working furiously to complete filling the root canal with cement.  Veterinary Technician, Linda Sax, who works at Prairie Oak Veterinary Center, which provides care for the zoo inhabitants, said Besar’s broken lower left canine tooth was first noticed a year ago. Besar, who was given pain medications and anti-biotics, did not exhibit signs of suffering.

Toronto Zoo Begins $250 M Fundraising Campaign

February 29, 2008   www.thestar.com  By John Spears

The Toronto Zoo is on the verge of launching a quarter-billion-dollar fundraising campaign while repositioning itself as a major force for conservation and education. $32 million revamp of the Canadian exhibits, including a grizzly bear compound. $21.5 million education centre focusing on biodiversity and sustainability. $17 million permanent giant panda exhibit. The zoo has an agreement with China. $8.3 million new animal health center. $32.8 million conservation fund for projects anywhere in the world.. $2.5 million fund for reproductive breeding research.

"You need to create a grander vision of what the Toronto Zoo is," consultant Sandy MacKenzie of DVA Navion told the board. "Just to be an attraction will not raise you this money," MacKenzie said. "You need to go to the next level, and you must live green and cause people to become green." Although attendance grew 16 per cent last year, to 1.43 million visitors – the zoo has suffered from declining city funding.  The city gave the zoo $8 million annually in the early 1990s, equivalent to $13 million today. But recently, city grants for operations have shrunk to less than $5 million a year. Spending on exhibits has also withered. Under constant budget pressure, for example, zoo staff had originally proposed a $15 million overhaul of the Canadian exhibits. But chief operating officer Robin Hale said staff now want to decide on the best way to do a project, then raise the money to do it right. In response, the zoo board yesterday approved spending $32 million on the renovation, which will be paid for by the fundraising. The fundraising campaign, to be run by the arm's-length Toronto Zoo Foundation, will begin with a $50 million first stage.  DVA Navion said it's crucial to have the foundation run the campaign because the zoo is a city agency and donors want to be sure their money isn't siphoned off into other parts of the city budget. The plan calls for $110 million of the $250 million total to come from three levels of government. A further $115 million will be raised from individuals, while corporate donors will be targeted for $20 million, and foundations for $5 million.

Appeals Court Rejects Navy Sonar

March 1, 2008   www.enn.com 

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A federal appeals court has rejected White House efforts to exempt the U.S. Navy from laws intended to protect endangered whales and other marine mammals by curbing the use of sonar off the California coast.  A three-judge panel late on Friday upheld a lower court order requiring the Navy to take precautions during the sonar training to minimize harm to marine life.  The Navy has 30 days to file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, during which time it must comply with the bulk of the precautions.  A U.S. District Court in January barred the Navy's use of powerful submarine-hunting mid-frequency active radar within 12 miles of the coast, protecting a strip of water that is habitat for whales, dolphins and other marine mammals.  But U.S. President George W. Bush intervened, citing the national security necessity of Navy training off the California coast, and exempted the Navy from the environmental laws at the heart of the legal challenge.  A federal judge rejected that argument on February 4, and the panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling on Friday.  The council said the latest court opinion is a precedent that will govern ongoing and future litigation between environmental groups and the military in California, Hawaii and elsewhere.

Study of Hip Displasia in Koalas

March 1, 2008  www.bioone.org

A retrospective/prospective radiographic study documented 55 cases of moderate to severe hip dysplasia, with varying degrees of shallowing of the acetabulum, flattening or loss of the femoral head, widening or loss of the femoral neck, and femoral diaphyseal abnormalities in northern koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) in the San Diego Zoo (San Diego, California, USA) collection. For the retrospective study, historic radiographs were examined when available. Thirty koalas were graded as severe, 25 koalas as moderate, and 38 koalas as excellent or mild. Affected koalas may or may not demonstrate gait abnormalities. Mild to severe degenerative joint disease may develop and symptoms may be alleviated with glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. The etiology of hip dysplasia in koalas is not currently understood.  Geoffrey W. Pye, Chris Hamlin-Andrus, Jennifer Moll are authors of the article appearing in the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine Volume 39 Issue 1 March 2008.

Frogs in Fresno Zoo’s Future

March 2, 2008  www.fresnobee.com  By Marc Benjamin

Andy Snider, 47, is director of animal care and conservation at Fresno Chaffee Zoo, arrived in Fresno in 2006 from the Detroit Zoological Institute.  He is also a nationally known amphibian and reptile expert, and maintains the North American studbook for Chinese crocodile lizards and Siamese crocodiles.  The Zoo currently has 20 amphibian species on display, a number that has quadrupled since Snider's arrival 16 months ago.  There are 3 new exhibits coming soon. One will feature wormlike amphibians called caecilians, and another will be for Vietnamese mossy frogs. A third exhibit has not been determined.  In addition, a talking frog bank will be on display in front of the Reptile House. After a coin is placed in the frog's mouth, he will proffer a pithy frog adage, such as: "If I am what I eat, then how come I can't fly?"  Snider also has been involved in a program to restore populations of yellow-legged frogs in Southern California, a species whose documented population has fallen to between 100 and 150 in Southern California's mountains, said Robert Fisher, a research biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.  About 60 yellow-legged frog eggs were saved from a fire-ravaged area of Southern California and are being kept at the Conservation and Research for Endangered Species Center in San Diego. Eventually, the frogs that hatch will be released -- and some will be coming to the zoo in Fresno, Fisher said.  "Andy seems really well-suited for this, and there are so many endangered frogs and amphibians," Fisher said. "We haven't had his kind of expertise out here [in California]."

In Detroit, Snider was instrumental in building the National Amphibian Conservation Center, a $7 million, 12,000-square-foot facility dedicated to the conservation of caecilians, salamanders and frogs. He visits Armenia every year to track and study viper populations. In Armenia, Snider and Jeff Ettling, curator of herpetology at the St. Louis Zoo, are collecting DNA information about the snakes and trying to learn how much land is needed to maintain snake populations.  Their search for vipers may eventually take them into Turkey and Iran, where there are similar vipers that may not be in the Armenian viper family.

Possible Rift in Australia Zoo Management

March 2, 2008  www.guardian.co.uk  By Barbara McMahon

Bob Irwin, father of crocodile hunter Steve Irwin, who died in 2006, has resigned from Australia Zoo, on Queensland's Sunshine Coast that he started and passed on to his son. Pointedly he made no reference in his farewell statement to his daughter-in-law Terri. The family rift is said to have occurred because Bob Irwin is unhappy with the way Terri, 43, an American-born conservationist, is commercializing the family's animal empire. The report was denied by all sides but last week stories emerged of a clash over a koala rehabilitation centre at Ironbark Station, one of the zoo's conservation properties Bob Irwin had managed since 1999, as it was not making money. Irwin was said to be facing a battle to remain in his home on the property. "There are people at the zoo who think that Steve's commitment to animal research and conservation isn't being maintained," one zoo volunteer said, adding that tensions there were "at boiling point". Bob Irwin said he would "continue Steve's dream" at a 98 hectare (242 acre) property he had just bought in another part of Queensland.

Proghorn Thrive with Gray Wolves

March 3, 2008  www.nytimes.com 

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) -- Wolf numbers have soared since they were reintroduced to the Yellowstone National Park region in 1995 and 1996. So, too, have pronghorn, increasing by about 50 percent in the Grand Teton National Park area of Yellowstone. A recent three-year study found that pronghorn fawns were three times more likely to survive in areas dominated by wolves versus those ruled by coyotes. That's because wolves favor larger prey, such as elk or cattle. Meanwhile, coyote and elk populations are declining. Coyote numbers in Yellowstone are down almost 40 percent and an elk herd at the northern end of the park has declined almost 70 percent since wolves were reintroduced.  The federally funded study was co-authored by Eric Gese and Joel Berger with the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society. The findings appear in the latest issue of the journal Ecology.

Common Insect-eating Birds Decline

March 3, 2008  www.birdlife.org 

New research by Bird Studies Canada has highlighted alarming trends in insect-eating birds. In the last two decades alone, populations of many common bug-eating species – such as Sand Martin Riparia riparia, Common Nighthawk Chordeiles minor and Chimney Swift Chaetura pelagica - have declined by over 70%. This is a particularly serious cause for concern, not only for the birds and bats that feed on them [insects], but also for us because many of the birds’ prey species are important plant pollinators.  The disturbing trend, appears to be most pronounced in Canada, and was revealed by analysis of results from several North American bird monitoring programs. There are many possible causes for these declines, including lack of nest sites, habitat change, pesticide usage and climatic variation. However, according to the report’s author Jon McCracken, this tells only part of the story. “Potential changes in the seasonal supply of flying insects are worth investigating. If significant changes are occurring in insect populations, then this is a particularly serious cause for concern, not only for the birds and bats that feed on them, but also for us.”

Oregon Zoo's Condor Release at Grand Canyon

March 3, 2008  blog.oregonlive.com   By Katy Muldoon

California condors hatched at the Oregon Zoo's Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation are due to be freed this month in the skies above the Grand Canyon for the first time.  A release at northern Arizona's Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, near the canyon's north rim, is planned for March 15.  Three Oregon birds will add to the canyon's population of 65 free-flying condors.

Protein Inhibits Ebola from Infecting Neighboring Cells

March 3, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

PHILADELPHIA -– Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine have identified a protein, ISG15, that inhibits the Ebola virus from budding, the process by which viruses escape from cells and spread to infect neighboring cells. This study shows for the first time how ISG15 slows the spread of Ebola virus budding, which could help explain how ISG15 successfully inhibits other viruses, including HIV-1 and herpes simplex virus type I. The findings, reported in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offer the promise of future treatments for Ebola outbreaks that now prove fatal for as many as 90 percent of victims.

Essex Zoo Elephants Will Move to Spain

March 3, 2008  www.eveningstar.co.uk

COLCHESTER, UK – Tomorrow, African elephant Jambo will begin a 4-day trip to BioParc Valencia from U.K.’s Essex zoo as part of the European Breeding Programme.  He will soon be followed by his half-brother Kito. They will leave separately to minimize the disruption to the remaining elephants at the zoo. Zoological Director of Colchester Zoo, Anthony Tropeano said, “It was important to Colchester Zoo that the youngsters stay together for the time being as Kito and Jambo are so close. 

World’s Largest Chimpanzee Enclosure Cost £6m

March 3, 2008  news.scotsman.com  By BRIAN FERGUSON

EDINBURGH, Scotland -- With its exotic trees and plants, and running waterfalls, gloomy light, soaring temperatures and sticky humidity the chimpanzees at the Edinburgh Zoo might think they’re in the Budongo Forest in Uganda. But they’re actually in a new £6 million exhibit at Edinburgh Zoo.  The Budongo Trail, which houses the world's largest chimpanzee enclosure, is being billed as the new "jewel in the crown" and will open to the public on 1 May.  The zoo's 11 chimpanzees, previously housed in a basic outdoor enclosure, are now getting used to life in three private "zones", linked by tunnels, where behavioral experts will monitor how they react to their new environment.  They have already been moved into three indoor "living pods" which have been designed to mimic their natural habitat. A huge climbing structure – the biggest in the world for chimps – has also been built in the outdoor section of the enclosure, linked to the living pods. The new facility, which will eventually allow the zoo to house about 40 chimps after new breeding programmes have been introduced, has a number of viewing platforms and panoramic windows to allow visitors to see the animals.  It also includes touch, sound and smell exhibits and a lecture theatre will host talks with keepers and chimp experts who have been monitoring the animals. Visitors will learn about threats to the forest and its wildlife, and get an insight into the behavioral research on primates going on in both Edinburgh and Uganda.

David Attenborough Retires from Field

March 3, 2008  www.guardian.co.uk   By Stuart Jeffries

When David Attenborough started out in TV 54 years ago, he came up with an idea that is indefensible today. "We decided to go out into the wild to capture animals and bring them back to London Zoo." Zoo Quest lasted from 1954 to 1964, a magical decade of programming. "We walked into valleys where no European had been before," Attenborough said. Lemurs and birds of paradise had never been on TV, gorillas hadn't been filmed.  "It was a very different time," says Miles Barton, Attenborough's producer on several series, including his current one, Life in Cold Blood. "In the US, there had already been big game TV shows where hunters shot at animals - in a very literal sense. So Zoo Quest was not so very wild." Tonight Attenborough will cease globetrotting with the final installment of Life in Cold Blood. He will continue to make TV programs (including a series about Darwin).

Hexapus at Blackpool Sea Life Centre

March 3, 2008  www.telegraph.co.uk  By Tom Chivers

Henry the Hexapus is a resident of Blackpool Sea Life Centre in the north-west of England.  He has 6, instead of 8 legs as the result of a genetic defect, and is believed to be the first of his kind known to humanity.  Henry was found two weeks ago in a lobster-pot off the coast of north Wales, Henry was one of eight "lesser octopuses" that Sea Life took delivery of from Anglesey Sea Zoo. Until he fastened himself to the glass of his tank no one realized his limb deficiency.

Oryx Re-introduction in Tunesia

March 4, 2008  www.sciencedaily.com 

As recently as 1900, there were over 1 million oryx in North Africa, but since the late 1970s they have become extinct in the wild.  Tunesia recently approached the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and the Secretariat for the Convention on Migratory Species for help in reintroducing the oryx to their country. Population managers for species decided to send animals from the National Zoo's Conservation and Research Center, the Kansas City Zoo, the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Texas, The Wilds in Ohio and Texas' Bamberger Ranch joined oryx from Fota Wildlife Park in Ireland and France's Le Pal Parc Animalier et D'Attractions in Tunisia in December 2007.  For now, the oryx are being kept in a 20,000-acre fenced area in the Dghoumes National Park. Within this protected zone, the five males and four females will reproduce and become acclimated to their arid surroundings. Once a sustainable population has been established, possibly a decade or so from now, the fences will come down.

Hyena Research in Kenya

March 4, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By CARL ZIMMER

For the past two decades, Kay E. Holekamp, of Michigan State University, has been chronicling the complex social world of spotted hyenas on the savannas of southern Kenya.  She began running experiments on them similar to the ones run on primates.  She would play recordings of hyenas, for example, to see if other hyenas recognized them individually. Spotted hyenas live in the largest social groups of any carnivore. “We’re talking about 60 to 80 individuals who all know each other individually.”  To understand the social intelligence of hyenas, Dr. Holekamp and her colleagues track the animals from birth to death. Their work begins in the communal dens where the cubs live for their first few months. Older spotted hyenas pay regular visits to the dens, giving the cubs an opportunity to learn about the rigid hierarchy in which they live. Spotted hyena societies have one dominant female at the top, and a series of hyenas below her. Each cub learns exactly where it fits into the hierarchy, and where all the other spotted hyenas fit as well. The hierarchy reveals itself most vividly when it is time to eat. When one or two hyenas make a kill, other members of the clan will join them to fight over the prey. But the dominant female always wins. There are times, however, when the entire group of hyenas comes together. Spotted hyena clans patrol the borders of their territory together, marking it with their urine. A kill near a border can provoke a conflict with a neighboring clan. “When the whole group territory is on the line,” Dr. Holekamp said, “all these unrelated individuals join forces and engage in a clan war.”

North American Primate Fossil

March 4, 2008  www.nytimes.com 

Fossils of a 55.8 million-year-old primate, the earliest known primate to inhabit North America, have emerged from coastal sediments in Mississippi. During the Paleocene–Eocene the world then was much warmer, with tropical or subtropical conditions nearly everywhere as continents drifted apart. Over countless generations the tree-dwelling primates slowly crossed to America from Siberia, presumably by the Bering land bridge when it was probably heavily forested. The identification and significance of the new species are reported in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Named Teilhardina magnoliana it was about the same size as the pygmy mouse lemur of Madagascar. Scientists theorize that the Teilhardina genus is not far removed from the common ancestor of tarsiers and monkeys.

Maud Island Frogs Breed in New Zealand

March 4, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By A.P.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- Thirteen tiny Maud Island froglets were recently discovered clinging to the backs of full-grown male frogs at the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary in the capital Wellington.  Graduate researcher Kerri Lukis said the frogs are normally found on only two islands in the Malborough Sounds region of New Zealand's South Island and the species has never been found breeding before.  The breeding suggests they can be bred in other predator-free habitats -- strengthening their prospects for survival.  The sanctuary's predator-proof fence gives the frogs a breeding environment like Maud Island that is safe from rats.  Maud Island frogs are estimated to number up to 40,000 -- most of them on the island from which they take their name and the rest on Motuara Island.  They do not croak, live in water or have webbed feet and they hatch from the egg as fully formed frogs without going through the tadpole stage.  Eggs are laid under rocks or logs and the male sits over the eggs until they hatch as well formed, tailed froglets.  All four of New Zealand's surviving native frog species are threatened, with the rarest, Hamilton's frog, numbering less than 300.

Terri Irwin Loses Preliminary Legal Battle

March 4, 2008  www.timesonline.co.uk

Terri Irwin today lost a preliminary battle in a legal action seeking A$2.5 million (£1.2 million) from Australia Zoo, with regard to an alleged tax minimization scheme.  A debt collector is suing the zoo, and Ms Irwin separately for A$60,000, in a case that involves an offshore bank with ties to a corrupt former Australian tax official. Alyssa Treasury Services, which took over debts allegedly owed to various overseas companies and banks, says that Ms Irwin and Australia Zoo failed to honor promises to pay money to other parties under business restructuring arrangements.  A court in the southern state of Victoria today denied an application from Ms Irwin and Australia Zoo to have the case moved to the northern state to Queensland, where the park is based and where many of the likely witnesses are based. The debt collector is pursuing a total of 99 defendants around Australia in the case.

Mercury Threatens Loons

March 4, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

A long-term study by the Wildlife Conservation Society, the BioDiversity Research Institute, and other organizations has found and confirmed that environmental mercury—much of which comes from human-generated emissions—is impacting both the health and reproductive success of common loons in the Northeast.  The results of the 18-year study on loons—a species symbolic of northern lakes and wilderness—appear in the most recent edition of Ecotoxicology. “This study demonstrates how top predators such as common loons can be used as the proverbial ‘canaries-in-the-coalmine’ for pollutants that concern humans as well,” said David C. Evers of the BioDiversity Research Institute and lead author of the study. “Our findings can be used to facilitate national and global decisions for regulating mercury emissions from coal-burning plants and other sources.” The study uses data from nearly 5,500 samples of blood, feathers, and eggs collected from captured and released loons from some 80 lakes in Maine, New York, New Hampshire, and other states and provinces. The researchers made correlations between the behaviors of individual birds and their levels of methylmercury, the most toxic form of mercury that accumulates up the food chain.

Critical Habitat for Loggerhead Turtle

March 5, 2008  www.epa.gov

The NMFS has initiated a review of the status of the loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) in the western North Atlantic Ocean, a Distinct Population Segment (DPS) with endangered status.  The agency is soliciting information and comments pertaining to this species from any interested party.  Electronic submissions: http://www.regulations.gov  or mail to the Director of the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910.  NMFS will accept anonymous comments. Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only.  For more information contact: Barbara Schroeder by phone 301-713-2322, fax 301-427-2522, or e-mail barbara.schroeder@noaa.gov

Revised Recovery Plan for Steller Sea Lion

March 5, 2008  www.epa.gov

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announces the availability of the Final Revised Recovery Plan, dated March 2008, for the western and eastern distinct population segments (DPS) of Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus). NMFS also provides a link to the comprehensive and extensive responses to comments on the May 2007 Draft Revised Steller Sea Lion Recovery Plan posted on our website.  The Final Revised Steller Sea Lion Recovery Plan is available at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/protectedresources/stellers/recovery.htm Copies of the Plan may also be obtained from NMFS, Protected Resources Division, 222 W 7\th\ St, Anchorage, Alaska 99513; or from the Alaska Regional Office, Protected Resources Division, 709 W. 9\th\ St, Juneau, AK, 99802-1668.  For further information contact: Lisa Rotterman at 907-271-5006, email lisa.rotterman@noaa.gov  or Kaja Brix at 907 586 7235, e-mail kaja.brix@noaa.gov. Time and costs for recovery actions for the western DPS are estimated at $93,840,000 for the first 5 fiscal years and $430,425,000 for full recovery. The recovery program for the eastern DPS will cost an estimated $150,000 for the first year and $1,050,000 total, including 10 years of post-delisting monitoring.

Initiation of 5-year Reviews of 58 Species in California & Nevada

March 5, 2008   www.epa.gov

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is initiating 5-year reviews for 58 species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). We request any new information on these species that may have a bearing on their classification as endangered or threatened (see Table 1 below). Based on the results of these 5-year reviews, we will make a finding on whether these species are properly classified under the Act. We must receive any information you can supply no later than May 5, 2008. However, we will continue to accept new information about any listed species at any time. For contact information about completed 5-year reviews, see ``Completed 5-Year Reviews.''

27 Wildlife Species and 31 Plant Species in California and Nevada
Common name             Scientific name              Status          Where listed     
Amargosa vole                      Microtus californicus scirpensis             E       U.S.A. (CA)
Arroyo toad                           Bufo californicus                                  E       U.S.A. (CA),  Mexico                                                                 
Ash Meadows naucorid         Ambrysus amargosus                           TH       U.S.A. (NV)......                                   
Bay checkerspot butterfly     Euphydryas editha bayensis                  TH      U.S.A. (CA)......                                    
Big Spring spinedace           Lepidomeda millispinis pratensis            TH      U.S.A. (NV)...... 
Callippe silverspot butterfly   Speyeria callippe callippe                       E       U.S.A. (CA)...... 
Carson wandering skipper    Pseudocopaeodes eunus obscurus        E       U.S.A. (CA, NV).. 
Coastal California gnatcatcher.  Polioptila californica californica         TH     U.S.A. (CA); Mexico                                       
Desert tortoise, Mojave         Gopherus agassizii                             TH     U.S.A., except Sonoran Desert
Light-footed clapper rail         Rallus longirostris levipes                      E       U.S.A (CA)
Mission blue butterfly             Icaricia icarioides missionensis            E        U.S.A (CA)
Mount Hermon June beetle   Polyphylla barbata                                E        U.S.A. (CA)
Mohave tui chub                     Gila bicolor mohavensis                      E        U.S.A. (CA)
Myrtle's silverspot butterfly..  Speyeria zerene myrtleae                      E        U.S.A. (CA)
Owen's pupfish                      Cyprinodon radiosus                            E         U.S.A. (CA)
Owen's tui chub                     Gila bicolor snyderi                              E         U.S.A. (CA)
Pahranagat roundtail chub.    Gila robusta jordani                               E        U.S.A. (NV)
Point Arena mountain beaver Aplodontia rufa nigra                              E       U.S.A (CA)
Quino checkerspot butterfly   Euphydryas editha quino (wrighti)           E        U.S.A. (CA; Mexico             
San Bruno elfin butterfly        Callophrys mossii bayensis                    E         U.S.A (CA)
San Bernardino kangaroo rat Dipodomys merriami parvus                   E         U.S.A (CA)
San Clemente sage sparrow   Amphispiza belli clementeae               TH        U.S.A (CA)....... 
Santa Cruz long-toed salamander  Ambystoma macrodactylum croceum      E  U.S.A. (CA) 
Salt marsh harvest mouse.......  Reithrodontomys raviventris   E  U.S.A. (CA)  
Shasta crayfish................  Pacifastacus fortis      E  U.S.A. (CA)
Unarmored threespine stickleback    Gasterosteus aculeatus williamsoni   E  U.S.A. (CA)
Zayante band-winged grasshopper  Trimerotropis infantilis   E  U.S.A. (CA)
Ash Meadows milk-vetch   Astragalus phoenix                              TH  U.S.A. (NV)
Calistoga allocarya............  Plagiobothrys strictus                         E  U.S.A. (CA
Clara Hunt's milk-vetch........  Astragalus clarianus                       E  U.S.A. (CA) 
Clover lupine..................  Lupinus tidestromii                                    E  U.S.A. (CA
Coastal dunes milk-vetch.....Astragalus tener var titi                          E  U.S.A. (CA) 
Conejo dudleya.................  Dudleya abramsii ssp parva                 TH  U.S.A. (CA)                                   
Cushenberry buckwheat.....Eriogonum ovalifolium var. vineum              E  U.S.A (CA)
Cushenberry milk-vetch.........  Astragalus albens                E  U.S.A (CA)
Cushenberry oxytheca   Acanthoscyphus (Oxytheca) parishii                E  U.S.A (CA)
                                       Var. goodmaniana.
Fleshy owl's-clover............  Castilleja campestris ssp succulenta  TH  U.S.A. (CA)
Hickman's potentilla...........  Potentilla hickmanii                      E  U.S.A. (CA)
Ione buckwheat (incl.Irish       Eriogonum apricum (incl var prostratum) E  U.S.A. (CA)
Ione manzanita.................  Arctostaphylos myrtifolia                       TH  U.S.A. (CA)
Kenwood Marsh checkermallow....  Sidalcea oregano ssp valida  E  U.S.A. (CA) 
Large-flowered fiddleneck......  Amsinckia grandiflora                     E  U.S.A. (CA)
Marcescent dudleya.............  Dudleya cymosa ssp marcescens   TH  U.S.A. (CA)
Napa bluegrass.................  Poa napensis.....                              E  U.S.A. (CA)
Nevin's barberry...............  Berberis nevinii.                                      E   U.S.A. (CA);Mexico
Parish's daisy.................  Erigeron parishii                                      TH  U.S.A (CA)
Peirson's milk-vetch...........  Astragalus magdalenae var peirsonii   TH  U.S.A (CA)
Pitkin Marsh lily..............  Lilium pardalinum ssp pitkinense             E    U.S.A. (CA)
San Bernardino Mountains bladderpod   Physaria (Lesquerella) kingii   E  U.S.A (CA)
San Diego thornmint   Acanthomintha ilicifolia                                      TH  U.S.A. (CA); Mexico     
Santa Monica Mountains dudleya.  Dudleya cymosa ssp Ovatifolia   TH  U.S.A. (CA)
Tiburon jewelflower   Streptanthus niger                             E  U.S.A. (CA)
Tiburon mariposa lily   Calochortus  tiburonensis                   TH   U.S.A. (CA)
Tiburon paintbrush   Castilleja  affinis ssp Neglecta                 E  U.S.A. (CA)
Triple-ribbed milk-vetch     Astragalus tricarinatus                    E  U.S.A (CA)
Verity's dudleya   Dudleya verityi                                                   TH  U.S.A. (CA)
Western lily  Lilium occidentale                                            E  U.S.A. (CA, OR)
White sedge    Carex albida                                                      E  U.S.A. (CA)

What Information Do We Consider in the Review?
(A) Species biology including, but not limited to, population trends, distribution, abundance, demographics, and genetics;
(B) Habitat conditions including, but not limited to, amount, distribution, and suitability;
(C) Conservation measures that have been implemented that benefit the species;
(D) Threat status and trends
(E) Other new information, data, or corrections including, but not limited to, taxonomic or nomenclatural changes, identification of erroneous information contained in the List, and improved analytical methods.

Mail or hand-deliver information on the following species to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the corresponding address below. For coastal California gnatcatcher, light-footed clapper rail, Quino checkerspot butterfly, San Bernardino kangaroo rat, San Clemente sage sparrow, Cushenbury buckwheat, Cushenbury milk-vetch, Cushenbury oxytheca, Nevin's barberry, Parish's daisy, Peirson's milk-vetch, San Bernardino Mountains bladderpod, San Diego thornmint, and triple-ribbed milk-vetch, send information to Field Supervisor, Attention: 5-Year Review, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, 6010 Hidden Valley Road, Carlsbad, CA 92011. Information may also be submitted electronically at fw8cfwocomments@fws.gov To obtain
further information, contact Scott Sobiech at the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office at (760) 431-9440.
For the Amargosa vole, arroyo (= arroyo southwestern) toad, Mount Hermon june beetle, Mohave tui chub, Owens pupfish, Owens tui chub, Santa Cruz long-toed salamander, unarmored three-spine stickleback, Zayante band-winged grasshopper, coastal dunes milk-vetch, Conejo dudleya, Hickman's potentilla, marcescent dudleya, Santa Monica Mountains dudleya, and Verity's dudleya, send information to Field Supervisor, Attention: 5-Year Review, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, 2493 Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, CA 93003. Information may also be submitted electronically at fw1vfwo5year@fws.gov To obtain further information on the animal species, contact Mike McCrary at the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office at (805) 644-1766. To obtain further information on the plant species, contact Connie Rutherford at the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office at (805) 644-1766.
For bay checkerspot butterfly, callippe silverspot butterfly, mission blue butterfly, Myrtle's silverspot butterfly, San Bruno elfin butterfly, salt marsh harvest mouse, Shasta crayfish, Calistoga allocarya, Clara Hunt's milk-vetch, clover lupine, fleshy owl's-clover, Ione buckwheat (including Irish Hill), Ione manzanita, Kenwood Marsh checkermallow, large-flowered fiddleneck, Napa bluegrass, Pitkin Marsh lily, Tiburon jewelflower, Tiburon mariposa lily, Tiburon paintbrush
and white sedge, send information to Field Supervisor, Attention: 5-Year Review, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way, Room W-2605, Sacramento, CA 95825. Information may also be submitted electronically at fw1sfo5year@fws.gov To obtain further information, contact Kirsten Tarp at the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office at (916) 414-6600.
For Ash Meadows naucorid, Big Spring spinedace, Carson wandering skipper, desert tortoise (Mohave population), Pahranagat roundtail chub, and Ash Meadows milk-vetch, send information to Field Supervisor, Attention: 5-Year Review, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office, 1340 Financial Blvd., Suite 234, Reno, NV 89502. Information may also be submitted electronically at fw1nfwo_5yr@fws.gov  To obtain further information on Ash Meadows naucorid, Big Spring spinedace, Pahranagat roundtail chub and Ash Meadows milk-vetch, contact Janet Bair at the Southern Nevada Field at (702) 515-5230. To obtain further information on Carson wandering skipper, contact Selena Werdon at the Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office at (775) 861-6300. To obtain further information on desert tortoise, contact Roy Averill-Murray at the Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office at (775) 861-6300.
For Point Arena Mountain beaver and western lily, send information to Field Supervisor, Attention: 5-Year Review, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office, 11655 Heindon Road, Arcata, CA 95521. Information may also be submitted electronically at fw8pamb@fws.gov for Point Arena Mountain beaver and fw8wlily@fws.gov for western lily. To obtain further information on Point Arena Mountain beaver, contact Robin Hamlin at the Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office at (707) 822-7201. To obtain further information on western lily, contact Dave Imper at the Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office at (707) 822-7201.
    All electronic information must be submitted in Text format or Rich Text format. Include the following identifier in the subject line of the e-mail: Information on 5-year review for [NAME OF SPECIES], and include your name and return address in the body of your message.

The current listing status of species for which 5-year reviews are being initiated by this notice is identified in Table 1 above. The current status may also be found on the List, which covers all listed species, and which is available on our Internet site at http://endangered.fws.gov/wildlife.html#Species

5-Year Reviews were completed for the following species in 2007 and can be found at:

Species in California, Nevada, and Southern Oregon for Which 5-Year Reviews
Common name                        Scientific name                Recommendation             Office        
Brown pelican...................           Pelecanus occidentalis                  Delist         Region 2
California freshwater shrimp....    Syncaris pacifica.                     No change..  Sacramento
Conservancy fairy shrimp........    Branchinecta                            No change..  Sacramento
Kern primrose sphinx moth.......  Euproserpinus                           No change..  Sacramento 
Laguna Mountains skipper........  Pyrgus ruralis lagunae              No change..  Carlsbad
Longhorn fairy shrimp...........       Branchinecta  longiantenna      No change..  Sacramento
Lost River sucker...............          Deltistes luxatus.                       Downlist.......Klamath Falls
Lotis blue butterfly............            Lycaeides argyrognomon lotis  No change   Arcata
Shortnose sucker................        Chasmistes trevirostris              No change     Klamath Falls
Tidewater goby..................          Eucyclogobius newberryi          Downlist       Ventura
Vernal pool fairy shrimp........       Branchinecta lynchi                   No change   Sacramento
Vernal pool tadpole shrimp......    Lepidurus packardi                    No change   Sacramento                                                                                              
Amargosa niterwort                 Nitrophila mohavensis                             No change  Nevada
Ash Meadows gumplant          Grindelia fraxino-pratensis                      No change  Nevada
Ben Lomond spineflower         Chorizanthe  pungens var. hartwegiana  No change  Ventura
Catalina Island mountain mahogany  Cercocarpus  traskiae                   No change  Carlsbad
Chinese Camp brodia

Hibernation-like Behavior by Fish Species

March 5, 2008  www.enn.com 

Scientists have discovered an Antarctic fish species that adopts a winter survival strategy similar to hibernation. Reporting this week in the journal PLoS ONE, scientists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and the University of Birmingham report that the Antarctic ”˜cod’ Notothenia coriiceps effectively ”˜puts itself on ice’ to survive the long Antarctic winter. The study showed that the fish activate a seasonal ”˜switch’ in ecological strategy — going from one that maximises feeding and growth in summer to another that minimizes the energetic cost of living during the long, Antarctic winter. The research demonstrates that at least some fish species can enter a dormant state, similar to hibernation that is not temperature driven and presumably provides seasonal energetic benefits. Scientists already know that Antarctic fish have very low metabolic rates and blood ”˜antifreeze’ proteins that allow them to live in near-freezing waters. This study demonstrates that Antarctic fish - which already live in the ”˜slow lane’ with extremely low rates of growth, metabolism and swimming activity - can in fact further depress these metabolic processes in winter.

Cambodia’s Mekong Dolphin Population Falls

March 5, 2008  www.enn.com 

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Only three baby dolphins, one of them dead, were found during an annual survey of the Mekong dolphin in Cambodia.  Six newborns were found in previous years. Their weight had also dropped to under 2 kg (4.4 lb) from 5 kg (11 lb) in the 1980s. The chairman of the Commission for Mekong Dolphins Conservation, Touch Seang Tana, said "A group of 10 full-grown dolphins living in the upper Mekong River had no babies at all this year," he said, blaming a shortage of fish and rising water temperatures which might have affected their reproductive systems.  There are about 150 dolphins living in the upper Mekong River, up from only 90 before a 2006 ban on net fishing in the eastern provinces of Kratie and Steung Treng.

New Changes to Animal Tree of Life

March 5, 2008  www.nature.com 

A study led by Brown University biologist Casey Dunn uses new genomics tools to answer old questions about animal evolution. The study is the most comprehensive animal phylogenomic research project to date, involving 40 million base pairs of new DNA data taken from 29 animal species.  The study, which appears in Nature, settles some long-standing debates about the relationships between major groups of animals and offers up a few surprises.  Comb jellyfish – common and extremely fragile jellies with well-developed tissues – appear to have diverged from other animals even before the lowly sponge, which has no tissue to speak of. This finding calls into question the very root of the animal tree of life, which traditionally placed sponges at the base.  “This finding suggests either that comb jellies evolved their complexity independently from other animals, or that sponges have become greatly simplified through the course of evolution. If corroborated by other types of evidence, this would significantly change the way we think about the earliest multicellular animals,” said Dunn.

Flooding the Grand Canyon

March 5, 2008   www.nature.com  By Rex Dalton

The Glen Canyon Dam is set to open the flood gates today: waters will flow at twice their normal highest rate for 60 hours in an attempt to improve the Colorado River’s environment and study how best to maintain it.  This is the third time in the past dozen years that water has been dumped from Glen Canyon Dam in northern Arizona to improve habitats downstream in the monumental gorge. Thanks to the dam, the river’s sandbars are only one-quarter of their original size. By pushing sediment into sandbars and creating small pools, the flooding is designed to provide better habitats for endangered fish, such as the humpback chub. The enlarged sandbars could also benefit archaeological sites by creating large piles of sand that can be blown by the wind to cover and protect such sites.  Previous releases in 1996 and 2004 showed that species-nurturing eddies, of the type that happened every spring before the snow-fed Colorado River was dammed, could be recreated by these floods. The releases also highlighted the method’s limitations. New sandbars, for instance, tended to concentrate in small regions, and did not extend the full length of the river. But researchers learn from each flood in hopes of improving the next, says John Schmidt, a geomorphologist from Utah State University in Logan, who studies the river along with federal agencies. “Each high flow release is both a management action and a scientific experiment,” he says. “None of these floods has been a complete success.”

Minnesota Zoo’s WolfQuest Game Extremely Popular

March 5, 2008  www.startribune.com 

Since the Minnesota Zoo's free educational video game, WolfQuest, launched late last year, more than 100,000 people have downloaded it and it averages more than 1,000 new users every day, according to figures provided by the zoo. The online video game is a lifelike simulation of a wolf hunting, communicating with other wolves and mating (only nuzzling is shown before the screen goes black and the wolf pups appear). The goal of the game is to survive, find a mate and start your own pack. The online discussion boards have supported the learning aspect of the game and been another catalyst for its popularity. Members of the gaming population often discuss the dynamics of wolf communities, seek advice from wolf experts, socialize and set up wolf packs to meet and hunt together online.  The game has also reached demographics beyond the teenagers targeted. In the United States about 30 percent of downloads have come from adults between 20 and 40 years old.

San Diego Mouse Positive for Hantavirus

March 5, 2008  www.10news.com

SAN DIEGO -- A wild mouse trapped in San Diego's Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve tested positive for hantavirus, county health officials announced Wednesday.  Vector Control officials conduct routine testing of wild mice in the region to detect the rare, but sometimes fatal disease, according to the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health. "These findings are not surprising because at least 5 to 10 percent of the local wild mouse population tests positive for hantavirus each year," said Gary Erbeck, director of the DEH.

New Way to Calculate Biodiversity

March 5, 2008 www.scidev.net   By T.V. Padma

NEW DELHI -- Scientists from Sri Lanka and Germany have developed a new method to measure biodiversity, and say it could help identify key tree species. Biologists traditionally measure biodiversity by calculating the number of a species in a given area, but the new method uses statistical analysis to see how one species affects others in an area.  The researchers reported the new method — 'individual species-area relationship' (ISAR) — in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  They used the method in tropical forests of Barro Colorado Island in Panama and Sinharaja in Sri Lanka to see whether individual species increased or decreased local biodiversity, or had no impact.  They found that more than two-thirds of species did not have much impact on large forest areas. The remaining third impacted only on a small scale, up to a radius of 20 meters.  The scientists say this supports the theory that the diversity of forests and similar complex natural biological systems does not depend on the characteristics of a few dominant species but on the overall interactions among all species.

USDA Seeks Public Comment on South African FMD

March 5, 2008   www.aphis.usda.gov

WASHINGTON --The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) seeks public comment on a risk analysis related to the importation of ruminants and ruminant products from the Republic of South Africa.  The purpose of the risk analysis is to assess the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) status and related disease risks associated with importing animals and animal products.  APHIS will use the risk analysis and the comments it receives to determine whether certain restrictions should be relieved on importation of these products from the Republic of South Africa.  On Nov. 6, 2000, APHIS removed the Republic of South Africa from the list of regions considered to be free of FMD--thereby restricting or prohibiting the importation of ruminants, swine and ruminant and swine products--after the disease was confirmed in two provinces.  The Republic of South Africa’s National Department of Agriculture responded immediately to the detection of the disease and initiated measures to eradicate the disease.  APHIS now is reassessing the situation, in accordance with World Organization for Animal Health standards.
The notice was published in the Feb. 15 Federal Register.  Consideration will be given to comments received on or before April 15.  Send an original and two copies of postal mail or commercial delivery comments to Docket No. APHIS-2008-0001, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.  Comments can be submitted on the Federal eRulemaking portal at  http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocketDetail&d=APHIS-2008-0001.  Click on “Add Comments” to view public comments and related materials available electronically.  Comments are posted on the Regulations.gov Web site and also can be viewed at USDA, Room 1141, South Building, 14th St. and Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C., between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.  To facilitate entry into the comment reading room, please call (202) 690-2817.

Giant Panda Genome Will Be Sequenced

March 6, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

BGI-Shenzhen is launching the International Giant Panda Genome Project. The announcement comes after the Panda Genome workshop held on January 21–22, 2008, in Shenzhen, China. Dr. Hongmei Zhu, says they home to finish the sequencing and assembling of the draft sequence within six months. Because scientists will be utilizing the latest Now-Gen sequencing technology to carry out this research, this project will also have far-reaching implications for promoting advances in sequencing tools and techniques.  “The most noteworthy aspect of the project,” said Oliver Ryder of the San Diego Zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research for Endangered Species (CRES) and a participant at the January workshop, “is that it is the first genome project to be undertaken specifically to gather information that will contribute to conservation efforts for an endangered species. The giant panda is a global conservation symbol and deserving of such an effort.”  CRES researchers will also be participating in the project.  The panda to be sequenced for the Giant Panda Genome Project will be chosen from the Chengdu and Wolong breeding centers. In addition to producing a high quality genome sequence, the researchers will do a survey of the genetic variations in the panda population. The fine map of the panda’s genome and the transcriptome studies will provide an unparalleled amount of information to aid in understanding both current and past status of the species, including historical population size, current levels of inbreeding, precise estimates of gene-flow, and past connectedness between the two different mountain-top giant panda populations.

Hogle Zoo’s Gorilla has Hysterectomy

March 6, 2008  www.sltrib.com   By Matthew D. LaPlante

A surgeon this morning completed a hysterectomy on 43-year-old African-born "Muke," removing her ovaries and uterus.  Tissue samples also were taken from a polyp and will be sent to the lab, but the zoo says at this time there is no reason to euthanize her; as they had said they would consider taking that action if the cancer was found to be too badly spread.

Kyoto Zoo Visitors View Chimp Research

March 6, 2008   www.yomiuri.co.jp

KYOTO--Visitors to the Kyoto City Zoo will now be able to observe researchers studying chimpanzees as part of a collaborative program of the Kyoto municipal government and Kyoto University.  Research on other animals, including elephants and giraffes, is also expected to be showcased in the same way, as the municipal government hopes to attract more visitors, and the university hopes to promote its research.  According to the plan, the municipal government will purchase four chimpanzees and build a 10-meter-tall tower in the animals' zoo environment. A laboratory with reinforced-glass walls will also be built so that visitors can closely observe the primates. The municipal government has set aside 125 million yen for the project in its draft fiscal 2008 budget.  The university will have a full-time researcher at the zoo from April who will study the chimpanzees' capacity for retaining information and prepare new research on other animals. The university plans to eventually increase the number of researchers at the zoo to three.

Controlling Invasive Nutria

March 6, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

20 nutria brought to Louisiana in the 1930s bred an estimated 20 million animals within two decades, according to a wildlife group in Maryland that tracks nutria data.  Although nutria were brought to all parts of the country, warm weather in Louisiana has boosted their numbers. Already under pressure from saltwater intrusion, the marshes also have to deal with the nutria and their voracious appetite for the vital marsh roots that keep wetlands intact.  Professor Athula B. Attygalle, an expert in molecular chemistry from Stevens Institute of Technology and a team of scientists from Cornell University and University of Iowa believe they have located the correct chemical compounds that offer an alternative to free-form hunting and trapping, or ecologically harmful poisoning, in the management of the nutria population.  “Several volatile compounds, including terpenoids, fatty alcohols, fatty acids and some of their esters, were identified from solvent extracts prepared from anal scent glands of nutria.  These compounds can serve as a powerful attractant to the animals, and thus, when applied strategically, serve as a tool to control their spread.  While Federal agencies have looked at various poisoning methods, none of those efforts has gone very far because of the effects on other species.

Toronto Zoo Adopts New Parking System

March 6, 2008  www.sourcesecurity.com

Toronto Zoo, serves over 1.2 million visitors a year.  Over 250,000 vehicles use its parking lots.   LEGIC's secure contactless smart cards have been selected to alleviate long parking lines as visitors attempt to enter the zoo.  The reusable cards allow the zoo to audit the number of visitors and collect their parking fees when they exit the zoo, giving them the ability to park quickly and begin their day.  Zoo members with prepaid parking passes, and visitors who are provided with contactless smart cards upon entrance, pay for parking at readers upon completion of their visit rather than at entry.  At the end of each day, staff members retrieve the collected cards from the terminals for redistribution the following day.  In addition to efficient trafficking, the cards are also highly waterproof - a key requirement as one of the most popular areas at the zoo is a water park. Canadian Parking Equipment's Flex-18 barrier gates were installed at each of the zoo's four entry lanes in a free running mode.  This permits quick entry for visitors while preventing unpaid exits from these lanes.  Each admissions cashier is equipped with an off-line smart card validator that is used to dispense a quick validated plastic card to each parking vehicle.The entrance to Toronto Zoo showing the gates where LEGIC's secure contactless smart cards are used to monitor parking.  The deployment of the new technology has eliminated wasteful disposable paper tickets.

Como Zoo Will Borrow $1 Billion for Gorilla Exhibit

March 6, 2008   www.in-forum.com  By Brian Bakst

The Minnesota House approved a $1 billion borrowing plan after failed attempts to ax money for a Como Zoo gorilla exhibit, an urban light rail line and a Duluth convention center upgrade.  The bill's passage sets the stage for final negotiations among the House, Senate and GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty's administration on a compromise plan for financing public works projects. It contains money for new construction and maintenance at college campuses, prisons, state parks, wastewater treatment centers and other public properties. The 99-34 House vote followed a prickly debate.  Republicans House members held up the gorilla exhibit as an example of misplaced priorities, while Democrats pointed to Pawlenty's past support of zoo projects as integral to Minnesota's quality of life. Representatives hauled out bananas, fluffy pigs and pictures of Pawlenty petting a dolphin to make their cases.  House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, led the charge to strip the bill of $11 million for renovation of the St. Paul zoo's gorilla and polar bear exhibits. He repeatedly tried and narrowly failed to redirect the zoo money to school construction, votes that will undoubtedly resurface on political brochures during this fall's election.  "We are worried about the average family in Minnesota," Seifert said. "There are other people worried about the average primate." Rep. Alice Hausman, the chief sponsor of the bill, fought fiercely to protect the Como Zoo project, noting that 1.7 million people visit the park annually on family outings and school field trips.

Critical Habitat for the Marbled Murrelet

March 6, 2008   www.epa.gov

The marbled murrelet is a small seabird of the Alcidae family. The marbled murrelet's breeding range extends from Bristol Bay, Alaska, south to the Aleutian Archipelago, northeast to Cook Inlet, Kodiak Island, Kenai Peninsula and Prince William Sound, south along the coast through the Alexander Archipelago of Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon to northern Monterey Bay in central California. Birds winter throughout the breeding range and also occur in small numbers off southern California. Marbled murrelets spend most of their lives in the marine environment where they forage in near-shore areas and consume a diversity of prey species including small fish and invertebrates. In their terrestrial environment, the presence of platforms used for nesting is the most important characteristic of the species nesting habitat. Marbled murrelet habitat use is positively associated with the presence and abundance of mature and old-growth forests, large core areas of old-growth, low amounts of edge and fragmentation, proximity to the marine environment, and increasing forest age and height. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finds that the proposed revision of critical habitat for the marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus) should not be made. On September 12, 2006, the USFWS proposed to revise the May 24, 1996, designation of critical habitat for the marbled murrelet in Washington, Oregon, and California.  Under the proposed revision, 3,590,642 acres were proposed as critical habitat, with 3,368,950 ac of these lands proposed for exclusion. But due to uncertainties regarding Bureau of Land Management (BLM) revisions to its District Resource Management Plans in western Oregon, we have determined that it is not appropriate to revise the designation of critical habitat for the marbled murrelet at this time.

Endangered Status for North Pacific and North Atlantic Right Whales

March 6, 2008  www.epa.gov

The NMFS has completed a status review of right whales in the North Pacific and North Atlantic Oceans and are listing the currently endangered northern right whale (Eubalaena spp.) as two separate, endangered species, North Pacific right whale (E. japonica) and North Atlantic right whale (E. glacialis). This rule is effective on April 7, 2008. The final rule, references, petition, and other materials relating to this determination can be found on our website at http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/  (North Pacific right whale) or http://www.nero.noaa.gov/  (North Atlantic right whale).  For more information on the North Pacific right whale, contact Brad Smith, NMFS Alaska Region (907) 271-5006; or Kaja Brix, NMFS, Alaska Region, (907) 586-7235; for more information on the North Atlantic right whale, contact Mark Minton, NMFS, Northeast Region, 978 281 9328, ext. 6534; and for general information on listing, Marta Nammack, (301) 713-1401, ext. 180.

Olfaction in Wandering Albatrosses

March 6, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Wandering albatrosses can fly for thousands of miles across the ocean, usually gliding a few feet above sea level. Floating carrion, especially squid, make up a large part of their diet.  Recently their food-finding methods were studied by researchers at UC Davis, the Bodega marine Laboratory and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France.  Albatrosses nesting on Possession Island in the southwestern Indian Ocean were fitted with GPS receivers that recorded their exact position every 10 seconds and stomach temperature gauges that noted every meal. When the birds returned to land after a foraging trip, the researchers removed the equipment and downloaded the data. They found that the birds usually flew across the wind, which allows them to cross plumes of scent drifting downwind and is also the best strategy for energy-efficient soaring.  Sometimes birds would fly straight to food, but almost half the time an albatross would either turn upwind or zigzag into the wind toward a meal. Both patterns suggest that the birds were following a plume of scent, rather than visual cues. Birds could turn upwind toward a food source several miles away -- well over the visual horizon. The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and was funded by grants from the French Polar Institute and NSF.

Hamilton Zoo Accreditation is a National First

March 7, 2008  www.scoop.co.nz

Hamilton Zoo has become the first zoo in New Zealand to attain accreditation from the Australasian Regional Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria (ARAZPA).  Hamilton Zoo was a founding member of ARAZPA and became the first New Zealand zoo to undergo an accreditation review when the organization launched its accreditation programme last year. The International Antarctic Centre in Christchurch has also recently achieved accreditation. Hamilton Zoo director Stephen Standley said, “Over the last two years, Hamilton Zoo has taken on a leadership role within the membership of ARAZPA, especially with regard to the development and implementation of minimum standards for the ARAZPA members. This not only assists the region’s zoos and aquariums, it also directly benefits Hamilton Zoo and we are able to ensure that the zoo develops in line with best practice. In 2002, Hamilton Zoo became the first zoo in Australasia to be accredited under the ISO standard for Environmental Management Systems

Births Up, Mortality Down at Indian Zoo

March 7, 2008  www.telegraphindia.com 

BHUBANESWAR, Inda -- Nandan Kanan Zoological Park is experiencing a record number of births. Twenty births, including two tiger cubs and Indian pangolins, were born last month. Reproductive health is a good indicator of the overall health of a species in captivity. Nandan Kanan has been promoting itself as an institution that can conserve species and it has been doing so,” said the zoo director, Ajit Pattnaik.  “To provide the best care we employ three veterinary surgeons. Besides, we have a well-equipped hospital with adequate infrastructure to monitor animals all the time,” he added.  The efforts were not easy, or cheap. A captive slaughterhouse, first-of-its-kind in the country, was started to provide fresh meat to the carnivores. Doctors conducted ante and post-mortem scan of the animals slaughtered daily by authorities. In addition, the zoo started a fodder farm to provide quality feed to herbivores. The farm is cent per cent self-sufficient. “At Nandan Kanan, health monitoring is carried out on a daily basis. Periodic vaccination and de-worming protocols are followed meticulously. Care is taken to protect the animals from extreme weather. Special arrangements are taken in winter and summer,” Pattnaik said.  Besides, a five-member technical committee constituted by the government regularly monitors and reviews health. “We maintain a liaison with Orissa Veterinary College and avail the services of their health committee in case of emergencies. The services of Centre of Wildlife Health, also functioning from Orissa Veterinary College, are also availed,” said Pattnaik.

Wolverines in California?

March 7, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

ALBANY, Calif.—An Oregon State University graduate student working on a cooperative project with the US Forest Service may have photographed a wolverine, an animal whose presence has not been confirmed in California since the 1920s.  Katie Moriarty, was conducting research on the American marten when a remote-controlled camera she set photographed the animal on February 28, 2008. Forest Service scientists who are experts at detecting rare carnivores believe the photographed animal is a wolverine. The North American wolverine is the largest member of the weasel family. Adult males weigh 26 to 40 pounds, while females are 17 to 26 pounds. It resembles a small bear, with a bushy tail and broad head. Its diet includes carrion, small animals, birds, insects and berries. U.S. populations are found largely in the Northern Cascades in Washington, and Northern Rockies in Montana and Idaho. The nearest known resident population is about 900 miles north of the Tahoe National Forest in Northern Washington.  Scientists will now conduct further detection analysis on the Tahoe National Forest using remote-controlled cameras and barbed wire snares that snag hair. They may also use dogs trained to find wolverine scat. Scientists have found dogs to be three and a half times more successful at detecting rare carnivores than remote-controlled cameras in forested areas like the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Still No Decision on Polar Bear Status

March 8, 2008   www.kansascity.com  By H. JOSEF HEBERT, A.P.

WASHINGTON -- The Interior Department’s inspector general has begun an inquiry into why a decision on listing the polar bear as a threatened species has been delayed for nearly two months. In early 2007, USFWS proposed listing the bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, triggering a year of scientific review. By law a recommendation was to have been made by the Fish and Wildlife Service by Jan. 9, a year after the initial action.  The letter to Inspector General Earl Devaney, signed by six environmental groups, alleges that Fish and Wildlife Director Dale Hall violated the agency’s scientific code of conduct and the Endangered Species Act in delaying the decision after all of the scientific data had already been developed and sent to Washington before Christmas.  The code is aimed at preventing inappropriate political influence as the agency administers the Endangered Species Act. The code came into being because of another inspector general report that detailed widespread political interference on species protection decisions. That report led to the resignation of a senior Interior Department official last May.

Oakland Zoo's Expansion Plans Upset Neighbors

March 8, 2008  www.insidebayarea.com   By Momo Chang

OAKLAND — The Oakland Zoo is planning its first major expansion in nearly 50 years, hoping to push into 45 acres of Knowland Park, boost its annual visitors by 100,000 and add new animal exhibits, a veterinary hospital and a gondola ride.  The new exhibits are part of "California!," which will showcase the state's native plants and animals such as the grizzly bear, mountain lion, jaguar, wolf, eagle and California condor. But some zoo neighbors aren't happy about the zoo's eastward expansion into Knowland Park. They don't want lose open space to the zoo, noting that the 525-acre Knowland Park is public land deeded to the city. The East Bay Zoological Society, which runs the zoo and also maintains Knowland Park, and residents reached consensus on the zoo's master plan in 1998, when the plan was approved by the city council. The master plan included the expansion. Reid said the plan followed 18 months of negotiations between the zoo and residents.  But critics complain the zoo — which attracts about 550,000 visitors a year — has altered its plans from what the council approved in 1998, adding more — and bigger — buildings.

Lansing Zoo's Ailing Rhinoceros Treated

March 8, 2008  www.mlive.com  By A.P.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Potter Park Zoo’s 14-year-old rhino, Ebony, has a chronic foot ailment and nosebleeds, and a team of  35 to 40 zookeepers, veterinarians, firefighters and others gathered Friday to treat her. She was under anesthesia for an hour while they gave her an X-ray, conducted an endoscopy and ultrasound, trimmed her toenails and cleaned a wound on her leg,

Naples Zoo Absorbs Historic Nehrling Garden

March 8, 2008  www.naplesnews.com   By ERIC STAATS

In the 1920s, Henry Nehrling planted a tropical garden in Naples Florida.  His 13-acre horticultural accomplishment sits on the northern edge of the Naples Zoo, which last month unveiled an expansion master plan that is raising concerns about the garden’s fate.  The land is publicly owned by Collier County government and voters approved a referendum in 2004 to save the historic attraction.  The zoo plan identifies Nehrling’s plantings with numbered circles spread through new exhibits for black bears and red wolves, a reef exhibit, a walk-through aviary and an elevated boardwalk through a canopy of trees.  A new road would cut through the western edge of the Nehrling site to get to staff and researcher housing and a maintenance area for the zoo. The zoo’s $70 million, 15- to 20-year plan is being challenged by Naples landscape architect David Driapsa, who is writing a book about Nehrling.  He feels the zoo master plan misses a unique opportunity to restore a cultural landscape that is part of Naples’ pioneer past. He would like to move the zoo out of the 13-acre Nehrling garden site and onto land now planned for a county park. That would allow the county staff to reclaim the Nehrling site as a “central park’’ and open the door to further research that would help re-create the gardens Nehrling painstakingly laid out, he said.

Beck’s Petrel Not Extinct

March 9, 2008 www.birdlife.org

A bird species last seen in the 1920s and long thought to be extinct has been rediscovered near Papua New Guinea.  It was photographed last summer by an Israeli ornithologist in the Bismarck Archipelago, northeast of Papua New Guinea. Hadoram Shirihai, who led an expedition to find the seabird, returned with photographs of more than 30 of the birds and a freshly dead specimen found at sea — evidence that has so far convinced several experts.  Shirihai's photographs and his report were published in "The Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club" on Friday. Unconfirmed sightings of the bird were reported in Australia two years ago.  Beck's petrels are seabirds related to albatrosses and shearwaters. They are one of 66 petrel species and look similar to the Tahitian petrel but have narrower wings.

Central Florida Zoo’s Primate Breeding Success

March 9, 2008  www.orlandosentinel.com  by Tammie Wersinger

There are fewer than 25 lesser spot-nosed guenons on exhibit in AZA institutions, and the Sanford park is one of only a few reproducing them.  This is the second baby born to Makena's mother, who had her pregnancies carefully monitored and tracked through a breeding program called the Species Survival Plan. The plan, coordinated by AZA, aims to maintain genetic diversity -- something participating zoos do by lending, borrowing and establishing breeding colonies or pairs for certain species.  The program manages about 117 species through 70 plans. The Central Florida Zoo participates with 11 animals -- the spot-nosed guenon, spider monkey, black-footed cat, red-ruffed lemur, clouded leopard, cheetah, gibbon, cotton-top tamarin, elephant, Puerto Rican crested toad and Aruba Island rattlesnake.

Inuit Want Say in Polar Bear Listing

March 9, 2008  www.usatoday.com   By Oren Dorell

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has still not ruled on the Status of the Polar Bear.  Polar bears have increased from a population of 5,000 in 1972 to between 20,000 and 25,000 today.  The Center for Biological Diversity submitted a petition in 2005 for endangered species protection based on projected habitat loss due to global warming.  The petition marks the first time a healthy species would be considered at risk under the Endangered Species Act and the first time global warming would be officially labeled a species' main threat. The petition resulted in a 2007 report by the U.S. Geological Survey, which predicted a loss of two-thirds of the world's polar bear population by 2050, based on a projected 42% summertime loss of "optimal polar bear habitat" such as shallow-water sea ice. To the Inuit, the polar bear has been a source of food, clothing and income for millennia, said Duane Smith, president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council in Canada, which represents Inuit across Canada.  The Inuit Circumpolar Council, which represents Native communities in Greenland, Canada, Alaska and Russia, does not want the USFWS to  make a decision until Natives have a greater role.  Big money is at stake. Sport hunters pay between $25,000 and $30,000 each to bag a polar bear.  The Alaska Nanuuq Commission, which represents Eskimos on polar bear issues, supports the listing as long as it allows subsistence hunting by Alaskan Inuit to continue.

Florida Panther Numbers Are Up

March 9, 2008  www.news-press.com

The Florida panther, a subspecies of the cougar. At one time, its population was estimated at 35; now it's about 100, 27 of which are wearing radio collars.  The Florida panther once ranged through South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas and interbred with the Texas cougar and a now-extinct Northeastern subspecies.  Development cut off the Florida panther from other states; the animal is now confined mostly to South Florida, though FP130 ventured as far north as Avon Park before being killed by a vehicle March 21, 2007, and FP62 reached Kissimmee before its collar failed.  Isolation led to inbreeding, which led to genetic defects including heart defects and reproductive disorders. In 1995, state and federal wildlife officials released eight female Texas cougars into South Florida to breed with local panthers and improve the gene pool. The Texas cats produced 20 offspring. "Part of the comeback is the genetic restoration program," said Mark Lotz, a state panther biologist. "The goal was not to increase the population by bringing cats in. But as a side benefit, we had more reproduction occurring."  Since 1981, state and federal agencies have put radio collars on 164 Florida panthers. The agencies regularly track and sometimes capture collared cats.

San Diego Zoo Joins Native Seeds Coalition

March 10, 2008  www.imperialvalleynews.com

SAN DIEGO California - The San Diego Zoo's Beckman Center for Conservation and Research is teaming teams up with the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians to create a unique effort sponsored by The Burpee Foundation to restore and revitalize the tribe's traditional ecological knowledge of native plants and their uses. The partnership, called Burpee's Native Seeds for Native Americans Program, will join the expertise of scientists from the San Diego Zoo with the experience and knowledge of tribal members, to create outreach efforts that educate and empower tribal youth about their cultural and environmental heritage. "The San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park is devoted not only to preserving animal species but also plant species," said Bryan Endress Ph.D., associate director of applied plant ecology for the Zoo. "We value the contribution of native people's ecological knowledge to address global conservation issues including the sustainable management of native ecosystems." Through the Native Seeds program tribal interns will learn to identify local native plants, discover stories on how these plants have been used and explore the connections between native plants and wildlife. Resources and expertise from the Native Seed Gene Bank will be used to teach methods of seed collection, cleaning and propagation, while the more than 1,000 acres of native habitat preserved at the Wild Animal Park, the traditional land of the San Pasqual Band, will be utilized to teach ecological research tools and methods crucial for native plant restoration and management. Burpee's Native Seeds Program will also support a Kumeyaay-based native plant education program at the Park for guests and students.

Memphis Zoo Expansion Opposition

March 10, 2008  community.myeyewitnessnews.com

MEMPHIS, TN - The Memphis Zoo recently removed trees on a four acre piece of land to make way for a new exhibit, so 2 women formed "Citizens To Preserve Overton Park". The original CPOP was founded in 1957 to fight a government proposal to extend Interstate-40 through Overton Park, but disbanded three decades later after the plan was eventually dropped.  The goal for the new CPOP is to raise awareness in the community about the Memphis Zoo's expansion projects. They claim the zoo didn't involve the public in the decision and feel the forest is too precious to be sacrificed for exhibits.  But Brian Carter, a spokesperson for the zoo, says all of their expansion plans, including this latest one, have been available to the public since the mid 1980's. The women realize it's too late to save the four acres, but are worried about the 17 acres the zoo also owns around Rainbow Lake.  Carter says there are no development plans in place for the lake acreage.  He says the zoo's master plan has reserved the area for a minimal impact forest trail exhibit. As for the exhibit currently under construction, it's called the Teton Trek.  It's located next to Northwest Passage and will feature elk, grizzlies, timber wolves and trumpeter swans when it opens in the summer of 2009.  Zoo leaders say the display will replicate the natural beauty of Yellowstone National Park.

SeaWorld Nurses Abandoned Seal Pups

May 10, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com 

Now that a judge has ordered the city to remove the rope barrier put up at the Children's Pool in La Jolla to protect a colony of harbor seals during the pupping season, at least two seal pups have been abandoned. The malnourished pair are being nursed back to health at SeaWorld, at the request of the National Marine Fisheries Service. The federal agency has the task of protecting marine mammals in spite of a state court ruling that declared that people, rather than seals, must be given preference at the Children's Pool beach. What a pity that some sightseers have taken advantage of the situation by getting too close to the seals and spooking them, to the detriment of the most vulnerable members of the colony – nursing pups.

Australian & New Zealand Frog Program

May 10, 2008  news.theage.com.au

Of Australasia's 220 frog species, 47 are considered endangered, and Australasian zoos have announced the creation of 17 projects to help 14 different types of frog.  The zoos, which include Taronga, Auckland, Perth, Melbourne and Cairns Tropical zoos, will also try to raise $400,000 for the global frog conservation program Amphibian Ark.  Taronga Zoo director Guy Cooper said "Taronga Zoo is currently supporting the Booroolong Frog, native to south-western NSW, with a breeding project conducted with NSW Department of Environment and climate Change. The first Booroolong Frogs to be bred in captivity were released by Taronga last month, just one year after the zoo started a breeding program to save the tiny amphibian which has suffered unprecedented population declines recently."  The Booroolong Frog program followed Taronga's establishment of the Corroboree Frog program two years ago, Mr Cooper said.  Auckland Zoo has a program to help Archey's Frogs, while Perth Zoo has a program to help the Roseate Frog, the Orange-bellied Frog and the Sunset Frog.  Scientists believe about 165 of the world's known frog species may already be extinct.

Pygmy Hippo Photographed in Wild

March 10, 2008  www.cnn.com 

LONDON, England -- There are thought to be fewer than 3,000 pygmy hippos left in the wild, and there has been concern for their future because of wars, poaching and habitat destruction.  They survive in isolated pockets in rivers and swamps in the dense west African forests of countries including Ivory Coast, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.  Recently scientists from the Zoological Society of London, Flora and Fauna International and Liberia's Forestry Development Agency set up extensive monitoring of Sapo National Park with special hidden cameras to try to discover how much the hippo had suffered from Liberia's brutal civil wars.  Within three days they had pictures. Ben Collen, ZSL research fellow and team leader said: "The ZSL's EDGE program identified the pygmy hippo as a species in need of urgent conservation attention and so we set out to previously war-torn Liberia, one of the species' last refuges, to search for survivors. Following two devastating civil wars, scientifically driven conservation action is essential to the continued survival of this highly threatened species."  The camera traps will remain in place as part of an ongoing monitoring program for the species. The information from the monitoring programmer will be collated, together with information on threats to the species, to produce an accurate population estimate and conservation plan.

Sumatran Tiger Born at SF Zoo

March 10, 2008  www.mercurynews.com  By Linda Goldston

San Francisco’s chief veterinarian Jacqueline Jencek has been monitoring Sumatran tiger, Leanne's progress through a video camera to prevent disturbing the 230-pound tiger who gave birth Thursday morning. It will be at least a week before Jencek and others go near the new mother and baby.  It is the first birth of a Sumatran tiger at the zoo since 1956. The species is critically endangered, with only a few hundred left in the wild, 210 in zoos around the world.
Jencek watched part of the 45-minute birth through the camera and is also using a baby monitor to track any sound from the cub. Some of the nesting box cannot be seen through the video camera. Father, George, can be seen in his outdoor grotto during zoo visiting hours. Male tigers play no role in the baby's care.

Madagascar Forest Destruction Slows

May 10, 2008  www.enn.com  By Ed Harris, Reuters

PORT LOUIS -- Madagascar is home to hundreds of species from chameleons and lemurs to baobab trees. More than 90 percent of its mammals are found nowhere else and all but one of its 217 amphibian species are endemic. The island hopes to keep 15 million acres, or about 10 percent of its surface area, as nature reserves and has successfully reduced the destruction of its protected forests eight-fold according to James MacKinnon, who works for Conservation International in Madagascar.  Deforestation across Madagascar has come down to 0.5 percent, MacKinnon added. The main causes destruction are clearing trees for farms and burning wood to make charcoal.  In 2003 President Marc Ravalomanana began a combination of tree-planting, community involvement and the extension of reserves.

Primates Combine Calls to Convey Meaning

March 10, 2008  www.eurekalert.org 

“In linguistics, morphemes are usually defined as ‘the smallest meaningful units in the grammar of a language,’” according to Klaus Zuberbühler of the University of St. Andrews—for instance, a word such as “cat” or a prefix such as “un-.” He and colleague Kate Arnold recently completed a study of the vocal behavior of forest monkeys.  Male putty-nosed monkeys (Cercopithecus nictitans) produce different alarm-call series in response to a number of disturbances, including leopards and crowned eagles, earlier studies had shown. Call series consisting of “pyows” are a common response to leopards, while series of “hacks” and “hacks” followed by “pyows” are given to eagles, the researchers said. In addition, males assemble “pyows” and “hacks” into unique “pyow-hack” sequences. Zuberbühler and colleague Kate Arnold, provide evidence that the various “hacks” and “pyows” of male putty-nosed monkey contain at least three types of information: 1) the event witnessed, 2) the caller’s identity, and 3) whether he intends to travel, all of which are recognized by other monkeys.  The study appears in the March 11th issue of Current Biology.

Amphibian Response to Clear Cutting Documented

March 10, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

COLUMBIA, Mo. – The number of amphibians drastically decreases in forest areas that are clearcut, according to previous studies. A University of Missouri researcher, Ray Semlitsch and his graduate students at MU found, during a period of two years, that significantly more salamanders and frogs evacuated clearcut treatments than entered, although the researchers cannot say what portion also may have died or retreated underground. Documenting this evacuation response is important because animals are potentially available later for re-colonization once the forest begins to grow back.  The results of the study present two primary implications for timber management that would benefit amphibians. First, timber harvesters producing clear cuts that are small (within a six-acre area) may improve the chances of amphibians being able to move out of the area until sufficient reforestation occurs. Second, if harvesters leave coarse woody debris (everything over two inches in diameter) on the ground, it will contribute to the amphibians’ survival by creating food, maintaining moisture and providing shelter. The Ringed Salamander (Ambystoma annulatum) is a species unique to the Ozarks

Handheld DNA detector

March 10, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

A researcher at National University in San Diego has taken a mathematical approach to a biological problem - how to design a portable DNA detector. Writing in the International Journal of Nanotechnology, he describes a mathematical simulation to show how a new type of nanoscale transistor might be coupled to a DNA sensor system to produce a characteristic signal for specific DNA fragments in a sample. A portable DNA sequencer could make life easier for environmental scientists testing contaminated sites. Clinicians and medical researchers too could use it to diagnose genetic disorders and study problems in genetics. Such a sensor might also be used to spot the weapons of the bioterrorist or in criminal forensic investigations. Nevertheless, DNA biosensors are already becoming ubiquitous in many areas, but the instrumentation is usually limited to the laboratory setting. Afuwape says that a commercially viable, off-the-shelf handheld DNA biosensor that could be used in environmental, medical, forensics and other applications might be possible if researchers could unravel the basic molecular machinery operating at the interface between sample and detector.

Groups Sue Over Polar Bear

March 11, 2008  www.latimes.com

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA -- Three conservation groups sued the Department of the Interior on Monday for missing a deadline on a decision to list polar bears as threatened because of the loss of Arctic sea ice.  Polar bears depend on sea ice for hunting seals, denning and giving birth. Conservation groups claim the loss of sea ice due to global warming is accelerating. "Doing nothing means extinction for the polar bear. That's what the administration is doing -- nothing," said Kassie Siegel, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity and the lead author of the 2005 petition that sought the listing.  Her group, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace Inc. asked the federal court in San Francisco to order administration officials to make the decision. Bruce Woods, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesman in Anchorage, said he could not comment on pending legal action. "We are still working as fast as we can to get the decision announced."  Alaska has the only two polar bear populations in the United States: the Beaufort Sea group off the state's north coast and the Chukchi Sea group, shared with Russia, off Alaska's northwest coast.

Oklahoma University Adds Exotics to Vet School

March 11, 2008  ocolly.com  By CANDACE BENSON

Oklahoma State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital is getting ready to open its zoo, exotic and wildlife ward.  “Treating the zoo, exotic and wildlife animals is a stand-alone service, requiring its own specialist,” said Mark Neer, director of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.  Renovations for the zoo, exotic and wildlife ward will be completed by the end of March, and clients will be seen by the beginning of April. Cornelia Ketz-Riley, a veterinarian with a background in the zoo, exotic and wildlife field, will move to the hospital faculty from Kansas State University. An intern will assist Ketz-Riley in the new unit.  Department head, Charles MacAllister, said “Once the zoo, exotic and wildlife ward is open, we hope to have cooperative training agreements with the area zoos,” MacAllister said. In past years, the Oklahoma City Zoo and the Tulsa Zoo participated in these programs. Both zoos have lead veterinarians who completed their residencies at Oklahoma State University through these cooperative training agreements, MacAllister said.

Busch Garden Prepares “Jungala”

March 11, 2008  www.scnow.com  By Richard Mullins

TAMPA —The “eyeball-to-eyeball experience” is a major theme of the new Busch Gardens “Jungala” set to open April 5.  At one spot, the tigers will be close enough to hear your breathing through a 3-foot clutch of bamboo — or rather, reinforced steel poles crafted to look like bamboo. In another spot they can play tug-of-war with a tiger (through a steel screen) and see orangutans climbing ropes 30 feet overhead.  The 4-acre, $16 million project includes exhibits, restaurants and playground areas according to Mark Rose, vice president of design and engineering.  It is the most ambitious construction and development in the Tampa park’s history, and a big bet that animals set in richly designed environments will prove a powerful attraction in Florida’s tourism market.  The up-close and personal nature of Jungala is designed to attract visitors looking for more animal interaction. Glenn Young, vice president of zoological operations said after the tiger attack in San Francisco, zoo staff went back over exhibit designs and made extra changes to make sure walls between tigers and guests were high enough and that the simulated stone landscaping had no ledges large enough for tiger paws to grab hold.

Profile of WCS Director of Planning and Design

March 11, 2008  www.nydailynews.com   BY SONDRA WOLFER

Sue Chin is the director of planning and design for the Wildlife Conservation Society's exhibit and graphic arts department, based at the Bronx Zoo.  She is responsible for exhibits there and at the Central Park, Prospect Park and Queens zoos, and the New York Aquarium.  She has been a regular at the zoo since age 13, when her family moved from outside London to the Bronx. In high school and through college, she worked summer jobs at the zoo, giving tours and talks about conservation. In her final year as an architecture student, she got an internship in the zoo's exhibit and graphic arts department, and her goals changed. "I realized I could actually combine my two passions, which was wildlife and design," Chin said.  After college, the WCS hired her as an exhibit designer. She has participated in the design of several of the zoo's most notable exhibits, including the Butterfly Garden, Tiger Mountain and the new African Wild Dog exhibit. She was also the architectural project manager and a designer for the renowned Congo Gorilla Forest exhibit. Currently she is working on the upcoming Madagascar exhibit, opening this summer in the old Lion House - which has been adapted to become a green facility. The exhibit will highlight the wildlife of Madagascar and the society's conservation efforts there.

Tigers Discussed at Stockholm Meeting

March 11, 2008   www.enn.com  By Adam Cox

STOCKHOLM -- Of the remaining five sub-species of tiger, the South China tiger could soon be extinct and the Sumatran tiger is the next most threatened sub-species. The WWF's tiger coordinator in Nepal, Bivash Pandav, said he believed there were some 3,500 tigers left in the world. (There were about 5,000-7,500 in 1982.)  In India, the tiger population has dwindled to about 1,400, 60 percent fewer than in 2002. (40,000 at the start of the 20th century)   Pandav said in Sumatra, Indonesia, the number of tigers had dwindled to about 400 and the situation was now critical as forest areas have been decimated.  In 1982 most of Indonesia’s forest land was intact. By 2004 less than half was left. By 2050, based on current trends, more than 90 percent of its forests may be gone due to logging, a potentially disastrous outcome for Sumatran tigers which depend on the forest for survival.  But additional pressure on governments to stop poaching, in particular from China, and other conservationist measures such as habitat protection could make a huge difference, he said. "We can easily have 10,000 tigers, if everything goes as per our wish," said Pandav, adding that could be achieved in as little as 10 years.  Sarah Christie, a program manager for the Zoological Society of London, highlighted work being done by zoos to protect tigers, saying nearly a 10th of the money spent on tiger protection came from zoos. She said in the case of Sumatra, the total was 60 percent.

Drinking Water Contaminated by Pharmaceuticals

March 11, 2008  www.enn.com  By A.P.

Antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones - have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans," an Associated Press investigation shows. Water in 24 metropolitan areas, including Detroit, Louisville, southern California and Northern New Jersey is particularly at risk. Studies by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Environmental Protection Agency have found fish, frogs, and other aquatic animals sporting both male and female sex organs, freaks of nature attributed primarily to the rising drug levels being measured in rivers, lakes and streams.  Though the AP report and other studies are likely to fuel the craze for bottled water, they shouldn't. Much bottled water is actually filled with tap water and is therefore likely to be just as drug-addled.  Instead, consumers should consider installing filters that use activated carbon and ozone, substances that are used in Europe to remove drugs from drinking water. Meanwhile, consumers faced with disposing of leftover drugs should return them to the pharmacy for proper disposal. Barring this, it is better to bag them tightly and toss them in the trash rather than flush them down the toilet. Alternatively, cities could mount a "pharmaceutical pick-up" the way many of them now sponsor an annual hazardous waste pick-up. Last Earth Day (April 21, 2007), the Superior Watershed Partnership in northern Michigan collected over one ton of unwanted pharmaceuticals in just three hours.

North American Wolverine Will Not Be Listed

March 11, 2008  www.epa.gov

After a review of the best available scientific and commercial information, the USFWS has determined that the population of North American wolverine (Gulo gulo luscus) in the United States should not be listed under the ESA. This finding, made on March 11, 2008, is available on the internet at: http://www.regulations.gov   The currently accepted taxonomy classifies wolverines worldwide as a single species, Gulo gulo. The wolverine has a holarctic distribution. Old and New World wolverines are divided into separate Old World and New World subspecies. Wolverines of Eurasia (Old World) comprise the subspecies G. g. gulo. Wolverines in the contiguous United States are a part of the New World or North American (United States and Canada) subspecies, G. g. luscus (Kurten and Rausch 1959, p. 19; Pasitschniak-Arts and Lariviere 1995, p. 1). The two subspecies differ in minor aspects of skull morphology (Kurten and Rausch 1959, p. 19), but significant differences in ecology, behavior, demography, or natural history do not appear to exist. Most authors, when discussing these aspects of wolverine biology, refer to New and Old World wolverines interchangeably (e.g., Pasitschniak-Arts and Lariviere 1995, entire). We consider the Old and New World subspecies to be similar and reliable enough to refer to information on Old World wolverines (G. g. gulo) as a surrogate for the North American wolverine in this finding when such information is not available specifically for the North American subspecies.

Evolved Resistance to Toxic Newt

March 11, 2008  www.enn.com 

A new study published this week in PLoS Biology investigated the toxic rough-skinned newt and found that, despite being among the most poisonous known animals, in some regions these newts have no effect on their main predator, the garter snake.  The snakes have evolved resistance to a poison so strong that one-newts-worth can kill thousands of mice.  The garter snake and the rough-skinned newt are a typical example of a co-evolutionary arms race: two groups, in this case predators versus prey, competing to survive and reproduce optimally. The two groups evolve interacting traits as each struggles to out-compete the other; the prey animal may evolve poison and, in response, the predator evolves resistance and then the prey evolves a stronger poison, etc. However, a paper published this week by Charles Hanifin and colleagues finds that in the newt-snake system, some snakes have managed to "escape" from this battle by becoming super-resistant.

Harlequin frog Rediscovered in Colombia

March 11, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

BOGOTA, Colombia —After 14 years without having been seen, the critically endangered Carrikeri Harelquin frog (Atelopus carrikeri) was recently rediscovered by several young scientists from the Conservation Leadership Programme (Project Atelopus) in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Mountains. Colombia has more than 583 amphibian species. Unfortunately, in the past several years, there has been a decline in amphibian populations especially in higher elevations in Colombia.  The Carrikeri Harelquin frog is native to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Mountains in Colombia’s Magdalena province and lives in the páramo habitat.  The Paramo is a neotropical grassland ecosystem in high elevations - between the upper forest line (about 3,100 meters in altitude) and the permanent snow line (about 5,000 meters). Nearly 57 percent of this ecosystem worldwide is found in Colombia.  The frog is approximately five centimeters in size and was found at an attitude of 4,000 meters.

6 West Nile Bird Fatalities in SD County

March 11, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com
SAN DIEGO – Six dead birds discovered around San Diego County have tested positive for West Nile virus, the earliest in the year the disease has ever been detected, according to the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health.  A dead hawk found in Escondido in January was the first, and since then,  three more hawks, a crow and an owl in Poway, Fallbrook, Santee, Bay Ho and Ramona, according to the DEH.  They way this indicates that mosquitoes are surviving the winter months and continue to spread the infection. A wet winter and warm spring has created ideal mosquito breeding conditions, which could mean that West Nile virus activity may increase this year. 

H5N1 Bird Flu Kills Civits in Vietnam

March 11, 2008  www.earthtimes.org

HANOI - Bird flu has killed four endangered Owston’s palm civets in northern Vietnam, the first time the H5N1 virus has been confirmed in the species. The four civets died between February 7 and 18 at Cuc Phuong National Park, 120 kilometres south of Hanoi, said Truong Quang Bich, director of the park. "Tests were positive for H5N1," Bich said. "We haven't been able to confirm that the virus has mutated to easily infect mammals, but we are afraid it has," Nam said. The H5N1 virus has been found in numerous animal species other than birds in other countries, including cats, pigs and tigers. The civets, which were being kept in a semi-wild enclosure at the park's conservation centre, had not been fed poultry but he suspected that infected wild birds might have entered their habitat and spread the disease.  "Another civet died at the centre earlier this month, but tests showed it was negative for H5N1," Bich said. "The remaining eight civets at the centre are in good condition."

Detroit Zoo Silverback Dies

March 11, 2008  www.wxyz.com

ROYAL OAK, Mich. – The Detroit Zoo’s 34-year-old Silverback Sunshine, died on Tuesday. The 550-pound western lowland gorilla was being treated for a flu-like illness for the past few weeks and his condition rapidly worsened on Tuesday. He had been treated for heart disease for the past few years and received his most recent cardiac workup in December. Cardiovascular disease, similar to that in humans, is the leading cause of death in captive gorillas. Sunshine has been on loan from the Columbus Zoo since 1996 and was scheduled to return to Columbus with his companion, Toni, a 36-year-old female western lowland gorilla. Toni is still scheduled to go to Columbus.  The Detroit Zoo has a bachelor group of three young male gorillas and expects to receive a breeding group of gorillas in the next year or two. In addition to the gorillas, the Zoo’s Great Apes of Harambee habitat houses 10 chimpanzees, two mandrills and a Diana monkey. Western lowland gorillas can live into their 30s in the wild and into their 40s in captivity. A necropsy is scheduled. 

Flamingo Health Study

March 11, 2008  www.eurekalert.org 

Dr David Harper, of the Department of Biology at the University of Leicester, has been studying lesser flamingos on inland soda lakes in Kenya and Tanzania for nine years. He and members of his team have satellite-tagged birds to find exactly where they go, studied their feeding and their behavior and why sometimes several thousand die suddenly. Harper said: “The deaths of lesser flamingos in East Africa over the past 15 years have sometimes been blamed on poisoning from mankind’s industries or the consequence of too much fertilizer or human wastes in the lakes. But people who blame human wastes should go to India to see how well lesser flamingos thrive and how pink they are, when they are surrounded by heavy industry and extremely polluted water!”  I watched 20,000 lesser flamingos happily feeding on tidal mudflats in front of an oil refinery, a petrochemical plant and creeks bringing untreated waste from millions of people in the slums of Bombay. In Porbandar, 8,000 stood knee deep alongside rubbish, cowpats and wastewater running in from surrounding houses and factories. Dr Harper was funded by the Darwin Initiative and now plans to write a full grant proposal to link with Indian universities and conservation groups to better understand how flamingos can thrive in waste water. 

North Island Brown Kiwi Hatches at National Zoo

March 12, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Early Friday morning, March 7, one of the world’s most endangered species—a North Island brown kiwi—hatched at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo Bird House. Keepers had been incubating the egg for five weeks, following a month long incubation by the chick’s father, carefully monitoring it for signs of pipping: the process in which the chick starts to break through the shell. The chick remained in an isolet for four days and is now in a specially designed brooding box. Webcam access will begin Friday, March 14, on the Zoo’s Web site at http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/Birds/Kiwi/default.cfm . Since kiwis are nocturnal, the best time to view the chick exploring and foraging in its box will be in the evening. Using DNA samples swabbed from the inside of the egg and from the bird’s beak, National Zoo’s geneticists hope to decipher its sex in the coming weeks. This is only the third time in the Zoo’s history that a kiwi has successfully hatched. The first hatching occurred in 1975 and was the first to occur outside of New Zealand. The National Zoo did not have another successful hatching until 2005 – a male bird named Manaia.  Kiwis in captivity are extremely rare—only four zoos outside of New Zealand have successfully bred kiwis, and only three U.S. zoos, including the National Zoo, exhibit them.

African Elephant Contraception

March 12, 2008  www.popularmechanics.com   By Erin McCarthy

South African authorities recently announced that they would begin culling elephants as early as May 1.  Jeffery Zuba, veterinarian at the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park, and colleagues at Disney's Animal Kingdom and Colorado University, has proposed using laparoscopic surgery—a minimally invasive procedure utilizing fiberoptic instruments—to permanently sterilize free-ranging elephants.  Although laparoscopic surgery is fairly commonplace in small animals, it's almost unheard of in large ones. Zuba, in conjunction with endoscope maker Karl Storz and Mark Stetter of Disney's Animal Kingdom, developed the supersize instruments in the mid-'90s.  Laparoscopy has a number of advantages over conventional surgery, according to Zuba, including a quicker recovery time, lower chance of infection, improved prognosis and better diagnostic opportunities. In order to avoid having to sterilize every female in the park, the team decided to go after each herd's bull. “If you can stop that one male from breeding, but allow him to keep his testosterone,  he'll chase all the other bulls away," Zuba said. “So you've effectively contracepted all those females for anywhere from 5 to 20 years." Culling, in contrast, typically requires killing all of the animals in a herd—male, female and juvenile—because an elephant's survival depends on its role in a family unit.

The sterlization procedure goes a little something like this: Scientists choose their bull, then dart the elephant from a helicopter with an anesthetic agent 10,000 times more powerful than morphine. Once it's knocked out, about 8 to 10 minutes later, they move the elephant via flatbed truck to the surgical site. Because an elephant's testicles are located internally behind the vertebrae, surgery must be performed while the animal is standing; the scientists use a sling and a crane truck, plus leg splints, to keep him in position.  After sliding the endotracheal tube down the elephant's throat and attaching it to a specially designed ventilator (also known as intubation, in which a machine breathes for the animal), the vets perform the surgery with laparoscopic instruments and virtual goggles, which show the surgeon exactly what the scope is seeing. After the elephant is sewn up, a reversal agent is administered and “they stand up two minutes later like nothing happened," Zuba said. The elephant, fitted with a GPS collar, is then tracked for a year.  Zuba has now performed 13 vasectomies on bulls, and the team has plats to return to Africa this summer to continue its work. See www.popularmechanics.com

Study of Sparrow Ovulation Order

March 12, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Keith Stockman a biologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recently studied  Lincoln’s sparrows in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, from laying through fledging. He writes in the March 12 issue of PLOS Biology, that first-laid eggs are, in fact, the least likely to hatch at all. It is a well-documented fact that being born just a day or so later often results in the youngest hatchlings death because they’re too small to compete against stronger siblings. But up until now, such observations have failed to take into account what happens to eggs before they hatch.  Female Lincoln’s sparrows lay one egg per day, usually producing three to five eggs in total. While carefully observing and tracking the tiny birds for three breeding seasons, Sockman and his team noticed that typically, mothers do not settle down and start incubating the eggs right away, since they still have other concerns during the laying cycle, such as foraging for food.  He believes this contributes to the lower probability that first-laid eggs will hatch – but also helps  ensure that overall, a greater number of reasonably healthy, strong chicks hatch and go on to develop into young birds.  He now intends to examine what, if any repercussions laying order has once young birds reach adulthood. “The severely competitive environment in the nest may have consequences on the individual's ability to compete for resources and mates the following year when it is reproductively mature,” said Sockman.

Brazilian Tapir Gets Acupuncture

March 12, 2008  www.ksat.com 

SAN ANTONIO – Previously, when traditional medicine failed to help an elderly Brazilian tapir with aches and pains, San Antonio zookeepers tried acupuncture.  "I got radio calls (saying), 'Oh my gosh, there is something wrong. George is running around,'" said zoo supervisor Anita Balan,  "So it obviously helps."  Veterinarian Ben Espy returned to the zoo on Tuesday and inserted needles on 34-year-old George while he was fed. It will take a couple of days to find out if the latest treatment helps again.

Java Zoo Hatches Komodo Dragons

March 12, 2008  uk.reuters.com  By Reuters

SURABAYA, Indonesia -- Fourteen Komodo dragons were hatched in incubators at the Indonesian zoo in Surabaya on the main Java island over the weekend, bringing to 41 the number of the reptiles in their collection. The zoo succeeded in hatching 13 eggs in the first attempt during the 1990s.  "We collected all the eggs in September 2007 from Komodo cages, and now 14 eggs have already hatched while one has failed to hatch," said Nur Ali Faisol, head of the animal nursery.  The lizards are generally solitary animals except during the breeding season. Their life expectancy is generally between 20 to 40 years and they are listed as endangered. There are fewer than 5,000 of them still alive.  See them hatch at:

Oregon Zoo's California Condors

March 12, 2008  www.oregonlive.com  By Katy Muldoon

The Oregon Zoo's endangered California condors laid two eggs this week, adding to one laid in February and two laid March 1.  The parents damaged the February egg and the embryo did not survive, but the four newest eggs appear viable, and due to hatch in late April and early May, according to Shawn St. Michael, curator of birds. The zoo expects more eggs will follow from its six breeding condor pairs.  Last year seven eggs were produced. Three of the 2007 chicks survived, with additional experience, survival rates should improve. Portland's zoo joined the nationwide California condor breeding program when it opened a breeding facility in 2003 on a remote swath of Clackamas County forest and meadow owned by Metro, which operates the zoo. The first Oregon-hatched California condor, a male, arrived in May 2004. He was freed in September 2005 at Pinnacles National Monument in central California. Biologists report that he is thriving, flying as far as Big Sur, Calif., where he has been spotted feeding on sea lion carcasses. Three more Oregon-hatched condors are to be released Saturday at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, north of the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona. As of February, the population at the 4 U.S. centers had grown to 298 birds, 144 of them flying free.

Oldest Rhino Celebrates 50th Birthday

March 12, 2008  www.wfrv.com

HODENHAGEN, Germany -- Charly the white rhino is celebrating turning 50. The Serengeti Park where he lives in northern Germany gave him a birthday "cake" of fruit and vegetables.  Fabrizio Sepe, the head of the safari adventure park says Charly is the world's oldest rhino in captivity - if not in the world. "We presume that these animals don't grow older than 38 or 40 in the wild”  Charly came to the park from South Africa in 1972, and has fathered 31 calves.  The Park’s vets are confident he can look forward to many more years in the park.

How Vocal Learning Evolved

March 12, 2008  www.plos.org

DURHAM, N.C. — While all birds vocalize, for most of them these sounds are genetically hardwired. Only songbirds, parrots and hummingbirds have the ability to learn songs. This type of vocal learning is similar to the way that humans learn to speak. In all three groups of birds the brain structures for singing and learning to sing are embedded in areas controlling movement, and neurobiologists at Duke University Medical Center have found that these areas share many functional similarities with the brain areas for singing.  They speculate that the brain pathways used for vocal learning may have evolved out of the pathways used for motor control. The pathways, which power limb and body movements, constrained both the location and circuitry of structures for learning and imitating sounds. The findings may also help solve the riddle of why humans talk with our hands and voice, but chimps can talk only with their hands. "In its most specialized way, spoken language is the ability to control the learned movements of our larynx," said senior author Erich Jarvis. "Gesturing is something that goes along naturally with speech. The brain areas used for gesturing may have been co-opted and used for speech," Jarvis said. The results appear in the March 12, 2008 edition of the journal PLoS ONE. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and a National Institutes of Health

Dengue Fever May Spread to U.S.

March 12, 2008  www.enn.com  By Tan Ee Lyn

HONG KONG -- 50 million people in Africa, Asia and Latin America contracted mosquito-borne dengue fever last year  The viral disease spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, has no vaccine or drugs to treat it and due to international travel and climate change, the mosquito's habitat is spreading.  In January, health officials warned that the disease was poised to move across the United States. It has been spreading aggressively in Latin America and the Caribbean, reaching epidemic levels last year.  Strategies developed in places such as Singapore might provide vital information for other countries seeking to combat the virus and the mosquitoes that spread it. Family doctors in Singapore look out for patients with suspicious symptoms. When cases are confirmed, researchers try to nail down the specific dengue virus subtype, of which there are four, and the location of the outbreak. Health workers aggressively control breeding sites by regularly spraying pesticides in parks and gardens. Government inspectors fine people for allowing water to build up in flower pots which is a favorite breeding site. WHO advisor, John Ehrenberg says there is little to stop dengue from spreading. He compares it to West Nile virus which appeared in New York in 1999 and then spread across the United States, Canada and Mexico. West Nile killed 98 people in the United States last year.

Secrets of Successful Ecosystems

March 12, 2008  www.nature.com

The productivity and biodiversity of an ecosystem is significantly affected by the rate at which organisms move between different parts of the ecosystem, according to new research published March 13 in the journal Nature. The study used a lab-based artificial ecosystem of communities of bacteria to examine what happens when the bacteria move around and evolve to live in different parts of the ecosystem over the course of hundreds of generations. The scientists measured the effect this dispersal of species has on the productivity and biodiversity of the ecosystem over all. 'Productive' ecosystems are defined as those that support a large total amount of living matter, from tiny microbes up to plants and animals. Scientists refer to this measurement of the amount of life present as an ecosystem's 'biomass'. A number of studies in the last decade have shown that ecosystems that have a high biodiversity - meaning they are rich in variety of species - are also highly productive over short time scales, but until now the underlying processes creating this link between high levels of biodiversity and productivity over evolutionary time scales have not been understood. Dr Craig Maclean, one of the authors of the study at the NERC Centre for Population Biology at Imperial College London, explains that an intermediate rate of dispersal creates a 'happy medium' wherein species move around enough to ensure that harsh environments are adapted to, but not so much that they become generalists.  "Dispersal constantly brings new individuals and new genes into harsh environments, which is essential for evolutionary adaptation to difficult environments. When species adapt to new environments it increases the productivity of the ecosystem and it can increase the biodiversity, as movement between different parts of an ecosystem provides more 'niches' for species to exploit." Both the biodiversity and productivity of an ecosystem are at a peak when there is an intermediate rate of dispersal of species - not too little and not too much - between different parts of the ecosystem.

Columbus Zoo Director Retires

March 13, 2008 www.columbusdispatch.com   By Kathy Lynn Gray

Jerry Borin, who has served as executive director of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium for 16 years, plans to retire at the end of the year.  He took over the position in 1992 when then-director Jack Hanna became the zoo’s international ambassador, promoting the zoo and wildlife through television programs.

Salisbury Zoo Hires New Director

March 13, 2008  www.dailytimesonline.com    By Greg Latshaw

SALISBURY, Maryland  -- Joel M. Hamilton, 48, has been hired as the new director of the Salisbury Zoo.  Since 2001 he has run a firm in Providence, R.I., which has worked with eight zoos to draft  "master plans" and create exhibits, he said.  He previously served as a curator at Providence's Roger Williams Park Zoo in a tropical climates wing and worked eight years at the Dallas Zoo, ultimately supervising a bird department with at least 450 animals. Beginning March 31, he will oversee a budget of $955,000 and a full-time staff of 14 people, according to city estimates. His yearly salary will be $65,063.  His immediate priority is to prepare the zoo so in 18 months it will secure its re-accreditation with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in Silver Spring, Md., said Jim Caldwell, director of the city Department of Public Works, which oversees the zoo. Salisbury has been accredited since the designation began in 1974, AZA spokesman Steve Feldman said. About 10 percent of 2,500 U.S. "wildlife exhibitors" are accredited.

David Attenborough Launches Butterfly World

March 13, 2008  www.guardian.co.uk  By Jessica Aldred

Sir David Attenborough yesterday launched a new £25m conservation project aimed at reversing has been described as the "silent natural disaster" that is threatening butterfly species in the UK.  Sir David joined founders, trustees and naturalists to unveil the plans for Butterfly World, a visitor attraction that will also act as a conservation vehicle to fund research and community project to save endangered butterfly species.  The initiative comes after figures in a report last year showed that 76% of British butterfly species are declining at a rapid rate. The report, The State of Britain's Butterflies, measured butterfly populations since the 1970s. It found that five UK species have become extinct. The 54 remaining species were found to be declining faster than birds or plants. Butterfly World, planned on a 26-acre site in Hertfordshire, will be the world's biggest "walk-through butterfly experience", with more than 10,000 tropical butterflies in flight at any one time.  It will also incorporate underground caverns featuring tropical creatures including scorpions and spiders.  Work will start on the project, which will feature both indigenous and tropical species, within the next few weeks.  It is expected to attract up to 1 million visitors when it opens in spring 2011.  The project is the vision of butterfly expert Clive Farrell and is being backed by broadcaster and naturalist David Bellamy. 

Alligator Movement Analysis

March 13, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

University of Utah biologists have discovered that American alligators maneuver silently by using their diaphragm, pelvic, abdominal and rib muscles to shift their lungs like internal floatation devices: toward the tail when they dive, toward the head when they surface and sideways when they roll. The gases in the lungs buoy up the animal, but if shifted forward and backward cause the animal to pivot in a seesaw motion. When the animals displace gases to the right or left side of the body, they roll.  “It allows them to navigate a watery environment without creating a lot of disturbance,” says doctoral student T.J. Uriona. The discovery suggests “special muscles that manipulate the position of the lungs – and thus the center of buoyancy – may be an underappreciated but important means for other aquatic animals to maneuver in water without actively swimming,” says C.G. Farmer, an assistant professor of biology.  Those animals include crocodiles, African clawed frogs, some salamanders, turtles and manatees. The study by Uriona and Farmer will be published in the April 2008 issue of The Journal of Experimental Biology. 

Collapse of Pacific Salmon Stocks

March 13, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By FELICITY BARRINGER

Federal officials are likely to close the Pacific salmon fishery from northern Oregon to the Mexican border because of the collapse of crucial stocks in California’s major watershed. That would be the most extensive closing on the West Coast since the federal government started regulating fisheries. Robert Lohn, regional administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service in Portland, Ore. said “This is the largest collapse of Chinook salmon stocks in 40 years.”
Although the Washington and Alaska fisheries are not affected, the California and Oregon ones produce “some of the most valuable fish, prized all the way to East Coast restaurants,”  Counts of young salmon, whose numbers have dwindled sharply for two years, were the first major indication of the problem. The number of fish that survive more than a year in the ocean, or jacks, determines the abundance of full-grown salmon the next year. The 2007 count of the fall Chinook jacks from the Sacramento River was less than 6 percent of the long-term average, Mr. Lohn said.  The Central Valley salmon runs are concentrated in the Sacramento River, the focus of a water struggle between farmers and irrigation districts on one hand and environmental groups and fishermen on the other.

AZA Zoo Accreditations are Announced

March 13, 2008

Some 2,600 exhibitor licenses awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture every year and only 218 of those have the AZA accreditation. Exhibitor licenses are issued to facilities that show animals to the public. They are evaluated on ever-rising standards, which include animal care, veterinary programs, conservation, education and safety. The AZA requires resubmission every five years to maintain the accreditation. Recently Accredited Zoos include:
San Antonio Zoo, Louisville Zoo, El Paso Zoo, Sacramento Zoo, The Natural Science Center and Animal Discovery of Greensboro, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.

Girl Falls Over Fence at St. Louis Zoo

March 13, 2008  www.nytimes.com   By A.P.

ST. LOUIS  -- A young girl (3-5 years of age) fell over a wooden fence that borders a sun bear exhibit at the St. Louis Zoo, suffering a cut on her head but not coming near the animals.  Neither of the two sun bears at the zoo could have come in contact with the girl because other barriers surround their exhibit: An 8-foot-deep moat, a low-current electric wire and a stone wall separate the bears from the grassy area where the child fell.  The zoo learned about her fall afterward, when an employee saw the mother with the child bleeding in a stroller. The zoo offered first aid and a bandage for the cut. The zoo did not report the fall to any outside agencies as there was no contact, or near contact, between an animal and a visitor. The zoo's horticulturists routinely work in the grassy section near the sun bears where the girl fell.

Al Ain Zoo Gets 5 White Rhinos

March 13, 2008  www.gulfnews.com   By Aftab Kazmi  

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES -- Five white rhinos were brought from South Africa three months ago and have been isolated for quarantine purposes at the Al Ain Zoo.  Managing Director of Al Ain Zoo, Majid Al Mansouri, said  there are about 11,300 white rhinos in the wild today but their population has fast been declining due to poaching and habitat loss. The rhinos will share their new home at the Al Ain Zoo with giraffes, zebras, Thomson’s gazelles, fringe-eared Oryx, dama gazelles and wildebeests.

Lincoln Park Zoo Will Retire Swan Boats

March 13, 2008  www.suntimes.com  BY ANDREW HERRMANN

The Lincoln Park Zoo is planning to replace their iconic swan paddleboats next fall as part of a $11.7 million project to clean up the South Pond and provide a nature tour for visitors rather than a recreational one.  One option would be to adopt pontoons or the Boston-type boat that has a swan design but holds about a dozen people and are paddled by a driver. The swan is an important zoo symbol because it began with a gift of 2 swans from New York's Central Park.  They arrived by rail with a set of instructions on how to keep them alive, and were kept in the South Pond. On Wednesday, the Chicago Park District board agreed to contribute $2.5 million to the pond project. The project, scheduled for completion in spring, 2009,  includes deepening the pond in some places to 15 feet and installing a boardwalk around its perimeter.  Currently, the pond is three to six feet deep, and much of its wildlife dies as the water freezes solid during the cold months. Digging deeper will help with water circulation and give fish and other creature a better chance at surviving winters. The project will also include new outdoor classrooms for school groups and nature lectures. On its bridge -- a favorite spot for photographers who snap city views of the John Hancock Center and other architectural landmarks -- the zoo will install a miniature skyline of tiny buildings so that blind people can understand the view. The rest of the tab will be covered through private fund-raising, zoo officials said.

Sabre-tooths, Lions and Leopards

March 13, 2008  scienceblogs.com

Darren Naish provides a synopsis of a talk entitled 'The deep time history of Britain's felid fauna' - which provides an overview of the fossil and archaeological history - the 'deep time' history - of Europe's cats, concentrating on those of the British Isles. He plans a series of three or four articles,  starting with sabre-toothed cats, lions and leopards, then doing pumas, cheetahs and lynxes, and finishing with jungle cats and wildcats. Links are provided to previous installments. http://scienceblogs.com/tetrapodzoology/2008/03/european_cats_part_ii.php

Investigation of Melbourne Zoo Tiger Death

March 14, 2008  www.news.com.au  

Nakal, a 17-month-old Sumatran tiger, went missing shortly after 4pm yesterday at the Melbourne Zoo; visitors were evacuated and the police called.  The cub was found dead in the tigers' pool about 5.30pm. General curator Dan Maloney said it was unclear how Nakal died. "He appears to have drowned in his exhibit pool,  that he has played in many times.” Nakal, his brother Satu and sister Isha were born as part of the zoo's breeding program in October 2006. They are the offspring of 13-year-old Ramalon and his female mate Binjai, 6, who came to Melbourne from Rotterdam Zoo four years ago. Sumatran tigers are the most endangered tiger species in the world with a population of between 300 and 400.

Irwin's Zoo In Violation of Koala Release Procedures

March 14, 2008  www.news.com.au  By Tuck Thompson

AUSTRALIA Zoo's wildlife hospital has been breaking state law by releasing koalas well away from their prescribed habitats, potentially endangering the animals and other koala populations. The Australian Wildlife Hospital is meant to release recuperated koalas within 5km of where they were found, within the animal's home range. But that didn't happen at least eight times during a five-month period last year, according to environmental officials.  The Environmental Protection Agency has met with the hospital and is now "monitoring compliance", a spokesman said. Australia Zoo's director of veterinary services Dr Jon Hanger defended the zoo's actions: "These koalas were rescued from busy roads, which are not safe areas to return wildlife or in the middle of urban developments."

SF Zoo’s Sumatran Tiger Has Triplets

March 14, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By A.P.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – San Francisco Zoo officials announced last Friday that Leanne had given birth to one cub. Since then, video and audio have confirmed three cubs in the nest box. Leanne and the father, George, were loaned for breeding from an aquarium in Denver and a zoo in San Antonio.

Australia’s Kangaroo Cull

March 14, 2008  www.nytimes.com

SYDNEY, Australia — A former military base is overrun with about 500 kangaroos, according to the authorities in the Australian Capital Territory, which includes Canberra, The kangaroos are endangering themselves as well as other native species and rare plants, and the new Australian government plans to kill 400 of the eastern gray kangaroos. They will be euthanised  by  “sedation by darting, then euthanasia by lethal injection.”  Australia is no stranger to killing kangaroos. Last year, state governments issued permits to cull 3.7 million kangaroos, about 15 percent of the population of the four species licensed for commercial exploitation. However, the government says that less than two-thirds of the quota are shot in any given year.

WWF’s African Rhino Program Expanding

March 14, 2008  www.enn.com 

KWAZULU Natal, South Africa — One of the world’s most successful rhino conservation programmes is seeking to extend its operations to more of Africa.  Representatives of the governments of Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia are expected to join in WWF’s African Rhino Programme (ARP) 10th anniversary celebration in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, today. They will join government and wildlife representatives, community representatives and eco-tourism operators from the current ARP participating States of in South Africa, Namibia, Kenya and Zimbabwe. “What we have shown is that in partnership with governments and communities and business it is possible to stave off extinction for the rhino in some of its former range,” said WWF International’s Species Programme Director Dr Susan Lieberman. “The task now is to secure a future for the rhino in the rest of its range, where threats from poaching and development urgently need to be addressed.”  In 1997, there were 8,466 white rhinos and 2,599 black rhinos remaining in the wild. Today, there are 14,500 white rhinos and nearly 4,000 of the more endangered black rhinos.

New Bird Species Discovered in Indonesia

March 14, 2008  www.sciencedaily.com

A new species of bird from the Togian Islands of Indonesia – Zosterops somadikartai, or Togian white-eye, has been described in the March edition of The Wilson Journal of Ornithology. Its eye isn’t ringed in a band of white feathers like its cousins who flock in other remote tropical islands of Indonesia, but it has many features in common with the black-crowned white-eye Zosterops atrifrons of Sulawesi, which is clearly its closest relative. Michigan State University’s Pamela Rasmussen, an internationally known ornithologist specializing in Asian birds said, “What this discovery highlights is that in some parts of the world there are still virtually unexplored islands where few ornithologists have worked.” The Togian white-eye first was spotted by two Indonesian biologists, Indrawan, 12 years ago during their first trip to the Togian Islands. The two recently  returned and obtained the type specimen upon which the species’ description is now founded. The type specimen was sent on loan to Rasmussen at the MSU Museum, so she could make detailed comparisons between it and related species at the Britain’s Natural History Museum, the American Museum in New York and the Smithsonian Institution. Rasmussen noted that the Togian white-eye is distinctive not only in appearance, but its lilting song, which Indrawan recorded and Rasmussen committed to sonogram, sounds higher pitched and is less varied in pitch than its close relatives.

Protection Helps Endangered Wildlife in N China

March 14, 2008  english.people.com.cn

The population of endangered wild animals, such as Tibetan antelopes and Chinese gazelle, has increased sharply in northwest China's Qinghai plateau thanks to protection efforts over the past few decades.  The number of Tibetan antelopes has risen to around 50,000 from less than 20,000 in the late 1980s in the Hoh Xil Nature Reserve in the southwest of Qinghai Province, according to Gao Jingyu, Qinghai Wild Animal Bureau director. The number of Przewalski's gazelle, or Chinese gazelle, was now more than 600 from less than 200 in the late 1980s in the Qinghai Lake Nature Reserve. The gazelle is the most endangered hoofed mammal species in the world. The number of black-necked crane, also on the country's top protection list, has risen to 156, up from 26, in the Longbao Nature Reserve.  The province set up its first nature reserve -- Qinghai Lake --in the mid 1970s for the protection of wild fowl. A number of other nature reserves have since been built. Currently, a third of the 720,000-square-kilometer province is nature reserve areas.

Riverbanks Zoo Receives Conservation Grant

March 14, 2008  www.timesanddemocrat.com

The Riverbanks Zoo & Garden has awarded the S.C. Department of Natural Resources $13,000 to help in the implementation of the South Carolina Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy.  The funds will focus on the conservation of four herpetological species: gopher tortoise, Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, timber rattlesnake and Southern dusky salamander. The Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy is a proactive approach to conservation focused on cooperation, which looks at 1,240 diverse species from the mountains to the ocean of South Carolina. Through its submittal to the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the state has become eligible and been awarded more than $3 million dollars in State Wildlife Grants.  State Wildlife Grants allow each participating state to implement the action items discussed within their Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy on a 50/50 cost share. The Riverbanks Zoo grant will be used to match these grants for the four herpetological species. The gopher tortoise, Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, timber rattlesnake and Southern dusky salamander were selected due to the larger habitats each represents making them key indicators for their ecosystem.

National Zoo Tests Gorillas for Heart Disease

March 14, 2008  www.washingtonpost.com  By Michael E. Ruane

Gorilla heart disease is different from human heart disease, Murray said. Rather than suffer blocked coronary arteries and heart attacks as humans do, gorillas develop a hardening of the heart muscle, a condition called fibrosing cardiomyopathy. There are few symptoms.  Across North America, home to 368 western lowland gorillas in 51 zoos and one private preserve, the animals are dying of heart disease at an alarming rate. Forty-one percent of deaths among captive adult gorillas result from heart disease, experts say, and 75 percent of cardiac-related deaths occur in males.  This week, the Detroit Zoo announced the death of a 34-year-old male gorilla that had been suffering from heart problems for years.  Two years ago, Washington's National Zoo lost two gorillas to heart disease in two days.  A team of scientists from across the country, led by a group that calls itself "the Gorilla Girls," is focused on trying to find out why the animals contract and die of heart disease. Is it diet? Disease? Old age? Environment? Something else?  Their first challenge is proper diagnostic testing.   Suzan Murray, the National Zoo's head veterinarian and a Gorilla Girl says anesthesia alters the animal's heart rate and blood pressure, causing abnormal readings so its important to train an awake gorilla to submit to a blood test. 

So twice a week for the past year or so, the National Zoo has been training 8-year-old male gorilla Kwame to submit to a blood test.  A plastic sleeve was designed to be attached to the cage so Kwame can place his arm in it, and there is a hole at the top so veterinarians can insert a needle.  Keepers get him to insert his arm by feeding him grapes, but care has to be used, because he can reach through the hole.  One morning last week during a training session, Teresa Anderson and Becky Malinsky coaxed Kwame into a holding area, where, in exchange for grapes, he stuck his arm through the sleeve.  Murray sat next to the sleeve with medical instruments. Anderson dropped grapes into Kwame's mouth. Malinsky watched for any sign of trouble.  The team has yet to draw blood from Kwame. Murray is still getting him used to the procedure, to the sight and feel of the instruments. During the session, she showed him the tiny, capped needle. "Touching," she said, as she touched Kwame's arm. "Nice job. Verrry good." The session was brief. It was important that the gorilla enjoy the experience and eventually get bored with the needle. Overall, he did well, and the keepers rewarded him with honey.

Bighorn Sheep Die-off in Nevada

March 14, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com  By Sandra Chereb

RENO – About 110 bighorns are believed to have died of bacterial pneumonia in the Hays Canyon Range.  Before pioneers began settling the West, there were three species of bighorns – California, Rocky Mountain and Desert – in Nevada's mountainous terrain. By the 1960s, only Desert bighorns were left in extreme southern Nevada.  Today, because of an aggressive reintroduction program, biologists estimate there are 9,000 scattered across the state.  In 1989, the Wildlife Department began re-establishing the species in the Hays Canyon Range, a chain of mountains, near  the California-Nevada line.  The herd grew but in August 2005, “one coughing and one sneezing” bighorn sheep were observed, according to the Wildlife Department.  Then, in 
October, game wardens tested the carcass of a recently dead ewe and discovered it had died of bacterial pneumonia.  Over the next several weeks, wildlife biologists, assisted by Nevada Bighorns Unlimited, conducted aerial and ground surveys of the region and found more sick and dying sheep.  The extent of the die-off became clear by November. “We honestly don't believe any are left,” said Dr. Mark Atkinson, a veterinarian with the Nevada Department of Wildlife.  A similar die-off of bighorn sheep occurred in the Santa Rosa Mountains north of Winnemucca in 2003-2004. About one-third of that herd was lost to the same kind of respiratory infection.

Inappropriate Use and Portrayal of Chimpanzees

March 14, 2008  www.sciencemag.org

In North America, about 2300 chimpanzees live in a variety of settings from accredited zoos to laboratories and sanctuaries.  However in 44 of the 50 U.S.states, they can also be privately owned as pets and used as actors and photographer’s props in the entertainment industry.  In movies and advertising they are depicted as caricatures of humans, and often misbehaving.  Such inappropriate portrayals are viewed by millions of people and may influence the way in which the general public perceives this endangered ape.  In 2005, a survey was conducted at the Regenstein Center for African Apes at the Lincoln Park Zoo. When asked to identify which apes were endangered, 95% thought gorillas were endangered, 91% thought orangutans were endangered but only 66% thought chimpanzees to be endangered.  These results were duplicated in a similar survey of visitors to the Great Ape Trust.  There only 72% thought chimpanzees were endangered with 94% for gorillas and 92% for orangutans.

History of San Diego Whale Watching

March 16, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com 

About 20,000 Pacific gray whales travel from Alaska to their mating and calving lagoons along southern Baja California during a four-month migration that typically starts in late September or early October.  They make the return trip around March with their newborns, completing a round-trip voyage of roughly 12,500 miles. By April, most will have passed by San Diego County on their northward route.  “Whale watching” was what San Diegans called it when the first coastal excursions began here in 1955, spawning a worldwide industry, said Eric Hoyt of Scotland, a researcher who writes about marine life.  Today, tours targeting various whale species across the globe attract more than 9 million people from 87 countries. They generate more than $1 billion in revenue. “Whale watching provides an alternative to destructive commercial fishing practices for countless fishermen and indigenous groups worldwide,” said Serge Dedina of Imperial Beach, author of “Saving the Gray Whale.” “It is now more profitable to observe whales and other marine wildlife than to kill them.”

Concessions based in the United States transport about half of the worldwide passengers. Along the West Coast, more than 2 million people from Seattle to San Diego experience the thrill of whale watching from guided boat tours between November and May. About 100,000 people opt for the intimate experience of following the gray whales to their calving and mating lagoons in southern Baja.  In the 19th century, numerous gray whales stopped in San Diego Bay during their annual migration. But the welcome mat was withdrawn in 1858, when a whaling station was established at Ballast Point to render oil from the marine mammals caught off San Diego and Baja. On average, mariners killed nearly 300 whales during each migration season. The number tapered off steadily – along with the whale's dwindling population – until the station ceased operations in 1886.  The first organized whale census anywhere was started in the mid-1940s by professor Carl Hubbs of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla. He hired students to count migrating gray whales.

By the time the International Whaling Commission stepped in to protect gray whales nearly 60 years ago, their numbers were down to a few hundred because of overhunting. Soon, the world's first commercial whale-watching industry sprang up in 1955, when charter fishing operators based in San Diego Bay began offering sightseeing trips by boat.  Passengers were charged $1 for the excursions,  flippantly advertised as “whale hunts.” Whale watching evolved into true eco-tourism in the late 1960s, when San Diego-based fishing charters offered the first long-range boat trips south of the border. Dedina said the whale-watching industry in Mexico, which is largely based in southern Baja, generates about $25 million per year. Most of the whale watching in Baja California Sur occurs at three lagoons:  450 miles south of the border at Laguna Ojo de Liebre, formerly called Scammons Lagoon; 560 miles south of the border at San Ignacio Lagoon; and 750 miles south of the border at Magdalena Bay. Fly-down trips that include van transportation to the lagoons run about $2,100. The cost is the same for an 11-day boat trip that hopscotches down the Baja coast from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas. Whale watching in Baja provides a crucial source of income for almost 3,000 Mexican fishermen and their families, said Dedina, who is also the executive director of the nonprofit environmental group Wildcoast. The organization, based in Imperial Beach, encourages Baja fishermen to practice sustainable fishing or enter the eco-tourism business. “Whale watching has been the most significant economic development that has made those communities sustainable,” Dedina said. “It gives the ocean a break from fishing for four months and it builds conservation awareness among the locals.” The economics of whale watching are similar for California, except the audience is larger and the boat trips are cheaper. More than 75 whale-watching boats carry 750,000 passengers and generate $20 million in revenue annually in the Golden State, according to a 2006 study by University of California Los Angeles economist Linwood Pendleton. Whale-watching trips off Southern California typically range from three to five hours, and they cost $30 to $75. Sightseers have various options, from sailboat and kayak excursions to the science-oriented tours offered jointly by Hornblower Cruises and the San Diego Natural History Museum. The University of California San Diego's Birch Aquarium also offers a research-focused whale-watching experience. Its boat tours, conducted in partnership with San Diego Harbor Excursion, operate twice daily from San Diego Bay during the migration period for gray whales. Whale-watching excursions sponsored by the aquarium have experienced steady growth – a rise of more than 3,000 passengers over the past three years. During the 2006-07 cycle,  they generated 26,000 passengers and $500,000 in gross revenue, said Birch marketing director Lydia Cobb.

Encountering whales in the wild hasn't lost its allure for Nigella Hillgarth, a former field biologist who has observed different species around the world at least two dozen times. “Seeing a marine mammal coming out of the water that's nearly 50 feet long is amazing.  You don't get tired of that,” said Hillgarth, a former penguin researcher who today oversees the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla.  The visceral experience is one that Hillgarth doubts can be duplicated at a zoo or theme park. “It's not a tamed thing. You have this huge giant letting you be there and letting you experience its world very briefly,” Hillgarth said. “It's a very intimate connection with nature that we are lucky enough to have just outside our doorstep of San Diego Bay.” Aside from being a boon to eco-tourism, whale watching helps Southern California's charter fishing industry stay afloat when the fishing action experiences a wintertime lull. It became an important fallback for the region's fishing charters in 2003, when the state imposed severe restrictions on the winter  rockfish season. A fleet of 175 charter boats berthed at marinas from Santa Barbara to San Diego carry 750,000 passengers annually on fishing, diving and natural history trips, including whale-watching excursions. About a dozen passenger-certified charter boats based in San Diego County switch from sport fishing to whale-watching tours each winter. “It's an opportunity to keep their crews busy and provide some cash flow,” said Catherine Miller of the San Diego Sport 
Fishing Council.

H & M Landing in San Diego Bay and Helgren's Sportfishing in Oceanside carry the majority of whale-watching passengers in San Diego County. Jim O'Brien, a charter boat owner based in San Diego Bay, said whale watching accounts for about 10 percent of his annual gross revenue. “If we didn't have it, would I be sunk? No. But it does allow me to keep the same crew employed through the winter,”  O'Brien said. “They don't stray off and find another job.” Staff  continuity is important, he said, because workers keep sport-fishing customers coming back year after year by building long-term camaraderie with them. During a recent excursion aboard the Producer, O'Brien's 65-foot fishing boat, galley cook Diane Conner said a day at sea has its charms – whether her customers are nature lovers or fishermen. “We're fishing,” Conner joked. “We're just fishing for blubber.” After reaching the kelp beds just offshore, the captain relied on the traditional whaler's cry to alert his 72 passengers that their quarry was in sight: “Thar she blows!”

Endangered Species Permit Applications

March 17, 2008   www.epa.gov

The following applicants have applied for scientific research permits to conduct certain activities with endangered species.  Written comments must be received on or before April 16, 2008. Send comments to the Chief, Endangered Species Division, Ecological Services, P.O. Box 1306, Room 4102, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87103. For further information you may call (505) 248-6920.

Permit TE-7819476
Applicant: Grand Canyon National Park, Grand Canyon, Arizona.
    Applicant requests an amendment to an existing permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence and collections of Sentry milk-vetch (Astragalus cremnophylax var. cremnophylax).

Permit TE-173890
Applicant: K. Wilynn Zickler, Dripping Springs, Texas.
    Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys of golden-cheeked warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia) and black-capped vireo (Vireo atricapilla) within Texas.

Permit TE-173891
Applicant: Black Swamp Bird Observatory, Oak Harbor, Ohio.
    Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys of black-capped vireo (Vireo atricapilla) the within Oklahoma.

Permit TE-168282
Applicant: Normandeau Associates Inc., Stevenson, Washington.
    Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys of the following species: razorback sucker (Xyrauchen texanus) and Bonytail (Gila eleganus).

Permit TE-053085
Applicant: Bureau of Reclamation, Boulder City, Nevada.
    Applicant requests an amendment to a current permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys of Yuma clapper rail (Rallus lomgirostris yumanensis) within Arizona, Nevada and California.

Permit TE-174552
Applicant: Animas Biological Studies, LLC, Durango, Colorado.
    Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) and Mexican spotted owl (Strix occidentalis lucida) within New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado.

Permit TE-829996
Applicant: Houston Zoo, Houston, Texas.
    Applicant requests an amendment to a previous permit to hold and maintain captive bred Wyoming toads (Bufo baxteri) within the Houston Zoo, until they are transferred to other authorized institutions.

Permit TE-170389
Applicant: Travis Cooper, San Juan Capistrano, California.
    Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) within Arizona.

Permit TE-175541
Applicant: A&M Engineering and Environmental Services, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
    Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) within Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri.

Endangered Species Permit Applications

March 17, 2008   www.epa.gov

The public is invited to comment on the following applications to conduct certain activities with threatened and endangered species.  We must receive written data or comments on the applications by April 16, 2008. Documents and other information submitted with the applications are available for review, subject to the requirements of the Privacy Act and Freedom of Information Act, by any party who submits a written request for a copy of such documents to the following office within 30 days of the date of publication of this notice: Fish and Wildlife Service, 1875 Century Boulevard, Suite 200, Atlanta, Georgia 30345 (Attn: David Dell, HCP Coordinator). For further information contact: David Dell, telephone 404/679-7313; facsimile 404/679-7081. You may e-mail comments to david_dell@fws.gov . Please include your name and return address in your e-mail message. If you do not receive a confirmation from the Fish and Wildlife Service that we have received your e-mail message, contact us directly at the telephone number listed above

Applicant: Georgia Select Fish Farm, Bartow, Georgia.
    The applicant requests authorization to harass or harm wood storks (Mycteria americana) for control of depredation at fish farming facilities in Jefferson County, Georgia.

Applicant: The Nature Conservancy, Kissimmee, Florida.
    The applicant requests amendment of their existing permit to add authorization to capture and translocate red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis) nestlings for management purposes at their Disney Wilderness Preserve, Osceola and Polk counties, Florida.

Applicant: Sam Van Hook, Kissimmee Valley Forester, Babson Park, Florida.
    The applicant requests renewal of existing authorization to harass the red-cockaded woodpecker while conducting management activities for this species throughout Osceola County, Florida.

Applicant: Andrea Christman, Florida Division of Forestry, Brooksville, Florida.
    The applicant requests renewal of existing authorization to harass the red-cockaded woodpecker while conducting management activities for this species throughout Florida.

Applicant: Forest Supervisor, Ouachita National Forest, Hot Springs, Arkansas.
    The applicant requests authorization to harass the red-cockaded woodpecker while conducting management activities for this species on Ouachita National Forest.

Applicant: N. Ross Carrie, Raven Environmental Services, Inc.,  Huntsville, Texas.
    The applicant requests authorization to harass the red-cockaded woodpecker while surveying population occurrence and conducting management activities for this species throughout Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.

Applicant: Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Inc., Clearwater, Florida.
    The applicant requests renewal of existing authorization to hold for veterinary treatment, to retain unreleasable specimens, or to euthanize specimens of Kemp's ridley (Lepidochelys kempii), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), green
(Chelonia mydas), loggerhead (Caretta caretta), and olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) sea turtles. Treatment facilities are at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, but specimens may be accepted from authorized sources throughout Florida and other southeastern states.

Applicant: Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, Sanibel, Florida.
    The applicant requests renewal of existing authorization to hold for veterinary treatment, to retain unreleasable specimens, or to euthanize specimens of Kemp's ridley, hawksbill, leatherback, green, loggerhead, and olive ridley sea turtles. Treatment facilities are at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, but specimens may be accepted from authorized sources throughout Florida and other southeastern states.

Applicant: Walt Disney World Living Seas, Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
    The applicant requests authorization to hold for veterinary treatment, to retain unreleasable specimens, or to euthanize specimens of Kemp's ridley, hawksbill, leatherback, green, loggerhead, and olive ridley sea turtles. Treatment facilities are at Walt Disney World Living Seas, but specimens may be accepted from authorized sources throughout Florida and other southeastern states.

Applicant: Jeanette Wyneken, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida.
    The applicant requests renewal of existing authorization to capture, examine, hold, and release hatchling leatherback, green, and loggerhead sea turtles to study the use of laparoscopic sexing techniques and conduct ecological research in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

Applicant: Craig Martin, Wetland Sciences, Inc., Pensacola, Florida.
    The applicant requests authorization to capture, mark, and release Perdido Key beach mice (Peromyscus polionotus trissyllepsis), for population surveys in Escambia County, Florida and Baldwin County, Alabama.

Applicant: Elizabeth Phillips, Fort Chaffee Maneuver Training Center, Fort Chaffee, Arkansas,.
    The applicant requests authorization to capture, tag, translocate, and release the American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) for population monitoring and management on Fort Chaffee Maneuver Training Center and adjacent areas, Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.

Applicant: Bernard Kuhajda, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama
    The applicant requests authorization to capture, examine, collect tissue samples, and release Alabama cavefish (Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni), for life history and genetic research in Lauderdale County, Alabama.

Applicant: Bobby R. Harrison, The Ivory-billed Woodpecker Foundation, Gurley, Alabama.
    The applicant requests authorization to use decoys and call recordings and to salvage specimens of the ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis), to survey for species occurrence, and research survey techniques throughout potential species range in Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, and South Carolina.

Applicant: Ronald K. Redman, Benton, Arkansas.
    The applicant requests authorization to capture, examine, and release gray bat (Myotis grisescens), Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), and Ozark big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii ingens), to survey for occurrences throughout Arkansas.

Applicant: Gary Libby, Skybax Ecological Services, Berea, Kentucky
    The applicant requests authorization to capture, examine, and release gray bat, Indiana bat, and Ozark big-eared bats. The applicant requests authorization to conduct presence/absence surveys for forty-five threatened or endangered mussels, and seven threatened or endangered fish species. Species may be sampled in Missouri, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Mississippi, and Michigan.

Applicant: Memphis Zoo, Memphis, Tennessee.
    The applicant requests authorization to capture and rear Mississippi gopher frog (Rana capitol sevosa), larvae and tadpoles for research in treatment of diseases and in rearing techniques. Specimens would be captured from Harrison County, Mississippi, housed primarily at the Memphis Zoo, and may be transferred to other suitable facilities.

Applicant: Roel Lopez, Texas A&M University, Texas.
    The applicant requests renewal of existing authorization to capture, examine, hold, and release Lower Keys marsh rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris hefneri) to conduct population surveys and other research throughout the species range in the Florida Keys, Monroe County, Florida.

The Zoo Nutritonists

March 17, 2008  ap.google.com   By LINDSEY TANNER

Like humans, many zoo animals like the sugary, high-fat food, and they're not moving as much as they're genetically programmed to, according to Jennifer Watts, staff nutritionist at suburban Brookfield Zoo.  Adding to the challenge is that food is used for training and to help keep animals psychologically stimulated, so Watts is developing a Weight Watchers-style plan for the animals. The idea is to assign points to food and allow the animals a limited number of extra points a week.  For example, molasses is a favorite treat of the bears and gorillas. Keepers often spread it around their enclosures to get them moving. Under Watts' plan, two cups of molasses might be worth two points, and granola bars — a favorite bear treat — would be worth one.  "We're trying to keep calorie intake within a limit.  Indianapolis Zoo nutritionist Jason Williams is trying a different approach. Instead of fattening sweets, sugar-free Jell-O is offered to their polar bears, hiding the treats around the habitat.  Other tasty treats include low-salt crackers and specially prepared alfalfa biscuits are offered to giraffes at some zoos, according to veterinarian Chris Hanley from the Toledo Zoo. His zoo has an annual "Big Feed" day where visitors can feed animals veggies and other healthful snacks. Lions and tigers even get whole calf carcasses and wolves chow down on deer roadkill. The idea primarily is to provide a more natural, additive-free feeding method.  Some zoos have tried spreading the scent of prey around animals' habitats to get them up and moving. At the St. Louis Zoo, that has included dragging burlap bags filled with zebra feces around the lion habitat.  "There's not food, there's just 'eau de food," said the zoo's nutritionist Ellen Dierenfeld.  Zoo nutritionists first started to appear in the 1970s and '80s; now about 20 of the nation's 216 accredited zoos and aquariums have full-time nutritionists, and many others work with nutritionists as consultants.

Before zoo nutrition became a science, animals often got food similar to what was fed to domestic livestock or pets. That often resulted in malnutrition — even weak bones and fractures.  At Brookfield Zoo, Cookie the Cockatoo is a squawky 74-year-old who has been around since the days before exotic birds' dietary needs were well-understood.  "What Cookie liked to eat was seeds," which are high in fats and oils but have little bone-building calcium and phosphorus, Watts said. "For about 40 years all he ate were seeds," until a nutritionist was hired. The result was osteoporosis, the same bone-thinning condition that affects millions of older humans.  Now the missing minerals are added to Cookie's water to keep his bones from getting weaker.

"One of the challenges of being a zoo nutritionist is that we cannot replicate an animal's natural diet," Watts said. "We can't go to South America and collect the figs or the branches or the beetles that an animal eats there."  Zoo nutritionists instead rely on researchers to "get samples of what animals eat, to observe what parts of plants they eat and what types of prey items that they might consume and bring that back to us so that we can analyze the diets," she said. "The best that we can do here at the zoo is mimic those nutrients"  But unlike human nutrition, which focuses on one species, zoo nutritionists have to design diets for many animals. "Carnivore, herbivore, grass-eaters, ruminants ... nectar, fruit, blood, fish," Watts said. "Any kind of feeding strategy is represented here at the zoo and they all have different requirements and needs that have to be addressed."

Caring for a Geriatric Leopard

March 17, 2008  www.chicagotribune.com    By William Mullen

Zoos are keeping their animals alive longer than ever with improved husbandry and medical attention. But as a consequence, they now struggle to care for animals with increasingly difficult geriatric problems.  Lincoln Park’s black leopard panther arrived as a cub in 1990 from private owners who had declawed and spayed her.  As a non-breeding member of a species not in danger of extinction, Marta might seem like extra baggage in a zoo setting. She is now a frail “old woman” at 18 years old, but a favorite of keepers for her gentle, people-oriented nature.  Arthritis has slowed her. Her teeth are breaking down. A year ago a possibly fatal mass of tissue was found growing in her snout, and she has developed severe allergies to her food, grass, soil, her toys, even odors like cleaning fluids.  Though baby zoo animals are the most popular with the public, and vigorous young adult animals show species at their peak of beauty, older animals become familiar favorites to frequent zoo visitors. So zoos work hard to find ways to keep them healthy and on view. 

Marta's indoor habitat doesn't look much different from others in the lion house, but keepers have made some subtle changes to help Marta. They added lower perching shelves, and they have installed a leaning tree trunk she uses as a ramp to climb to higher perches, like adding handrails in the hallways of human geriatric wards.  "We put out an orthopedic pad where she always lands as she jumps down from the perch," said Dave Bernier, the zoo's curator of mammals. "She enjoys the pad, so that is where you often see her lying and resting."  Marta's first serious health problems appeared several years ago when she developed multiple allergies, including to grass, soil and all of her foods, not to mention molds and dust mites. The zoo moved her permanently indoors, where keepers can better manage her environment.  Still, no matter how clean the zoo keeps her area, each winter the building's heating system distributes dust particles and other tiny allergens that set off itchy skin eruptions where Marta's hair falls out. It's unsightly but not serious, keepers say. "When it gets warm outside and those irritations stop, her fur grows back just fine," Gamble said.

Keepers also had to figure out what to feed her, because she is now allergic to everything zoo leopards normally eat. Instead of beef and pork, Marta now chews on a mixture of venison and green peas, processed to the consistency of pate. "Venison is a foreign protein to her, and so is duck and rabbit meat, which she can also eat," Gamble said. But her specialty diet poses another problem in that she can't chew bones, which is how cats normally clean their teeth. Venison bones carry a risk of transmitting chronic wasting disease, and she is allergic to other kinds. Without clean teeth, Marta risks serious infections.  So she gets a thorough cleaning during her annual checkup, including the bubble gum toothpaste.  "You can get tuna- and seafood-flavored toothpastes for animals," Gamble said, "but we don't want to take the chance that they might have proteins that could set off her allergies."

A cantankerous 75-year-old cockatoo named Cookie has legions of fans who come to see him at Brookfield Zoo, even as he creakily waddles under an ultraviolet lamp installed in his habitat in an effort to give him enough vitamin D to treat his osteoporosis. He has been on display at the zoo since it opened. A seal at Lincoln Park Zoo developed glaucoma and now sees only shapes and shadows, leaving it unable to react to the standard hand signals used by keepers to feed and handle the animals. The nearly blind seal now takes voice cues.  "When animals go blind, we make sure we don't change physical details of their habitat that could cause accidents," said Gamble, chief of the zoo's veterinary services. "If they live with other animals, keepers have to watch social behaviors and dynamics closely, because when an animal within a group grows weak or disabled, other animals might ostracize or abuse them. They are in zoos, but they are wild, and wild animals are competitive."

Thomas Meehan, chief veterinarian at Brookfield Zoo, said one of the zoo's gorillas, named Beta, was suffering at age 47 from a fibroid uterine mass that caused abdominal discomfort and heavy vaginal bleeding.  "At her age, we were reluctant to do a hysterectomy on her, " said Meehan, because major surgery posed a health threat of its own. After consulting with doctors who treat humans, officials elected to do a procedure they said previously had been documented only on people.  Doctors inserted a catheter into the gorilla's left arm and guided it to the uterine artery feeding the fibroid mass. They then plugged the portion feeding the mass, cutting off its blood supply. Now, the bleeding has stopped and the mass has dramatically shrunk, Meehan said.

Project California Will Open at Oakland Zoo

March 17, 2008  novometro.com

The Oakland Zoo is planning on opening a new feature entitled the California Project. The idea is to demonstrate the history of change in California wildlife and the impact of humans on the state’s environment. The new exhibits that will be part of this project involve large fenced areas for black bears, grizzly bears, mountain lions, wolves, an aviary for California raptors, a three-story visitor center, a veterinary clinic, and an overnight campground. In order to have room for all of this, the zoo will expand into Knowland Park. The planned 60-acre, $37 million expansion has created a rift between the zoo and its neighbors. Open space is at the heart of the conflict. A newly formed community group, the Friends of Knowland Park, claims that the zoo’s plan to build an eight to ten foot fence, is contrary to the basic idea of open space.  Dr. Joel Parrot, the zoo’s chief, argues that “a fence line alone does not constitute what is open space. It does prevent people walking their dog from getting to it, but it does not mean that it will not be open space. Though it may seem like if you put up an fence it’s no longer open space, it depends on what animal species we are talking about.”
The zoo defends its decision to expand into Knowland Park because of the City’s approval of a 1998 master plan. The 10 year-old plan includes other minor renovations and the addition of the California Project. The approval of the master plan was as controversial then as the imminent groundbreaking is now. Despite the City’s stamp of approval, the Friends of Knowland Park say that discrepancies between the master plan and the revised expansion plans lack in regards to the Environmental Impact Review, and that the new fence line will be bigger than what was approved in 1998. There is also a disagreement over the language of the City’s Land Use Plan, which because of the nature of Knowland Park has special zoning considerations.    
Since moving to Knowland Park in 1961, the zoo has been growing. As long as it’s been expanding, it’s also been under the watchful eye of the neighbors. Most of the surrounding community supports the zoo and did not take issue when the zoo expanded the Children’s Zoo or built the education center.  But once the zoo tried to move up the hill, the neighbors organized. In the 1990s, the South Hills Neighborhood Association and the Knowland Park Highlands Association formed to stop a road that would be built along the southern boundary of Knowland Park under the 1998 Master Plan. The main grievances then were noise and access issues, and they attempted to restrict the scope of the project. After a year and a half of negotiations, the zoo altered their plans to include new mitigations such as a gondola instead of a tram road. The proposed gondola will connect the existing lower zoo with the proposed expansion site.

Jason Webster, one of the main organizers of Friends of Knowland Park, recently moved to a home adjacent to the park. He explains that while the Friends of Knowland are also interested in some to the other issues surrounding the zoo’s expansion plans, they are primarily concerned with the notion that building a fence and charging admission is contrary to the idea of Open Space.  Meantime, Dr. Joel Parrot, the director of the zoo thinks the expansion will “enhance the Open Space” experience, not detract from it.  Dr. Parrot gives an “approximate” breakdown of the scope of the new project and says that 420 acres of Knowland Park will remain open, and 60 acres will be fenced. Of the 60 acres, 20 will be used as exhibit areas and 40 will remain in the native chaparral state. No one will have access to the fenced 40 acres, not from the park side and not from the zoo side. Instead, the area will be managed with the goal to have a space that is free from exotic plants and feral animals. The fenced -- but untouched -- land will be its own exhibit. The entire 60 acres of fenced land will be home to the new California Project, which among other exhibits will include black bears, grizzly bears, mountain lions, and some California raptors.  Dr. Parrot explains that the goal of the California Project is to interpret the ecology of the Bay Area and to examine the history of change in California wildlife populations and the impact of humans on the environment.
While agreeing with the zoo on its mission of conservation, Mr. Webster does not think that fences and exhibits lead people to a keener appreciation of the wild. He talks about the idea of Nature Deficit Disorder, and how “kids often have a structured view of nature and only see the view from inside.” He knows the park well, and can tell you, based on the zoo’s drawings and models, which trees will be cut, where fence lines will go, and where new buildings will be built. He adds personally, that he thinks the mountain lion and black bear exhibits should be scrapped, in favor of leaving more natural mountain lion and bear habitat intact. In order to corroborate his argument against the zoo plan, Mr. Webster has developed maps of the area using photographs of the zoo’s project models and Google Earth to demonstrate discrepancies between what is being said and what is being planned.  What the future looks like for Oakland’s Open Space debate remains to be seen. The friends of Knowland Park are hosting regular walks through the expansion site. Dates and meeting places can be found on their website. The zoo promises more community meetings and increased neighborhood liaison efforts.

Major Expansion for Colchester Zoo

March 17, 2008  www.eveningstar.co.uk

A major new tropical centre is to be built at Colchester Zoo.  The new tropical walkthrough exhibit will give Colchester Zoo the room to house over five new species including an endangered species of crocodile.  It will extend over two floors and will hopefully incorporate an underwater viewing tunnel in which visitors will be able to see crocodiles swim and feed above their heads, before coming out to see them basking around their outdoor pool on their heated rocks, through three meter glass windows.  On the second floor there will be an immersive tropical rainforest exhibit which visitors will be able to walk through whilst reptiles, snakes and tamarins surround them and birds fly over head. It is hoped that this new exhibit will also house a family of Buffy-headed Capuchins - a critically endangered primate that is supported by Colchester Zoo's charity Action for the Wild.  If permission is granted work could start as early as the Autumn of 2008 and be completed by late 2010. Work is also underway on dramatic changes to the existing Aquatic House with the old aquariums being demolished to create a new complex with a large open reptile enclosure for Rhinoceros Iguanas and eventually a walk through exhibit for tamarins. The covered area will also lead through to a brand new meerkat enclosure.

Mexico Biodiversity Threatened

March 17, 2008  www.cnn.com  By Charlie Devereux

Home to up to 10 percent of all known species, Mexico is recognized as one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet.  The twin threats of climate change and human encroachment on natural environments are, however, threatening the existence of the country's rich wildlife. In the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) World Conservation Monitoring Centre's list of megadiverse countries Mexico ranks 11th. The list represents a group of 17 countries that harbor the majority of the Earth's species and are therefore considered extremely biodiverse. From its coral reefs in the Caribbean Sea to its tropical jungles in Chiapas and the Yucatan peninsula and its deserts and prairies in the north, Mexico boasts an incredibly rich variety of flora and fauna.  Some 574 out of 717 reptile species found in Mexico -- the most in any country -- can only be encountered within its borders. It is home to 502 types of mammals, 290 species of birds, 1,150 varieties of birds and 26,000 classifications of plants.  Pronatura, a non-profit organization that works to promote conservation and sustainable development in Mexico, has selected six species which it says symbolize the problems faced by the destruction of nature: Golden Eagle, Gray Whale, Jaguar,  Mexican Praire Dog, Monarch Butterfly, and the Vaiquita.  "These are only some of the species which have some degree of conservation," says Eduardo Cota Corona, Director of Conservation at Pronatura. "However, there is a countless number of species in Mexico which find themselves in danger of extinction."

Golden Eagle :  It is the country's national symbol yet the Golden Eagle is close to extinction in Mexico.  One of the largest raptors or birds of prey in the world, the Golden Eagle's wingspan can reach lengths greater than two metres. Only the Bald Eagle and the California Greater exceed it in size in North America.  With its powerful hooked bill and long and sharp claws it can sometimes capture prey of a size that is surprising for its size, including crane, wild ungulates and domestic livestock, though more often than not it tends to feed off small mammals such as rabbits, hares, ground squirrels and prairie dogs as well as reptiles and small-to-medium sized birds. Primarily a solitary bird, the Golden Eagle pairs up to breed, building nests made of dry branches in cliffs and escarpments. The female typically lays two eggs which are incubated by both the male and female. Usually, only one of the hatchlings survives. The Golden Eagle can be found in Asia and Europe and mainly in the western part of North America. It was common in Mexico but in recent years has become a rare sight. Its demise has been attributed to the destruction of its habitat and the elimination of its natural prey. Human activity, in the form of hunting, capturing and commercial sale have also contributed to its decline. Pronatura has lobbied for legal protection of this bird that forms part of Mexico's flag and has launched conservation projects in its natural habitat, such as in the Cumbres de Monterrey National Park and the Cuatro Ciénegas Biosphere Reserve.

Gray Whale : Pachico Mayoral, a Mexican fisherman form Baja California, claims to be the first person to have a friendly encounter with a gray whale.  Up until then this enormous cetacean -- an adult can reach a length of 16 meters and weigh in at 36 tons - had been known as the devil fish for its aggressive behavior when hunted. The main group of gray whales is found in the northeastern Pacific. Each year a herd of 25,000 whales sets out on what is believed to be the longest migration in the animal kingdom - 12,500 miles - between their feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi seas off Alaska and their breeding territory in the warmer waters of the lagoons of Baja California. Over its lifetime, it is estimated that an Eastern Pacific gray whale will travel the equivalent of a return trip to the moon. A smaller herd of about 300 gray whales can be found in the Western Pacific between Korea and the Kamchatka peninsula in Russia. Excessive hunting in the 19th century pushed the gray whale to the brink of extinction but protection mandated by the International Whaling Commission in 1946 and the declaration by the Mexican government of Laguna San Ignacio in 1972 as a Gray Whale refuge means that it is one of the few success stories. Pronatura and the Aztec foundation have raised nearly $4 million with which they hope to guarantee the protection of 20,000 hectares of the gray whale's habitat in Baja California and ensure its survival in the years to come.

Jaguar  :  It may be top of the food chain but this doesn't guarantee the survival of the jaguar in Mexico. The largest cat in the Western Hemisphere (it's nearest rival is the puma), the jaguar can be found anywhere from the southern United States to as far south as northern Argentina. In Mexico, it can be found mainly in the tropical forests of Chiapas and the Yucatan peninsula. With its tawny yellow coat speckled with black rosette-like spots for camouflage, the jaguar resembles most the leopard of Africa, although it has a stockier build which makes it adept at climbing trees, stalking through undergrowth and swimming. The jaguar's list of prey is long: it can hunt anything from white-nosed coati to larger mammals such as deer. Its unique anatomy -- it has an unusually large head and powerful teeth in comparison to other big cats -- gives it an abnormally powerful bite, meaning that it can take on armoured reptiles such as caiman, crocodiles and tortoises, while it often bites through an animal's skull to inflict a killer blow to the brain. It plays an essential part in maintaining a balanced ecosystem by hunting species which would put local environments out of kilter if they were to become too abundant. The jaguar is an important symbol in local Mexican culture. The Mayans believed it was a messenger between the living and the dead and Mayan kings often incorporated the jaguar into their name, while an elite group of Aztec warriors were known as "Jaguar Knights'. In Mexico, the jaguar is a threatened species. Its decline is mainly due to the destruction of its natural habitat. For example, in the Ria Lagartos Biosphere reserve in northern Yucatyan state, Pronatura reports that only 20 percent of the original forest cover remains, the rest having been cleared for cattle-herding. Tourist development also plays its part; El Ocotal Natural Reserve, where cameras placed in the forest have captured images of six individual jaguars and pumas, is close to Mexico's tourism capital, Cancun. Pronatura estimates that if present conditions persist, the jaguar could become extinct in the northeastern part of the Yucatan within 30 to 40 years.

Mexican Prairie Dog : Closely related to squirrels, chipmunks and marmots, the Mexican prairie dog is a burrowing mammal found in northeastern Mexico. It earnt its name from its distinctive call -- a mixture of barks and yips -- which is believed to be one of the most sophisticated languages in the animal world. The Mexican prairie dog feeds on the herbs and grasses of the plains of northeastern Mexico and lives in "towns" -- excavated colonies of up to 50 individuals which are ruled by a single alpha male. Listed as an endangered species since 1970, the prairie dog now occupies less than two percent of its former territory and can now only be found in southern Coahuila and northern San Luis Potosi -- an area of less than 500 square miles. While vulnerable to hunting from coyotes, bobcats, badgers and hawks, its largest threat is loss of habitat due to agricultural expansion. Mexican farmers have often viewed the prairie dog as a pest and it has often been hunted or poisoned. Pronatura Mexico fights for the legal protection of "Los Llanos de Tokio", an area of grassland in Nuevo Leon, San Luis Potosi and Coahuila and it has signed a conservation agreement with private land owners and ejidos (farming collectives) to protect 42, 000 hectares of land.

Monarch Butterfly : Each year, between December and March, these orange and black-patterned butterflies, the size of an adult human hand, congregate in numbers of up to 250 million in a pine and oyamel tree forest in Michoacan in Central Mexico. They migrate approximately 3,000 miles from the border between northeastern United States and Canada and their gathering to breed in Mexico is considered one of the most extraordinary sights in the natural world. During its life cycle, which can be up to 20 weeks, the Monarch Butterfly goes through what is known as a complete metamorphosis, comprising four stages. From eggs laid by the female, a caterpillar is hatched. The caterpillar eats its own egg case and feeds off milkweed while storing energy in the form of fat and nutrients.  It then spins a silk pad and hangs from a leaf or twig while it molts. Within its green exoskeleton, hormonal changes occur, converting the caterpillar into a butterfly. After two weeks a mature butterfly emerges.  But in the last 20 years forest cover in its breeding habitat has decreased by an estimated 40 percent. Illegal logging, an increase in cases of forest fires and high levels of poverty in the region which put pressure on natural resources, have all contributed to a situation in which Pronatura believes the forest may disappear completely within 20 years.  Pronatura and the non-profit organization The National Foundation for the Conservation of the Monarch Butterfly's Habitat have launched projects to promote sustainable development programs that help improve the quality of life of the inhabitants of the "El Chapulín" community and reduce the direct pressure on the natural resources. They also hope to reforest 30, 000 hectares of the Monarch Butterfly reserve with oyamel trees.

Vaquita : The elusive vaquita ("little cow") or cochito ("little pig") is one of the smallest and most endangered cetaceans in the world. The only endemic marine mammal in Mexico, this porpoise can only be found in a small area in the upper Gulf of California and the Colorado River delta. The vaquita can grow up to 1.5 meters and closely resembles the harbor porpoise in life span and breeding habits. It feeds on small fishes and squids. Only 50 years ago the vaquita was unkown to science and yet it is now classed as "in critical danger of extinction" by the World Conservation Union. The vaquita is difficult to monitor because it often dives when it hears motor boats approaching but generous estimates place its population at 600. However, a recent study put the number as low as 150. With an estimated 39 to 54 dying every year as a result of by-catches, it seems only a matter of time before the vaquita disappears completely. Its main threat comes from gillnets -- highly effective fishing nets used to capture the totoaba, an enormous fish with high commercial value -- in which the vaquita gets caught up and drowns. In 1983 the Mexican government established the Upper Gulf of California Biosphere Reserve to protect them but it would seem that more stringent fishing laws must be implemented if the vaquita is to survive.

Saiga Migration

March 17, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

NEW YORK (MARCH 17, 2008) – A recent study of the endangered saiga antelope, which lives in Mongolia, appears in the latest issue of The Open Conservation Biology Journal.  Researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society tracked saiga with GPS collars in the steppes of Central Asia and discovered a “migration bottleneck” – a narrow corridor of habitat that connects two populations. The corridor, which is just three miles wide, is threatened by herders with livestock, along with increased traffic from trucks and motorcycles.  “Like other species of the steppes and deserts, saiga have avoided extinction by being able to migrate long distances as their habitat changed over time,” said Dr. Joel Berger, a WCS conservationist, and professor at the University of Montana.  He says the Mongolian government, which participated in the study, is interested in protecting the bottleneck. Saiga once occurred in Alaska and Yukon but vanished in North America after the last ice age. Today, they exist only in isolated pockets in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kalmykia, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia. Their numbers have plummeted by 95 percent, from an estimated one million animals 20 years ago, largely due to poaching for horns used in traditional Chinese medicines and competition with livestock. Standing just under two feet at the shoulder and weighing about 50 pounds, the most striking feature of the saiga is its large nose, or proboscis. The function of this unusual nose is not clear, but it may serve to warm or filter air during Mongolia’s frigid winters and notorious dust storms.

AZA Accreditation Team Report on SF Tiger Incident

March 18, 2008   www.sanfranciscosentinel.co

This above link provides highlights of actions taken in responses to AZA Visiting Team report provided to San Francisco Zoo on Friday, March 7, 2008 at the Regional AZA Conference in Birmingham, Alabama.

Endangered Species Permit Applications

March 18, 2008    www.epa.gov

The following applicants have applied for a permit to conduct certain activities with endangered species. Written comments concerning any of the applications should be received on or before April 17, 2008.  Send comments to: Regional Director, Attn: Peter Fasbender, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ecological Services, 1 Federal Drive, Fort Snelling, MN 55111--4056; electronic mail, permitsR3ES@fws.gov  Please refer to the respective permit number when you submit comments. Comments and materials we receive are available for public inspection. Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment--including your personal identifying information--may be made publicly available at any time.

Permit Number: TE003379
Applicant: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, St. Paul, Minnesota.
    The applicant requests a permit renewal to take Higgins' eye pearlymussel (Lampsilis higginsi) in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE006012-4
Applicant: Steven Taylor, Champaign, Illinois.
    The applicant requests a permit renewal to take Illinois cave amphipod (Gammarus acherondytes) in Illinois. The scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE08517
Applicant: Davey Resource Group, Kent, Ohio.
    The applicant requests a permit renewal for take of Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis). The scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE023664-17
Applicant: Environmental Solutions & Innovations, Cincinnati, Ohio.
    The applicant requests a permit renewal to take listed bats, plants, and mussels. The scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE 023666-2
Applicant: Eric R. Britzke, Forrest City, Arkansas.
    The applicant requests a permit renewal to take the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), gray bat (Myotis grisescens), Virginia big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus), Ozark big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii ingens), and Northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus) throughout their ranges. The scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE 040881
Applicant: Timothy C. Carter, Muncie, Indiana.
    The applicant requests his permit re-issued to take the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) and gray bat (Myotis grisescens) throughout Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. The scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE101150
Applicant: Volk Field, Camp Douglas, Wisconsin.
    The applicant requests a permit renewal to take (harass) the whooping crane (Grus americana) within the Volk Field National Guard Base in Juneau County. The harassment is to enhance survival of whooping cranes within Volk Field air space.

Permit Number: TE118259
Applicant: Civil and Environmental Consultants, Inc, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
    The applicant requests a permit renewal to take the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) and gray bat (Myotis grisescens) throughout their ranges. The scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE120231
Applicant: John Timpone, St. Louis, Missouri.
    The applicant requests a permit renewal and amendment to take the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) throughout Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia. The scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE120256
Applicant: David Ewert, Lansing, Michigan.
    The applicant requests a permit renewal to take the Kirtland's warbler (Dendroica kirtlandii) throughout its range. The scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE125546
Applicant: Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC.
    The applicant requests a permit amendment to take the Kirtland's warbler (Dendroica kirtlandii) throughout its range. The scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE127643
Applicant: U.S. Forest Service, Northern Research Station, Columbia, Missouri.
    The applicant requests a permit renewal to take the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), gray bat (Myotis grisescens), and Ozark big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii ingens) throughout Missouri. The scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE128304-5
Applicant: Stantec Consulting Services (Formerly R.D. Zande and Associates), Columbus, Ohio.
    The applicant requests a permit renewal and minor amendment for take of Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) throughout its range. The scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE130493
Applicant: Michael J. Harvey, Cookeville, Tennessee.
    The applicant requests a permit renewal to take the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), gray bat (Myotis grisescens), Virginia big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus), and Ozark big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii ingens) throughout their ranges. The scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE131386
Applicant: Lewis Environmental Consulting (Formerly Mainstream Commercial Divers, Inc.), Murray, Kentucky.
    The applicant requests a permit renewal to take listed mussel species throughout Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE131911
Applicant: Shawnee National Forest, Harrisburg, Illinois.
    The applicant requests a permit renewal to take Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis), and gray bats (Myotis grisescens) throughout U.S. Forest Service property in Illinois and Missouri. The applicant also requests the permit amended to take these species throughout U.S. Forest Service property in Ohio. The scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE133291
Applicant: Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, Illinois.
    The applicant requests a permit renewal to take Pitcher's thistle (Cirsium pitcherii) throughout Indiana and Michigan. The scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE135297
Applicant: Saint Louis Zoo, St. Louis, Missouri.
    The applicant requests a permit renewal to take (collect) the American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) in Missouri. The scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE163772
Applicant: Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Fort Snelling, Minnesota.
    The applicant requests a permit to take the copperbelly water snake (Nerodia erythrogaster neglecta) during habitat conservation and management actions aimed at recovery of the species within Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. The scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE164072
Applicant: M. Brent McClane, St. Louis, Missouri.
    The applicant requests a permit renewal to take listed mussel species throughout Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE174386
Applicant: Rod McClanahan, Anna, Illinois.
    The applicant requests a permit to take Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis), and gray bats (Myotis grisescens) throughout their ranges. The scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE174388
Applicant: Metropolitan Park District of the Toledo Area, Toledo County, Ohio.
    The applicant requests a permit to take the Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) in Ohio. The scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE174547
Applicant: Stantec Consulting Services, Inc., Topshame, Maine.
    The applicant requests a permit to take Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis) throughout its range. The scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE174564
Applicant: Michigan Natural Features Inventory, Lansing, Michigan.
    The applicant requests a permit to take the Mitchell's satyr butterfly (Neonympha mitchellii mitchellii) in Michigan. The scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE175852
Applicant: Christopher A. Hamm, Lansing, Michigan.
    The applicant requests a permit to take the Mitchell's satyr butterfly (Neonympha mitchellii mitchellii) in Michigan. The scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE175859
Applicant: Maria Bidart-Bouzat, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio.
    The applicant requests a permit to take the Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) in Michigan and Ohio. The scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE175862
Applicant: University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
    The applicant requests a permit to take Pitcher's thistle (Cirsium pitcherii) in Indiana. The scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE840524
Applicant: Lynn Robbins, Missouri State University, Springfield, Missouri.
    The applicant requests a permit renewal to take Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis), and gray bats (Myotis grisescens). The scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Song Affected in Fragmented Bird Populations

March 18, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

The song of passerine birds is one aspect of male-male competition or mate attraction. At the level of the individual, song is considered an indicator of male ‘quality’.  Paola Laiolo and colleagues at the Spanish Council of Research (CSIC) studied the metapopulation system of the Dupont’s lark in north-eastern Spain and found an association between individual song diversity and the viability of the population as a whole, as measured by the annual rate of population change. Males from the most numerous and productive populations, i.e. those less prone to extinction, sang songs with greater complexity. Birds from smaller populations sang less complex songs as they experienced a poor cultural milieu, and had possibly a lower mating success. More than 500 songbird species are globally threatened, most of them because of habitat loss and fragmentation. Given its easily quantifiable nature, this study suggests that birdsong could become an early warning signal of populations in trouble.  The findings are published in this week’s PLoS ONE.

Monogamy is Uncommon in Nature

March 18, 2008  www.nytimes.com 

Biologists have discovered through the application of DNA paternity tests to the offspring of bonded pairs, that social monogamy is very rarely accompanied by sexual, or genetic, monogamy. Assays of birds, voles, lesser apes, foxes or any other pair-bonding species, find anywhere from 10 to 70 percent have been sired by somebody other than the resident male. The only species known to be totally monogamous is Diplozoon paradoxum, a flatworm that lives in gills of freshwater fish. “Males and females meet each other as adolescents, and their bodies literally fuse together, whereupon they remain faithful until death.

Cameron Park Zoo Expands Elephant Exhibit

March 18, 2008   www.kcentv.com

WACO, Texas -- The Cameron Park Zoo will be expanding the Asian exhibit to include three new animals.  They will be adding an Orangutan, and Komodo Dragons. Construction will begin in a couple of weeks and be completed in one year.

Calls of Humpback Whale Calves Analyzed

March 18, 2008  news.nationalgeographic.com

HONOLULU, Hawaii -- Researchers say they have shown for the first time that humpback whale calves make sounds.  The nonprofit Cetos Research Organization, which studied humpbacks off the Hawaiian islands of Maui and Kauai, say the grunts and squeals emitted by the young whales are messages for their mothers. Ann Zoidis, director of the research project, said the sounds may be expressions of curiosity or warnings of potential danger.  The sounds are not as complex as the continuous, repetitive, and highly structured phrases and themes of older males, the researchers found.  The calves instead produced a limited number of sounds that were short and simple in structure, according to the study.  The noises included repetitive grunts that increased in strength and were sometimes accompanied by bubble streams and seemed to function as an alarm call to the mother, the researchers found.  An article about the group's research, which was conducted during the winter months between 2004 and 2008, appears in the March issue of the Journal of the Acoustic Society of America.

Details from AZA Report on S.F. Zoo Tiger Incident

March 19, 2008  www.sfgate.com By Patricia Yollin

AZA has released a report on the fatal Siberian tiger attack at the S.F. Zoo.  A three-member team spent two days investigating at the site in late January and gave the zoo mixed reviews for its handling of the emergency.  "The overall response to this major emergency was impressive." But lack of training and equipment, a severe staff shortage and hard-to-find weapons and keys were cited as problems. "On the day of the incident 102 employees were assigned to work, including 31 in animal care and three in the veterinary hospital. By 5 p.m. only two animal care staff and one veterinary technician were on grounds," the report said. "The majority of staff were sent home at 4 p.m. for the Christmas holiday."  The report praised zookeeper Anthony Brown for quick thinking and fearless behavior, both at the big-cat grotto and at the Terrace Cafe. A trained shooter, Brown was the first to find Sousa's body, arriving with a 12-gauge shotgun after hearing a "Code 1 Tiger" call on the zoo's radio. Although the teenager appeared to be dead, Brown still sought medical attention for him.  "Anthony Brown communicated concisely and clearly over the radio, providing the most rapid and safest response possible by the police department to the scene," the report said.  But Brown didn't have keys to the part of the zoo hospital where the shotgun was kept and couldn't find the keys for two vehicles, forcing him to use his own car to arrive at the spot where Sousa had been attacked.  Seasonal and contract employees, such as food and retail workers, hadn't been trained in the zoo's emergency procedures and policies, including drills for animal escapes, and there weren't enough functioning radios because most of them were being charged. 

Brown also guided the police to the cafe and directed an officer to shoot Tatiana in the head. Seasonal employee Galo Paz, an attendant at the holiday ice-skating rink, was also praised. He responded to the initial first-aid call without being asked, rushing to the cafe. As he tried to help one of the Dhaliwals, Tatiana approached them and swiped at their legs. Other zoo employees fared less well in the report. Security supervisor Deb Howe was criticized for placing herself and a guard at risk by not taking seriously the Dhaliwals' claim that an animal had escaped. Instead, she thought the brothers had been in a fight because of their injuries and their belligerent and erratic behavior. The report also slammed food service manager Ray Lim, who didn't administer first aid to the brothers or allow them to come inside the cafe. However, on the whole, the report said, "zoo security responded quickly and effectively, staying online with 911 and in zoo radio communication throughout the event." Director Manuel Mollinedo said Tuesday. "There are a number of things we've put in place." He said the zoo closed for nine days after the Christmas attack and lost about $1.1 million in revenue as a result 

The zoo has dramatically modified the big-cat grotto since the attack after discovering the moat walls were below industry standards. The association's team also recommended that vegetation in the outdoor grottoes be cleared to eliminate potential escape routes, that doors inside the Lion House be repaired or disabled, that locks be revamped and rusting metal replaced. It also urged the zoo to increase its staff in the large-cat section. "It appeared to the inspection team that the zoo lacks enough supervisory personnel in the animal care department to effectively train, oversee and enforce existing policies and procedures," the report concluded. "The zoo is too often chasing problems rather than proactively addressing known concerns. This will require a shift in culture and the supervisory and maintenance staff to make it happen." Mollinedo said the zoo has remedied the association's concerns and had been working on solutions long before receiving the report on March 8. Officials are creating two animal-care supervisor positions on a level between keeper and curator. The report also addressed a Jan. 10 near-escape by a snow leopard in the Feline Conservation Center, which endangered keeper Mary Moore. The problem was a rusting cage. Although Moore, like Brown, was lauded for "clear thinking and correct action under pressure," the report said the conditions that led to the incident had been noted in two previous association visits in 2005 and 2006. The Feline Conservation Center is now permanently closed to the public.

City gives Maryland Zoo $1.5 million

March 19, 2008  www.baltimoresun.com   By John Fritze

The city of Baltimore has forgiven nearly a half-million dollars in unpaid water bills for the Maryland Zoo and gave its management $1 million more to fix aging infrastructure. Local and state governments have increased funding for the zoo, after zoo officials called attention to a $3 million budget deficit in 2006.  Zoo spokeswoman Jane Ballentine said yesterday that the zoo is paying its current water bills and that the balance was accumulated years ago when the zoo's budget situation was more dire. The grant will be used for improvements to the zoo's water and wastewater facilities, as some of the zoo's infrastructure dates to the 1800s.  The zoo, is managed by the Maryland Zoological Society and has an annual operating budget of about $12 million.  Former Baltimore County Executive Donald P. Hutchinson is serving as its interim president and chief executive officer.

Commission wants S.F. Zoo to Become Rescue Center

March 19, 2008  www.sfgate.com  By Heather Knight

San Francisco's Animal Control and Welfare Commission has unanimously agreed to send a proposal to the Board of Supervisors to convert the San Francisco Zoo to an animal rescue facility.  The commission has no power to effect any changes and would need a supervisor  to call for hearings and submit legislation.  Supervisor Aaron Peskin, president of the board, said the appropriate time to discuss major changes to the zoo would be when the city's complex lease agreement with the nonprofit San Francisco Zoological Society is up for reconsideration later this year.  Manuel Mollinedo, director of the zoo, said he's not in favor of the proposal.  "A sanctuary facility is a holding area for animals to die," he said. "It would be a major shift." He added that the zoo's current conservation programs, like the breeding of 100 bald eagles, would likely end under the new model.  Under the commission's proposal, however, animals that are now part of the zoo's endangered-species breeding programs could be grandfathered in so conservation efforts could continue. The commission also wants to see the establishment of a wildlife rehab center at the zoo to treat sick and injured birds, including those that might be harmed in the event of another oil spill.

National Zoo Attempts to Breed Panda

March 19, 2008  www.washingtonpost.com 

The National Zoo’s female panda, Mei Xiang, and the male, Tian Tian, were brought together Tuesday to mate naturally, zoo officials said. But veterinarians determined they weren't successful and to capitalize on the short estrus period, performed an artificial insemination today.  It could be months, though, before scientists know whether the insemination was successful. Mei Xiang has been successfully artificially inseminated before, leading to the birth of cub Tai Shan in 2005. Scientists tried to artificially inseminate Mei Xiang last April with semen taken from Gao Gao, a giant panda at the San Diego Zoo. But they determined in July that Mei Xiang was not pregnant.

Panda Injures National Zoo Keeper

March 19, 2008  www.washingtonpost.com

WASHINGTON (AP) — National Zoo’s 2-year-old, 170-pound giant-panda cub playfully bit a worker, causing a small leg laceration yesterday.  The panda apparently entered his yard through an unsecured door Tuesday during a routine feeding. Keepers stopped entering the panda cub's yard with him for safety reasons when he reached about 70 pounds and the keeper took Tai Shan indoors before placing food in his yard, but the panda re-entered the yard and approached the keeper from behind, playfully grabbing her with his mouth.  "The keeper was able to radio for help, and other animal care staff distracted Tai Shan with food as they also safely assisted the keeper out of the yard."  The keeper was treated at a hospital and released. Only about 1,600 giant pandas remain in the wild, and fewer than 180 live in captivity.  The National Zoo Giant Pandas can be viewed at: http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/GiantPandas/

Minnesota Zoo Struggles for Fund

March 19, 2008  www.startribune.com   By David Peterson

APPLE VALLEY -- When he makes his pitch for what it will take to lift the Minnesota Zoo into the top ranks of American zoos, Lee Ehmke reminds people what the San Diego zoo has done to draw crowds to that city.  In the aftermath of the bridge collapse in Minneapolis, even Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a stong supporter was unwilling to recommend any of the $15 million the zoo wanted to pursue.  Ehmke's ambitious master plan for a makeover of the state-owned facility.  And then, when the bonding bill came up for consideration in the Minnesota House, the only one of the two bodies that was willing to put some chips on the table specifically for that purpose, the Republican minority leader launched a scathing attack against an $11 million proposal to upgrade a pair of exhibits at the Como Zoo in St. Paul. Why, asked Marty Siefert, does it cost so much more to house a gorilla than to create magnificent luxury homes for people? "The Minnesota Zoo used to be very controversial," said Sen. Chris Gerlach, R-Apple Valley. "But the waters have calmed. It's been a lot easier sell at the Capitol than it was in the late '90s."  This spring, as the result of what Ehmke calls "the first major state investment in the zoo in many, many years, a huge show of support," visitors will discover an elaborate and showy new $30 million exhibit to be known as Russia's Grizzly Coast. The next step would be a major overhaul of the zoo's entranceway, shifting it to the other side of the complex. And the House bill does award the zoo $1 million toward planning for that next step. "Curb appeal" is Ehmke's wry term for that project. People entering the zoo today feel a bit like they're coming in the back door. That project, which would also draw visitors in through a sequence of lively animal exhibits, rather than blank walls, involves another $30 million in eventual requests. At a time when people worry about the basic safety of bridges, Ehmke understands he won't be first in line in any bonding bill. But he also reminds folks that the zoo has been waiting for a long time.  Only about a quarter of the initial master plan from the 1970s was ever built," he said. "It's been a struggle to move ahead with that, and we're almost 30 years old."

Why Birds Start Singing in Spring

March 19, 2008   www.nature.org

LONDON (Reuters) - Birds start singing in the spring because of a biological response to longer days. Certain brain cells trigger a series of hormonal reactions telling them to find a mating partner, which they do by singing, according to a team of Japanese and British researchers in the journal Nature.  The researchers, led by Takashi Yoshimura of the Nagoya University in Japan, scanned 38,000 genes present in brain samples taken from Japanese quails to see which of the birds' genes were affected by varying degrees of light.  Genes in cells on the surface of the brain switched on when the birds received more light and began releasing a thyroid-stimulating hormone.  The genes activated 14 hours after dawn on the first day of sufficient length, the researchers said.  "Such knowledge would have been impossible in the past, but advances in technology enabled us to scan thousands of genes so that we could work out which ones are affected by seasonal change," said Peter Sharp, a researcher at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh, who also worked on the study.

This hormone, previously associated with growth and metabolism, helped to stimulate the pituitary gland to secrete other hormones. In turn this caused the birds' testes to grow, which eventually resulted in crowing to attract a mate.  The findings could also one day lead to better treatments for infertility because humans have the same cells in the same part of the brain, Sharp added. "It is sitting there and standing there with the same characteristics as in birds," he said. "The big question is whether these cells are involved in the reproductive system."

Tracking Wolves with a  “Howlbox”

March 19, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By KIRK JOHNSON

BOZEMAN, Mont. —  Scientists at the University of Montana are using the call-and-response among wolves to count and keep track of the animals.  They have constructed a speaker-recorder system called a “Howlbox”.  The Howlbox howls, and the wolves howl back. Spectrogram technology then allows analysis that the human ear could never achieve — how many wolves have responded, and which wolves they are. “With audio software, we’ll be able to identify each wolf on a different frequency, so we can count wolves individually, kind of like a fingerprint,” said David Ausband, a research associate at the University of Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, where Howlbox was developed.  The devices, using off-the-shelf technology, cost about $1,300, including $300 for a solar panel. The experiment will begin with a pilot project in which four Howlboxes will be placed in remote areas of Idaho in June. That month was chosen because it is when the packs gather with their spring-born pups in what is called a rendezvous.  Wolf pups will howl at almost anything, scientists say. But a test here in Montana in January also showed that adult wolves can also be fooled by a good sound system.

Money is a driving force behind the research, much of which is being paid for by the Nez Perce Indian tribe in Idaho, which has deep cultural links to the western gray wolf.  Traditional tracking tools like radio collars and aerial surveillance were used extensively after wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park in the mid-1990s under the Federal Endangered Species Act. But federal protections will end later this month, and so too will the deep pockets needed for flyovers and catching and collaring.  A spokesman for the Nez Perce tribe, Curt Mack, said Howlbox might be a cost-efficient answer. “We’re at a transition moment from wolf recovery to long-term management,” said Mr. Mack, the tribe’s gray wolf recovery coordinator. “We need new tools.”

Another issue for Howlbox is the human response. To the uninitiated, a Howlbox-enhanced forest could sound as if wolves were everywhere — a scary proposition. Montana wildlife officials are braced for a public relations campaign if the project moves forward. “That is something we would not do without touching base with local folks,” said Carolyn Sime, the wolf program coordinator at the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks “They need to know that just because you hear the sound, it doesn’t necessarily mean that wild wolves are howling at their back door.”

Elephant Deaths Soar in Sri Lanka

March 19, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By Reuters

PIMBURELLEGAMA, Sri Lanka -- Sri Lanka has long wrestled with a human-elephant conflict that kills dozens of animals and people annually, but now elephant deaths are up sharply.  In what the military says is a bid to protect villages in the far north as the government and its Tiger foes wage a new phase of a 25-year civil war, farmers have been given shotguns and a civil defense force semi-automatic weapons for protection.  But the recipients are turning them increasingly on elephants who stray onto their crops or damage their homes in search of food -- with elephant deaths up 13 percent in 2007 from a year earlier. In 2007, 193 elephants died in Sri Lanka, the vast majority shot, poisoned or electrocuted. Some were run over by trains, others fell down wells. Only a few died of disease.  That compares to a total population estimated at around 3,000-4,000 elephants, and is up from 171 deaths in 2006. In Sri Lanka's northern and northwestern districts alone, home to an estimated 1,500 elephants, 63 elephants were killed -- 27 of those directly by gunfire. Others died of septicemia from gunshot wounds, some were poisoned with chemical-laced pumpkins and a few electrocuted by wires connected directly to the electricity grid.

What is now the Tigers' northern stronghold was full of elephants in the mid-18th century according to one antique map. It is unclear how many there are in that area now. "The human population is increasing, the forest is decreasing. You can't stop it," said Manjula Amararathna, northwest region assistant director of Sri Lanka's Department of Wildlife and Conservation. Elephants killed 50 people in 2007, some trampled, others smashed against the ground using their trunks -- and at least one woman was torn limb from limb. Outside Amararathna's office in the northern town of Anuradhapura, elephant skulls sit on the porch. One has a round hole in the middle of its forehead made by a shotgun. "To protect villages from terrorists, guns have been given to homeguards and villagers," Amararathna said. "We can't protest, because it is very important to protect the people." "I think at the moment there's no alternative." Instead, officials are erecting electric fences and planting vegetation unpalatable to the animals in a bid to minimize human-elephant contact and conflict. Catching culprits is an uphill task.

With up to five years in jail and a fine of up to 300,000 rupees ($2,785) facing those who kill an elephant, there are no ready confessions, and there is often little evidence to go by. The military admits arming civilians is part of the problem, but says it has no choice. "We have to increase supervision on this, that's the only way," Army Commander Sarath Fonseka told Reuters. "We give strict instructions, but there will be a couple of culprits because they are from the villages, elephants come and start destroying houses and various things, and they get shot." "They have to have the guns, otherwise we can't guard each and every village ... The Tigers come and start killing people." Officials say the Tigers have long used Wilpattu park to transport weapons and explosives to the coast and then run them to the capital Colombo to mount attacks. Wilpattu's previous park warden and several employees were killed in an ambush blamed on the Tigers inside the reserve in 2007. The park has remained closed to the public since a group of local tourists, including renowned Sri Lankan author Nihal de Silva, were killed when their vehicle ran over a suspected Tiger-planted mine while tracking wild elephants in 2006.

But it is not all doom and gloom. Officials estimate the elephant population -- which is down from around 12,000 in 1900 -- is stable, with birth rates offsetting the kill rate. In the eastern wildlife park of Minneriya, 'Ha Ha' the elephant has been a regular fixture on the threshold of Lilian Jayasinghe's roadside shop and cafe for years. Rubbing his head against a wooden post at the entrance, he waits for customers to feed him buns, cakes and bananas. Passing soldiers patrolling the area stop to stroke his trunk. On his legs and body, round welts of thickened grey skin are tell-tale signs of healed gunshot wounds. "Once he came with a gunshot wound to his stomach. We made a paste of chili powder, pepper and turmeric and rubbed it on the wound," Jayasinghe said. "Then he used his trunk to massage the paste in!" "It is a bad thing that they are killing elephants," she added, as tourists jumped out of a passing minivan to take photos. "Thieves don't come here because the elephant is here. He's like a security guard. We think of him as a pet."

Rwandan Corridor Will Save 15 Chimpanzees

March 19, 2008  www.greatapetrust.org 

RWANDA -- 15 chimpanzees are isolated in Rwanda's Gishwatic Forest Reserve so a 30 mile (50km) forest corridor to connect them to Nyungwe National Park is being planned. Organizers of the project, named the Rwandan National Conservation Park.  The Rwandan National Conservation Park is a collaborative effort of the Rwandan government; Great Ape Trust of Des Moines Iowa, and Earthpark, a national environmental education center proposed for Pella, Iowa. The Gishwati Forest, in Rwanda’s Western Province, was deforested in the 1980s by agricultural development and in the 1990s during the resettlement of people following the civil war and genocide.  Human encroachment, deforestation, grazing and the introduction of small-scale farming resulted in extensive soil erosion, flooding, landslides and reduced water quality – as well as the isolation of a small population of chimpanzees.  A team from Great Ape Trust and Earthpark toured the Gishwati region in late 2007, hosted by representatives from the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) and Rwanda National Forestry Authority (NAFA).  Meetings with MINITERE, REMA, NAFA, the Rwandan Office for Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN), the National University of Rwanda, the Wildlife Conservation Society and Great Ape Trust, resulted in four goals for the Gishwati project:
    1 Create Rwanda National Conservation Park, defined as conservation of biodiversity in an extensively degraded landscape, populated with low-income, small-scale agriculturalists.
    2 Restore ecosystem services in the form of improved water quality, reduced soil erosion and flooding, fewer landslides and increased sequestration of carbon.
    3 Restore natural biodiversity with special emphasis on chimpanzees as a keystone and flagship species.
    4 Generate income through ecotourism, investment opportunity and local employment.
Video,  slide shows and are at http://www.greatapetrust.org/save/rwanda.php

5-Year Review of 28 Southwestern Species

March 20, 2008  www.epa.gov 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), will begin conducting 5-year reviews of 28 southwestern species listed under the Endangered Species Act. The 5-year review is an assessment of the best scientific and commercial data available at the time of the review.
To allow adequate time to conduct this review, information submitted for our consideration must be received on or before June 18, 2008. However, we will continue to accept new information about any listed species at any time. Information submitted on these species should be sent to the Service at the addresses listed below.
    A  5-year review considers all new information available at the time of the review. These reviews will consider the best scientific and commercial data that has become available since the current listing determination or most recent status review of each species, such as:
    A. Species biology, including but not limited to population trends, distribution, abundance, demographics, and genetics;
    B. Habitat conditions, including but not limited to amount, distribution, and suitability;
    C. Conservation measures that have been implemented to benefit the species;
    D. Threat status and trends (see five factors under heading ``How do we determine whether a species is endangered or threatened?''); and
    E. Other new information, data, or corrections, including but not limited to taxonomic or nomenclatural changes, identification of erroneous information contained in the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants, and improved analytical methods.

The List is also available on our Internet site at http://www.fws.gov/endangered/wildlife.html 

                                  Summary of the Listing Information
           Common name              Status          Where listed       Final listing rule
Arizona hedgehog cactus  E               AZ                    44 FR 61556
Beautiful shiner................            T               AZ, NM             49 FR 34490
Big Bend gambusia...............       E               TX                    32 FR 4001
Brady pincushion cactus.........     E               AZ                    44 FR 61784
Clear Creek gambusia............     E               TX                    32 FR 4001
Comal Springs dryopid beetle....  E               TX                    62 FR 66295
Comal Springs riffle beetle.....      E               TX                    62 FR 66295
Fountain darter.................            E               TX                    35 FR 16047
Hinckley oak....................             T               TX                    53 FR 32824
Kearney blue star...............          E               AZ                    54 FR 2131
Leon Springs pupfish............       E               TX                    45 FR 54678
Peck's Cave amphipod............    E               TX                    62 FR 66295
San Marcos gambusia.............    E               TX                    45 FR 47355
San Marcos salamander...........   T               TX                    45 FR 47355
Sonora chub.....................            T               AZ                    51 FR 16042
Sonoran pronghorn...............       E               AZ                    32 FR 4001
Socorro isopod..................           E               NM                    43 FR 12690
Socorro springsnail.............         E               NM                    56 FR 49646
South Texas ambrosia............     E               TX                    59 FR 43648
Southwestern willow flycatcher..  E               AZ, CA, CO,     60 FR 10693
                                                                          NV,NM,TX, UT
Terlingua Creek cat's-eye.......     E               TX                    56 FR 49634
Texas ayenia....................            E               TX                    59 FR 43648
Texas blind salamander..........     E               TX                    32 FR 4001
Texas wild-rice.................            E               TX                    43 FR 17910
Tobusch fishhook cactus.........     E               TX                    44 FR 64736
Yaqui catfish...................              T               AZ                    49 FR 34490
Yaqui chub......................             E               AZ                    49 FR 34490
Yaqui topminnow.................        E               AZ, NM             32 FR 4001

Section 4(a)(1) of the Endangered Species Act establishes that USFWS determine whether a species is endangered or threatened based on one or more of the five following factors:
    A. The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range;
    B. Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes;
    C. Disease or predation;
    D. The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
    E. Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence.

If we find that there is new information concerning any of the 28 species listed in Table 1 indicating a change in classification may be warranted, we may propose a new rule that could do one of the following: (a) Reclassify the species from endangered to threatened; (b) reclassify the species from threatened to endangered; or (c) remove the species from the List. If we determine that a change in classification is not warranted, then these species will remain on the
List under their current status.

Information regarding the Brady pincushion cactus (Pediocactus bradyi), Arizona hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus triglochidiatus var. arizonicus), Kearney blue star (Amsonia kearneyana), southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus), and Sonora chub (Gila ditaenia) should be sent to the Field Supervisor, Attention 5-year Review, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Ecological Services Field Office, 2321 West Royal Palm Road, Suite 103, Phoenix, AZ 85021. The office phone number is 602-242-0210.
    Information regarding Sonoran pronghorn (Antilocapra Americana sonoriensis) should be sent to the Refuge Manager, Attention 5-year Review, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, 1611 North Second Avenue, Ajo, Arizona 85321. The office phone number is 520/387-6483, and Web address is: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/arizona/cabeza/index.html .
    Information regarding beautiful shiner (Cyprinella formosa), Yaqui catfish (Ictalurus pricei), Yaqui chub (Gila purpurea), and Yaqui topminnow (Poeciliopsis occidentalis sonoriensis) should be sent to the Refuge Manager, Attention 5-year Review, San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge, P.O. Box 3509, Douglas, Arizona 85607. The office phone number is 520/364-2104, and Web address is: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/arizona/sanbernardino.html
    Information regarding the Texas blind salamander (Typhlomolge rathbuni), fountain darter (Etheostoma fonticola), Texas wild-rice (Zizania texana), San Marcos gambusia (Gambusia georgei), San Marcos salamander (Eurycea nana), Peck's Cave amphipod (Stygobromus
(=Stygonectes) pecki), Comal Springs dryopid beetle (Stygoparnus comalensis), Comal Springs riffle beetle (Heterelmis comalensis), Leon Springs pupfish (Cyprinodon bovinus), Tobusch fishhook cactus (Ancistrocactus tobuschii), Terlingua Creek cat's-eye (Cryptantha crassipes), Hinckley oak (Quercus hinckleyi), Big Bend gambusia (Gambusia gaigei), and Clear Creek gambusia (Gambusia heterochir) should be sent to the Field Supervisor, Attention 5-year Review, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Austin Ecological Services Field Office, 10711 Burnet Road, Suite 200, Austin, Texas 78758. The office phone number is 512-490-0057.
    Information regarding Socorro isopod (Thermosphaeroma thermophilus) and Socorro springsnail (Pyrgulopsis neomexicana) should be sent to the Field Supervisor, Attention 5-year Review, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office, 2105 Osuna Road NE., Albuquerque, NM 87113. The office phone number is 505-346-2525.
    Information regarding Texas ayenia (Ayenia limitaris) and south Texas ambrosia (Ambrosia cheiranthifolia) should be sent to the Field Supervisor, Attention 5-year Review, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service c/o TAMU-CC, Ecological Services, 6300 Ocean Drive, Unit 5837, Corpus Christi, TX 78412. The office phone number is 361-994-9005.

Irwin proposes 'Disney feel' for Australian Zoo

March 20, 2008  www.news.com.au   By Jessica Marszalek

At a VIP breakfast at the Australian Zoo, the widow of the late Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin said the zoo on Queensland's Sunshine Coast would be Irwin-owned well into the future as it expanded with a safari park and accommodation.  "(We) want to be 'Destination Australia' - kind of like that Disney feel where a lot of Australians go and see Disneyland and then (ask) what else is there to do in Australia?," Ms Irwin said.  She said she hoped plans would be complete in three to five years.  She said she was committed to the zoo and its wildlife goals and rumors she would sell the zoo now or in the future had no basis.

London Zoo's New Bird Enclosure Opens

March 20, 2008  www.dailymail.co.uk

The London Zoo’s Blackburn Pavilion, built in 1883 to house reptiles has received a £2.5m renovation to showcase 200 exotic birds. The original 19th-century entrance porch of the pavilion has been reopened, and a giant mechanical cuckoo clock stands outside the building. In keeping with the Victorian theme of the building, Queen Victoria impersonator Sylvia Strange attended the launch.  Toucans, starlings, kookaburras and partridges fly freely as visitors use a boardwalk to travel through rainforest and cloud forest environments.  David Field, London Zoo's zoological director, said "We're exceptionally proud of the blend of cultural heritage and the world of aviculture, and the response that we are getting already has been tremendous,"  Highlights of the new aviary include the UK's only collection of live hummingbirds, friendly red-crested turaco Tilly, and a group of Socorro doves, a species extinct in the wild. Over the past few years London Zoo has been undergoing changes to allow visitors to get closer to 650 different species of animals. Last year saw the opening of its Gorilla Kingdom, while work to revamp the Children's Zoo should open in 2009.

London Zoo’s Tropical Bird Pavillion

March 20, 2008  www.guardian.co.uk  James Meikle

Species of bird featured in London Zoo’s refurbished aviary unveiled today include toco toucans, red-crested turacos, the Mindanao bleeding heart dove, the scarlet ibis and the blue-winged kookaburra.  Three female Amazilia hummingbirds are among the pavilion’s stars. They were bred in captivity in Germany and the Netherlands and will soon be joined by males for a new breeding program. They come from Western Peru and Ecuador are not yet threatened in the wild but other birds among the 40 tropical species on view are endangered. The Socorro dove has been extinct in its natural habitat on an island off Mexico for 30 years, and the rare Bali starling, with its stunning white feathers, is critically endangered. The zoo is part of a European-wide programme that eventually hopes to see the Socorro dove returning home. The pavilion was converted to a birdhouse in 1927, and the £2.5m restoration features a large walk-through area with 200 birds, plus a smaller "cloud forest" zone with the hummingbirds and other spectacular species.  John Ellis is the zoo's curator of birds.

Male Elephant Born at Maryland Zoo

March 20, 2008  www.wbaltv.com

The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore says a 290-pound male elephant calf was born about 9 p.m. Wednesday night at the zoo's Elephant Barn. His 24-year-old mother, named Felix, delivered the baby after about an hour of hard labor.  The newborn stood up minutes after he was born and is 42 inches tall.  He appears to be in excellent health. The delivery is the first elephant birth in the zoo's 132-year history.

Congo Arrests Ranger in Gorilla Deaths

March 20, 2008  www.enn.com  By Reuters

KINSHASA -- Congolese authorities have arrested a senior national park ranger on suspicion of arranging the killing of rare gorillas and burning protected trees for charcoal, conservationists and local media said on Wednesday.  Around 10 mountain gorillas were slaughtered last year in Democratic Republic of Congo's remote Virunga National Park, causing a stir even in a country where violence, hunger and disease kill 1,500 people a day in the aftermath of the 1998-2003 war. The senior Congolese Nature Conservation Institute (ICCN) official was arrested on Tuesday at his home in the eastern town of Goma, United Nations-supported radio station Okapi reported. The conservation group Wildlife Direct reports development on its website http://gorilla.wildlifedirect.org/   Fewer than 720 mountain gorillas survive in the wild, spread across the Virunga hills where the borders of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda meet. Last month the three countries launched a joint 10-year plan to protect the gorillas from poaching and insecurity linked to militia violence that haunts the region nearly five years after the end of Congo's war.  Conservationists hope the gorillas can be the centre of a relaunched ecotourism industry devastated by years of violence in the heavily forested intersection of the borders of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. Some wealthy visitors pay $500 a day for tracking permits to view the gorillas, which are famed for the grey shimmering hair on the backs of adult males, which gives them the name "silver-backs."

San Diego Habitat Corridors Mapped

March 20, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com  By Mike Lee

SAN DIEGO -- After 6 years of work, South Coast Wildlands and ~20 partner groups have released the most comprehensive assessment of the region's habitat links to best serve 109 “focal species”. Using geographic information systems and more than 60 academic studies, the South Coast Missing Linkages Project offers detailed maps of the 15 critical wildlife corridors left in Southern California  that connect larege open space and are mainly owned by state and federal agencies. The central goal is to enhance the movement of native plants and animals between segments of more than 18 million acres of protected lands.  Mountain lions are of special concern because they require large areas to roam. Researchers used radio-collar tracking studies to identify the routes the lions already use and target those lands for special protections from development. In all, 109 “focal species” movements were studied.  Other key species are bighorn sheep, quino checkerspot butterfly, golden eagle, and badger. Three of the wildland linkages are in North County and three more – which have yet to be mapped in detail – cross the U.S.-Mexico border. The others stretch as far north as Bakersfield, where thin strands of habitat connect the Sierra Nevada mountains to the coastal range.  The maps show that Southern California – one of the world's biodiversity hot spots – still has enough open space to support a wide range of native plants and animals. However, they also provide a reminder that if those linkages are broken, species will become isolated in smaller and smaller pockets of land.

Project proponents said the pathways will help agency officials and conservation leaders focus on the most important areas to safeguard. For instance, county officials are consulting the maps as they create two large-scale species conservation plans for north and east San Diego County. The maps also can be used by the California Department of Transportation to locate places where improvements such as bridges and stream culverts could be designed to help the movement of wildlife. In addition, the maps support conservation leaders' long-standing vision of a “vegetated land bridge” over Interstate 15 near Fallbrook as a way to facilitate migrations for mountain lions and other species.

The pathways are taking on increasing significance as global warming alters habitats.  “As we protect these linkages from the valley floor to the mountains, there will be some escape routes for species” to find suitable microclimates at higher elevations, said David Van Cleve, a senior official with The Nature Conservancy in San Diego. Cleve and Kristeen Penrod of South Coast Wildlands were among experts involved in the project, which brought together about 20 partner groups. Creating a network of conservation areas is a departure from old-school ecology, which relied heavily on government agencies such as the National Park Service setting aside huge chunks of property. That's not viewed as practical these days.  “It's much more efficient both in terms of economics and in terms of biology to create linkages between the existing reserves,” Van Cleve said. That approach relies on cooperative agreements with private property owners. Land conservancies, working with state and federal agencies, commonly provide financial incentives for landowners to limit development or improve the habitat on their parcels. Thanks to the linkage blueprint, that can happen in a targeted and scientifically defensible way.

The new atlas has its roots in a statewide conference eight years ago that included some 200 land managers, scientists and conservationists. They identified 232 linkages statewide – a number that was too big to tackle all at once, said Kristeen Penrod, conservation director at South Coast Wildlands, a nonprofit group in Los Angeles that coordinated the pathways project. The creation of the “missing linkages” for Southern California involved five steps: Selection of 109 focal species that represent the diverse needs of the region's plants and animals. Analysis of elevation, vegetation, road density and other factors to define the best routes between preserved lands.  Identification of priority areas needed to maintain the links. On-the-ground investigation of the models. Compilation of analyses and fieldwork into final maps. She and her colleagues whittled the number down to 15 Southern California links that “are so important that if even one fails, the biological integrity of the entire region would be compromised.” At first, the links were nothing more than arrows on a map. But over time, conservationists have refined the corridors down to a matter of meters. Doing that took several steps, starting with the selection of 109 “indicator species,” including black-tailed jack rabbits, badgers, golden eagles and white alder.

Next, the scientists performed what they call a “landscape permeability analysis,” a computer technique that models the difficulty that the various species would have moving between large conserved areas. Factors include vegetation types, elevation, slope and road density. Tom Oberbauer, chief of multiple species conservation planning for the county, and Mary Loquvam, executive director of South Coast Wildlands, toured areas covered by the mapping effort.  the best potential route for each species was combined with the others to create the most favorable path for all modeled plants and animals. After that, the scientists factored in the size of habitat parcels in the pathways and whether they are close enough to benefit the species. Researchers then checked the models during field trips and documented migration barriers such as roads. In addition to generating maps, South Coast Wildlands and its partners offered several recommendations for how to improve the habitat connections. They include: designing road culverts to maximize wildlife use, encouraging the use of native plants by residents, enforcing leash laws on public lands to reduce predation of wildlife, and stopping illegal use of off-road vehicles. Now that the South Coast report is done – at the cost of about $700,000 – Penrod and others aim to export their analytical approach. “Let's do the rest of California at the level of detail that actually provides an implementable vision,” she said.

Tuatara is Fastest Evolving Animal

March 20, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

The tuatara, Sphendon punctatus, is found only in New Zealand and is the only surviving member of a distinct reptilian order Sphehodontia that lived alongside early dinosaurs and separated from other reptiles 200 million years ago in the Upper Triassic period.  A new study by ancient DNA expert, Professor David Lambert and co-workers from the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution, has recovered DNA sequences from the bones of ancient tuatara, which are up to 8000 years old. They found that, although tuatara have remained largely physically unchanged over very long periods of evolution, they are evolving - at a DNA level - faster than any other animal yet examined. Significantly faster than the cave bear, lion, ox and horse. The rate of evolution for Adélie penguins is slightly slower than that of the tuatara. “Of course we would have expected that the tuatara, which does everything slowly – they grow slowly, reproduce slowly and have a very slow metabolism – would have evolved slowly. In fact, at the DNA level, they evolve extremely quickly, which supports a hypothesis proposed by the evolutionary biologist Allan Wilson, who suggested that the rate of molecular evolution was uncoupled from the rate of morphological evolution.”  The research will be published in the March issue of Trends in Genetics.  Professor Lambert says the finding will be helpful in terms of future study and conservation of the tuatara, and the team now hopes to extend the work to look at the evolution of other animal species. “We want to go on and measure the rate of molecular evolution for humans, as well as doing more work with moa and Antarctic fish to see if rates of DNA change are uncoupled in these species. There are human mummies in the Andes and some very good samples in Siberia where we have some collaborators, so we are hopeful we will be able to measure the rate of human evolution in these animals too.”  Lambert et al.:"Rapid molecular evolution in a living fossil." Researchers include Jennifer M. Hay, Sankar Subramanian, Craig D. Millar, Elmira Mohandesan and David M. Lambert. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tig.2007.12.002

Bats Classify Plants by Echoes

March 20, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Researchers have developed a computer algorithm that can imitate the bat’s ability to classify plants using echolocation. The study, published March 21st in the open-access journal PLoS Computational Biology, represents a collaboration between machine learning scientists and biologists studying bat orientation.  To detect plants, bats emit ultrasonic pulses and decipher the various echoes that return. Bats use plants daily as food sources and landmarks for navigation between foraging sites. Plant echoes are highly complex signals due to numerous reflections from leaves and branches. Classifying plants or other intricate objects, therefore, has been considered a troublesome task for bats and the scientific community was far from understanding how they do it. A of German scientists used a sonar system to emit bat-like, frequency-modulated ultrasonic pulses. The researchers recorded thousands of echoes from live plants of five species. An algorithm that uses the time-frequency information of these echoes was able to classify plants with high accuracy. This new algorithm also provides hints toward which echo characteristics might be best understood by the bats.  http://www.ploscompbiol.org/doi/pcbi.1000032. The research group in Tübingen, Germany, includes University of Tübingen researchers Yossi Yovel, Peter Stilz and Hans Ulrich-Schnitzler, and Matthias Franz from the Max Planck Institute of Biological Cybernetics, has demonstrated that this process of plant classification is not as difficult as previously thought.  According to the group, these results enable us to improve our understanding of this fascinating ability of how bats classify plants, but do so without entering the bat’s brain.  CITATION: Yovel Y, Franz MO, Stilz P, Schnitzler H-U (2008) Plant Classification from Bat-Like Echolocation Signals. PLoS Comput Biol 4(3): e1000032. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000032

Grizzly Bear DNA Study

March 20, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com  By Joel Achenbach

WEST GLACIER, Mont. –Sen. John McCain recently criticized the federal government for spending $3 million to study grizzly bear DNA.. Actually, it was an important scientific and logistical triumph, argues Katherine Kendall, 56, mastermind of the Northern Divide Grizzly Bear Project. Kendall and her co-workers at the USGS have used DNA primarily as a bear-identifying tool. Her project also employed barbed wire and homemade bear bait brewed up from rotten fish and cattle blood. “There's never been any information about the status of this population. We didn't know what was going on – until this study,” Kendall said.  This was an astonishingly ambitious research project involving 207 paid workers, hundreds of volunteers, 7.8 million acres and 2,560 bear sampling sites. The project did not cost $3 million, as McCain's ad alleges, but more than $5 million, including nearly $4.8 million in congressional appropriations. It had a strong advocate in Congress in Montana's three-term senator, Conrad Burns, a Republican who was defeated in his re-election bid in 2006. Burns is now chairman of McCain's campaign in Montana.

Grizzly bears in northwest Montana are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. But Kendall's project – the results of which will be published soon in a scientific journal – revealed that there are more grizzlies than anyone had realized. That suggests that three decades of conservation efforts, costing tens of millions of dollars, have paid off.  This could have long-term implications for the Northern Divide grizzlies, possibly including their removal someday from the threatened list.  “It was extremely well executed and well worth the money,” said Sterling Miller, a bear researcher working for the National Wildlife Federation. “Someone like McCain should be delighted, in fact. The Endangered Species Act works.”

In 2002 Kendall and her colleagues proposed using such hair traps to count bears in Glacier National Park and the nearby wilderness. She put together a study area of 12,127 square miles, dividing the territory into 640 cells, each about five miles square. Her plan called for workers and volunteers to go into each cell with bait and barbed wire and set up several hair traps. Moreover, they had to revisit each cell three times, collecting hair and relocating the traps.  Her recipe for bear bait: Dump cattle blood and whole fish into separate 55-gallon drums and age for a year. Then blend fish with a Sheetrock mud mixer. Strain fish solids from liquid, and mix liquid with the rotten blood. “It is difficult to convey the stench of this operation to anyone that was not there,” Kendall reports. The bottles of bait sometimes get hot and explode upon opening. Jeff Stetz, Kendall's deputy, has had bear bait sprayed in his face, which quickened his step on the way back to civilization.  All through 2003 and 2004, Kendall worried – until the day it was over, and she had 33,741 samples of hair to send off for lab analysis.  That hair represented 563 grizzly bears. By studying that pattern, Kendall can estimate how many bears there are in the entire ecosystem.

London Zoo & the Blackburn Pavilion History

March 21, 2008  www.timesonline.co.uk  By Lewis Smith

London Zoo was established in 1828 by Sir Stamford Raffles, founder and first president of the Zoological Society of London It was originally intended as a collection for scientific study but was made open to the public in 1847. The zoo’s aquarium, opened in 1853, was the first in the world Raffles had several animals and plants named after him, including Rafflesia, which produces the world’s largest and possibly most spectacular flowers, which smell like rotting flesh.  The zoo has had several famous residents, including Jumbo the elephant, Guy the gorilla, Obaysch, the first hippopotamus to be seen in Europe since Roman times (and whose obituary appeared in The Times in 1878) and the quagga, a now extinct subspecies of zebra that had stripes on only the front of its body.  In 1914 the zoo was given an American black bear by a Canadian Lieutenant. A. A. Milne visited with his son Christopher Robin, and the boy was so enamoured that Milne wrote the Winnie-the-Pooh books.  When Goldie the golden eagle escaped in 1965 for almost a fortnight he appeared on television and in the press and was cheered wildly when mentioned in the House of Commons. He was finally recaptured after almost 12 days.The Blackburn Pavilion was named in honor of the Blackburn family, which is linked to Mitsubishi in Britain. David Blackburn, who is estimated to be worth £120 million, helped to save the zoo from closure in 1992 and more recently the family underwrote the costs of the tropical bird house. The building was opened in 1883 as a reptile house with much of the money being raised from the sale of Jumbo the elephant to Phineas T. Barnum, the American circus owner. The elephant died when it was knocked over by a train.

Berlin Zoo Director Accused of Criminal Activity

March 21, 2008  www.telegraph.co.uk

Bernhard Blaszkiewitz, Director of the Berlin Zoo,  is under pressure to quit following a criminal complaint by a leading Green politician that he allegedly overbred and then illegally sold the animals for use in Chinese medicines.  A pygmy hippopotamus and a family of bears are cited among the animals that were allegedly traded to be killed. It was claimed they ended up at a Belgian slaughterhouse.  He strenuously denies the allegations but they are now being considered by the Berlin public prosecutor who will decide on whether charges will follow. Claudia Haemmerling, a member of the Berlin parliament and an expert on animal rights, filed the criminal complaint which also includes further allegations that the zoo bred "bastard" cross-breeds of a panther and a Java leopard which were sold along with tigers and jaguars to China where they ended up on the shelves of traditional medicine stores marketed as "impotency cures." According to the complaint, the alleged practice of surplus breeding and dubious sales goes back to the early 1990s. The surplus animals were allegedly bred at the Berlin Tierpark in the east of the capital, where Mr Blaszkiewitz is also director.

Following the allegations the German Animal Protection League has asked for a statement from the zoo about whether surplus rhinos and giraffes were sold to circuses in the region.  But it is the alleged slaughter of the creatures that has incensed Berliners. Miss Haemmerling and the prominent German animal rights activist Frank Albrecht allege some were killed in an abattoir in the town of Wortel in Belgium. According to a letter from a dealer in rare animals who bought the bears, they went to a zoo in Wortel, while an extract from a stud book purportedly shows that the hippo also ended up there. "Wortel doesn't have a zoo," said Mr Albrecht. "However, it does have a slaughterhouse and we say that was where these animals were killed and shipped abroad."
The Wortel slaughterhouse allegedly featured in a separate story yesterday in Berlin's BZ newspaper which obtained a grainy video said to be of a tiger being butchered there. Wolfgang Apel, president of the German Animal Protection League, has called for the cases to be cleared up quickly. "If there is clear proof that the animals ended up in a slaughterhouse, then Blaskiewitz will ultimately have to resign," he said.

Mr Blaszkiewitz categorically denied the allegations, calling them a mixture of "misunderstandings and nonsense." He denied the zoo deliberately bred excess animals. "All offspring are planned," he added. Regarding the bear family, Mr Blaszkiewitz said the three bears in question had been old animals which were donated to another reputable dealer in Germany. He said he did not know where the animals had gone after that and denied any knowledge of a connection to Wortel.
The big cats that went to China were sold to zoos with the permission of Germany's Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, he said, adding that claims that the animals had met with an untimely end were based on a "Eurocentric view" of China. Mr Blaszkiewitz said he was the victim of a "smear campaign" and accused Miss Haemmerling, with whom he said he had had contact several times in the past, of making the accusations for political ends. Simone Herbeth of the public prosecutor's office confirmed that the complaint was being investigated. According to Miss Herneth, selling zoo animals without sufficient reason is a crime under Germany's animal protection laws and is punishable by a fine or a jail sentence of up to three years.

Chester Zoo Hosts Fresh Water Conference

March 21, 2008  www.thisiswirral.co.uk

More than 35 specialists and advisors from around the world were at Chester Zoo for the meeting of the Freshwater Fish Specialist Group, a collaboration between the IUCN (The World Conservation Union) and Wetlands International.  There are more than 14,000 freshwater fish species and Chester Zoo's Director General, Professor Gordon McGregor Reid, chaired the meeting which looked at the global picture and developed strategies for assisting threatened species.  Biodiversity issues, climate change, global warming, overfishing, pollution and habitat destruction, all of which pose threats to freshwater fish, were also discussed.  More than 300 kinds of fish species new to science are discovered every year, the majority coming from fresh waters. This is the fourth year running that Chester Zoo has hosted the meeting of fish specialists.

Seizure of Pangolin Carcasses

March 21, 2008  www.enn.com 

This month, customs inspectors and enforcement officers took possession of more than 16 tons of pangolins at Hai Phong port in Viet Nam. It is the largest seizure of these animals ever in the country.  About seven tons of pangolin carcasses and scales were seized by customs at the same place, at the end of February. At least 2460 carcasses and 900 kg of scales were recovered.  TRAFFIC praised the Viet Nam customs for its swift action and sound investigative work. Customs officials acknowledged TRAFFIC’s assistance in preparing them for the latest operation, through earlier training in implementation of CITES regulations. In both seizures the cargoes were found in containers registered as fresh fish belonging to an import-export business located in Quang Ninh, on the North of Viet Nam.  These scaly anteaters are found throughout Southeast Asia and are protected under Vietnamese Law, which restricts any trade or transport. They are also protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Pangolin trade was banned in 2000. However, pangolins are still sold as meat and traditional medicines in many Asian countries.

Origin of Bipedalism

March 21, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD

As early as six million years ago, apparently close to the beginning of the human lineage, an ancestral species had already developed the transforming ability for upright walking,  A new, more detailed analysis of a fossil thigh bone found eight years ago in Kenya yielded strong evidence that the species Orrorin tugensis stood and walked on its hind limbs. The scientists said this was the earliest known example of bipedal locomotion.  The findings are described in a report in the journal Science by Brian G. Richmond and William L. Jungers, paleoanthropologists at George Washington University and the State University of New York at Stony Brook, respectively. The research included an examination of the original fossils and a comparison with skeletons of modern humans and protohumans and also chimpanzees.  Although the French discoverers of the fossils, Martin Pickford and Brigitte Senut, had suspected that the species was bipedal, they said they were not sure, and other scientists were even more skeptical. Dr. Richmond said he was given access to the bones, deposited in a bank vault in Nairobi, and made his independent tests under the watchful eyes of a guard. The size of the specimen’s hip joint, the shape and strength of the wide thigh bone, and other characteristics, he said, provided “convincing evidence to confirm Orrorin’s bipedal adaptations.”  The scientists said their analysis of hand and arm bones showed the species “most probably also climbed trees, presumably to forage, build nests and seek refuge.” 

A more surprising result to emerge from the study appeared to contradict an earlier hypothesis about Orrorin’s relationship to later species in the human lineage, Dr. Richmond and Dr. Jungers said. The fossils were first thought to be related more closely to the genus Homo than to Australopithecus, an intermediate genus that first emerged nearly four million years ago and included species living as recently as two million years ago. This seemed to make Orrorin a more direct human ancestor, possibly relegating “Lucy” and other australopithecines to a side branch of the family tree. Dr. Richmond and Dr. Jungers found instead a close similarity between the Orrorin thigh bone and hip mechanics and those of Australopithecus. This suggests, they said, that the basic pattern of two-legged walking appeared very early in human evolution and persisted with only minor variations over a period of four million years. “I expected much greater differences between the two, given that Orrorin is twice as old,” Dr. Richmond said.

An accompanying article in the journal quoted Dr. Pickford and Dr. Senut as being pleased to have confirmation that their fossil species was bipedal, but did not back off from their insistence that other aspects of the skeleton showed its closer resemblance to much later Homo. Other scientists agreed that the findings seemed to confirm Orrorin was indeed an early ancestor of humans and not more closely linked to apes, as had been argued by critics. In light of the new research, Dr. Richmond said, Orrorin not only was a “basal member” of the human family but also had walking mechanics that went largely unchanged until the rise of Homo, especially in Homo erectus less than two million years ago. More recent fossil discoveries, in Chad, have apparently revealed a protohuman species even more primitive than Orrorin. The species, Sahelanthropus tchadensis, is estimated to have lived close to seven million years ago, which is thought to be when the human and chimpanzee lineages diverged from a common ancestor. But the fossils from Chad, mainly a single skull, are too fragmentary for scientists to establish whether this species also walked on two legs.

Tax Credit for Saving Endangered Species

March 21, 2008   eurekareporter.com

More than 300 species of California wildlife are currently listed as endangered or threatened with hundreds more at risk. California taxpayers can support the Department of Fish and Game’s Rare and Endangered Species Preservation program by donating a few dollars to this dedicated fund using Line 53 of the state tax form, said Steele, DFG Wildlife Species Conservation Program Manager. “These funds have provided critical support for many state-listed endangered species such as the Swainson’s hawk, island fox, California condor, Bakersfield cactus, California tiger salamander and many more.”  California is one of 41 states that allow taxpayers to make a voluntary, tax-deductible contribution to one or more worthwhile causes in the Contributions section of their state return. Since 1983 the tax check-off fund for Rare and Endangered Species has raised more than $17 million and has supported numerous projects, including the identification of a previously-unknown population of the California black rail, a rare and elusive bird found in the eastern foothills of the Sacramento Valley. The discovery has allowed wildlife biologists to focus restoration attention on the rail’s foothill wetland habitat to help conserve the species, the release stated. More information on the tax-check off programs can be found at www.dfg.ca.gov/taxcheck  and www.defenders.org ; keywords “tax check off.”

Cincinnati Zoo’s Top 10 Plants

March 22, 2008  news.enquirer.com

The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden tested 150 annuals in 2007 to come up with 10 plants that do well in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.  "There's a good number of varieties we trial," says Patrick Kelsch, the zoo's head gardener. "A large number do well, but (we feature) the top 10."  The winners are: Cleome 'Senorita Rosalita' ,  Dahlia 'Mystic Illusion,  Dichondra 'Silver Falls, Coleus 'Electric Lime'  Impatiens 'Fanfare Orchid',  Coleus 'Gays Delight', Lantana 'Landmark Citrus' ,  Vinca 'First Kiss Think Pink',  Petunia 'Supertunia Vista Bubblegum' ,  Perilla 'Gage's Shadow' Most of the winning plants will be used again this year at the zoo, which soon will be starting its sixth year of annual trials.  Patrick Kelsch, the zoo's head gardener.

4 new ‘cryptic’ frog species in the Western Ghats

March 22, 2008  www.newindpress.com 

MANGALORE:  Four new species of frog have been discovered by the Rondano Biodiversity Research Laboratory.  The discovery of four new `cryptic’ species of frogs in central Western Ghats was in association with Japanese scientists and published in the December issue of Current Herpetology.  The frogs are “very similar in external appearances but were found distinctive in acoustic characteristics and DNA sequences," says Prof S Hareesh Joshy head of Zoology department in St Aloysius college who coordinated the research with Japanese scientists. "There are an incredible number of 100 cryptic frogs, not described so far," Joshy says who is renewing the study on new species with Japanese scientists from this month.

Peninsular Bighorn Sheep Habitat Threatened

March 23, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com   By Mike Lee

Last October, USFWS said their 2001 map of the lands considered essential to Peninsular bighorn recovery – classified as “critical habitat” – grossly overstated the core area and they propose to trim protected sheep habitat by more than 50 percent, from 844,897 acres to 384,410.  Spokeswoman Jane Hendron said the agency plans to hold public hearings about its sheep-habitat proposal, but has not set dates.  Mark Jorgensen, superintendent at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park who helped put together the bighorn recovery plan and other conservationists are totally shocked. These animals need high-value habitat to make it in this world,” he said.  At the start of the 19th century, as many as 2 million bighorns roamed North America. Today, the Bighorn Institute in Palm Desert puts their numbers at about 70,000.  “They were doing quite well until, unfortunately, humans started throwing some obstacles in their way,” said Randy Rieches, curator of mammals at the Wild Animal Park near Escondido.   Domesticated cattle and sheep brought diseases that the wild sheep were not able to fight. The building of resorts in the California desert means that golf courses and homes now cover land that bighorns once roamed. The reproductive biology of bighorn sheep adds another level of difficulty. Ewes typically have one lamb at a time, which means that populations tend to grow very slowly.  As a result, the Peninsular bighorn population crashed.  In 1998, only 280 Peninsular bighorn sheep remained in San Diego, Riverside and Imperial counties and they were added to the nation's endangered  species list.  Today, about 800 bighorns roam the arid backcountry from parts of Baja California and the Peninsular Ranges of San Diego, Imperial and Riverside counties, including the San Jacinto, Santa Rosa, Vallecito and In-Ko-Pah mountains.  They occupy steep slopes,  canyons and washes in desert regions eating acacia, encelia,  sweetbush and other desert plants.

Oregon Zoo Hopes to Extend Condor’s Range

March 23, 2008  www.oregonlive.com  By KATY MULDOON

Of the 4 California condors released in Arizona in mid-March, 3 were hatched at the Oregon Zoo. Donors who never had supported the zoo gave $2 million capital campaign to build condor barns in 2003 and now they give every year. Zoo officials would like to establish a Northwest release site in the future. The California condors' range once formed a U shape -- from British Columbia to Baja, Mexico, across to Florida and up the Atlantic Coast to New York. Today, they're released in Arizona, California and Baja and range into Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.  But the condor is not likely to soar over Portland or through the Columbia River Gorge any time soon, if ever.  The California Condor Recovery Program is a cooperative effort among federal and state agencies, a couple of nonprofits and a handful of zoos -- Oregon's being the newest partner. Consensus of the participants is hard-won. Decisions -- and the politics and science behind them take time. Jesse Grantham, the recovery program’s coordinator says,"You have to look at what they fed on, where their nest sites were, what their movement patterns were. You have to see if there's enough country for condors to survive in there...You have to look at the threat of power lines, loss of feeding habitat, toxins in the environment, lead. The zoo is funding David Moen to do field work on finding evidence of historic condor nest sites.  Its also part of his thesis research at Portland State University. He studies early Oregon naturalists' journals and listens to stories passed down through the region's native tribes, who revered California condors. The archaeological record, he said, shows the birds persisted in the Northwest for thousands of years. He has found evidence that condors may have survived along the lower Columbia River into the 1960s. He knows of one account of the birds along the upper Clackamas River in 1964, though some ornithologists dispute that.  Evidence points to condors living along the Columbia and lower Snake rivers, and in the Klamath/Siskiyou region that straddles the western Oregon/California border.  Grantham said the steep, forested Klamath/Siskiyou region is more likely to go under the reintroduction microscope than less-wild areas closer to Northwest population centers. Historically, condors lived in Oregon's southern reaches. Plus, the birds have a powerful advocate in the nearby Yurok Tribe, whose members used condor feathers in dances and rituals tied to seasonal renewal and regeneration.  Moen said, " Condor recovery becomes a bridge for cross-cultural collaboration”.

Michigan Zoo Delays Opening

March 23, 2008  thenewsdispatch.com  By Jason Miller

MICHIGAN CITY - The Washington Park Zoo will open a month later than normal because cold temperatures have not allowed zoo workers and volunteers to get the facility prepared for visitors.
Zoo Director Johnny Martinez said Thursday the zoo will open April 1. Temperatures also are too cold for many of the zoo's "tropical" animals to be put on display. The zoo also may stay open later in the fall to make up for the change in the spring. Park Superintendent Darrell Garbacik said April is the second slowest revenue month at the zoo, behind only October. 

Culling Yellowstone's Bison Herd

March 23, 2008  www.nytimes.com   By Anne Sherwood

GARDINER, Mont. — With heavy snow still covering the park’s vast grasslands, hundreds of bison have been leaving Yellowstone in search of food at lower elevations. A record number of the migrating animals — 1,195, or about a quarter of the park’s population — have been killed by hunters or rounded up and sent to slaughterhouses by park employees. The bison are being killed because they have ventured outside the park into Montana and some might carry a disease called brucellosis, which can be passed along to cattle.  The large-scale culling, which is expected to continue through April, has outraged groups working to preserve the park’s bison herds, considered by scientists to be the largest genetically pure population in the country. It has also led to an angry exchange between Montana state officials and the federal government over a stalled agreement to create a haven for the bison that has not received the needed federal financing.  “When they leave the park they have nowhere to go,” said Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montana, a Democrat. “This agreement would have given them a place to go.”

Federal Funding Goes to Houston Zoo

March 24, 2008  www.chron.com  By BENNETT ROTH and PATRICK BRENDEL

WASHINGTON — While some Congress members debated whether special state projects, called earmarks, bloat the budget, Texas was awarded 539 of them for the current fiscal year that began Oct. 1.  Only California was given more.The Houston Zoo will receive $294,000 for hospitalized children to interact with animals.  The money will help the zoo set up a television-and-remote-control system allowing children undergoing treatment at Texas Children's Hospital, Shriner's Hospital for Children and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center to interact with animals via television.  Another $97,000 for educational programming.  Leslie Paige, a spokeswoman for Citizens Against Government Waste, a watchdog group, said the decision to fund such projects as the zoo's were unfair. They were not awarded on their merits but by a secretive process in which the authors of spending bills selected the projects. With the federal deficit surpassing $263 billion this year and the economy in a slowdown, Congress has increasingly come under fire from critics — including the GOP's presumptive presidential candidate, John McCain, and Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama — for approving earmarks. Among other arguments, they say the grants distort budget priorities and evade scrutiny.

Obituary: Michael Robinson – National Zoo Director

March 24, 2008  www.washingtonpost.com  By Joe Holley

Michael H. Robinson, 79, the Englishman who led the transformation of the National Zoo from a collection of pens and cages to a park where animals lived in something akin to their natural environments, died March 22 of pancreatic cancer at his home in Alexandria.  During his 16-year tenure as director of the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Dr. Robinson installed the Think Tank, an exhibit on animal thinking that investigated orangutan language exploration and tool use. He helped open the Amazonia building, and the Invertebrate House, with its spider exhibit without glass. (He was a spider specialist.) He also directed the development of the Pollinarium, where visitors study plants and the animals that pollinate them. He believed that a zoo should be a "biopark," a place where the public could not only view animals but also learn about their place in the environment and the interdependence of living things. He adhered to the dual mission Congress articulated when it authorized the National Zoo, which opened in 1889 for the advancement of science, for the recreation of the people.  "I believe passionately that zoos are probably the most important force in informal education that we can muster," he told The Washington Post in 1990.  In a 1984 Post interview, Dr. Robinson responded to a question about his epitaph: "Oh my God, I don't want a tombstone. I want cremating and sprinkling over Barro Colorado Island in Panama to be regenerated into the tropical life cycle."

Protesters Fight Edinburgh Zoo Expansion

March 24, 2008  news.scotsman.com  By Gareth Edwards

An expert group has been set up to fight Edinburgh Zoo's plans to sell off land for homes.  The zoo's £72 million expansion plans are a key part of the zoo's masterplan and are the focus of a local public inquiry later this year. The Friends of Corstorphine Trust – one of the main objectors, has now enlisted the help of planning experts from community councils to prepare a case ahead of the inquiry, and any possible appeal against the final decision.  Eddie Price, chairman of the Corstorphine group, said  "We have been working with local community councils in the area to get together a working group of people who know about planning and traffic issues, so that we can look at all the arguments and be prepared.” The city council's planning committee overturned the authority's previous support for housing on part of the Corstorphine Hill site last October. The zoo had hoped to sell off the land to raise up to £20m to help fund its 20-year masterplan to create a world-class visitor attraction. More than 200 people opposed the plans, including the Friends of Corstorphine Trust.

Dh500 m Zoo for DubaiLand

March 24, 2008  www.khaleejtimes.com   By Joy Sengupta

DUBAI, U.A.E. — The construction of the new zoo at DubaiLand will begin this year, a senior official of the Dubai Municipality has stated.  The zoo is currently in the final design stage and a consultant for the project has been selected. The new zoo will spread across an area of around 350 acres. The total cost of the project is currently estimated to be Dh500 million. The official added that the whole project has been divided into two phases.  "The first phase involves a total area of around 130 acres. This would include a car park and arrangements for the relocation of the animals currently dwelling in the zoo at Jumeirah," added the official.  The present zoo is situated in Jumeirah and houses around 1,200 animals, raising concerns that it is overcrowded. It has also been under the scrutiny of prominent animal welfare groups like PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals).  The new zoo at DubaiLand will have features like camel safari, zoo safari, botanical garden, night zoo and other recreational and educational activities for children.

Mesker Park Zoo Director Will Retire

March 24, 2008  www.courierpress.com  

EVANSVILLE, Indiana -- Dan McGinn, Director of Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Garden for the past 8 years, has announced his plans to retire, effective August 14, 2008. McGinn, formerly a trial lawyer with Gerling Law Offices, started his zoo career as a Docent, a volunteer educator, in mid-1999. He was offered and accepted the position of “interim Director” by former Mayor Russell Lloyd on April 4, 2000.  Mesker lost its accreditation in 1998 under then Zoo Director, Ron Young. At that time, the AZA noted that the Zoo was in crisis. After McGinn took over as interim Director, work began to correct the problems. McGinn became permanent Director in March 2002 after the Zoo regained its accreditation from the AZA. “My original plans were to stay for a short period of time and help get the Zoo in good enough shape to attract a permanent Director. We are now accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums for the second time, our attendance and revenues are at their highest levels in history, our staff is wonderful and AMAZONIA is expected to open this summer,” said Dan McGinn. “I think that the time is right to retire.

Indian Rhino Numbers Increase in Nepal

March 24, 2008  www.enn.com

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - The decade-long Maoist insurgency ended in 2006 and the numbers of endangered one-horned rhinos in Nepal are growing.  Rhino-experts, armed with binoculars and cameras, combed the Chitwan National Park on elephants for more than two weeks and counted 408 great one-horned rhinoceroses, said chief warden of the park, Megh Bahadur Pandey. The park, located about 80 km (50 miles) southwest of Kathmandu, had only 372 animals in 2005, when the last census was taken, down from 544 in 2000. After Chitwan the only other area where the big rhinos are found is in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, which has more than 1,800. Rhino poaching can carry a jail term of up to 15 years and around $1,540 in fines. But experts say implementation of the law is weak.

MicroChip Detects H5N1 Bird Flu

March 24, 2008  www.enn.com  By Reuters

SINGAPORE - - Europe's top semiconductor maker, STMicroelectronics, said it has developed a portable chip to detect influenza viruses including bird flu in humans.  The device, which functions as a mini laboratory on a chip, can screen and identify multiple classes of pathogens and genes in a single diagnostic test within two hours, unlike other tests available on the market that can detect only one strain at a time and require days or weeks to obtain results.  The chip can differentiate human strains of the Influenza A and B viruses, drug-resistant strains and mutated variants, including the Avian Flu or H5N1 strain.  There have been 236 human deaths globally from the H5N1 strain, according to the World Health Organization, though it remains mainly a bird virus.  Experts are monitoring the H5N1 virus for signs of mutation into a form easily transmitted from person to person, a development that could trigger a deadly pandemic. So far most human cases can be traced to contact with infected birds.

Bermuda Petrel returns to Nonsuch Island

March 24, 2008  www.birdlife.org

Three Endangered Bermuda Petrels (Pterodroma cahow – also known as the Cahow), translocated to Nonsuch Island (Bermuda) before fledging in 2005, have returned to the island, and been observed entering artificial nesting burrows constructed for them.  The Bermuda Petrel was thought extinct for almost three centuries. In 1951, 18 pairs were rediscovered breeding on sub-optimal rocky islets in Castle Harbour, Bermuda.  The birds began to be moved to Nonsuch, after Hurricane Fabian (2003) caused the flooding and partial collapse of the islets, which contained the entire known breeding population.  In the last four years, a total of 81 chicks have been translocated, of which 79 have fledged successfully. The 15.5 acre Nonsuch Island Nature Reserve has potential nesting habitat which is elevated enough to be safe from hurricane flooding and erosion. The present nesting islets total less than 2.4 acres

U.S. Jaguars Threatened by Border Fence

March 24, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By Reuters

SANTA RITA MOUNTAINS, Arizona -  The U.S. government plans to complete 670 miles of pedestrian fencing and vehicle barriers to seal off some of the most heavily crossed areas of the nearly 2,000-mile border between the U.S. and Mexico.  But jaguar biologist Emil McCain says, "The low flat valleys are effectively walled off to wildlife, so everything is funneled up through the high mountain ranges that span the border.  McCain manages remote-sensing cameras that monitor a handful of jaguars that prowl up from Mexico over rugged mountain trails.  Photographs taken by Arizona cougar hunter, Jack Childs, in 1996 helped win federal protection for the animals as an endangered species and stirred interest from researchers eager to find out about their population and movements.  Childs and McCain subsequently founded the Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project, a nonprofit which set up some 40 to 50 cameras to photograph jaguars roaming through a highland wildlife corridor in the southwest known as the "Sky Islands." The mountainous archipelago linking Arizona with the Sierra Madre Mountains in northwest Mexico is a unique zone where temperate species like the wolf and black bear mingle with Neotropical animals such as the jaguar and coatimundi.  Over the past seven years researchers repeatedly photographed four or five jaguars. They found that all were males straying north from breeding populations in Mexico, a discovery with considerable implications for their survival in the U.S. southwest.  "Because there are no females and no reproduction,  jaguars in the United States are totally dependent on cross-border movement," Said McCain. "That connectivity with Mexico is absolutely crucial."

“South China Tiger” Mis-identified Siberian

March 24, 2008  english.people.com.cn

A big animal, snapped by a TV station staffer in a forest of central China's Hunan Province and first identified as an endangered South China tiger, has been positively identified Monday as a Siberian tiger on the loose from a circus in northeast China.  Media in Hunan speculated that this was a wild South China tiger.  From March 20 to 23, the provincial forestry bureau sent two work teams to the site where the pictures were shot and preliminary findings confirmed it was a type of tiger.  Further investigation, made on the comparison of shapes, texture, footprints, and other features between South China and Siberian tigers, showed that the snapped tiger was the latter. The investigation also traced the pictures back to a circus, which was then making performance tour in Hunan. No one knows yet how the tiger managed to escape from the circus. Back in October, villager Zhou Zhenglong in northwest Shaanxi Province managed to shoot some 30 pictures of what he claimed was a wild South China tiger, an endangered species. South China tigers had not been seen in the wild since the 1980s, and the photographs were soon questioned. The national forestry ministry formed an investigation team on October 24, but their report remains unknown. 

Tower of London Lions Skulls Analyzed

March 25, 2008  www.telegraph.co.uk By Roger Highfield

Genetic analysis of two skulls excavated from the Tower of London moat in the 1930s has revealed they were Barbary lions, an extinct subspecies from the Barbary Coast. Both the lions were males, (They have longer skulls and larger canines than females), and were three to four years old. Barbary lions were hunted to extinction in the early 20th century, with the last known animal shot in 1942.  Radiocarbon tests dated one of the skulls between 1280 and 1385 and the other between 1420 and 1480.  Richard Sabin, curator of mammals at the British Natural History Museum, said that the Royal Menagerie had been an important institution. “It was set up by King John in the 12th century and closed in 1835 when the animals transferred to the London Zoo. Among the first residents were three leopards sent to Henry III by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in 1235. The earliest written record of an English lion occurs in 1240. Tigers, elephants and bears were also kept at the Tower, where they provided an exotic form of entertainment.  The researchers plan further tests to analyze isotopes in the bone to reveal where they were born. Details of isotopes that the lions absorbed from water and food as cubs should allow scientists to determine whether the pair were trapped in North Africa and transported to Britain or bred in Europe from African stock, perhaps at the Tower itself.  Tower staff charged with caring for the big cats became so adept at getting them to breed that the animals became known as “English lions”.  The findings by the team from the Natural History Museum in London and the University of Oxford were reported in the journal Contributions in Zoology

Chaffee Zoo Stingray Has a Close Encounter

March 25, 2008 www.scrippsnews.com    By CHARLES MCCARTHY

FRESNO, Calif. –  “Stingray Bay” opened at the Chaffee Zoo on March 15 and on March 22, a hungry cownose ray clamped down on a child's hand as she fed it a piece of fish. The rays feed by sucking in their prey and can sometimes overshoot the offering of a piece of fish and latch on to a person's finger, usually for just a moment. Docile by nature, the rays are rendered essentially harmless by clipping their venomous spines which rays use as protection against predators.  The frightened girl yanked her hand back, pulling the sea creature out of the water. Brian Joseph, chief operating officer of San Diego-based Living Exhibits, said it was the first time in 30 years that he has heard of a visitor pulling a ray completely out of the water.  The 8-year-old was examined by paramedics, who found no injuries beyond a slight swelling of one of her fingers, and the ray was returned to the tank.

Amur Leopard Born at Potawatomi Zoo       

March 25, 2008   www.fox28.com

The Potawatomi Zoo says the Amur leopard cub born last December is a boy!  There are only 34 Amur leopards left in the wild. Around 300 are in zoos across the world.  The Potawatomi zoo now has three of these leopards native to Siberia, and zoo officials hope more cubs will be produced from the compatible parents. The cub has just received a clean bill of health. Zookeepers hope to have him on display in the next few weeks.

LA Zoo Admission Increases

March 25, 2008  www.knbc.com

The Los Angeles City Council, admission to the zoo will increase $2 next month -- making it $12 for adults, $7 for children and $9 for seniors.  Prices will increase by another dollar on July 1, 2009, and again on July 1, 2010.  The fee increase reflects an effort by the council to reduce a multimillion-dollar financial deficit. The increased admission fees are expected to increase revenue by $450,000 by June 30, according to a report from the City Attorney's Office.


March 25, 2008  www.infozine.com

Fay Rhodes has written a new book for parents and children who just want to have fun building robots and educate their children about machines.  The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Zoo! (No Starch Press, March 2008, 336 pp., ISBN 9781593271701, US $24.95), shows how to build and program animal-like robots, including:
    * Ribbit, a jumping frog
    * Bunny, a hopping rabbit
    * Sandy, a walking camel
    * Spiderbot, an eight-legged spider that avoids objects and walks forward and backward
    * Snout, a walking alligator that opens and closes its jaws
    * LEGOsaurus, a four-legged, plodding dinosaur
    * Pygmy, a walking elephant that raises and lowers its head
    * Polecat, a skunk on wheels that lifts its tail and shoots "darts"
    * Strutter, a peacock on wheels that turns and flutters its tail feathers

Colchester Zoo’s Expansion Plans

March 25, 2008  www.eadt.co.uk  By ELLIOT FURNISS

COLCHESTER, U.K. -- A new walk-through tropical exhibit showcasing endangered crocodiles is planned for the Colchester Zoo.  It will feature an underwater viewing tunnel for visitors to see crocodiles swimming above their heads, before coming out to see them basking around their outdoor pool on heated rocks  The second floor of the 2 story exhibit will feature an immersive tropical rainforest exhibit which visitors will be able to walk through while reptiles, snakes and tamarins surround them and birds fly over head.  “It is hoped that this new exhibit will also house a family of buffy-headed capuchins - a critically endangered primate that is supported by the Colchester Zoo's charity “Action for the Wild.”   Work could start as early as the autumn and be completed by late 2010.  Major improvements are now being made to the Aquatic House with the old aquariums being demolished to create a new complex with a large open reptile enclosure for Rhinoceros Iguanas.  Future plans also include the development of a new nature reserve on 1.2 hectares of land that will adjoin the existing zoo in collaborative work with the Essex Biodiversity project.

Is Global Warming Hurting Frogs?

March 25, 2008  www.nytimes.com   By ANDREW C. REVKIN

The amphibians, of the genus Atelopus — actually toads despite their common name – harlequin frogs — once ranged from the Andes to Costa Rica, but after 20 years of die-offs, they are listed as critically endangered and are mainly exist in zoos. In 2006 global warming was identified as the “trigger” in the extinctions by the authors of a much-cited paper in Nature. The claimed they had found a clear link between unusually warm years and the vanishing of mountainside frog populations.  The “bullet,” the researchers said, was a chytrid fungus that has attacked amphibian populations in many parts of the world but thrives best in particular climate conditions. The authors, led by J. Alan Pounds of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve in Costa Rica, said, “Here we show that a recent mass extinction associated with pathogen outbreaks is tied to global warming.” The study was featured in reports last year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  But other researchers have been questioning that connection. Last year, two short responses in Nature questioned facets of the 2006 paper, and now, in the March 25 issue of PLoS Biology, another team argues that the die-offs of harlequins and some other amphibians reflect the spread and repeated introductions of the chytrid fungus. They question the analysis linking the disappearances to climate change. In interviews and e-mail exchanges, Dr. Pounds and the lead author of the new paper, Karen R. Lips of Southern Illinois University, disputed each other’s analysis. Experts who have researched the amphibian said neither group had enough evidence to nail down its case. 

No H5N1 Bird Flu Found in Alaska

March 25, 2008   www.fws.gov 

In 2007, Alaska USFWS, USGS and Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game were tasked with testing migratory birds for H5N1 bird flu. Results have been published and are available to the public at http://alaska.fws.gov/media/avian_influenza/index.htm .  Almost 9,000 Alaska samples from 73 species were collected from May - November, 2007; less than 1% tested positive for any form of avian influenza.  (There are 144 separate forms of “bird flu,” and many are known to be present in American bird species, but pose no threat to domestic poultry or humans) There was no evidence of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza, nor was any other highly pathogenic avian influenza strain found in Alaska.  Results from the 2007 Alaska surveillance program indicate a lower overall prevalence of avian influenza viruses in wild birds than in 2006 (1.6%).  According to the United Nations-Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), as of January 2008, this trend was consistent with a global pattern of fewer HPAI outbreaks and fewer countries documenting infected birds in 2007 when compared to the same period in 2006. However, HPAI outbreaks continue to occur in new geographic locations, and the virus has become endemic in many areas of Africa and Asia.  Thus, it is important to maintain vigilance in testing migratory birds in Alaska for the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza.

Popular Mandrill Dies at Franklin Park Zoo

March 25, 2008  www.boston.com  By Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff

Mandy, the 19-year-old mandrill has delighted visitors at the Franklin Park Zoo since 1989, died while on exhibit inside the Tropical Forest.  She was “acting normally” Sunday morning but was found dead that afternoon in the exhibit. The cause of Mandy’s death was not immediately known, but she had inoperable fibroid tumors and suffered from chronic endometriosis, said Dr. Hayley Weston Murphy, the zoo’s head veterinarian. Final necropsy results will not be available for several weeks. Mandrills are native to tropical forests in Cameroon and Gabon in Western Africa. John Linehan, president and chief executive officer of Zoo New England said “We have a long history of exhibiting mandrills at our Zoos and Mandy’s loss will certainly be felt by our staff and by the many visitors who have come to know her in the many years she was with us.”  In 2002, Mandy and her mate, Charley, had a son named Woody who is now exhibited at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Fla.

Australia and South American Animal Link

March 26, 2008  www.enn.com 

Australia's earliest known marsupial, Djarthia, lived 55 million years ago and has now been directly linked to a small animal now living in the southern rainforests of South America.  Diarthia is possibly the mother of all Australia’s unusual pouched mammals, such as kangaroos, koalas, possums and wombats.  But it is also a primitive relative of the small marsupial known as the Monito del Monte — or "little mountain monkey" — found in Chile and Argentina. The study appears in the journal PLoS ONE and was authored by a research team led by Robin Beck from the University of New South Wales, in Sydney.  "It's now accepted that Australia's marsupials are the result of dispersal from South America via Antarctica, when the three continents were joined as part of the super-continent Gondwana," said Beck.  "We know from other fossils that marsupials were present in South America at least five million years before Djarthia, which is by far Australia's oldest and most primitive marsupial fossil.  "The fossil ankle and ear bones of Djarthia found in Queensland, make it clear that the Monito del Monte descends from a Djarthia-like ancestor, and so probably returned to South America from Australia before Gondwana broke up. The continents have been separated by deep ocean since about 40 million years ago."  Like the Monito del Monte, Djarthia was a little larger than a mouse and, and its ankle bones show adaptations for climbing trees. It probably had a similar diet of insects, small invertebrates and fruits.  It is nocturnal with a prehensile tail. Females carry up to five young in their pouch.

Logging Road Threatens Indonesian Tigers

March 26, 2008  www.enn.com 

PEKANBARU, Indonesia -- A new logging road in Riau Province -- possibly illegally built by companies connected to Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) -- is cutting into the heart of Sumatra’s largest contiguous peatland forest, a rare hydrological ecosystem that acts as one of the planet’s biggest carbon stores.  The road would allow APP and affiliated companies to restart clearance of natural forest and destruction of deep peat soil at any time in a globally recognized conservation area, according to Eyes on the Forest, a coalition of local NGO network Jikalahari, Walhi Riau, and WWF-Indonesia. The Kampar peninsula is one of the world’s largest contiguous tropical peat swamp forests, with more carbon per hectare than any other ecosystem on Earth. The Kampar peninsula area is also considered one of the last havens for critically endangered Sumatran tigers, whose wild population is estimated to be down to just 400-500. The landscape was designated a “regional priority” tiger conservation landscape by the world’s leading tiger scientists in 2006. A preliminary estimate by WWF-Indonesia shows that a well-managed Kampar peninsula could be home to as many as 60 tigers.

Chimpanzee Behavior Study

March 26, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

In a series of three experiments, Dr. Francys Subiaul and colleagues from the George Washington University looked at whether chimpanzees learn the reputation of strangers indirectly by observation, or by first-hand experience. Seven chimpanzees observed unfamiliar humans either consistently give (‘generous’ donor) or refuse to give (‘selfish’ donor) food to either a familiar human recipient or another chimp. The researchers found that chimpanzees are flexible and astute social problem-solvers, capable of attributing reputation to strangers by eavesdropping on interactions between others.  They conclude that their results demonstrate chimpanzees’ ability “to infer stability in an individual’s character or behavior over time through observation – an inference that underlies the ability to make reputation judgments…This ability may have served as a catalyst to the evolution of various uniquely human traits such as shared intentionality, language and reasoning.”  The study appears in the current issue of Animal Cognition.

Ocean Chemicals Determined Speed of Animal Evolution

March 26, 2008  www.nature.com

A deficiency of oxygen and the heavy metal molybdenum in the ancient deep ocean may have delayed the evolution of animal life on Earth for nearly two billion years.  Following the initial rise of oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere 2.4 billion years ago, oxygen was transferred to the surface ocean to support oxygen-demanding micro-organisms. However, the diversity of these single-celled life forms remained low, and their multi-cellular ancestors (animals) did not appear until about 600 million years ago.  Suspecting that deficiencies in oxygen and molybdenum might explain this evolutionary lag, the team measured the abundance of molybdenum in ancient marine sediments over time to estimate how much of the metal had been dissolved in the seawater in which the sediments formed.  The researchers found significant, firsthand evidence for a molybdenum-depleted ocean compared to the high levels measured in today’s oxygen-rich seawater.  ‘These molybdenum depletions may have retarded the development of complex life such as animals for almost two billion years of Earth’s history,’ said project leader Professor Timothy Lyons, at the University of California’s Department of Earth Sciences.  For animal life to commence, survive and eventually expand on Earth, a threshold amount of oxygen – estimated to be on the order of 1 to 10 percent of present atmospheric levels of oxygen – was needed.
The study was published in today’s edition of the journal Nature (27th March). 

Baltimore Zoo May Lose Accreditation

March 26, 2008  www.baltimoresun.com  By Doug Donovan

BALTIMORE -- The 132-year-old Maryland Zoo has until September to correct dozens of shortcomings, most concerning infrastructure such as faulty fire alarms, decrepit buildings and drainage. Low wages for workers are another problem. The cost of the fixes could run as high as the zoo's current $12.5 million budget.  Failure to meet the standards of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums won't close the zoo in Druid Hill Park, but it could result in loss of public support at a time when it is struggling to boost attendance and fundraising. The zoo also could lose animals, among them cheetahs and chimpanzees on loan from accredited zoos that participate in species breeding programs. The zoo has been accredited every five years since 1980 when it first earned the association's approval, but the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, did not approve a new five-year accreditation in September after inspectors turned up dozens of problems last summer. Instead, it granted a one-year extension.   Donald P. Hutchinson, the former Baltimore County executive who is president of the zoo, said the AZA told him directly that it would difficult for us to hold on to accreditation.  We haven't had a clean evaluation for a couple of reviews.

Bear Spray Study

March 26, 2008  byunews.byu.edu

A new study led by a Brigham Young University bear biologist Thomas S. Smith, confirms the effectiveness of bear spray. He and his colleagues analyzed 20 years of bear spray incidents in Alaska, home to 150,000 bears, and found that the spray effectively halted aggressive bear behavior in 92 percent of the cases, whether that behavior was an attack or merely rummaging for food. Of all 175 people involved in the incidents studied, only three were injured by bears, and none required hospitalization. Smith and his research team report their findings in the April issue of the Journal of Wildlife Management. Smith's previous research found that guns were effective about 67 percent of the time. Shooting accurately during the terrifying split seconds of a grizzly charge is extremely difficult, he pointed out, and his data shows that it takes an average of four hits to stop a bear. In addition, firearms are prohibited in national parks like Glacier and Denali, popular with hikers and also with bears. Smith believes one of the primary reasons bear spray works is that it gives users a reason to stand their ground. Running is the worst response to an aggressive bear, he said, "but it's hard not to. Bear spray gives you an option. When you stop and plant your feet, that makes them stop."  This is because even though humans are much smaller than bears, the animals still view us as risky. "Having seen bears with porcupine quills in their faces, I'm sure that most bears learn at an early age that size is not a good indicator of threat," Smith said. Bear spray retails for $30-$40 for an 8 ounce cannister.

Counter-intuitively, Smith and his team also documented 11 incidents when the residue of bear spray applied to objects like tents with the intent to repel curious bears actually backfired and attracted bears instead. Smith cautioned users against this practice and advised hikers to take their practice sprays before entering bear country.  The study did not make any comparisons among various types or manufacturers of bear spray because the sample was too small to draw significant conclusions. Other findings reported in the paper include:
    * On average, the spray was used when the bear was about 12 feet away
    * 35 percent of incidents involved hikers, and 30 percent involved bear management activities
    * 60 percent of the incidents occurred between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
    * Nearly 70 percent of the incidents involved brown (grizzly) bears and 28 percent involved black bears. The study also reports the first two documented uses of bear spray on polar bears in Alaska.

Federal Protection for Ice Seals

March 26, 2008  www.nytimes.com
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) --  The National Marine Fisheries Service will consider listing 4 species of ice seals because of loss of Arctic ice. They all utilize various types of sea ice habitats, in different ways.  Last year Arctic ice shrank to an area that was 27 percent smaller than the previous record. Ribbon seals during summer and fall live in water and feed on fish, squid and crustaceans in the Bering and Chukchi seas. From March through June, they rely on loose pack ice in the Bering and Okhotsk seas for reproduction and molting. Ribbon seals birth and nurse pups exclusively on sea ice. Pups can survive submersion in icy water only after they've formed the blubber layer.  Ringed seals are the smallest and most numerous of the seals that thrive off Alaska's coasts and are the primary prey of polar bears. They can survive in completely ice-covered waters by digging out breathing holes. Those breathing holes eventually get covered by drifting snow and female ringed seals dig out lairs within drifts to give birth and nurse pups on sea ice. Like ribbon seals, ringed seal pups cannot survive in cold water until they've grown a layer of blubber.  Bearded seals are the largest of Alaska's seals, weighing up to 750 pounds. Another prey of polar bears. Spotted seals can reach weights of 270 pounds and bear young on drifting pack ice.

Mammoth Ivory for Sale

March 26, 2008  www.nytimes.com   By ANDREW E. KRAMER

NOVY URENGOI, Russia – Global warming has melted the Siberian tundra has exposed frozen mammoth remains.  Craftsmen are using it and this is not only legal but actually endorsed by conservationists. They note that while the survival of elephants may be in question, it is already too late for mammoths. Mammoth ivory from Siberia, they say, meets some of the Asian demand for illegal elephant ivory, and its trade should be encouraged. The business of ice age ivory, a mainstay in Siberia since the 17th century, was further helped by the international ban imposed on the elephant ivory trade in 1989. Russian exports of mammoth ivory - the only type of ivory legally imported into the United States - reached 40 tons last year, up from just 2 tons in 1989, said Aleksei Tikhonov, the director of the Zoological Museum in St. Petersburg and an expert on mammoths. While prices vary, leading dealers in Moscow usually ask $150 to $200 a pound for average-grade ivory. By the time it reaches Western markets, the same ivory can sell for as much as $800 a pound, dealers say.  The sources are varied, though reindeer herders, oil and gas workers and professional ivory hunters provide the bulk of the supply. Hidden in one of the upper layers of this mass, corresponding to the Pleistocene Epoch, are the remains of an estimated 150 million mammoths. Some are frozen whole, as if in suspended animation, others in bits and pieces of bone, tusk, tissue and wool. Woolly mammoths are actually the last of three extinct elephantine species that inhabited Siberia. They appeared about 400,000 years ago and lasted at least until 3,600 years ago - the age of some mammoth remains found on an island off the northern coast of the Russian region of Chukotka in 1993.

Detroit Zoo Will Ask for Tax Increase

March 27, 2008  www.mlive.com

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Governor of Michigan is set to allow voters in 3 counties to decide on a property tax to help fund the Detroit Zoo.  Zoo officials have been struggling to close an $8 million funding gap left when Detroit, which owns the zoo, transferred operations to the Detroit Zoological Society. The Zoo will have to convince individual county governments to create taxing authorities as well as get voter approval. So far, only Oakland County has embraced the idea. In 2000 and 2002, voters rejected taxes that would have funded attractions including the zoo and the Detroit Science Center.

Taiwan Court Rejects Zoo’s Bid for Pandas

March 27, 2008  news.monstersandcritics.com

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- In 2005 China offered to donate pandas to the Taipei Zoo, but the Council of Agriculture denied permission to import them, on the grounds that pandas are endangered species and the Taipei Zoo has not made adequate preparations to raise them.  The Taipei Zoo appealed the rejection with the cabinet, but lost, so it filed another appeal with the Taipei court last year. The court has again rejected the Taipei Zoo's application although president-elect Ma Ying-jeou said he supported the import of the popular endangered animals. The Zoo plans to appeal this ruling, and continue preparations to receive the pandas.  Analysts suspected political motives, saying they believe the Taiwan government is barring the import of the pandas for fear they might soften Taiwan people's attitudes toward China and its ambition to recover Taiwan.  Relations with the mainland have been tense under independence-leaning President Chen Shui-bian, who leaves office May 20, making way for president-elect Ma Ying-jeou who supports the import. The Taipei Zoo has spent 250 million Taiwan dollars (7.8 million US dollars) on building a Panda Hall and has sent 17 staff to the panda-breeding base in Sichuan, China, as well as the San Diego Zoo in the United States and the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo to learn how to raise and breed giant pandas.  The Zoo has planted 6 hectares of bamboo to feed them and the Panda Hall will be completed in June. Besides Taipei, Hsinchu county, Taichung city and Hualien county are vying to provide the pandas' new home.  About 1,600 giant pandas remain in the wild, with most of them living in the wild in China's Sichuan province.

Profile of Brookfield Zoo’s Executive Chef

March 27, 2008  www.southtownstar.com   By Michelle Mullins

BROOKFIELD, Illinois -- Robert Ares has been the executive chef at Brookfield Zoo for 11 years. His high culinary standards have him tending to three organic herb gardens on zoo grounds so that he does not have to use store-bought herbs, hosting culinary workshops and planning menus for the zoo's newest venture, The Pavilions at Brookfield Zoo, four exotic event spaces set to open Monday.  As part of The Pavilions, Ares is creating menus for different ethnic cuisines, such as Italian, Creole, basic Midwestern and Caribbean. The new space, which can accommodate up to 2,000 guests for day and evening events, allows Ares to showcase his creativity and cultural cooking such as having African-inspired cocktails and hors d'oeuvres in one area or an Asian-themed buffet in another.  New buffets may feature fried catfish with Creole sauce, Cajun-style grilled chicken kabobs, and jambalaya with andouille sausage or Caribbean-style shrimp and scallop kabobs with grilled chicken teriyaki.  He likes cooking with basil, oregano, thyme and rosemary. And he studies the culture and origins of the food he creates.  In addition to supervising weddings and banquets at the zoo, he works with the zoo's education department, he hosts classes, such as on sustainable seafood and cooking with organic herbs, and will host a presentation on organic chocolate and coffee April 8.

History of the Taiz Zoo in Yemen

March 27, 2008  yementimes.com 

YEMEN -- For many years, there was a collection of animals outside the former Imam’s Palace in Taiz. It consisted mainly of the offspring of a pair of lions given to Yemen’s last imam by Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie in 1950. In 1998, the collection was relocated.  A grassy, insect-infested area was chosen to construct the Taiz zoo on the outskirts of the city. The old zoo at the palace contained 10 lions when it closed down: Taiz governorate gave four to Sana’a Zoo and six were transferred to the new zoo. The numbers in Taiz now have built up to 31. Although one male born at the old zoo has fathered all of the offspring, there has been no sterilization of males.  Zoo staff hope there will be no more breeding due to fighting among the younger lions. Those that fight are kept away from each other.  It cost $250,000, including an extension in 2002. The zoo covers 10,000 square meters, has a monthly budget of $17,500,  and 72 all-male employees.  A variety of animals can be seen, particularly those species indigenous to Yemen.  The zoo has 22 of the rare Arabian subspecies of leopard, the largest number in captivity in the world. There are thought to be perhaps only 200 left in the wild in Arabia. Four of the zoo’s leopards were captured wild in Yemen while the remainder were born at the zoo.  A studbook is kept; however, none have yet been exchanged or transferred to other zoos.

Because wild mother leopards used to eat their cubs after birth, in 2000, a new birthing system was adopted.  Once a pregnant female stops eating, usually a week before giving birth, she is placed in a cage (the type used for transport) within her enclosure. The cage is elevated off ground with wide bars at its base through which the cubs can be removed. During her confinement, five staff members attend to her needs, some even staying with her in the enclosure day and night. Immediately after the cubs are born, staff remove them safely through the bars.  A whelping bitch then is brought in to feed the cubs. This unique system has allowed a number of cubs to survive to adulthood.  Two captive-born leopards now are breeding and feeding their cubs unassisted. These cubs, now pre-adults, are wild and unapproachable and technically could be released into the wild..

One pre-adult cheetah from Africa was brought to the zoo via Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in November 2006. The zoo also currently contains one tortoise and 20 terrapins. All of the snakes at Taiz Zoo died because the funds their keeper used to pay children to collect lizards to feed them stopped and the keeper then left in dismay. A well-run and financed reptile house is needed and once this is built, the new keeper should visit Sana’a Zoo to learn how to feed snakes without relying on food/animals caught in the wild.  A veterinarian visits Taiz Zoo three hours every afternoon assisted by the zoo’s dedicated full-time zoologist Mohammed Al-Shaifi. They have a small clinic with only a microscope and a centrifuge, but no laboratory or hospital, so operations take place on the rough concrete ground of the clinic. Due to limited medical facilities and drugs, it’s not surprising that the death rate for many animals is high. Additionally, because there’s no incubator, many small mammals die of cold and wet due to poor caging and limited medical care, so turnover is rapid.

Taiz Zoo requires a steady funding source for food and a larger budget to feed its growing animal population. For example, lions eat 100 kilograms of meat a day, while leopards and wolves require 60 kilograms per day. Donkey meat usually is provided, but sometimes beef, lamb or camel meat is used.  Because funds sometimes are lacking, zoo staff fear that the facility easily could collapse if food supplies can’t be regularly purchased. For this reason, the animals are fed mainly cheap vegetables (carrots, cabbages, tomatoes, green peppers, potatoes and onions), but they need more fruit.  As is the case with the whole of Taiz governorate, the zoo also suffers a water shortage problem. Staff would like a dam built on the grounds to collect rainwater. There’s no working vehicle at the zoo to transport food and water to the animals, so a pick-up truck is much needed. Currently, wheelbarrows are used for all transport, but these are slow, laborious and unsuitable for very large or heavy items.

Although Taiz Zoo is described in both Arabic and English in the city’s tourism brochure, it attracts very few Western tourists, despite the chance to see the rare Arabian leopard and other native animals.  Taiz needs to better advertise the zoo, for example, at hotels, because tourists very well may donate to it if they saw its dire needs. In order to improve its attraction, sections of the zoo could concentrate on Yemeni species for foreign visitors so they could learn about local animals that they are unlikely to see otherwise.  Although originally intended in the zoo’s plan, there is no education center, which is needed to teach Yemenis about wildlife and conservation and to help them appreciate their wildlife heritage in one of the Arabian Peninsula’s richest remaining regions for wildlife.

The Denver Zoo’s Golden Lion Tamarin Twins

March 27, 2008  www.denverpost.com   By Demetria Gallegos

Twin golden lion tamarins were born March 10 at the Denver Zoo.  Mother Rosie and father Siamo, are both taking excellent care of their offspring. Rosie and Siamo produced an older set of twins, Alex and Annie, last July.  The newborns weighed about 100 grams at birth, about as much as a kiwi fruit. They'll grow to between 400 and 800 grams (less than two pounds). The Denver Zoo's tamarinds are part of a species survival plan administered through the AZA. Only about 1,000 remain in their native Brazil.  Video of the family is at: http://www.denverpost.com/extremes/ci_8716817

Remote-Control Fish

March 27, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com  By Jay Lindsay

Scientists are testing a plan to train fish to catch themselves by swimming into a net when they hear a tone that signals feeding time. If it works, the system could eventually allow black sea bass to be released into the open ocean, where they would grow to market size, then swim into an underwater cage to be harvested when they hear the signal. Simon Miner, a research assistant at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Wood's Hole, received a $270,000 grant for the project from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Miner said the specially trained fish could someday be used to bolster the depleted black sea bass stock. Farmed fish might become better acclimated to the wild if they can be called back for food every few days.  The bigger goal is to defray the costs of fish farming, an increasingly important source of the world's seafood. The key question for fish farmers: How many fish will actually return, and how many will be lost to predators or simply swim away?   Randy MacMillan, president of the National Aquaculture Association, said fish farmers won't be easily convinced to adopt open-ocean ranching.  The Massachusetts project is one of several experiments funded by the federal government last year as part of aquaculture research. In Japan, scientists have used sound to keep newly released farmed fish in certain areas, where they could be caught in traditional ways. But no one has ever tried to get fish to leave and return to an enclosure where they can be scooped up.

Vets Replace Cow’s Cruciate Ligament

March 27, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

MANHATTAN, KAN. -- An 8-year-old Jersey dairy sustained a breeding injury in December 2007 when the cruciate ligament in her right knee ruptured. Dr. David Anderson, professor and head of agricultural practices at K-State's College of Veterinary Medicine, was able to replace the ligament using synthetic material called monofilament nylon. The cruciate ligament is a dense tissue that connects the bones in the knee joint. Injuring it can be career-ending and often life-ending - until now, Anderson said.  The three surgical techniques for cruciate ligaments in large animals have a failure rate of approximately 50 percent, Anderson said. This fact caused him and surgery colleagues to investigate alternatives.  He discovered an unusual form of nylon monofilament, a solid material about the diameter of a coffee straw. But the question remained: Could this man-made material replace the natural ligament of a 1,500 pound animal?  On Jan. 17, Anderson replaced Wilhelmina's torn ligament with the artificial one, dubbed the "Wildcat Power Cord." The next day, the Jersey cow was led across the hospital's video synchronization pressure mat to determine her level of lameness. "Her stride length had increased 30 percent, and she bore 25 percent more weight on her operated leg," Anderson said. "To have that much improvement is spectacular." His long-term goal is to develop a replacement ligament strong enough for bulls. Lab tests reveal that the Wildcat Power Cord can withstand up to 12,000 newtons of pressure - roughly 50 percent more than an adult bull requires.  The procedure's success could have enormous implications for breeding quality cows and bulls with the same injury.

Jump-Starting a Rainforest

March 27, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Half a century after most of Costa Rica's rainforests were cut down, researchers from the Boyce Thompson Institute are attempting to restore a tropical rainforest ecosystem.
Carl Leopold and his partners in the Tropical Forestry Initiative began planting trees on worn-out pasture land in Costa Rica in 1992. For 50 years the soil was compacted by cattle hooves, and its nutrients washed away. The group chose local rainforest trees, collecting seeds from native trees in the community. "You can't buy seeds," Leopold says. "So we passed the word around among the neighbors." When a farmer would notice a tree producing seeds, Leopold and his wife would ride out on horses to find the tree before hungry monkeys beat them to it. The group planted mixtures of local species, trimming away the pasture grasses until the trees could take care of themselves. They planted fast-growing, sun-loving species. They averaged 2 meters of growth/year and after 5 years, formed a canopy of leaves capable of shading out the grasses underneath. Leopold says the impressive growth may be because of mycorrhizae, microscopic fungi that form a symbiosis with tree roots. Research at Cornell and BTI shows that without them, many plants can't grow as well. After 50 years, the fungi seem to still be alive in the soil, able to help new trees grow. Cornell student Jackeline Salazar did a survey of the plants that moved into the planted areas (understory species) and found that most plots had over a hundred of these species, and many of the new species are ones that also live in nearby remnants of the original forests.  Together, these results mean that mixed-species plantings can help to jump-start a rainforest. Local farmers who use the same approach will control erosion of their land while creating a forest that can be harvested sustainably, a few trees at a time.

"By restoring forests we're helping to control erosion, restore quality forests that belong there, and help the quality of life of the local people," says Leopold. That quality-of-life issue is drinking water. It's in scarce supply where forests have been destroyed, since without tree roots to act as a sort of sponge, rain water runs off the hillsides and drains away. Erosion is also out of control. "You might drive on a dirt road one year, and then come back the next to find it's a gully over six feet deep," says Leopold. "It's a very serious problem." Does the experiment's success mean that rainforests will one day flourish again? Fully rescuing a rainforest may take hundreds of years, if it can be done at all. "The potential for the forest being able to come back is debatable," Leopold says, but the results are promising. "I'm surprised," he said. "We're getting an impressive growth of new forest species." After only ten years, plots that began with a few species are now lush forests of hundreds. Who knows what the next few decades - or centuries - might bring?

Biomimicry of the Squid’s Beak

March 27, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. ––  The sharp beak of the Humboldt squid (Dosidicus gigas) is one of the hardest and stiffest organic materials known. Engineers, biologists, and marine scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara, have joined forces to discover how the soft, gelatinous squid can operate its knife-like beak without tearing itself to pieces.  UC Santa Barbara is famous for this type of interdisciplinary study, and draws scientists and engineers from all over the world to grapple with questions that cross a wide range of science and engineering disciplines.  The key to the squid beak lies in the gradations of stiffness. The tip is extremely stiff, yet the base is 100 times more compliant, allowing it to blend with surrounding tissue. However, this only works when the base of the beak is wet. After it dries out, the base becomes similarly stiff as the already desiccated beak tip.  Their results are published in this week’s issue of the journal Science.

Satellite Tracking Elephants

March 27, 2008  www.enn.com 

AMHERST, Mass. — In many regions of Africa, elephants are frequent visitors to farms and villages as they roam the landscape searching for food and water. This often brings them into conflict with humans. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are tracking their movements through southern and eastern Africa using satellite collars in an effort to understand their ecology and help prevent these conflicts.  “Elephant populations have been increasing in Botswana and Tanzania since the late 1980s, when protection measures banned the international ivory trade,” says Curtice Griffin of the department of natural resources conservation. “But human populations are also rising. Elephants graze in areas used by cattle and some raid farm fields.  People have been killed when they try to them away.  Additional researchers include doctoral student Alfred Kikoti, a native of Tanzania and Mike Chase of Botswana, who completed his doctorate at UMass Amherst in 2007.  The team recently founded “Elephants Without Borders (EWB),” a nonprofit group dedicated to understanding elephant ecology and behaviors and developing elephant conservation programs. EWB is launching a major fundraising campaign in 2008 to build the World Elephant Conservation Center.

Restoring Tanzania’s Ecosystems

March 28, 2008  www.enn.com

Policies implemented in the 1920s converted Tanzania’s rich woodlands into agricultural land and led to overgrazing.  Now, thanks to an award-winning regional development program known as HASHI the land is recovering. Scientists have implemented several traditional land management techniques to stabilize the area.  The most successful is use of the Ngitili system - requiring large areas of land to be left fallow over the rainy season. This ensures that there is adequate feed available for the animals during the drier months. Economists estimate that more than 800 villages in western Tanzania are now using variations of the Ngitili system and, consequently, a positive impact on local incomes has been seen.

Albatross Task Force Expands Efforts

March 28, 2008  www.birdlife.org

New research from Namibia, Uruguay and Argentina reports that Albatross are dying in large numbers within their waters. All three countries represent globally important hotspots for albatrosses. Namibian longline fisheries alone kill over 30,000 seabirds, including albatrosses annually.  In response, BirdLife International and the RSPB are committing over £2million ($4million) to double the reach of the Albatross Task Force (ATF). The ATF is the world’s first international team of experts advising fishermen about ways to reduce seabird deaths by making fishing techniques more ‘albatross friendly’

Victims of Tiger Attack Sue City of S.F.

March 29, 2008   www.sfgate.com   By Henry K. Lee &  John Coté

The San Jose brothers, Kulbir and Paul Dhaliwal, who survived a Christmas Day tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo are taking legal action against the city, which operates the zoo as a nonprofit group.  They claim that they suffered serious injuries and emotional harm and are owed an unspecified amount of money because of the zoo's negligence. The claim also contends they were deprived use of their car which the police impounded and only recently returned. The claims were filed Thursday, the same day that Paul Dhaliwal was arrested on suspicion of trying to steal two video-game controllers at a Target store.  Under state law, city officials have 45 days to offer the brothers a settlement or to reject the claim and open the doors to a lawsuit.  The Dhaliwals' claims also state that a public relations firm conducted a "smear campaign" against them, humiliating and degrading them. The claims specifically cite Sam Singer, a well-known crisis management spokesman whose firm was retained by the zoo after the attack. The claim against the city can be read at www.sfgate.com/ZCVS .

Parasite May Have Killed Zoo Cavies

March 29, 2008  www.times-standard.com

The Sequoia Park Zoo has reported that three Patagonian cavies, have died since July, possible victims of a disease transmitted by roundworms found in raccoon feces.  Native primarily to Argentina, the cavies arrived at the zoo about a year ago and were placed in a converted exhibit that previously housed wallabies. Last July, a cavy developed hip pain. Zoo personnel were unable to diagnose a cause and he died within three days.  In November, a second cavy became ill and died within three to four days. But again, no specific diagnosis was made. About a week ago, Ziegler said, “a third one came down with symptoms that we could recognize as disease caused by raccoon roundworm.”  (Baylisascaris procyonis -- lives in the intestines of about 70 percent of adult raccoons and more than 90 percent of juveniles, according to the Center for Disease Control.)  The adult worm does not harm raccoons, but eggs shed in raccoon feces embryonate into a larval stage in three to four weeks and can remain viable in the environment from several months to as long as five years or longer. If consumed by other mammals, the larvae can potentially migrate beyond the intestines to infect internal organs, optic nerves, the nervous system and the brain. The ensuing disease can cause blindness, central nervous system disorders, paralysis and death. More than 90 species of wild and domesticated animals have been identified as being infected by the disease

Kid-powered Garden at San Jose Zoo

March 29, 2008  origin.mercurynews.com

A little garden of California native plants is taking root at San Jose's Happy Hollow Park and Zoo, thanks to an ambitious group of fifth-graders.  The 10- and 11-year-olds who attend St. Simon School in Los Altos, approached the park earlier this year about starting the garden, which is designed to educate the public about vanishing habitats for small creatures such as toads, lizards, snakes and birds.  The garden was planted last month in a scene of "controlled chaos," according to teacher Marc Ortiz. "Out of the 34 students in my class, 31 were there that day. I wasn't sure they'd all show up because it was after school. A lot of the parents came, too. It was very rewarding." In addition to digging in the dirt, the students released earthworms to help aerate the soil and ladybugs to keep garden-defoliating insects at bay. But before a single trowel dug a single planting hole, there was research to be done. "The kids wanted a teaching garden, so they had to look up information about animals you'd find in your back yard like frogs and birds, and discover where they live and the type of foods they eat," Ortiz said.

Vaccine for Ebola Virus

March 30, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

US and Canadian researchers have successfully tested several Ebola vaccines in primates and are now looking to adapt them for human use.  Dr Anthony Sanchez, from the CDC says “The biothreat posed by Ebola virus cannot be overlooked. We are seeing more and more naturally occurring human outbreaks of this deadly disease. With worldwide air travel and tourism the virus can now be transported to and from remote regions of the world. And it has huge potential as a possible weapon of bioterrorism”, says Dr Sanchez. “We desperately need a protective vaccine”. Vaccines for viruses like Ebola, Marburg and Lassa fever have been difficult to produce because simple ‘killed’ viruses that just trigger an antibody response from the blood are not effective. For these viruses we need to get a cell-mediated response, which involves our bodies producing killer T-cells before immunity is strong enough to prevent or clear an infection.”  The researchers have now used several different recombinant DNA techniques, which have allowed them to trigger a cell-mediated response and produce a vaccine that is effective in non-human primates. One of the candidate vaccines is about to be tested on people for the first time, after entering Phase 1 clinical trials in autumn 2006. “Successful human trials will mean that we can vaccinate healthcare workers and other key personnel during outbreaks of Ebola haemorrhagic fever, helping us to protect their lives and control the spread of the disease”.

Update on Japan’s Rare Asiatic Lion Cub

March 31, 2008  news.sbs.com.au

The five-kilo baby lion-cub, born only a month ago on February 11, is now on exhibit at the Zoorasia Yokohama zoological gardens, and hundreds of visitors attend his twice weekly public showings.  The cub is a rare subspecies of lion known as the Asiatic lion. Only 350 individuals of this extremely rare subspecies are known to survive in the wild. The last of the Asiatic lions now mostly live in the state of Gujarat, India. The zoo keepers in Yokohama, 45 kilometres outside the Japanese capital Tokyo, are lavishing him with full star treatment, as his mother is not only unaccustomed to raising a child but also a bit too old as a lion to raise a child.  The public will vote on a name  – Suraj, Dost and Raja (meaning respectively "sun", "friend' and "king" in Hindi)

Memphis Zoo Saves Mississippi Gopher Frog

March 31, 2008  www.redorbit.com

Researchers at the Memphis Zoo hope to save the endangered Mississippi Gopher Frogs by using in-vitro fertilization.  There are only about 100 adult Mississippi gopher frogs left in the wild., but the zoo has become home to 94 developing tadpoles being kept in an off-exhibit area.  “We are very excited about this scientific breakthrough at the Memphis Zoo,” said Dr. Andy Kouba, the Zoo’s Director of Research and Conservation. "We can now replicate this on a regular basis and hopefully can apply what we have learned to other endangered amphibians," he said.  The Mississippi Gopher frog’s habitat once consisted of regions stretching from Louisiana’s lower coastal plain, east of the Mississippi River, to the Mobile River delta in Alabama but are now found only in two shallow, temporary ponds in Harrison County, Mississippi.  Genetic isolation, inbreeding, droughts, and floods, continue to threaten the remaining population, according to the USFWS, which has been working to protect the endangered frog since 1988. The zoo’s project received support from the Morris Animal Foundation and Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Binder Park Zoo Upgrades Heating System

March 31, 2008  www.battlecreekenquirer.com

BATTLE CREEK, Michigan –The Binder Park Zoo recently installed a new boiler heating system in the Wild Africa Savanna Barn to help increase the efficiency of the current heating system.  The 300 ft. long Savannah Barn sits just behind the tall grassy hills of the African savanna in Wild Africa and is the holding area for over 300 hoofed stock.  Because of the harsh winter climates the physical environment of the Savannah Barn is of high priority for the health, safety, and comfort of the residents that live here throughout the winter months.  The entire project estimated at $30,000, included the generous donation of two boilers at half price from Lochinvar Corporation. Pfizer Corporation contributed $20,000 which funded a major portion of the project with additional funding from. SEMCO Energy, Bliler Anderson Mechanical Heating and Cooling (BAM), and zoo supporter Russ Smith.  The 2 new boilers added to the existing three boilers means additional BTU’s will boost the heating efficiency throughout the entire facility making it much more efficient to achieve and sustain the desired temperatures. Jenny Barnett, Binder Park Zoo Director of Wildlife Conservation, said  “Many of the animals in the Savannah barn are tropical and the extra heat adds protection against Michigan’s frigid temperatures. This is a wonderful gesture from these outstanding businesses and their generosity is appreciated by all of us here at the Zoo.”

Schmidt’s Red-tailed Guenon Born at Houston Zoo

March 31, 2008  www.khou.com   By Adrienne M. Cody

HOUSTON -- Kabili, a Schmidt's red-tailed guenon arrived at the Houston zoo in 2006 with several other monkeys rescued from the bushmeat and illegal pet trade in Africa. He has fathered his first baby who been named Matani meaning ‘strength’ in Swahili.  He is being raised by his mother, Malaika. According to the zoo, there are only 37 of the monkeys living in 10 zoos in the United States.  Dwindling populations occur in the Central African Republic, Kenya and Uganda.

New Penguins at Omaha Zoo

March 31, 2008  www.radioiowa.com  By Matt Kelley

The Scott Aquarium at the Henry Doorly Zoo is adding to its penguin population, now with more than 70 of the big birds. Curator Dan Cassidy says it's taken a few weeks before the new penguins could be added to the exhibit. "U.S.D.A. requires any birds coming into this country to go through a fairly strict quarantine situation and then we extended it to check for some other things like parasites and other things before we put them into the exhibit." The new additions include two types, King penguins and a single Macaroni penguin.  Cassidy says they were not in very good shape when they were discovered in South Africa early last year. He says, "When they found them, they were dehydrated and they had to be revived a little bit and because of their laws there, they were not able to re-introduce them back into the wild." Cassidy says this is the first time a Macaroni penguin has been housed at the Omaha zoo.  He says, " now and we are trying to find her a boyfriend."

Giraffe on Zoo License Plates

March 31, 2008  www.tulsaworld.com  By Staff Reports

Tulsa Zoo and Living Museum voters decided that a special zoo license plate will feature a giraffe, but it will once again be up to the public if the plate will be released.  The giraffe plate, chosen over finalists polar bear and chimpanzee, can only be released if 500 apply for the plate, according to state requirements.  The plates, which cost $37 with $20 going directly to the zoo, can be applied for by mailing to Tulsa Zoo Friends, c/o License Plate Project, 6421 E. 36th St. North, Tulsa, OK 74115.  Cash, credit card and check payments may also be made in-person at the Tulsa Zoo Friends office.  For an application and more details on the zoo plate project, go online to www.tulsaworld.com/zoo