2008 Briefs : April - June

Jumbo: The Greatest Elephant in the World

April 1, 2008  www.csmonitor.com

A new book by Paul Chambers tells the story of Jumbo beginning in 1862, when a European adventurer noticed a scrawny baby elephant ripped from his mother for export to Europe. African Paris's Jardin des Plantes where he was badly neglected. Fortunately, the London Zoological Gardens saw untapped potential in the lonely young elephant and in 1865 he was shipped across the Channel to a new home. There, he found obsessive love –in the care of Matthew Scott, a zoo worker with an incredible feel for animals.  Scott attached himself to Jumbo and under his devoted care the sickly animal blossomed into a towering, magnificent beast. In the process the two bonded so powerfully that for the next 20 years neither wanted to leave the other's side. "We are one," proclaimed Scott. For 16 years at the London Zoo he carried thousands of children on his back (including the children of Queen Victoria and a young Winston Churchill) and delighted crowds. But behind the scenes he frightened zoo officials with displays of temper – and it seemed that only the equally insubordinate Scott could control him. As a result, the London Zoo (over waves of popular protest) shipped Jumbo (and Scott) to P.T. Barnum for his famous circus. Jumbo was wildly popular in the US, but in 1885, while on tour in Canada, Jumbo was hit by a freight train and killed. Scott threw himself on the body and sobbed inconsolably for hours. It was the end of one of the oddest and most haunting love stories of its time.

Octopus Reproduction Behavior Study

April 1, 2008  www.enn.com  By Reuters

Christine Huffard, now working at Monterey Bay Aquarium, did her graduate studies in Indonesia watching a small octopus,  Abdopus aculeatus.  They saw males guarding the dens of their mates for several days, warding off rivals and even strangling them if they got too close.  Small males would sneak in to mate by swimming low to the ground in feminine fashion and not displaying their "male" brown stripes. And size matters.  "If you're going to spend time guarding a female, you want to go for the biggest female you can find because she's going to produce more eggs," biology professor Roy Caldwell said. "It's basically an investment strategy."  Caldwell said he believes the behavior is common to many of the nearly 300 species of octopus. The animals usually mate several times a day once they reach sexual maturity. Males have a specially designed arm they use to deposit a sperm packet into the female, who retires to her den and lays tens of thousands of eggs. Both parents die within a few months of mating, leaving the newborns to fend for themselves.  The study appears in the journal Marine Biology. 

Mammoth Extinction Study

April 1, 2008  biology.plosjournals.org  By Michael Kahn

LONDON - - By comparing a climate model with fossil remains collected from different points in time between 6,000 years ago and 126,000 years ago researchers have been able to analyze the individual role humans and the environment played.  This showed that warming climate had pushed the animals that thrived in cold dry tundra to the brink of extinction when humans pushed into their habitat mainly restricted to Arctic Siberia by 6,000 years ago.  The researchers estimated that based on the mammoth population at the time, humans would only have had to kill one animal each every three years to push the species to extinction. David Nogues-Bravo, a researcher at Museo Nacional Ciencias Naturales in Spain led the study that is described in the  journal PLoS Biology.

Cold Spring Harbor Protocols Screen Genomes

April 1, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

COLD SPRING HARBOR, N.Y – Identifying genes that are important in specific tissues or processes in the mouse used to be a monumental task. New technologies and strategies have simplified this search, making it effective for even the smallest laboratories. This month’s issue of Cold Spring Harbor Protocols www.cshprotocols.org/TOCs/toc4_08.dtl  highlights a method for screening the mouse genome using ENU mutagenesis. The method, "Mouse Mutagenesis Using N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea (ENU)," was submitted by Monica Justice and colleagues from the Baylor College of Medicine http://www.bcm.edu/db/db_fac-justice.html . In her laboratory, Justice uses this “forward genetics” method to identify genes that may play a role in human disease. In particular, Justice’s lab focuses on the process of hematopoiesis, the development of blood cells. Mutations in these genes can lead to leukemias or lymphomas. The method is freely accessible on the website for Cold Spring Harbor Protocols http://www.cshprotocols.org/cgi/content/full/2008/5/pdb.prot4985

The second featured protocol for April is a guide for selecting the proper method for analyzing evolutionary relationships between genes. In "Choosing a Method for Phylogenetic Prediction," David Mount from the University of Arizona  http://bmcb.biology.arizona.edu/mount.html  provides a step by step process to determine which of the major methods one should use for predicting “phylogeny”, the relatedness among gene sequences. The method is freely accessible on the website for Cold Spring Harbor Protocols http://www.cshprotocols.org/cgi/content/full/2008/5/pdb.ip49 .

Sequencing the Giant Panda Genome

April 1, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

CARDIFF, Wales, U.K. -- Researchers in the Cardiff School of Biosciences will work with international colleagues on the ‘Giant Panda Genome Project’. Professor Mike Bruford, of the Cardiff School of Biosciences, Biodiversity and Ecology Research Group previously found that the decline of the species can be linked directly to human activities rather than a genetic inability to adapt and evolve. The giant panda genome is approximately the same size as the human genome, and is thought to have 20,000-30,000 genes. Bruford said: "This will help scientists to understand the genetic basis for the giant panda’s unique adaptations, including its dietary specialization, and will reveal the history of the species in unparalleled detail."

Humans Hear Better Than Animals

April 1, 2008  www.nature.org

JERUSALEM -- Various species of land and water-based animals are capable of hearing some lower and higher frequencies than humans. However, scientists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and elsewhere have now demonstrated how the reactions of single neurons give humans the capability of detecting fine differences in frequencies better than animals. Experimental study of neural activity in the human auditory cortex has been limited until now to non-invasive techniques that gave only a crude picture of how the brain responds to sounds. But recently, investigators from the Hebrew University, UCLA, the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and the Weizmann Institute of Science were successful in recording activity of single neurons in the auditory cortex while the subjects were presented with auditory stimuli. They did this by utilizing an opportunity provided during an innovative and complicated clinical procedure, which traces abnormal neural activity in order to improve the success of surgical treatment of intractable epilepsy.  Their work was described in an article appearing in the journal Nature.

Portable Body Composition Measurement

April 1, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

The gathering of data for research involving an animal usually involves invasive procedures. But critical data may now be collected through a nonlethal procedure, according to a new paper for the forthcoming issue of Physiological and Biochemical Zoology. In the paper “Dual-Energy X-Ray Absorbtiometry (DXA) Can Accurately and Non-Destructively Measure the Body Composition of Small, Free-Living Rodents,” Kalb Stevenson and Dr. Ian G. van Tets reveal that they have discovered that they can take a wide range of measurements accurately with a portable DXA device. These body composition measurements in small rodents—water, protein, minerals, lean, and fat—are critical for dietary and environmental research. Previous measurements taken in the field, though not lethal, relied on length and body mass calculations, which are often inaccurate; methods used on laboratory animals are often lethal, precluding longitudinal research. Differing methods used in fieldwork and in the laboratory limited scientific collaboration. Legal and/or ethical barriers against invasive research on endangered species further hampered crucial studies. “We needed a way to accurately and consistently measure the body condition of small mammals recaptured at different times of the year and could not do so using traditional means” said Dr. van Tets “so we decided to test whether DXA analysis could solve this problem”.

John Ball Zoo’s New Amphibian Exhibit

April 1, 2008  www.mlive.com  by Kyla King

To highlight amphibians' dwindling global population, John Ball Zoo will open a frog exhibit April 19 that features 15 exotic species.  The Zoo wants to inspire kids to be friendly to frogs. The exhibit will highlight a global "Year of the Frog" effort by zoos to remind folks that frogs are in serious trouble because of global warming, loss of habitat and a widespread outbreak of toxic fungus. If it weren't for Zoo breeding programs, some species of frogs would be wiped out altogether because they already are extinct in the wild, said Animal Management Supervisor Dan Malone.  The new exhibit is being built near the children's zoo, in a space formerly occupied by moon jellyfish. A variety of frogs will be featured, including the Michigan bullfrog, the tiny, bright yellow Solomon Island Leaf Frog, often called the "Eyelash Frog" , and the green and black Vietnamese "Mossy Frog" that looks like it has hair on it and resembles a rock covered with fungus.  There also will be a selection of bright blue, green, red and black "Poison Dart" frogs that get their name from South American natives using their toxic secretions to lace the tips of arrows, Malone said.

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo Saves Frogs

April 1, 2008  blog.cleveland.com  By Fran Henry

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, is promoting interest in the plight of the world's amphibians -- frogs, salamanders, newts, toads and caecilians, which look like worms or eels and live in tropical areas. The zoo is coordinating Leap into Action, a regional initiative offering opportunities for the public to become educated and involved in amphibian conservation. In April, hikes relating to specific amphibians will be offered.  Children are encouraged to buy $1 passports and collect stickers at events. Proceeds will be used to create a vernal pool to assist amphibian reproduction. At least one sticker on the passport will gain a child admission to a party at the zoo on Saturday, Oct. 4.  The zoo also hopes to ignite interest through a display of rare amphibians, including Vietnamese mossy frogs, Puerto Rican crested toads, White's tree frogs, terrible dart frogs and Oriental fire-bellied toads.  Frog Maze, a 900-square-foot educational labyrinth, will be available for children to explore all summer. And a collection of new frog sculptures, painted by students and businesses, will be displayed throughout the zoo.  Meanwhile, a consortium of conservation organizations is rescuing endangered frog species and putting them in protective custody in zoos and aquariums until the threats to their lives have been controlled. Cleveland joined the effort about 11 years ago, when it began efforts to breed the Puerto Rican crested toad, a species on the brink of extinction. And for Project Golden Frog, which began in 2005, the zoo shelters and breeds Panamanian golden frogs, thought to be extinct in the wild. Next, it will research whether the skin of a different species of golden frog contains a chemical that fights the killer fungus. The Baltimore and Detroit zoos are conducting similar studies.  "We could create a strain that has greater resistance to the fungus," Hall said.

Mimicking the Bombardier Beetle 

April 1, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

The bombardier beetle, found mainly in Africa and Asia, can fire a powerful jet of hot, toxic fluid to fight off predators such as birds and frogs. While the chemical reaction that makes the venom has been understood for some time, now the actual power behind the venomous squirt, is known.  Quantities of hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide gases build up in the beetle’s abdomen but, when necessary for defence, get mixed together in a connected ‘combustion chamber’ to produce toxic benzoquinone. This hot fluid is then fired off at force in the face of predators.  The key is in the combustion chamber’s inlet and exit valves. The inlet valve opens to receive the chemicals, which begin to boil as soon as they meet, and closes when a sufficient amount of gas has been received. As the gases react together, they generate heat and increase the pressure in the closed chamber. When the pressure reaches a critical point, the end of the exit valve is forced open and the hot fluid is ejected as a powerful burst of toxic steam in a process known as "flash evaporation". Once the gas is released, the exit valve closes, the inlet valve opens and the chamber fills again, preparing for the next venomous ejection.  A team at the School of Process, Environmental and Materials Engineering at Leeds University has now managed to replicate how the bombardier beetle fires hot venom. In a series of experiments using just water (rather than venomous liquids), Andy McIntosh and his team have been able to fire pulses of hot spray distances of up to 4 m and have been able to control the size of the droplets in the spray. The technique has been licensed by Biomimetics 3000 Ltd for industrial applications.  This new technology is likely to be of interest to firms making drug-delivery systems as it could prove far more reliable than the mechanically-driven spring technology used in inhalers. It could also provide a much more energy-resourceful mechanism for fuel-injection in car engines and even lead to a new generation of fire extinguishers that can both produce either a fine mist or large droplets depending on what type of fire needs to be put out. The article appears  in April’s Physics World.

Nightshade Deadly for Dengue Mosquito

April 2, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Mosquitoes responsible for spreading disease are increasingly becoming resistant to synthetic insecticides. Now research published in the online open access journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine suggests that the berries of a weed common to India, Solanum villosum (S villosum), have potential for keeping mosquitoes at bay.  S. villosum is a member of the nightshade family known for its medicinal properties and commonly used as an ayurvedic herb. Nandita Chowdhury, Anupam Ghosh and Goutam Chandra from Burdwan University, West Bengal, India used juice and extracts from the berries of S. villosum, on Stegomyia aegypti, (S. aegypti), which can spread a number of viruses including dengue fever and yellow fever and is commonly known as the yellow fever mosquito. They found that S. villosum was particularly effective at eliminating S. aegypti larvae. Although it was not as potent as a chemical insecticide such as Malathion, the authors suggest that plant extracts from S. villosum have the potential for use in stagnant water where the mosquitoes breed. The next step is to identify the active compounds in the berries and to test whether these are effective in field trials.

“We found that these plants produce two types of phytochemicals.’ says Chandra. ‘The most interesting are the secondary phytochemicals, such as steroids, terpenoids, flavonoids and alkaloids – these act as a repellent which protect against the lethal effects of the larval mosquitoes.’  A number of plants have been reported for their anti-mosquito activity. Most of the studies report the active compounds to be steroidal saponins, which are thought to kill larvae by interfering with their cuticle membranes. However, only a few botanicals have moved from the laboratory to field use. Around two-fifths of the World’s population is at risk from dengue fever, which is characterized by a high fever, pain and rashes. Dengue hemorrhagic fever is a potentially lethal complication, affecting mainly children.

Environmental Reviews Bypassed for Border Fence

April 2, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD

Michael Chertoff, head of the Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday that environmental reviews will be waived to speed construction of 470 miles of fencing along the Mexican border from California to Texas as well as for a separate 22-mile stretch in Hidalgo County, Tex., where the department plans to build fencing up to 18 feet high into a flood-control levee in a wildlife refuge.  The announcement angered environmental groups, which have raised concerns through lawsuits and public hearings about the damage that fencing could cause to wildlife. Property owners, particularly along the Rio Grande, have also objected to what they considered federal intrusion on their land and access to the river.  So far, 309 miles of fencing has been put up, varying from tall metal barriers to impede pedestrians to simpler concrete posts designed to block vehicles.

Proboscis Monkeys in Pulau Gaya

April 2, 2008  www.dailyexpress.com.my

A colony of up to 30 proboscis monkeys lives in the mangrove swamps of Pulau Gaya, one of the five Tunku Abdul Rahman Park islands, according to Paul Basintal, Sabah Parks Board Director, The proboscis moneys are adept swimmers and wade between the islands.  Although just 200 meters wide and half a kilometer long, Sapi is one of the most popular islands offering five kilometer-long nature trails. Tunku Abdul Rahman Park was established in 1974 and consists of the Manukan, Mamutik and Sulug islands as well as Gaya and Sapi.  Other animals also found on the 15-sq km forested Gaya.are long-tailed macaques, monitor lizards, bearded pigs, pangolins, and a variety of birds like the whitebellied sea eagle, pied hornbill, green heron, sandpipers, flycatchers and sunbirds, wood swallows, and pigeons.  Proboscis monkeys (Nasalis larvatus), also locally known as Kera Belanda or Bangkatan, are one of the nine protected species under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Ordinance.  There are at least 5,000 proboscis monkeys in the State, the majority of which can be found in mangrove swamps in Sukau, Kinabatangan, Kuala Segama, Kota Belud, Kawang, Klias and Weston.

Prehensile-tailed Porcupine at Louisville Zoo

April 2, 2008  www.bizjournals.com

The Louisville Zoo has acquired a prehensile-tailed porcupine -- from the Oklahoma City Zoo. She was born last year and is the first of her species at the zoo.  There are about two dozen porcupine species around the world. Prehensile-tailed porcupines are found in Trinidad, Brazil, Paraguay and Venezuela. They have shorter, thicker quills that are lighter in color than the porcupines found in North America, are nocturnal,  and spend most of their time up in trees.

One of Oldest Captive Sharks Dies

April 2, 2008  www.nytimes.com

Bertha, a sand tiger shark who had lived at the New York Aquarium since the 1960s and was believed to be one of the oldest sharks in any aquarium in the world, was euthanized on Saturday. WCS, which oversees the aquarium, said on Tuesday that she was believed to be at least 43 years old. Hans Walters, a marine biologist who is the supervisor of sharks and the sea cliffs exhibit at the aquarium in Coney Island said “It was a rough decision to have to lose this animal.”  Mr. Walters explained “She had been in declining health over the past month or so and we had started a series of treatments for her.  She seemed to rally a couple of weeks ago and was doing really well, but at the end of this past week, she showed another decline. We ended up restarting treatments again. When we realized they didn’t have any effect, we knew that it was time.”  The shark was put down around 4 p.m. on Saturday. A necropsy was performed on Sunday to determine the cause of the shark’s health problems; the results are pending.  Bertha lived with five other sand tiger sharks, two nurse sharks and a white tip reef shark in a round, 90,000-gallon tank. She was about 8 ½ feet long and weighed just under 250 pounds. She had no offspring; breeding sharks in captivity is difficult.

Year of Frog Celebration at Chester Zoo

April 2, 2008  www.chestereveningleader.co.uk

Chester Zoo is celebrating the Year of the Frog with a new exhibit -  Life on the Lily Pad.  The IUCN Amphibian and Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG) and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), of which Chester Zoo's director general, Prof Gordon McGregor Reid is president, have launched The Amphibian Ark project to support conservation projects around the world.  "Life on the Lily Pad will celebrate the diversity of amphibians and their amazing lifestyles in a fun, interactive way. The exhibition is  supported by the Cheshire and Warrington Economic Alliance (CWEA) For more information on 2008 Year of the Frog visit www.amphibianark.org

Crested Capuchin Born at Santa Ana Zoo

April 3, 2008  www.knbc.com

SANTA ANA, Calif. -- A crested capuchin born last week at the Santa Ana Zoo is one of the first of its kind born in captivity in the United States.  There are only 11 others living in U.S. zoos.  Parents -- Romeo and Juliet -- arrived in 2006 on loan from Brazil. The small zoo in Prentice Park has been called Monkey Zoo because of a requirement set down by its founder that it always house at least 50 monkeys. Crested capuchins come from Brazil, where fewer than 10,000 are believed to exist. 

Taronga Zoo’s Great Southern Oceans Show

April 3, 2008   www.smh.com.au

SYDNEY, Australia -- The new Great Southern Oceans exhibit will give visitors to the Sydney zoo a chance to see three types of seals, as well as sea lions, two breeds of penguins and pelicans.  The $54 million natural habitat will be in front of a revamped 950-seat theatre, with the 16 cm. glass-fronted enclosure revealing all their movements above and beneath the water. Wayward seals and penguins from as far away as Antarctica and New Zealand are among the first residents with a total of 56 animals living within the exhibit (the size of 2 Olympic swimming pools) Brooke, is one of three leopard seals that normally live in Antarctic waters, breeding on pack ice. Brooke was lost, starving and near death when found on Garie Beach, in the Royal National Park, in 2000.  "The zoo vets worked on her really hard to bring her back [to health]," Taronga's marine mammal division supervisor, Danielle Fox, said yesterday. Swept north by storms, Brooke was "sick, injured and disoriented".  Other residents include three endangered Fiordland penguins, Mr Munro, Milford and Chalky, all carried more than 2000 kilometres from New Zealand's South Island by currents and winds. Because of quarantine rules, neither the seals nor the penguins can be returned home.  Theatre lectures will cover everything from what the public can do to protect the marine environment, to climate change.  The animals will also play vital roles in marine research. It is hoped that little penguins, being bred in the exhibit, will be released into colonies around Sydney Harbour next year.

Panda Taxidermy in East China

April 3, 2008  news.xinhuanet.com

JINAN -- Formerly the world's oldest captive panda, Taotao has been stuffed and placed in a glass cabinet at the Jinan Zoo in east China's Shandong Province.  She serves as the "Ambassador of Harmonious Zoology"  Taotao died on Feb. 6 of brain thrombosis and a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 36, which is equivalent to 108 human years. The average life expectancy for a wild panda is around 15 years, 25 for a captive panda. The Jinan zoo still has an 18-year-old panda.  More than180 giant pandas live in captivity and 1,590 exist in the wild, mostly in the mountains of southwest China.  Although sent to Wolong for breeding 3 times, Taotao failed to become pregnant. Normally, she would have been buried in the Baishuijiang National Nature Reserve of the northwestern Gansu province where she was born, but in consideration of her influence on the city, Taotao was stuffed and stayed at the zoo.  She  came to Jinanin 1994.

Crawling Fish is Discovered

April 3, 2008  www.enn.com

Husband and wife Buck and Fitrie Randolph, with dive guide Toby Fadirsyair, found and photographed a new species of anglerfish in Indonesian waters off Ambon Island on Jan. 28.  A second adult has since been seen and two more -- small, and obviously juveniles -- were spotted March 26.  The fish has tan- and peach-colored zebra-striping, and rippling folds of skin that obscure its fins, The bodies of these fist-sized fish are soft and pliable enough to slip and slide into narrow crevices of coral reefs. It's probably part of the reason that they've typically gone unnoticed -- until now.  The individuals are undoubtedly anglerfishes, says Ted Pietsch, a U of Washington,  the world's leading authority on them. In the last 50 years scientists have described only five new families of fishes and none of them were even remotely related to anglerfishes, Pietsch says. "As soon as I saw the photo I knew it had to be an anglerfish because of the leglike pectoral fins on its sides," Pietsch says. "Only anglerfishes have crooked, leglike structures that they use to walk or crawl along the seafloor or other surfaces."  Whether the new fish represent a new family will entail DNA testing and a close examination of a specimen, says Pietsch, whose anglerfish work is currently funded by the National Science Foundation. Scientists have already described 18 different families of anglerfishes and this is probably a 19th, Pietsch says.

WCS Program Restores Cambodia Bird Populations

April 3, 2008  www.enn.com  By Stephen Sautner

NEW YORK  – According to a report released today by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), several species of rare waterbirds from Cambodia’s famed Tonle Sap region have staged remarkable comebacks, thanks to a project involving a single team of park rangers to provide 24-hour protection to breeding colonies. The project pioneered a novel approach: employing former hunters and egg collectors to protect and monitor the colonies, thereby guaranteeing the active involvement of local communities in the initiative.  The report shows that some species, which include varieties of storks, pelicans, and ibises, have rebounded 20-fold since 2001, when WCS and the Ministry of Environment of the Royal Government of Cambodia established the conservation project. Before that time, rampant harvesting of both eggs and chicks had driven the colonies to the brink of local extinction.  Researchers first discovered the colonies in the mid 1990s in Prek Toal, an area within the massive Tonle Sap—a seasonally flooded wetland critical to Cambodia’s people and wildlife. According to WCS director for Asia Programs, Colin Poole, the colonies include the largest, and in some cases, the only breeding populations of seven Globally Threatened large waterbird species in Southeast Asia. Populations of all seven species have increased from a total of 2,500 breeding pairs in 2001 to 10,000 pairs in 2007. The success of the Prek Toal program has contributed to recent proposals for species status revisions, such as the down-listing of the spot-billed pelican based on the bird’s observed population recoveries.

DNA Analysis of California Wolverine

April 3, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Preliminary results from DNA analysis of wolverine scat samples collected on the Tahoe National Forest do not match those of historic California wolverine populations.  DNA analysis is critical to determine if the animal first photographed on February 28 and in later detection work is a wolverine that dispersed from outside of California, escaped from captivity or is part of a historic remnant population.  The preliminary analysis indicates the animal is a male wolverine that is not a descendent of the last known Southern Sierra Nevada population, said Bill Zielinski, a Forest Service expert at detecting wolverine, marten and fisher. It also does not genetically match populations in Washington, he said.  U.S. populations are found largely in the Northern Cascades in Washington, and Northern Rockies in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. The nearest known resident population is about 600 miles northeast of the Tahoe National Forest in Idaho’s Sawtooth Range.  Scientists determined the sample is a haplotype A, which is a genetic type that is found throughout the Rocky Mountains, Alaska and Canada, according to Michael Schwartz, conservation genetics team leader at the Rocky Mountain Research Station. He said haplotype A is not found in historic California samples or in the Cascade Range.  Additional analysis of the wolverine DNA to pinpoint this animal’s origin will be conducted by the Rocky Mountain Research Station and independent labs, Schwartz said. Genetic samples for historic California wolverine populations were gathered from museum pieces, fur pelts and scientific specimens, he said.

America’s Earliest Immigrants

April 3, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Recently, University of Copenhagen Professor Eske Willerslev and his colleagues conducted DNA tests on samples of fossilized human faeces found in deep caves in the Oregon desert. The oldest of the droppings have been carbon-dated to be approximately 14,340 years old and contain two main genetic types of Asian origin that are unique to present-day North American Indians. Not only is this proof that the American Indians are descendants of the first immigrants to the continent, it is also proof that immigration took place approximately 1,000 years earlier than otherwise believed.  The American continent was the last of the world’s continents to be populated.

Australia Zoo’s Tax Investigation

April 3, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By Reuters

CANBERRA  - Australian tax officials are probing the affairs of late "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin and his wife Terri over an offshore scheme involving their Australia Zoo wildlife business, the zoo said on Thursday.  General Manager Frank Muscillo said the zoo had done nothing wrong except fall victim to a "highly sophisticated case of deception."  "This situation has cost us a lot. Not just in monetary terms but in respect of our reputation," adding that the zoo in tropical Queensland state was fully cooperating with the tax investigation. The scheme, under investigation by the Australian Taxation Office, allowed the Irwin's zoo to claim large tax breaks by paying more than A$600,000 a year ($550,000) in fees to a Singapore-based company, the Australian newspaper said.  Muscillo said the ATO investigation was linked to a A$2.5 million civil lawsuit against Terri Irwin and Australia Zoo which was in turn tied up in tax advice given to the Irwins and their advisers by a disgraced former ATO tax lawyer.

Mysterious Skunk Deaths

April 3, 2008  www.physorg.com

Since mid-February, some 60 skunks, as well as a fox and a raccoon, have been found dead near Redding, Calif., and were reported to the California Department of Fish and Game. After diagnostic tests by the Shasta County Health Department ruled out rabies as the cause of death. Bodies and biological samples were sent to UC Davis for analysis. Janet Foley a veterinary researcher who studies the ecology and epidemiology of infectious diseases in the Center for Vectorborne Diseases at Davis said "We are now working aggressively with the California Department of Fish and Game to identify what did cause the deaths of these animals, looking closely at possible toxins and parasites," she said. "It's important to identify what is causing this unusual die-off because the skunk can be a sentinel species that often alerts us to environmental health problems."

Geriatric Animal Care at Philadelphia Zoo

April 3, 2008  www.redorbit.com

PHILADELPHIA -- Spot, 25, a grandmother and matriarch of her group of spectacled langurs recently had X-rays and ultrasound that showed she was not just losing her teeth, but had advanced cardiac disease. She's the second-oldest spectacled langur in North America and she now gets medication - digoxin, lasix, enalapril and baby aspirin - inside grapes, which she gobbles instantly. With improved nutrition, veterinary care and other advances, the zoo animals are living longer. Animals that would have succumbed in the wild are developing ailments ranging from renal failure to liver disease.  Twigga, 28 - the fifth-oldest female giraffe in North America - has swollen joints. Her nickel-sized arthritis pill is placed inside a banana.  There are little survival data, although researcher Lisa Faust, at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo, is crunching age data from zoos in North America to determine median life expectancies. Veterinarian Robin Barbiers, Lincoln Park's vice president of collections, plans to study brain function in older animals of various species. "We know nothing about cognition as animals age," she said.  A colleague, the primate curator, is already studying aging female gorillas to see if they go through menopause.

Behavioral training is helping zoos both diagnose problems and monitor them without resorting to anesthesia, often a risky procedure. When Philadelphia's Mrs. Emu, 24, developed a chronic limp, keeper Wendy Lenhart spent months training her to walk up a ramp and stand still. This allowed the vet to use a portable machine to get X-rays of her leg.  It was arthritis, and now Lenhart adds anti-inflammatory medication to Mrs. Emu's food pellets and apple treats. Lenhart also has trained George, an Andean condor more than a half-century old, to step on a scale so she can monitor his weight daily.  Philadelphia has adapted living spaces for the elderly. A tree kangaroo that could no longer climb her pole got handrails and ramps. A snow leopard with failing vision got brighter lights. For oldsters who are losing teeth, zoo nutritionist Barbara Toddes orders food pellets that dissolve easily in saliva. (Keepers used to soften yams in the microwave for a kangaroo, now gone.)  An elderly zebra, Esther, gets Purina's Equine Senior. It's easier to digest. Overall, her diet is twice as expensive as those of younger mares. If it's getting close to the end for an animal, Toddes will relax the regime and allow more treats.  Gorillas are susceptible to cardiac problems; a stroke killed the zoo's venerable Massa in 1984. He was 54, the oldest gorilla in captivity, and researchers who examined his remains said it was like studying Methuselah. (The Dallas Zoo's Jenny is now 55, eclipsing him.) Decisions on euthanasia fall to a 14-member animal management group, and it can be complicated because of the emotions involved.  A European study of 70 geriatric animals, published last year in the journal Animal Welfare, concluded that many had pain and "a significantly reduced quality of life." The researchers proposed a scoring system for making objective end-of-life decisions.

Bison Slaughter in Yellowstone Criticized

April 3, 2008  www.nytimes.com 

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) -- A government report released Wednesday faulted state and federal bureaucracies for failing to stop the slaughter of bison leaving Yellowstone National Park -- even as the number of animals killed this year set a new record.  More than 1,400 park bison have been removed or killed since February, under a federal-state agreement meant to prevent the spread of a livestock disease to cattle ranches surrounding the park. The bison are captured as they migrate to lower elevations outside Yellowstone in search of food. The report, by the Government Accountability Office, sharply criticized federal and state agencies for failing to expand the area where bison can freely roam outside the park, as called for in the 2000 agreement. That lack of progress occurred despite almost $16 million spent on bison management since 2002, according to the report.  Another $13 million was spent on land and conservation easements just outside the park in an area where bison often attempt to migrate. But part of that deal was never completed and the land remains off limit to bison.

Mojave Tortoises Removed for Army Training

April 3, 2008  www.nytimes.com 

FORT IRWIN, Calif. (AP) -- Scientists have begun moving the Mojave Desert's flagship species, the desert tortoise, to make room for tank training at the Army's Fort Irwin despite protests by some conservationists. The $8.5 million project involves transferring 770 endangered reptiles from Army land to a dozen public plots overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Fort Irwin has sought to expand its 643,000-acre training site into tortoise territory for two decades. The Army said it needs an extra 131,000 acres to accommodate faster tanks and longer-range weapons used each month to train some 4,000 troops.  Desert tortoises are the longest-living reptiles in the Southwest with a potential life span of 100 years and can weigh up to 15 pounds. Their population has been threatened in recent years by urbanization, disease and predators including the raven. The Center for Biological Diversity and Desert Survivors contend that the land set aside for the desert tortoises is too close to an interstate highway and is plagued with off-road vehicles and illegal dumping that would disturb the animals.  They plan to sue.

Wildlife Excursions at Binder Park Zoo

April 3, 2008  www.battlecreekenquirer.com

Binder Park Zoo has some amazing natural environments and exotic wildlife but there’s more than just a zoo here! This 430 acre wildlife sanctuary is home to an abundance of native wildlife, including numerous species of birds. Binder Park’s Wildlife Excursions explore the many wooded trails and will take place on the second Monday of every month! All tours are led by experienced Zoo staff and take approximately one hour beginning at 8:00 a.m. Squirrels, chipmunks, beaver and the occasional red fox are not unusual sights, but the Zoo is also a hot spot for some rather uncommon birds like pied billed grebes, bald eagle, pine siskin, woodpeckers and yellow-billed cuckoo. “We have amazing natural habitat here, including an endangered prairie fen, that is very rare to find in a zoo,” said Jenny Barnett Binder Park Zoo Director of Wildlife and Conservation. “The Wildlife Excursion is a great way to get the community involved in conservation right in their own backyard.” Participants should bring their own bird books, binoculars, and any other items desired for recording their bird findings. The Zoo will provide the guide and hot chocolate at the end of the tour.

Feline DNA Study

April 3, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com  By Rob Stein

Leslie A. Lyons, studies cat genetics at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California at Davis. She and her colleagues spent about five years collecting feline DNA (mouth swab samples), from more than 1,100 Persians, Siamese, street cats and household tabbies around the world. The genetic samples came from 22 breeds of fancy cats, mostly in the United States, along with an assortment of feral and pet cats in Korea, China, Kenya, Israel, Turkey, Vietnam, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Egypt, Italy, Finland, Germany, the United States and Brazil.  By analyzing 39 genetic signposts in the samples, the researchers were able to investigate a variety of questions, including which breeds are most closely related and where they most likely originated.  The group was able to confirm a report published last June in the journal Science that the domestication of cats occurred about 10,000 years ago and appeared to have occurred in an area known as the Fertile Crescent, which stretches from Turkey to northern Africa and to modern-day Iraq and Iran. The findings were published in the January issue of the journal Genomics.  They found that genetic diversity in cats is shrinking, although purebred cats remain far more genetically diverse than purebred dogs, noted Marilyn Menotti-Raymond, who studies cat genetics at the National Cancer Institute. That's because people have been breeding cats for about 200 years at most, and there is more interbreeding than among purebred dogs, she said.

IUCN Report on African Elephant Population Management

April 3, 2008  www.unobserver.com

The  IUCN’s African Elephant Specialist Group, is publishing a new report on how to control locally overabundant populations of African elephants. The report looks at the pros and cons of a range of options to manage elephants, including moving them to other natural habitats, increasing the area of land available to elephants, contraception and culling. Until now, there has been no comprehensive review available to African elephant-range states explaining the options for managing wild populations of elephants. This report looks at past examples of what has worked, what hasn’t, and provides a summary of the main technical considerations.  Holly Dublin, Chair of IUCN’s African Elephant Specialist Group and the Species Survival Commission, says: “Some of the most important decisions in wildlife management in Africa revolve around elephants, but a lot of the information is not readily accessible to conservation authorities. Much of it is scattered in diverse reports and scientific papers or as part of the body of unwritten expert knowledge.” The report is being distributed to governments and conservation authorities in African elephant-range states. For a full copy of the report, Review of Options for Managing the Impacts of Locally Overabundant African Elephants, please visit http://www.iucn.org/themes/ssc/sgs/afesg/tools/omiloaeen.html 

Chester Zoo’s Curator of Lower Vetebrates & Invertebrates

April 4, 2008   www.chesterstandard.co.uk

Richard Gibson has joined the 110-acre Chester Zoo as Curator of Lower Vertebrates and Invertebrates.  He has taken over the position from Kevin Buley, who has become Chester's Head of Zoo Programmes.  He comes from the London Zoo where he spent over four years as Curator of Herpetology. Previously he has worked at Jersey Zoo where he started as a reptile keeper before becoming Head of Herpetology. Following that, he spent two years in Mauritius as the Fauna Conservation Manager for the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation. Richard also plays a key role in the IUCN/WAZA Amphibian Ark, dedicating 25 per cent of his time to this project as Taxon Officer, helping to prioritise amphibian species for conservation breeding and catalyse conservation programmes around the world through training and capacity building initiatives.

“Horton Hears a Who" Premiers at Aukland Zoo

April 4, 2008  www.tv3.co.nz

The first ever outdoor screening at Auckland Zoo is taking place on Friday 11 April.  Dr Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! will entertain celebrity guests and members of the public on an 18m outdoor screen. Funds raised at the event will be used to support endangered animals at the Wildlife Protection Unit in Bukit Tigapuluh National Park in Sumatra – a unique speck of rainforest, about the size of Stewart Island.  More information can be found at www.aucklandzoo.co.nz

Dublin Zoo Orangutan Escapes

April 4, 2008  www.independent.ie

DUBLIN, Ireland -- Maggie, an orangutan who has been in captivity for 24 years, left her baby Majur behind and escaped for about an hour from her enclosure Wednesday.  She was spotted within minutes by a group of schoolchildren, but it took an hour before zookeepers managed to shoot her with a tranquillizer dart gun.  Keepers believe she made a long stretch for branches on the other side of a moat surrounding her enclosure, grabbed a wall and climbed over. She simply wandered about outside her enclosure and was standing in front of a neighboring compound housing snow leopards when shot.  It is not known why the normally protective 26-year-old decided to leave two-and-a-half-year-old baby Muhur behind. Zoo staff said there had not been any fights involving the other two adult orang-utans in the enclosure.  Dublin Zoo management plans to carry out an investigation.

New ZSL Aquarium Will Be Called “Biota”

April 4, 2008   www.marketingweek.co.uk

The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is set to create a super brand for a new London aquarium, called Biota.  Specialist brand consultancy Brand Vista is creating the identity for the £80m aquarium.  ZSL is also looking for a marketing director to report to its director general Ralf Almond and says it is establishing a platform to "create the brand from root". The 14,500sq m building will open in Docklands in 2011. ZSL aims to attract 1 million visitors a year to the attraction and says it will be on "an entirely different scale" to the London Aquarium on the Southbank.  It will be split into four "biomes" replicating habitats in the Amazon, Indo-Pacific and Atlantic and will house plants, fish, birds and mammals. A fifth area will focus on the aquarium's underlying message of protecting aquatic species and their habitats. Brand Vista director and co-founder Gary Moss says: "What Biota is doing is getting a strategy out and then turning that vision into the fabric of the brand." 

Pandas Will Be Mascot for Olympic Games

April 4, 2008   www.wdef.com

Eight giant pandas from Wolong are set to travel to Beijing for the Olympic Games.  They will join the seven pandas currently residing at Beijing zoo, which is expecting a dramatic increase in visitors for the duration of the Games.  According to state media, zoo officials decided to use the opportunity of the Games to promote the protection of the rare creatures and their living environment.  The China Panda Protection and Research Centre in Wolong, gave visitors a chance to pick eight pandas out of a group of 16 on their web site. Described by the centre as "well-mannered, lively, mentally healthy and easy going", the lucky winners were four females - Cuicui, Duoduo, Meixin and Fengyi - and four males - Taotao, Langlang, Huanhuan and Fuwa. All were born at the centre in 2006. The Beijing zoo has upgraded its facilities to accommodate the visitors and also plans to build a giant panda museum that will document efforts to save the species.  The animals will be on display at Beijing Zoo until November.

PG & E Has $3 Billion Solar Power Deal

April 4, 2008  www.enn.com

Pacific Gas & Electric today will announce a deal to buy as much as 900 megawatts of electricity. It will power 540,000 California homes each year, and involve the construction of five solar power plants during the next decade. The company to build the solar-thermal power plants in the Mojave Desert is BrightSource Energy. All five plants in the Mojave will cost $2 billion to $3 billion, and could mean 2,000 construction jobs, and employ about 1,000 workers to operate the plants. BrightSource uses what it calls distributed power towers, or DPTs, in which sunlight from thousands of movable mirrors are concentrated to heat water to more than 1,000 degrees in a boiler to make steam. That steam feeds a turbine that makes electricity.  BrightSource anticipates the first of its five California plants for PG&E, to be up and running “as early as 2011,” another plant will be built on the Ivanpah dry-lake bed in San Bernardino County and will begin operation in 2012-13.

Can Animals Judge the Passing of Time?

 April 4, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

A new research study entitled “Episodic-Like Memory in Rats: Is it Based on When or How Long Ago,” appears in the current issue of the journal Science.  William Roberts and his colleagues in the University of Western Ontario’s Psychology Department found that rats are able to keep track of how much time has passed since they discovered a piece of cheese, be it a little or a lot, but they don’t actually form memories of when the discovery occurred. That is, the rats can’t place the memories in time.  The experiment allowed rats to visit the ‘arms’ of a maze at different times of day. Some arms contained moderately desirable food pellets, and one arm contained a highly desirable piece of cheese. Rats were later returned to the maze with the cheese removed on certain trials and with the cheese replaced with a pellet on others. All told, three groups of rats were tested in the research using three varying cues: when, how long ago or when plus how long ago. Only the cue of how long ago food was encountered was used successfully by the rats.

IUCN Report: Involve Indigenous People in Climate Policy

April 4, 2008  www.scidev.net

The ingenuity of indigenous peoples is too often overlooked by policymakers making decisions related to climate change — even though they are among the most vulnerable to its impacts, according to a new report from IUCN released last month.  These populations usually occupy marginal and remote areas, such as small islands, coastal plains, mountain areas and drylands, where they are exposed to adverse environmental effects, where the severity of future climate change may exceed their adaptive capacity.  Furthermore, they are often socially vulnerable –– lacking rights, infrastructure and support, and with fragile livelihoods based only on natural resources.  The areas liable to the greatest changes in climate, and indeed already affected, include the Amazon region, the Caribbean, southern Africa and southern Latin America — all containing large numbers of indigenous people. Adaptive practices of indigenour people include rainwater harvesting, crop and livelihood diversification, and hunting and gathering timed with variations in animal migration and fruiting periods.  The challenge, says the report, is to find how best to combine traditional and scientific knowledge for incorporation into decision making.

Stellar Sea Lion Recovery Plan

April 4, 2008  www.sciencemag.org  By Virginia Morell

After 16 years and $190 million worth of studies a team of scientists at the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in Seattle, Washington, has summarized various researchers' findings in the Final Revised Steller Sea Lion Recovery Plan. The 325-page document, released last month, updates a 1992 plan and will help guide management of the sea lions.  But the 17-member team (which included fishing industry representatives and environmentalists as well as scientists) was unable to identify the cause of their decline.  The chief suspects: competition with the fishery, which expanded by an order of magnitude at the time of the decline; environmental changes; and perhaps predation by killer whales. The Plan suggests possibly removing the eastern population (which is increasing at a healthy 3% a year) from the Endangered Species List but advises retaining the western population on the list at least until 2030. Steller sea lions numbered close to 250,000 in the North Pacific until the 1960s. Over the next 2 decades, their population declined by a staggering 80%. In 1990, they were declared threatened and placed on the federal endangered species list. Seven years later, the struggling western population, once the largest in the world, was declared endangered. It now numbers about 45,000, up from  33,000. "But the birth rate is lower than expected," says DeMaster, "and our model predicts this population will begin to decline again." Curiously, the eastern population regained ground quickly, increasing by 225% over the last 25 years and establishing four new rookeries. Scientists remain as baffled by the discrepancy between the populations, which inhabit similar, heavily fished areas, as they are by the initial catastrophic plunge.

U.S. Grants for State Species Conservation

April 4, 2008  www.fws.gov  By Elizabeth Slown

Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne has announced more than $57.9 million in grants to 23 states and one territory to support conservation planning and acquisition of vital habitat for threatened and endangered fish, wildlife and plants.  The grants, awarded through the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund, will benefit numerous species.  The grants enable states to work with private landowners, conservation groups and other agencies to initiate conservation planning efforts and acquire and protect habitat to support the conservation of threatened and endangered species.   This year, the cooperative endangered species fund provides $8.6 million through the Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance Grants Program, $35.3 million through the Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition Grants Program and $14 million through the Recovery Land Acquisition Grants Program, which includes approximately $1.5 million of funds carried over from previous years or recovered from previous projects.  The US Fish and Wildlife Service established the three programs to help avoid potential conflicts between the conservation of threatened and endangered species and land development and use.

States that received funding and the amount awarded for species conservation.
Arkansas                                              $  225,500
California                                              17,945,231
Florida                                                   1,134,605
Georgia                                                  2,717,772
Hawaii                                                  2,101,196
Idaho                                                   1,471,500
Michigan                                                 689,305
Montana                                               6,515,319
Nebraska                                                385,911
Ohio                                                     1,835,000
Oklahoma                                               186,000
Oregon                                                    306,000
Puerto Rico                                          1,500,000
Tennessee                                            1,763,450
Texas                                                   6,324,500
Utah                                                        458,080
Virginia                                                    704,000
Washington                                          8,435,081
Wisconsin                                                 88,355

Multi-state grants
Tennessee and Kentucky                      $129,150
Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee, and Virginia

For a complete list of the 2008 grant awards for these programs (Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Number 15.615), go to:  http://endangered.fws.gov/grants/section6/index.html .

Balboa Park Tree to be Removed

April 4, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com  By Jeanette Steele

BALBOA PARK – A 100-foot sugar gum tree eucalyptus cladocalyx, that has been in the Old Globe Theatre's central plaza for 73 years will be removed Monday.  Ronald Morrow, an arborist says it has become dangerous and could fall at any time. You’re talking about millions of dollars of liability for the city,” Morrow said.  Morrow's report says the tree is probably worth $100,000. It's the last of about seven sugar gums of that vintage that were planted around the Globe and the San Diego Museum of Art's sculpture garden. The park has more than 300 sugar gums measuring over 100 feet and with trunk diameters of 60 to 70 inches, according to the 2001 book “Trees and Gardens of Balboa Park” by former city horticulturists Kathy Puplava and Paul Sirois.  Morrow's report recommends that the city plant two replacement trees where the sugar gum now stands. City officials were not immediately available to say what species they will choose.  The full report is at  uniontrib.com/more/documents

Koala Diet Affected by Climate Change

April 5, 2008  www.enn.com 

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Experiments by Australian scientist Ivan Lawler found that increased carbon dioxide reduced nitrogen and other nutrients in eucalyptus leaves and boosted tannins, a naturally occurring toxin. This sharply reduced the levels of protein in the leaves, requiring koalas and other animals to eat more nutritionally-poor eucalyptus leaves to survive.  The food chain for these animals is very finely balanced, Lawler said, and a small change can have serious consequences.  Koalas and greater gliders, depend entirely on eucalyptus leaves for food. Some other marsupials, including brushtail and ringtail possums and many wallaby species, feed extensively on the leaves.  Many insect species also feed exclusively on the leaves.

Indianapolis Zoo Welcomes Koalas

April 5, 2008    cms.ibj.com   By Scott Olson

A temporary Koala exhibit will run from Memorial Day weekend through Sept. 1 and feature two of the slow-moving marsupials on loan from the San Diego Zoo. “We’re using the koalas as a hook to understand the ecology of Australia and why it matters to us,” zoo spokeswoman Sarah Burnette said. “We did the same thing last year with [the Oceans exhibit]. Here we are landlocked in Indiana. Why the heck would we care about oceans?” Thekoala exhibit is the latest in a string of attractions providing educational value and, more important, a lure for gate receipts and revenue. The zoo’s attendance figures annually have topped the 1-million mark since 2003, peaking at 1.4 million in 2005, the year the renovated Dolphin Pavilion opened.  Much of the credit for the steady attendance can be traced to zoo President Michael Crowther’s vision to engage visitors as part of a three-step process that also includes piquing their interest, enlighten- ing and empowering them.  Zoo officials are projecting the koala exhibit will help draw 1.1 million people in 2008. The slightly lower projection is due to the fact the critters will be in Indianapolis for just three months.  Still, they’ll be treated like royalty while they’re here. When the San Diego Zoo flies the animals on loan to other locations, they aren’t checked into the cargo hold but travel first class with a keeper who stays with them at the new zoo until they’re settled. We’ve been working very closely with [San Diego] to make sure we meet dietary specifications.”

No Pallas’ Cat Reproduction at Erie Zoo

April 5, 2008  ydr.inyork.com
ERIE, Pa.—Erie Zoo officials say efforts to impregnate three Central Asian wildcats have failed. The Pallas' cats arrived from the San Diego Zoo last year and were implanted with embryos. The embryos were made with eggs taken from other cats in the Cincinnati Zoo that were inseminated with sperm drawn from wild cats in Mongolia. But sonograms done by a medical team from the Cincinnati Zoo this week show the Erie cats aren't pregnant.  There are only 45 Pallas' cats in captivity in North American zoos. Bill Swanson, director of the Cincinnati Zoo's center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife, says officials had hoped success with the procedure would lead to similar success with other animals.

Oakland Zoo Giraffe Models New Coat

April 5, 2008 www.insidebayarea.com  By Angela Hill

OAKLAND, California – Female giraffe, Tiki modeled her form-fitting, custom-made coat Friday morning at the Oakland Zoo.  Giraffe keepers ordered the special coat for the geriatric giant at the end of January, and Tiki has been getting accustomed to it during the past few weeks. She seems to like it just fine, and she knows it adds to her celebrity. 18-year-old Tiki has a form of giraffe arthritis called ringbone, in her front hooves, which causes her great discomfort in her feet and throws off her gait. That in turn leads to pain in her back and shoulders, which then makes her sensitive to the cold.  She has a heated barn, and even a special air mattress, typically used for dairy cows. But keepers Amy Phelps and Melissa McCartney don't want Tiki to be isolated during the winter. So come cold weather, the coat will allow her to be out mingling with the herd, living a normal — and more fashionable — life. Gillian Swarbrick, owner of Chaskit custom horse blankets,  donated her services to custom-fit and hand-sew the special coat made of waterproof fabric, a removable liner and fabric fasteners. She completed it in a matter of weeks, and Tiki has had the coat for a while. But it took awhile to get her used to it.  Phelps said. "We started by just showing her the coat. Then we put it on her and gradually increased the time she wore it.  "She really likes it. Now, when she sees the jacket, she moves right up to the fence and turns to the side for us to put it on." Another reason for the gentle introduction is a recent change in the herd. A new bull has arrived — a 1-year-old named Mabusu from the San Diego Wild Animal Park. He’s a breeding bull, which means he's a little frisky. So the fewer disruptions in routine, the better for the herd.

Zoos Study Ape Heart Disease

April 5, 2008  www.washingtonpost.com  By TODD LEWAN

Gorillas in zoos around the nation, particularly males and those in their 20s and 30s, have been falling ill - and sometimes dying suddenly - from progressive heart ailments ranging from aneurisms to valvular disease to cardiomyopathy. A 1994 study of 74 captive gorilla deaths, published by veterinarians Tom Meehan of the Brookfield Zoo and Linda Lowenstine of the University of California at Davis, found that 41 percent - and 70 percent of males older than 30 - were from heart disease, mainly fibrosing cardiomyopathy.  At the time the paper was published,  about 100,000 western lowland gorillas roamed the forests in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola and Nigeria. Far less endangered than the mountain gorillas. But since then, lowland gorillas in the wild have been dying at an accelerating rate. Poaching, logging, a dramatic expansion in the trade of bushmeat, and outbreaks of Ebola have reduced their numbers to roughly 30,000.  In September, the species was reclassified as "critically endangered."  In 2000 Haley Murphy, director of veterinary services at Zoo New England, which runs Boston's Franklin Park Zoo and the Stone Zoo in Stoneham, Mass. and Dr. Ilana Kutinsky, a cardiologist with the Michigan Heart Group, began reviewing cardiac ultrasounds of zoo gorillas in hopes of discovering why the animals were at risk for heart trouble. As ultrasound information was entered into a database and compared to necropsy reports on deceased gorillas, clues began to appear. "We started noticing that some gorilla hearts were grossly abnormal from others," Kutinsky says. "The abnormal ones were mildly enlarged, very thick, and weren't pumping as much blood."

Oklahoma Zoo Will Build New Asia Exhibit

April 6, 2008  newsok.com  By Carrie Coppernoll

A $16 million New Asia project is scheduled to open in spring 2011. The four- or five-acre exhibit will be the most expensive project ever completed at the Oklahoma City Zoo, said Brian Aucone, the zoo's interim director. The elephant habitat alone will cost about $10 million, the same price paid for the seven-acre Oklahoma Trails exhibit.  In addition to Asha, Chandra and their young, the new exhibit will likely be home to one or two bulls and possibly some elderly females.  The elephant habitat will feature a barn with three or four yards, with at least one for females and one for a male. The elephants will be rotated among the yards. The area will have more natural surfaces, including a dirt surface in the new barn, instead of concrete like the elephants' current barn in Oklahoma City. The design will include a maternity area where the elephants can bear their young.

New Way to Inventory Plants

April 6, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By Lily Kopel

Wearing a backpack with a G.P.S. receiver and carrying a data collection unit resembling a portable credit card machine in one hand, and a strip of wood known as a Biltmore stick in the other, Eric George is conducting a comprehensive inventory of Central Park’s trees, the first of its kind to use global positioning technology to pinpoint the exact location of each one.  Some of his other equipment is old. The Biltmore stick, for example, was developed around the middle of the 18th century to determine a tree trunk’s diameter. And to ascertain the width of each tree’s crown, Mr. George used no equipment at all: he counted the paces it took to get from one end of the tree’s canopy to the other. He logs the tree’s common name, which is translated by his computer into the Latin name, Prunus serotina. Then he enters the tree’s other data: its height and diameter, its condition, and its percentage of dead wood.   The Central Park Conservancy, a nonprofit group that manages the park under contract with the city, hired the Davey Resource Group, based in Ohio, to conduct the survey with a team of certified arborists, including Mr. George. The final count: 24,132 mature trees (informally defined as higher than chest level with a trunk diameter of more than six inches). The arborists noted an additional 2,000 saplings, one to six inches in diameter.  In a 1982 survey, a group of 16 volunteers spent an entire summer tramping through the park to come up with their count of 24,595 mature trees. With the new technology, Davey’s four-person team took less than six weeks as they found trees with G.P.S. devices instead of plotting locations on paper maps.

Elephants from Tulsa, Oklahoma City Zoos to Mate

April 6, 2008  www.kswo.com

OKLAHOMA CITY - While the Oklahoma City Zoo prepares to build a new Asia exhibit, 2 of its primary residents will be headed to the Tulsa Zoo, where it's hoped they will become pregnant. The Oklahoma City female elephants, Asha and Chandra, are sisters. Plans are for them to be shipped to Tulsa in June to breed with Sneezy, a male elephant at that zoo.  If they become pregnant quickly, the two females could return to Oklahoma City and be the first elephants to give birth at the zoo. If the breeding process takes longer, any baby elephants could be born in Tulsa. While the females are in Tulsa, the Oklahoma City zoo will speed work on a $16 million Asia exhibit that remains in the design phase. The exhibit, which will include an elephant section, is scheduled to open in the spring of 2011. Experts in Asian elephant breeding suggested the mating of 13-year-old Asha and 11-year-old Chandra with Sneezy. The two Oklahoma City elephants have no living offspring.

Public Meeting on Fate of Balboa Park

April 6, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com 

Three organizations: The Legler Benbough Foundation  (benboughfoundation.org), the San Diego Foundation (sdfoundation.org)  and The Parker Foundation (theparkerfoundation.org) commissioned a special report on the condition of the Park and have found a minimum of $238 million (not including parking problems) will be needed for current capital and infrastructure problems.  A public meeting will be held May 1 at 5:30 in the Santa Fe Room at the Balboa Park Club to discuss future management of the Park.

Tulsa Zoo Holds Sea Lion Fundraiser

April 6, 2008  www.tulsaworld.com

The Tulsa Zoo and Living Museum will host its final Sea Lion Splash from noon to 4 p.m. April 12. The event, which will help fund a new sea lion exhibit, will feature thousands of small, numbered rubber sea lions with corresponding tickets. Should the chosen rubber sea lion -- to be chosen by the zoo's live sea lions -- correspond with your ticket number, you could win prizes that include a 42-inch plasma screen television and Zoo Friends memberships.  Tickets are $10 each or $85 for a book of 10, which includes the chance to win prizes as well as admission. With the purchase of three ticket books for $255, the purchaser and up to three guests will receive a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the zoo's California sea lions.  For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.tulsaworld.com/tulsazoo .

Scripps Aquarium Sells Naming Rights to Species

April 6, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com  By Jenifer Goodwin

UCSD's Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla is offering the chance to name about a dozen newly discovered species for a tax-deductible donation. Bids start at $5,000.  The money will benefit the Scripps Oceanographic Collections, a massive repository of ocean life and rock samples collected over the past 100 years. Curators have been scrambling to keep the collections afloat since losing state funding six years ago. The collections are used by students and researchers here and around the world.  Scripps is one of a growing number of research institutions and conservation groups that have turned to raising money by selling species naming rights to the highest bidder. Last year, Monaco's Oceanographic Museum sold the naming rights to a new shark species, fetching $500,000 at a Christie's auction. Two years earlier, the online gambling site Golden Palace Casino paid the Wildlife Conservation Society $650,000 to name a new species of Bolivian monkey.  To set the prices, Scripps researchers considered several factors, including rarity, the species' importance to science and how expensive and difficult it was to collect. For $25,000, one's name can be on a deep sea worm affectionately called the green bomber, which drops luminescent green particles to distract predators.

First Lungless Frog is Found

April 7, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

According to a report in the April 8th issue of Current Biology, the aquatic frog Barbourula kalimantanensis gets all the oxygen it needs through its skin.  Previously known from only two specimens, two new populations of the aquatic frog were found by the team during a recent expedition to Indonesian Borneo.  “We knew that we would have to be very lucky just to find the frog,” said David Bickford of the National University of Singapore. “People have been trying for 30 years. But when we did and I was doing the initial dissections—right there in the field—I have to say that I was very skeptical at first [that they would in fact lack lungs]. It just did not seem possible. We were all shocked when it turned out to be true for all the specimens we had from Kalimantan, Indonesia. There are many lungless salamanders and a single species of caecilian lacks lungs but the complete loss of lungs is a rare evolutionary event that has probably only occurred three times.

Zoo Animals Create Artwork

April 7, 2008  ap.google.com  By DINESH RAMDE

A variety of animals are becoming artists at zoos nationwide: chimpanzees, kangaroos, ocelots, red pandas and even a rhinoceros and Komodo dragon, according to Jackie Marks, AZA spokeswoman.  One especially profitable painter is Towan, a 40-year-old orangutan at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. For Valentine's Day, the zoo auctioned a pair of his paintings on eBay for a total of more than $1,300.  As lucrative as Towan's works have been, keepers can only get him to produce a limited number of paintings. Most zookeepers, who say they won't sacrifice an animal's enrichment for the sake of making a quick buck, also note that some animal artists can be as temperamental as their human counterparts. Sea lions ply the painting trade with their mouths — they hold a stick in their teeth from which a paintbrush juts out in a T shape. But when they don't want to paint, no amount of cajoling can convince them otherwise, said Henry Kacprzyk, a curator with the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.  Artistic "talent" seems as diversely distributed among animals as among humans, zoo officials say. Just as some people are more artistically inclined than others, so, too, is the case for chimps, elephants and so on. Some animals are eager participants while others refuse to participate.  People who buy animal paintings are rarely art aficionados. Instead, they're typically animal lovers who know the money is going toward a good cause. But some animal artwork can be surprisingly valuable, none more so than three paintings produced in the 1950s by a chimpanzee named Congo. The abstracts sold in 2005 for a total of $26,352 at a London auction where competing works by Renoir and Andy Warhol languished unsold.  Check out this unbelievable U-tube offering: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=He7Ge7Sogrk

Wild Animal Park Elephant Show Closes

April 7, 2008  www.latimes.com  By Tony Perry

SAN DIEGO -- The elephant show at the Wild Animal Park, an attraction at Tembo Stadium since 1977, the most popular show in park history, will close Sunday. The 5 Asian elephants who star in the show (Ranchipur, Sunita, Cookie, Mary and Cha-Cha) are set to be transported down the freeway to the San Diego Zoo to join three elephants there in a new exhibit.  The combined herd will share 2.5 acres -- part of a $44-million project called Elephant Odyssey that will cover seven acres and include tree sloths, jaguars, lions, birds, tapirs, camels, turtles, pronghorn sheep and life-size replicas of prehistoric beasts.  The long lead time will allow the five to get used to the crate that will transport them -- one by one -- for the 25-mile trip to the zoo.  When his trainers decided to add Ranchipur, a 12,000-pound male, to the elephant show, it took two years to convince him to make his debut.  "Elephants do what they want to do," said Brittany Archer, Ranchipur's lead trainer and one of the narrators of the show. Archer will accompany him down Interstate 15 and California 163. She's also transferring her job to the zoo, the park's parent organization, to continue working with Ranchipur and the others.

Winky Euthanized at California Elephant Sanctuary

April 7, 2008  www.freep.com

Winky, one of two aging Asian elephants who left the Detroit Zoo in April 2005, was euthanized today at the Performing Animal Welfare Society sanctuary in San Andreas, Calif. She was 56 and had severe arthritis for years.  Zoo Executive Director Ron Kagan said. “We are comforted to know that her quality of life for the past three years was as good as it possibly could have been, and we’re grateful to the staff at PAWS for the excellent care she received and the environment she retired to.” The Detroit Zoo decided in 2004 to no longer exhibit elephants.  Both Winky and her companion Wanda suffered from arthritis and foot problems. The pair had been at the Detroit Zoo for about 10 years before being moved to the PAWS sanctuary, where Wanda, 50, remains with several other elephants. For an update or to contribute to her care, visit www.pawsweb.org

NC Zoo’s New Expanded Reserve

April 7, 2008  news14.com

ASHEBORO, N.C. -- It took the North Carolina Zoo 10 years and $8.5 to complete its new expansion and improvement project for their African elephants and Southern white rhinoceros. The new 7-acre Watani Grasslands Reserve is a new gateway to a bigger-than-life experience. “[It’s the] biggest exhibit we've built probably in 15 years," said one zoo official. Most of the funds came from private donors ($7 million in private donations and $1.5 million from the state.)   Zoo officials worked in conjunction with their colleagues in Cameroon,  Africa to bring in six more rhinos bringing the total at the zoo to nine, and four more elephants, bringing that total to seven. Zoo Director Dr. David Jones now has future hopes of starting a breeding program at the zoo.  "We're able to keep two, maybe three big bulls here, as well as the breeding cows and up to four or five calves," Jones said.  But probably the most exciting part of the expansion: Families are no more than 45 feet from those bulls weighing as much as 10 tons. "You can see the animals closer up,” said one parent.  Zoo officials are also proud of a 13,000 square foot barn that will be used exclusively for the elephants. It cost them $2.5 million. The idea for the new exhibit will be to foster close family relationships.  "What they'll be able to watch, the interaction amongst animals, much, much better than we’ve ever seen before," Jones stated.

Family Program at Chester Zoo

April 7, 2008  www.wirralglobe.co.uk

Chester Zoo has joined forces with One Parent Families/Gingerbread to deliver Learning Together, a project aimed at providing opportunities for lone parents in Wirral and Merseyside to learn through spending time together.  The two-year program has been made possible through the Big Lottery Fund's Family Learning programme, which is meeting the £150,000 cost of Learning Together.  New family groups will be set up during the program, which will see families visiting Chester Zoo and taking part in conservation activities including animal experiences, arts activities and specialist workshops under the guidance of the zoo's education division.  Melanie Cowieson, Chester Zoo's development manager, said: "This is the first time that a zoo in the UK has ever attempted a project of this kind.  "But we hope in doing so that we will engage families not just with each other but also with the world of conservation."

Party for the Planet at Your Zoo or Aquarium

April 7, 2008  www.emediawire.com

More than 100 of the top zoos and aquariums across North America are throwing a Party for the Planet™, making it the largest combined Earth Day celebration in North America.  Festivities will feature environmental education activities, amazing animal encounters and fantastic family fun. April 19-27, 2008 (Earth Day is April 22).  To find a Party for the Planet™ near you, please visit www.aza.org/promotions/partyplanetlist.

Memphis Zoo Produces Mississippi Gopher Frogs

April 7, 2008  www.commercialappeal.com

The Mississippi gopher frog was added to the endangered list in 2001. At about three inches, it's larger than most frogs, but smaller than a bullfrog.  Their natural habitat is the longleaf pine forest of the Southeastern United States, but the only wild population is in Harrison County, Miss., about five hours from Memphis.  Those frogs are able to breed, but a tadpole disease with a nearly 100 percent mortality rate keeps their numbers low, said Dr. Andy Kouba, the zoo's director of research and conservation. To make matters worse, they won't breed on their own in captivity. Zoos have not been able to re-create the environment necessary.  "It could be the water temperature, the fluctuations in the barometric or a whole host of factors we can't account for," said Deanna Lance, the aquarium zoo keeper who looks after the adult frogs and some of the tadpoles. The zoo spent between $10,000 and $15,000 in grant funds toward the Mississippi gopher frog project. Neither the frogs nor the tadpoles are on display. Because of their endangered status, the tadpoles are technically the property of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. There were 94 tadpoles but one died, said researcher Rachel Hansen. A handful are developing abnormally, and if the wildlife service gives its approval, those may have to be euthanized.  Because research is still being done on the disease that is killing the tadpoles, there's no immediate plan to release the frogs into the wild. Also, the wildlife agency will want to examine the gene pool used in the in-vitro process to guard against inbreeding, Hansen said.  Some of the frogs may go to the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Neb., another zoo involved in the amphibian conservation effort, she said.

Frogtastic Fun at Aukland Zoo

April 7, 2008  www.scoop.co.nz

AUKLAND, New Zealand -- "After thriving for over 360 million years, a third of the world's 6300 amphibian species are now threatened with extinction. Frogs play a vital role in our ecosystem, benefit agriculture and minimize the spread of diseases, including malaria," says Auckland Zoo events coordinator, Jackie Sanders.  "Frogs are toadily cool and we want to get zoo goers jumping with joy, croaking their praises and raising money to help them," From19 April to 4 May, Children can support the International Year of the Frog at Auckland Zoo.  Kids can test their frog skills by hopping along the frog footprints into the zoo and playing leapfrog and hopscotch - with great prizes to be won! Two free interactive shows each day will demonstrate why frogs are such amazing amphibians - especially New Zealand native frogs. Everyone can help frogs by purchasing an ASB Kashin Dollar. Each dollar goes to the Amphibian Ark Year of the Frog campaign to support the plight of frogs around the world and in New Zealand. Along with helping frogs, each dollar comes with a cool treat, and the chance to win some jumbo sized prizes, including the grand prize - a $500 Leapfrog prize pack from iQ Toys. There will also be daily prize packs to be won, courtesy of iQ Toys, and other great spot prizes.

Rare Seahorses Breeding in Thames River

April 7, 2008  news.bbc.co.uk

Colonies of rare seahorses are living and breeding in the River Thames.  The short-snouted variety are endangered and normally live around the Canary Islands and Italy, but experts at London Zoo said the species had been found at Dagenham in east London and Tilbury and Southend in Essex, over the last 18 months during regular conservation monitoring work.  The revelation coincided with new laws which came into force on Sunday to give the creatures protected status.  The seahorses, or Hippocampus hippocampus, are now protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.  They are usually found in shallow muddy waters, estuaries or seagrass beds and conservationists said their presence in the Thames is another good sign that the water quality of the river was improving. Alison Shaw, from London Zoo, said "It demonstrates that the Thames is becoming a sustainable bio-diverse habitat for aquatic life.  Both the short-snouted and long-snouted seahorse are kept and bred in the aquarium at London Zoo in Regents Park.

Knut’s Carp Scandal

April 7, 2008  www.spiegel.de 

The Berlin Zoo's Knut has made headlines by eating 10 carp which were placed in his moat to clean it of algae. Animal welfare campaigners are aghast at what one newspaper is calling a "carp scandal". But Knut has proven that even hand-reared polar bears are good predators. "He ate them all in just a day and a half," the zoo's bear expert Heiner Klös said.  When animal welfare campaigners criticized the zoo for letting Knut eat live vertebrates in breach of German animal protection regulations, he said "It's a strange criticism, given how lobsters are kept in restaurant aquariums before being killed for customers."

Donkeys Threatened with Extinction in Yemen

April 7, 2008  yementimes.com

Donkeys in Yemen are threatened with extinction, due to breeding practices and zoo protocol. People castrate them, preventing them from reproducing,” said Hussein Al-Shawtari, a donkey seller who follows the national donkey market.  “Additionally, people working in the zoo slaughter them and offer them to the zoo’s lions as food,” he added.  The donkey, or Equus Asinus, likely came to Yemen from Egypt, where the species is thought to have originated with the Nubian wild ass. There is evidence that donkeys have existed for around 6,000 years in the Middle East, and were domesticated around the same time as horses and camels.  The workers in Sana’a Zoo used to slaughter seven to nine donkeys every day, offering them to lions and tigers in the zoo. However, the zoo said that they have stopped this practice in order keep the species alive in Yemen.

Endangered Species Permit Applications

April 7, 2008   www.epa.gov

The public is invited to comment on the following applications to conduct certain activities with endangered species. Comments must be received on or before May 7, 2008.  Send 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-0540111
Applicant: John Green, Riverside, California.
    The applicant requests an amendment to take (harass by survey) the Yuma clapper rail (Rallus longirostris yumanensis) in conjunction with surveys in California, Nevada, and Arizona for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-804203
Applicant: Stephen Myers, Victorville, California.
    The applicant requests an amendment to take (harass by survey) the Yuma clapper rail (Rallus longirostris yumanensis) in conjunction with surveys in California and Arizona, and take (harass by survey) the Southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) in conjunction with surveys in Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-039640
Applicant: Kristopher Alberts, San Clemente, California.
    The applicant requests an amendment to take (harass by survey) the Southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus), and (nest monitor) the lease Bell's vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus) in conjunction with surveys and monitoring throughout the range of the species in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Texas, and Colorado for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Permit No. TE-176209
Applicant: San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco, California.
    The applicant requests an amendment to take (survey, capture, mark, and recapture) the San Francisco garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) in conjunction with habitat enhancement and population monitoring in San Mateo County, California, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-135968
Applicant: Theresa C. Miller, San Diego, 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.

Expansion of Werribee Open Range Zoo

April 8, 2008  www.theage.com.au  By Miki Perkins

WERRIBEE, VIC, Australia – The head of Zoos Victoria has expressed support for a $220 million expansion of Werribee Open Range Zoo but the RSPCA says the plan "smacks of a circus approach" to wild animals.  Village Roadshow, which runs theme parks including Sea World on the Gold Coast, says its "African Safari World" scheme would rival Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida. Roller-coasters and other rides would sit next to the animal enclosures.  When the plan was announced on Sunday, Zoos Victoria chairman Andrew Fairley said it could compromise animals' welfare but yesterday he told Fairfax radio the theme park would be "great". "I think that we're very comfortable in working with Village in putting a theme park in and that may even include giving up a part of our land to enable them to install one," he said. But he said Zoos Victoria wanted to retain control of the zoo. RSPCA Australia president Dr Hugh Wirth said animals at Werribee lived in a similar environment to those in the wild and that was how it should remain.

New Canadian National Park

April 8, 2008  www.enn.com  By Reuters

OTTAWA - Canada will create a giant new national park covering some 1.9 million acres along one of the country's most spectacular northern rivers, Environment Minister John Baird said on Monday.  The Naats'ihch'oh National Park Reserve will cover the watershed of the South Nahanni river in the Northwest Territories. It will be adjacent to the larger Nahanni National Park Reserve, which the government said last year it would expand.  Naats'ihch'oh, which means "stands like a porcupine" in the language of the local Dene aboriginal people, is an important habitat for grizzly bear, Dall's sheep and woodland caribou.

Asiatic Black Bears Taken to New Vietnam Refuge

April 8, 2008  www.enn.com  By Grant McCool

TAM DAO, Vietnam - - It is illegal in Vietnam to extract the bile from bears or to advertise the trade, yet authorities and wildlife groups estimate more than 4,000 "Moon Bears" as they are known for the white crescent mark on their chest, are caged and mistreated in farms across the country. Now, Animals Asia Foundation, a Hong Kong-based animal welfare charity is funding a new bear rescue center under the care of forestry authorities and international wildlife veterinarians.  The Vietnam Bear Rescue Center will eventually house 100 bears and is in Tam Dao National Park, 70km (44 miles) north of Hanoi.  The center recently received 4 endangered Asiatic black cubs and two adults smuggled from Laos or southern Vietnam in the past seven months.  . 

Critical Habitat for North Pacific Right Whale

April 8, 2008  www.epa.gov  

The North Pacific right whale (Eubalaena japonica) was recently listed as a separate, endangered species, and because this was a newly listed entity, NMFS is designating critical habitat for it. The rule is effective on May 8, 2008. The final rule, references, and other materials relating to this determination can be found on our website at http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/

South China Tiger Births in SA

April 8, 2008, www.sabcnews.com

Two South China tiger cubs have been born at the Laohu Valley reserve near Philippolis, in the Free State.  Li Quan, founder of Save China's Tigers, said mother Cathay successfully gave birth to the two cubs on March 30. "This was Cathay's second litter, having delivered a baby boy last November." This time, she accepted the cubs "Both were very mobile and quickly suckled. Cathay is looking after them with great care and licked them all clean," said Quan. Three cubs have now been born since November 2007 at the Laohu Valley Reserve and another birth is expected in the next few days when the reserve’s other tigress, Madonna, gives birth. The “Save China's Tigers” organization and the South China Tiger rewilding and reintroduction project have been criticized in the past, and Quan hopes the birth of the new cubs will promote and hasten the steps needed to establish the Chinese Tiger Pilot Reserve in Jiangxi and the Hunan Province of China so they can return.

Cleveland Zoo's Chimps Will Move to Knoxville

April 8, 2008  blog.cleveland.com  by Maggi Martin

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's three female chimpanzees will move in the coming weeks to larger outdoor quarters at the Knoxville Zoo in Tennessee.  The move was recommended by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums Chimpanzee Survival Plan, which guides the placement and long-term care of chimps.  Binti, Bo and Jackie, will join six other chimps, including Jimbo, who lived at the Cleveland zoo for several years before moving to Knoxville in 2006.  Jackie, 34, came to the Cleveland zoo in 1976 after she was rescued in Africa; Bo, 23, was born in Cleveland and Binti, also 23, came in 1985 after being hand-raised at the zoo in Wichita, Kan.  The space in the primate building will be used as additional space for gorillas and baboons, zoo officials said.  The zoo has housed 20 chimps over the years and plans to bring back its chimpanzee exhibit in the future but did not have the funds to renovate the space at this time.  Nationwide, there are 275 chimps in 37 zoos across the country.

USFWS Conservation Grants for Great Apes

April 8, 2008 By Craig Rieben

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that it will award a dozen grants for a total amount of $641,265 to aid the conservation of great apes in eight African countries. The grants are awarded through the Service's Wildlife Without Borders Program and are made possible by the Great Ape Conservation Fund. The fund was established by Congress to provide assistance for the conservation of great apes facing a variety of threats, including poaching, illegal trafficking, human conflict, habitat loss, and disease.  The projects will directly benefit chimpanzees, gorillas, and bonobos found across most of the region, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Gabon, Rwanda, Nigeria, and Cameroon.  The Service's contributions have leveraged an additional $760,101 in matching funds and in-kind contributions from partner organizations both nationally and internationally.  A summary listing and description of the awarded grants follows. For more information about the Service?s international programs, visit http://www.fws.gov/international/dicprograms/wwbp.htm       

CITES Meetings Planned

April 8, 2008  www.iisd.ca                  
The 17th meeting of the CITES Plants Committee and the 23rd meeting of CITES Animals Committee will convene from 15-19 and 19-24 April 2007, respectively, in Geneva, Switzerland.

Congo Villagers Will Use Satellites to Save Forests

April 8, 2008  us.oneworld.net

One of the biggest community-based rainforest mapping projects in Africa will begin April 9,  as the Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) helps indigenous people protect six million acres of endangered rainforest in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  66 Congolese 'Master Mappers' - trained by RFUK - are travelling by canoe and motorbike to the remote Inongo territory in centre-west of the country to work with nearly 100 villages in the world's second largest rainforest. The 660 villagers, who speak three different local languages and are mostly hunter-gatherers or subsistence farmers, will be taught to use high-tech GPS (Global Positioning System) devices to produce digital maps to prove their existence to the government and to loggers.  Each community will produce a sketch map of their area and then use the hand-held GPS units, to record accurately the important points on their maps. Once all the data from the field has been collected, it will be transferred from the GPS units to a computer to produce a map of the entire territory. RFUK hopes the map will prove to the government that these forest peoples exist, and that the forest needs to be protected for their use. The government has already allocated parts of the territory to 11 logging concessions, some of which are held by companies from as far afield as Germany, Belgium and Portugal.

Colchester Zoo Creates Nature Trail

April 8, 2007  www.eveningstar.co.uk

COLCHESTER -- Work has already begun on a boardwalk for a nature trail adjoining the Colchester Zoo. The trail should open in 2009, and will enable visitors to get closer to British flora and fauna species.  The zoo also  plans to build a succession of hides which will host pond dipping activities.  The boardwalk will extend from the zoo site by the Red River Hogs enclosure and run along the south of the zoo behind the Patas monkeys' enclosure, Patas Plains, the Tanganyika train station and the Amur tiger enclosures at Tiger Taiga.  Colchester Zoo's conservation officer Rebecca Perry said: “ In the past, we have worked hard to raise awareness about our exotic species, so we hope that through bird watching and pond dipping activities, our visitors can get closer to local species too.”

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s Rocky Mountain Exhibit

April 8, 2008  www.gazette.com  By BILL RADFORD

The Rocky Mountain Wild Capital Campaign has reached its goal of $8.2 million, raising $8,279,000 from foundations, organizations and individuals.  The money will make it possible to “plan, design and construct the 3-acre exhibit, as well as grow our endowment,” which provides said campaign co-chair James Loo.   Only a handful of AZA accredited zoos operate without local tax support, depending on admissions, membership dues, donations and grants.  An anonymous donor gave $1.46 million, the largest donation from an individual in the zoo's history and that amount was matched by a gift from the El Pomar Foundation. The exhibit will be home to moose, grizzly bears, Canada lynx and other creatures of the Rocky Mountains. It's designed to provide unique, close-up views, with mountain lions peering down at visitors though the glass canopy of Cougar Canyon and the bears fishing for trout in a pool at the foot of Grizzly Falls.  The community's support is being sought through a program called Rock the Zoo. Engraved river rocks, available for $100 a rock, will make up a Community Wall of Names at the Rocky Mountain Wild's Moose Lake. So far, 840 rocks have been sold, said Bob Chastain, zoo president and chief executive officer. "That's $84,000 worth of grass-roots support”.

Hermaphrodite Frogs found in Suburban Ponds

April 8, 2008  www.nytimes.com   By FELICITY BARRINGER

Common frogs that make their homes in suburban areas are more likely than their rural counterparts to develop the reproductive abnormalities previously found in fish in the Potomac and Mississippi Rivers, according to the study by David Skelly, a Yale professor of ecology.  Dr. Skelly’s research found that 21 percent of male green frogs, Rana clamitans, taken from suburban Connecticut ponds are hermaphrodites, with immature eggs growing in their testes.  The study is the latest in a decade’s worth of research that has found intersex characteristics in water-dwelling species like sharp-tooth catfish in South Africa, small-mouth bass on the Potomac and shovelnose sturgeon in the Mississippi.  Previous studies, particularly those by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, and in the West Virginia office of the United States Geological Survey, suggested a strong link between the abnormalities and agriculture, as well as a possible link to atrazine, a common herbicide. But the Yale study found that intersex frogs were more concentrated in suburban and urban areas.

Black Rhino Dies at Potter Park Zoo in Lansing

April 9, 2008  www.mlive.com             

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Ebony, the last of the black rhinos at a Lansing zoo has died.  She had suffered more than a year with a bacterial infection and endured a chronic foot ailment and nosebleeds. The 14-year-old animal became weak on Sunday and a hard time in getting up.  It's the second death of a black rhinoceros at the zoo this year. Spike, a 17-year-old, 4,000-pound rhino, on loan from the Cincinnati zoo, died in February.  Zoo veterinarian Tara Harrison plans to expand its rhino exhibit and get ready to host new rhinos next spring.

Corpse Flower Blooms at Como Zoo Conservatory

April 9, 2008  www.myfoxtwincities.com

ST. PAUL -- The corpse flower at the Como Zoo conservatory began to bloom this morning. “We checked on BOB this morning and found the telltale scent of the Amorphophallus titanum bloom filling the Parlor!” staff at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory wrote on the corpse flower blog.  The corpse flower is a rare, endangered Sumatran plant that has been waiting to bloom for 15 years. It gets its nickname since it smells like rotting flesh when it blooms.  The flower continues to smell for about 48 hours after it blooms.  Horticulturists from the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory have been working with experts worldwide on the development of the flower. The plant was received Gustavus Adolphus College's Chemistry Professor Brian O'Brien in 2005 from seeds given to them by Dr. James Symon in 1993.

S.F. Zoo's Use of Bond Funds is Criticized

April 9, 2008  www.sfgate.com   By Marisa Lagos

When the San Francisco Zoo voters approved a $48 million bond measure in 1997 to improve zoo facilities, orangutans and chimpanzees were the poster children for the campaign.  Eleven years later, the orangutans are gone, the chimpanzees are still living on cement islands - with a bit more shrubbery - and the lions and rhinos haven't yet been given their new digs. While the zoo has added new exhibits, including the African Savanna, critics charge that the zoo has placed more emphasis on visitor amenities than animal welfare. They also argue that the zoo has spent millions of taxpayer dollars on inadequate new exhibits. Only $4.18 million remains of the bond money, according to city records.  Zoo officials contest those claims, saying that animal care is the institution's top priority and noting the bond projects were first delayed by a lawsuit and then hindered by escalating construction costs. Those higher costs forced the zoo to scale down some projects and prioritize some changes over others.  The Great Ape Forest was scrapped, she said, because the zoo may not keep the primates in the future. However, the black rhinos and hippos will see major renovations to their facilities by August.  Zoo Director Manuel Mollinedo also said that most of the money had been spent by the time he arrived in 2004 and brought in an entirely new management team. He reprioritized some of the remaining funds - about $2 million worth - for improvements to the hippo and rhino exhibits.

Melbourne Zoo Parking Fee Proposal

April 9, 2008   www.news.com.au   by Ian Royall

Early next year a new $2.3 million car park is to be built near the entrance to the Melbourne zoo in Royal Park.  The city council hopes to raise $135,000 a year by charging visitors $2 to park for up to 5 hours.  The charge and the five-hour limit is to deter the estimated 200 commuters who use the site every day as an unofficial park-and-ride and catch the train or tram at nearby Royal Park station.  Zoo visitors who stay longer than five hours will be able to get a pass-out to move their car or buy another ticket. Research has shown that the average visit at the zoo lasts between 3 1/2 and four hours. Two years ago in its budget announcement, the city council proposed raising $400,000 a year by introducing parking charges at the zoo. But it was voted down at the last minute. The zoo's existing northern gravel car park will be covered in asphalt and landscaped.  The works are expected to take nine months.  Some of the funding for the project will come from the State Government' CBD parking levy that was introduced two years ago.
"It's also about funding the redevelopment of the northern entrance to the zoo," Cr Brindley said. "If we didn't have parking meters going in we wouldn't be able to afford to resurface the car park."

Web Prediction Markets – A New Business Tool

April 9, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By Steve Lohr

Corporations are using prediction markets to try to improve forecasting, reduce risk and accelerate innovation by tapping into the collective wisdom of the work force.  Like blogs and wikis, prediction markets can spur communication and collaboration within a company. Yet they add rigorous measurement to business forecasts, like estimating the sales of a new product or the chances that a project will be finished on time.  Corporate prediction markets work like this: Employees, and potentially outsiders, make wagers over the Internet using virtual currency, betting anonymously. They bet on what they think will actually happen, not what they hope will happen or what the boss wants. The payoff for the most accurate players is typically a modest prize, cash or an iPod.  For years, public prediction markets have been used for politics, where buyers and sellers bet on which candidate will win a particular race. And there are prediction markets where people place bets on news events or movie box-office receipts (Hollywood Stock Exchange).  These markets have often been more accurate than professional pollsters or market researchers. The idea is that the collected knowledge of many people, each with a different perspective, will almost surely be more accurate than an individual or small group or even experts. The concept has been championed by academic economists and was popularized by James Surowiecki’s 2004 book “The Wisdom of Crowds.”

Minnesota Zoo Projects on Hold

April 9, 2008  www.startribune.com   By JOY POWELL

The state-run Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley received only $2.5 million for 2009-2010, fraction of what it needs for repairs and replacements of mechanical systems and more will have to wait. $1.5 million must be used to stem excess water that flows from the zoo during heavy rains, overwhelming a treatment plant in nearby Eagan.  That leaves zoo director Lee Ehmke with about $1 million for repairs needed for 28 other items, including fencing, restrooms, exhibits and buildings for koalas and tigers. Governor.Tim Pawlenty requested $7.5 million for the zoo, an amount that Madore had earlier said would mean meeting only the most critical needs, including water-filtration problems, roof repairs, mechanical issues and a building management system.

Otter, Thought to be Pregnant Dies of Cancer

April 9, 2008  www.fortmilltimes.com

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Veterinarians in Bloomington say a river otter that the Miller Park zookeepers thought was pregnant has died from a liver cancer tumor.  Miller Park Zoo superintendent John Tobias said, "there were no pups at all, just a tumor." Chloe's assumed pregnancy had sparked much excitement at the zoo, with a live Internet video feed of the otter attracting 225,000 hits since Friday.  The zoo said they didn't find the cancer earlier because Chloe acted and looked like she was pregnant. Zoo officials said they took her to a veterinarian Wednesday after the otter eye's became glassy and her condition declined.  Chloe died during her examination. Veterinarians said the cancer had spread and wasn't treatable.

Bird Migration Study

April 9, 2008  www.ufz.de

Migratory birds make mistakes in terms of direction, but not distance. These are the findings of a team of ornithologists and ecologists from the University of Marburg, the Ornithological Society in Bavaria and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), writing in the Journal of Ornithology. The scientists assessed several thousand reports of Asian birds from the leaf-warbler and thrush families that had strayed to Europe. They discovered that the distance between the breeding grounds in northern Siberia and the wintering sites in southern Asia was often similar to the distance between the breeding grounds and Europe. The more similar the distances and the more numerous a particular species, the higher the probability of this species of bird straying to Europe.  The new research findings also now explain why the only vagrants to have been seen by bird-spotters in Central Europe are long-distance migratory birds from Far East Asia. The genetically programmed journey for short-distance migratory birds from Asia would end somewhere in the west of northern Asia.  The birds’ body size is not a factor.

Endangered Species Permit Applications

April 9, 2008  www.epa.gov  

Written comments on the following requests for permits must be received by May 9, 2008. Submit to the Assistant Regional Director, Fisheries--Ecological Services, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 25486, Denver Federal Center, Denver, Colorado 80225-0486; facsimile 303-236-0027. Documents and other information submitted with these applications are available for review, by any party who submits a request for a copy of such documents within 30 days of the date of publication of this notice to Kris Olsen, by mail or by telephone at 303-236-4256. All comments received from individuals become part of the official public record.

Applicants: Bureau of Land Management, Kanab Field Office, Kanab, Utah, TE-057401; and Colorado Division of Wildlife, Region 5, Durango, Colorado, TE-067482. The applicants request a renewed permit to take Southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) in conjunction with recovery activities throughout the species' range for the purpose of enhancing their survival and recovery.

Applicants: Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Fisheries and Wildlife, Blacksburg, Virginia, TE-103272; and, Tern and Plover Conservation  Partnership, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska, TE-070027. The applicants request a renewed permit to take Interior least terns (Sternula antillarum) and piping plovers (Charadrius melodus) in conjunction with recovery activities throughout the species' range for the purpose of enhancing their survival and recovery.

Applicants: Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Cheyenne, Wyoming, TE-067397; National Park Service, Badlands National Park, Interior, South Dakota, TE-067734; Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Prairie Management Program, Eagle Butte, South Dakota, TE-069539; and, U.S. Forest Service, Buffalo Gap National Grasslands, Wall, South Dakota, TE-069553.  The applicants request a renewed permit to take black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes) in conjunction with recovery activities throughout the species' range for the purpose of enhancing their survival and recovery.

Applicant: Montana State University, Western Transportation Institute, Bozeman, Montana, TE-150365. The applicant requests a renewed permit to take Topeka shiners (Notropis topeka) in conjunction with recovery activities throughout the species' range for the purpose of enhancing their survival and recovery.

Applicant: National Park Service, Capitol Reef National Park, Torrey, Utah, TE-064680.  The applicant requests a renewed permit to take Barneby reed-mustard (Schoenocrambe barnebyi) in conjunction with recovery activities throughout the species' range for the purpose of enhancing their survival and recovery.

Applicant: University of Nebraska, Department of Entomology, Lincoln, Nebraska, TE-121912. The applicant requests a renewed permit to take Salt Creek tiger beetle (Cicindela nevadica lincolniana) in conjunction with recovery activities throughout the species' range for the purpose of enhancing their survival and recovery.

WCS Studies Wildlife Release in Madagascar

April 10, 2008  www.eurekalert.org   www.sciencemag.com

NEW YORK -- Using data from thousands of species of lemurs, frogs, geckos, butterflies, ants, and plants, scientists from the Bronx Zoo’s Wildlife Conservation Society, University of California, Berkeley and other organizations have completed an monumental analysis for Madagascar that will guide plans to safeguard the island’s unique flora and fauna.  The study is unprecedented in terms of not only the number of species examined (some 2,315 species in six groups), but also because of the project’s scale and resolution. The biodiversity, climate and habitat of the entire 226,657 square-mile island, which is nearly a third larger than the state of California, were examined. The maps generated from the data analyses have a resolution of less than a square kilometer.  “While some of the key areas of biodiversity are under protection, many are not. This study will help direct conservation plans to help protect the most species possible, with special consideration given to those animals and plants that are most endangered,” said the study’s lead co-author Dr. Claire Kremen, an associate conservationist with the Wildlife Conservation Society and UC Berkeley assistant professor.   The massive study is the cover story in the most recent edition of Science. 

Human – Human H5N1 Bird Flu Spread Found

April 10, 2008  www.scidev.net

BEIJING -- A new study by Chinese scientists suggests a highly possible human-to-human transmission of H5N1 bird flu virus. Publishing their study this week (8 April) in The Lancet, lead author Wang Yu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC) and colleagues analysed two human cases of bird flu that occurred within the same family in eastern China's Jiangsu Province in December 2007.  The 24-year-old son died of H5N1 infection on 2 December, the fifth day of his hospitalisation. Two days after his death, his 52-year-old father developed typical flu symptoms such as fever, chill and cough. He was diagnosed with H5N1 infection, and survived only after receiving early antiviral treatment.  The son's only plausible exposure to H5N1 was a visit to a poultry market six days before the onset of illness. The father had substantial unprotected exposure to his ill son, but no contact with live poultry or exposure to H5N1 by any other transmission channel.  The H5N1 viruses isolated from father and son were genetically identical.  The researchers found it difficult to explain why the son's mother and girlfriend — both of whom had substantial unprotected exposure to him during his hospitalisation — did not become infected.

Australian Prime Minister Funds Pandas

April 11, 2008  www.news.com.au

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has confirmed he will provide the necessary funding for Adelaide Zoo to receive two pandas - Wang Wang and Funi - from China. The $5 million needed to fund the transfer of the two giant pandas and to house them at Adelaide Zoo is ensured despite widespread budget cuts. 

Safe Harbor for Arizona Fish and Amphibians

April 11, 2008  www.epa.gov

Draft Safe Harbor Agreement and Application for an Enhancement of Survival Permit for the Beautiful Shiner, Chiricahua Leopard Frog, Huachuca Water Umbel, Yaqui Catfish, Yaqui Chub, and Yaqui Topminnow in
Cochise County, Arizona
Alysa F. Bennett, 99 Bar Ranch Limited Liability Limited Partnership, and Mr. Josiah and Mrs. Valer Austin, owners of the Bar Boot Ranch (Applicants), have applied to the USFWS for an enhancement of survival permit (TE-160629) for a period of 50 years, to authorize the incidental take of the threatened beautiful shiner (Cyprinella formosa), threatened Chiricahua leopard frog (Rana chiricahuensis), endangered Huachuca water umbel (Lilaeopsis schaffneriana var. recurva), threatened Yaqui catfish (Ictalurus pricei), endangered Yaqui chub (Gila purpurea), and endangered Yaqui topminnow (Poeciliopsis occidentalis sonoriensis) as a result of conservation actions, on-going livestock operations, recreation, land treatments, and other existing land-use activities. We invite public comment before June 10, 2008.  Persons wishing to review the application, draft Safe Harbor Agreement (SHA), or other related documents may obtain electronic copies at http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/arizona/

Hawaiian Goose Research Permit

April 11, 2008   www.epa.gov 

USFWS invites the public to comment on the following application to amend an existing permit to conduct certain activities with endangered species. Comments must be received  by May 12, 2008.  Send to : Program Manager, Endangered Species, Ecological Services, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 911 NE. 11th Avenue, Portland, OR 97232-4181.  For further information contact: Grant Canterbury, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, at the above Portland address or by telephone (503-231-2063) or fax (503-231-6243).
Permit No. TE-003483.
Applicant: U.S. Geological Survey, Biological Resources Discipline, Pacific Islands Ecosystem Research Center.
    The applicant requests an amendment to an existing permit to take (capture, attach satellite radio transmitters, collect blood samples, and release) the Hawaiian goose (Branta sandvicensis) in conjunction with research on the Island of Hawaii in the State of Hawaii, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

New Google Earth Outreach Program

April 14, 2008  www.geek.com

Google Earth will have a new layer added that will offer users written, video and audio information on endangered species in different parts of the world.  The new layer has been made possible through the use of information already available through the ARKive project. The not-for-profit organization Wildscreen started the ARKive initiative, which aims to bring together the scattered knowledge of our endangered species. Now the ARKive layer will be available through Google Earth and Maps, hopefully opening the information up to more people than ever before.  Adding information on endangered species to Google Earth will hopefully make everyone more aware of just what is disappearing from the planet.

Giant Sloth Fossil Found in Carlsbad

April 14, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com 

CARLSBAD – For the second time in a year, an ancient mammal fossil has been excavated from the Robinson Ranch in Carlsbad.  The site is being developed for homes.  The skeleton of a giant ground sloth from the Pleistocene Epoch has been encased in plaster and taken to the San Diego Natural History Museum.  Last June, scientists uncovered tusks and jawbones of an elephantlike mastodon at Robertson Ranch, a 400-acre site at El Camino Real and Cannon Road.  The giant ground sloth is a large plant-eating mammal that is related to the tree sloth, anteater and armadillo. Three genera of ground sloths lived in Southern California during the Pleistocene Epch, also known as the Great Ice Age.  This Epoch lasted from 1.8 million to 10,000 years ago.    Nothrotheriops shastensis,  stood about 9 feet tall and weighed about 550 pounds. It’s diet consisted of yuccas, Joshua trees, globe mallows, mesquite and cacti.  Tom Deméré,  the museum's curator of paleontology, said “We know we have part of a pelvis, part of a front leg and part of a back leg. There were two ribs we could see and part of a vertebra. . . . They'd been held together a couple of hundred thousand years by mudstone. The strata we see in Carlsbad . . . show this change of estuary to river to pond and lake,” he said..  Deméré estimates that the sloth roamed along the bogs and streams of what is now Agua Hedionda Creek 200,000 to 120,000 years ago.  Other ground sloths have been found in National City and Fairbanks Ranch, but Deméré said this species, Nothrotheriops shastensis, wasn't abundant in San Diego County.

African Wild Dogs Come to L.A. Zoo

April 14, 2008  latimesblogs.latimes.com  By Tony Barboza

The L.A. Zoo last week introduced two endangered African wild dogs, the zoo's first in more than 40 years.  The brother and sister are just over a year old and come from the Bronx Zoo.  In their native sub-Saharan Africa, the dogs are predators that roam up to 30 miles a day hunting for food.  Only about 5,000 exist worldwide; about 150 live in captivity in the United States.  Officials plan to breed the pair with wild dogs from other zoos. They are part of the national Species Survival Plan program, which finds suitable mates for animals facing extinction.

Grant funding for environmental projects

April 14, 2008   www.scidev.net

KANAWGAWA, Japan -- The Asia Pacific Forum for Environment and Development (APFED) is a regional group of eminent experts that aims to address critical issues facing Asia and the Pacific region and to propose new models for sustainable development. The program will provide grants up to US$30,000 to Asia Pacific projects that demonstrate innovative approaches to sustainable development.  Eligible countries can be found at: http://www.apfed.net/showcase/file/Eligible_countries.pdf  Projects must demonstrate innovative policies, measures, and actions including community empowerment and technology application with a view to promoting behavioural changes toward achieving sustainable development and generating positive impacts on environmental performance in Asia and the Pacific. Projects must not have been implemented yet or must be at the very early stages of implementation. The project implementing organization must have already secured core funds including in-kind contributions to support the implementation of the project. Projects must be designed to be implemented in partnership with other relevant organizations and stakeholder groups as well as NetRes institutions. All proposals should be received by the Showcase Facility Secretariat NO LATER THAN 31 May 2008.  Further details:  http://www.apfed.net/showcase/.

Jerusalem’s Biblical Zoo Will Expand

April 14, 2008  www.jpost.com

The Jerusalem Municipality has approved plans to expand the city's popular Biblical Zoo, the city said Monday.  The proposal, which was unanimously backed by the city and is now pending state approval, will see the area of the zoo increase from 250 dunams today to nearly 390 dunams. The city's zoo has become the country's top tourist attraction with a paid entrance.  Nearly 700,000 people visit each year. 

Elephant Ancestor Lived in Water

April 14, 2008  news.nationalgeographic.com   By Brian Handwerk

The family tree of the Elephant may have its roots in the water.  Chemical signatures from fossil teeth reveal that at least one species of proboscidean, lived in an aquatic environment.  The teeth of the ancient animal, which belonged to a genus called Moeritherium, indicate that it ate freshwater plants and lived in swamps or river systems, said Alexander Liu of Oxford University's department of earth sciences.  "Essentially it's a hippo-like mode of life. Living elephants and their extinct relatives share a common ancestor with manatees, dugongs and the other aquatic mammals known as sirenians.  Moeritherium lived some 37 million years ago, many millions of years after the genetic lineages of elephants and sirenians split, Liu said.  Moeritherium was probably about the size of a tapir—29 to 42 inches (74 to 107 centimeters) tall at the shoulder. It seems to have lacked a trunk but may have had a prehensile upper lip.  The animal's teeth were unearthed in northern Egypt's Faiyum region in rock containing strong evidence of swamp and river ecosystems. The research appears in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Deciding What to Conserve

April 14, 2008  www.economist.com 

About 50% of plant species and 71% of vertebrate species are concentrated in “hotspots” that cover only 2.3% of the Earth’s surface.  Conserving these areas is a natural first choice.   But what to save next is a more difficult decision. Biologists have spent about 15 years trying to set conservation priorities for the rest of the earth: What to save, rather than how to save it – rather like cataloguing deck chairs on the Titanic; or deciding whether to save the Wedgwood or the crystal as the house burns.  Determining which areas to protect still involves some guesswork and assumptions.  Should an area in the same region be protected risking the over-representation of some species at the expense of rarer species in different places?  Should the last representative of an otherwise extinct group of animals, like the duck-billed platypus be protected at the expense of ten species of almost identical dandelions?  Also, we only tend to save species we know about. What are the world’s hotspots of micro-moths or nematode worms? As patterns of diversity between one taxonomic group and another do not always align, conservation priorities may over-emphasize protecting familiar species.  Even if the science continues to progress, the amount of benefit that can be gained by fine-tuning priority-setting will diminish over time. And surely, with the right kind of redundancy built into the system, the extent to which this will matter will be minimized.  Perhaps more time should be spent on the really difficult problem of how governments, private industry and innovative environmental-finance schemes could help fund conservation.

Second Rothschild Giraffe Born at Chester Zoo

April 14, 2008  www.eveningleader.co.uk

CHESTER Zoo has a second baby Rothschild giraffe in just two months.  Named Niamh, she was born a week ago today to seven-year-old Kelly and seven-year-old Thorn.  Margaret was the first giraffe born at the zoo, making her debut in January. She was the smallest giraffe ever to be born at Chester and is being hand-reared by her keepers.  The new arrival, is being reared by mother Kelly and is making great progress. It is the Kelly’s second calf, who is also mom to Molly, and brings the number of giraffes at the 110-acre Upton zoo to seven. There are only 600 Rothschild giraffes left in the wild in Kenya and Uganda.

New Johannesburg Zoo CEO

April 14, 2008  www.joburg.org.za   by Lesego Madumo  

Dr. Stephen van der Spuy became the new chief executive officer of the Johannesburg Zoo on March 1, following the departure of Jenny Gray.  The new zoo boss was born and bred in Pretoria, where he did most of his schooling, and acquired a bit of work experience. A veterinarian by profession, he spent six years studying for his degree in veterinary science at the University of Pretoria.  At 36, Van der Spuy has more than 15 years of experience in working with animals. He has worked as an administrator at numerous animal facilities. He owned and managed the Exotic Animal Clinic at the Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospital, which is administered by the University of Pretoria. He also managed the Montecasino Bird Gardens for over two years.  He has been at the zoo since 2004, starting as the executive manager of the animal department and working upwards to the top spot as chief executive officer. He is actively involved in numerous conservation projects, including the zoo’s Wattled Crane Recovery Programme, frog-breeding project and 2008 Year of the Frog Conservation Project.  He is on the board of the ground hornbill conservation project and has assisted the Jane Goodall Institute on chimpanzee rescue operations in various African countries.

Jacksonville Zoo’s African Elephant Breeding Program

April 14, 2008 www.jacksonville.com   By ASHLEY BELAND

In October 2006, the Jacksonville Zoo exchanged two non-reproductive female African elephants with Lee Richardson Zoo in Kansas to bring in new females, Moki and Chana to mate with their bull African elephant, Ali. The Jacksonville Zoo has one of the few fertile male African elephants in North America.  A study by the San Diego Zoo’s Robert Wiese conducted in 2000, is considered the leading research on captive elephants, and predicts in 50 years only four female African elephants will be young enough to breed in captivity.  Moki and Chana have a very close relationship and act like sisters, according to elephant program manager Brett Smith. Moki, the dominant female, had the advantage over Chana in their first introduction to Ali.  The three have been put together more frequently for socialization, and the elephants have become more comfortable with each other over the past year. "We are trying to monitor their cycles, which have been a little erratic and made breeding more difficult," said Craig Miller, curator of mammals at the zoo.  Moki and Chana are also being conditioned for artificial insemination in case natural reproduction is unsuccessful. The zoo is also harvesting Ali's semen and sending it to zoos around the United States for artificial insemination, Miller said.

Oakland Zoo Expansion Clarified

April 14, 2008  www.insidebayarea.com

With the city of Oakland serving as the lead agency, all aspects of the California Environmental Quality Act have been applied to the Oakland Zoo’s Master Plan to ensure minimal environmental impact. The city approved the plan, with subsequent review and approval by the Oakland Planning Commission.  Following this approval, a number of neighbors living near Knowland Park appealed the decision to City Council.  Through the leadership, encouragement and involvement of Councilmember Larry Reid, the zoo undertook negotiations with neighbors for 18 months and incorporated their ideas as much as feasible.  In the end, a compromise was reached, and the City Council unanimously approved the final modified master plan in 1998, with a consensus approval of the neighbors.  Since that time, Joel Parrott executive director, and his staff have made steady progress on that master plan, removing or renovating all outdated exhibits prior to any new expansion. It is important to realize the expansion is not a loss of open space. Sixty acres will be fenced. More than 420 acres of Knowland Park will remain open to the neighborhood.  Of the 60 acres for the zoo, over 40 acres will remain protected open space, allowing for the return of nesting birds currently disturbed from unsupervised, free-ranging dogs and feral cats.  Knowland Park has experienced a 30 percent decline in bird species since a bird census was taken in 1993. Only 20 acres of Knowland Park's 525 acres will be converted to animal exhibits and visitor services.  A gondola will replace an existing chairlift and eliminate the need for a new road. The numbers of buildings and general scope have not changed from 1998. The Zoo will not be a theme park.  The opportunity to display California's native wildlife in such a spectacular setting is unmatched in any zoo in North America, and exists in only a handful of zoos in the world.  This will provide a chance to interpret one of the great stories of change in California and emphasize our role to protect the ecologies of the Bay Area. It is a message worth sharing with the 550,000 children and adults who visit the Oakland Zoo each year.

Seneca Zoo Achieves Fundraising Goal

April 15, 2008  www.mpnnow.com

The Seneca Park Zoo Society has announced that it exceeded the fundraising necessary to qualify for a matching grant from the Riedman Foundation to help with its new Africa exhibit. Since October 2007, the society has raised $767,141, more than meeting the requirements for the foundation gift. The Riedman Challenge Grant meant that the foundation would match, up to $500,000, what the society raised by March 31, 2008. 247 individuals and corporations supported the effort, with a record number of new donors giving to the campaign.   With the matching grant, the zoo now has $1,267,141, just over one-quarter of the $4 million it is hoping to raise by next year to build the third and final phase of its “A Step Into Africa — Ngorongoro Crater Exhibit.”  The first phase was the new barn, which also included expanded exterior spaces for the zoo’s African elephants, Genny C. and Lilac. It opened in 2006.  Construction on phase two, which includes a new splash pool for the elephants and a new baboon exhibit, started in 2007 and will open next month.  Phase three will include a lion habitat and something tentatively being called Crater Lodge, which would have a food-service facility.

Critical Habitat for Bay Checkerspot Butterfly

April 15, 2008   www.epa.gov
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announces the reopening of the comment period on the proposed revised designation of critical habitat for the Bay checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha bayensis) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). They also announce the availability of the draft economic analysis (DEA) of the proposed revised critical habitat designation and an amended required determinations section of the proposal. We are reopening the comment period to allow all interested parties an opportunity to comment simultaneously on the proposed rule, the associated DEA, and the amended required determinations section. Public comments received or postmarked on or before May 15, 2008 will be accepted. Send to:  Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R8-ES-2008-0034; 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 at: http://www.regulations.gov   For further information contact: Susan Moore, Field Supervisor or Arnold Roessler, Listing Program Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way, Room W-2605, Sacramento, CA 95825; telephone 916-414-6600; or facsimile 916-414-6712. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.  You may obtain copies of the proposed rule and DEA by mail from the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office or by visiting our Web site at http://www.fws.gov/sacramento

Frogs in Borneo Are Lungless

April 15, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By HENRY FOUNTAIN

Scientists working in the Indonesian part of Borneo report the rediscovery of a rare species known from two specimens described 30 years ago. When David Bickford of the National University of Singapore and colleagues dissected some of the nine new specimens of Barbourula kalimantanensis: they discovered the frog has no lungs. It’s the first completely lungless frog, the researchers report in Current Biology, joining some salamanders and one species of caecilian. B. kalimantanensis is about two inches long and noticeably flat, with no airway opening in its throat, and only a membrane lining its thoracic cavity. The researchers suggest the frog probably absorbs oxygen through its skin, as other lung-equipped frogs can do.  Lunglessness may have evolved in response to an extreme environment — cold, swift-flowing streams. Such waterways would have a lot of dissolved oxygen to absorb (and the frog, being cold-blooded, has a fairly low metabolism anyway). Lack of lungs would also give the frog negative buoyancy, making it easier to sink and stay put, rather than being swept away, in fast-moving water. 

New Miami Zoo Director Quits

April 15, 2008   dispatch.com   By Kathy Lynn Gray

Manny Gonzalez, formerly the chief operating officer at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, has resigned his leadership of the Zoological Society of Florida after less than five months.  Gonzalez quit Friday after deciding the society, which markets and raises money for the Miami Metro Zoo, wasn’t ready for the sweeping changes he’d envisioned. “I thought I was going down there to expand the zoo into an entertainment complex,” he said. “ But the board didn’t want to take on the challenges I was proposing.”  Ron Magill, communications director for the Miami zoo, said he was devastated that Gonzalez left.  “He was doing exactly what they hired him to do,” said Magill, who’s worked at the zoo for 28 years. “This guy really was able to come in here and pull people together. We are sickened by his departure.”  Gonzalez says he didn’t have a contract with the society and is not receiving severance pay, nor does he have another job lined up. The Columbus zoo’s opening for a new director isn’t a possibility, he said.  Jerry Borin has announced that he’s retiring as director of the Columbus zoo. Gonzalez said he’s been told the search committee is close to choosing a new leader.

Exposure to Common Weed Killer Impairs Metamorphosis

April 15, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass. - Tadpoles develop deformed hearts and impaired kidneys and digestive systems when exposed to the widely used herbicide atrazine in their early stages of life, according to research by Tufts University biologists.  This common weed killer – once thought to be harmless to animals -- disrupts growth of vital organs in amphibians during multiple growth periods. Previous research had revealed negative effects of atrazine on amphibians extremely early and late in development. The Tufts study, published in the February 2008 edition of "Environmental Health Perspectives," examined tadpoles during an often overlooked period of development, organ morphogenesis. Organ morphogenesis is a brief, extremely sensitive phase in the tadpoles' growth cycle when they are starting to develop organs, noted Kelly A. McLaughlin, Associate Professor of Biology and lead researcher in the study. She explained that experiments were designed to broaden the understanding of how chemicals affect biological growth in amphibians over multiple stages of development. Farmers use it to treat corn and soybeans. Atrazine blocks photosynthesis once it is absorbed by plants. Chronic exposure to the herbicide during metamorphosis altered amphibian gonadal development, according to previous research.

To study the consequences of atrazine exposure during organ morphogenesis, McLaughlin and her colleagues, Professor of Biology J. Michael Reed, doctoral candidate Jenny R. Lenkowski and Lisa Deininger, a Summer Scholars program undergraduate student, collected eggs from adult female frogs and then fertilized them in vitro. Scientists exposed the developing tadpoles to 10, 25 and 35 mg/L of atrazine. The 35 mg/L dosage simulated the average amount of herbicide used when it is applied in the field, said McLaughlin.  Twelve to 24 hours after exposure to atrazine, tadpoles were examined for abnormal heart growth, visceral hemorrhaging, intestinal coiling, edema and apoptosis (normal cell death that is "programmed" by the body).  Compared with control populations, the tadpoles that were exposed to atrazine had a dramatically higher incidence of abnormalities. The degree of deformities generally corresponded to the size of the dose. After 48 hours of exposure, the point at which organ development is disrupted most profoundly, 57 percent of the tadpoles exposed to 35 mg/L of atrazine had hearts that were smaller than normal, compared with 2% to 3% for the two control groups.

Buffalo Zoo Sends 3 Elephants to Ohio

April 15, 2008  www.buffalonews.com
Surapa and Buki , two of the Buffalo Zoo’s three female Asian elephants were transported to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium on Sunday to make way for expansion of the Elephant House.  50-year-old Buki followed them to Ohio on Monday night.  Donna M. Fernandes, president and CEO, said the zoo accepted the offer of temporary shelter from the Columbus Zoo, after deciding against building a temporary shelter in the Delaware Park zoo grounds or renting a horse arena or other large facility.  The zoo to zoo transfer was the most expensive alternative, but also best for the animals’ “health, comfort and well-being,” she said. Columbus is only a day’s drive away and they have the capacity to house the three in addition to their own four elephants. Keepers who accompanied them reported they were at play in their new Ohio digs shortly after being led off the transport trailer. Zoo veterinarian Kurt Volle, animal curator Kevin Murphy and former head keeper Darryl Hoffman, now large mammal curator at the Houston Zoo, also made the trip. Buki, the 50-year-old queen of the collection, was expected to reach Columbus in the same trailer sometime today.  Buffalo’s elephants will be rotated with the host zoo’s in the indoor-outdoor exhibit over the summer. Buffalo will foot the bill for shipping and feeding its animals and their keepers, who will stay with them during the summer.  The move has been denounced by In Defense of Animals, the California-based animal rights organization that earlier this year named Buffalo’s zoo one of the nation’s 10 worst for elephants.

International Reintroduction Conference at Lincoln Park Zoo

April 16, 2007  travel.meetup.com

Lincoln Park Zoo and the World Conservation Union are hosting the First International Wildlife Reintroduction Conference. By releasing animals into natural habitats, reintroduction programs improve the prospects of survival for wild populations. Conservation biologists from around the globe convened at Lincoln Park Zoo to share information on the successes and failures of these high-profile projects.  The conference closes today with a special public lecture offering an inside look at the various projects. Lincoln Park Zoo’s Steve Thompson, Ph.D., will provide an overview of the up-to-date knowledge presented during the conference, including innovative approaches, challenges and the latest progress in well-known reintroduction programs. Mike Phillips of the Turner Endangered Species Fund will offer stories from the field, notably the reintroduction of gray wolves to Yellowstone National Park and red wolves to Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. For more information on the First Annual Wildlife Reintroduction Conference, visit www.reintroduction.org

New Immersion Zoo Opens in Valencia, Spain

April 16, 2007  culturekiosque.com

The first phase of a new state-of-the-art zoo has opened in Spain ’s third largest city.  At the $94 million Bioparc Valencia, visitors can watch antelope, zebras and gazelle gallop over the African savannah and gorillas and leopards roam a lush, bird-filled equatorial forest.  One of the most advanced zoos in Europe , the 25-acre park is home to 4000 animals from 250 species.  Plans call for a second phase to include nearly five more acres to showcase the ecosystems of South-east Asia and Central and South America.  “Zoo immersion,” the latest in zoological park design, gives new meaning to the phrase “up close and personal.”  By reproducing vegetation, the undulating terrain of a specific ecosystem and the authentic sounds of the wild – while concealing barriers and man-made structures – the architects have replicated the habitats of these wild creatures.  http://www.bioparcvalencia.es

Removing People from Tiger Reserves

April 16, 2008  www.nytimes.com 

NAGARHOLE NATIONAL PARK, India — Mr. Karanth, the wildlife biologist who runs the India program of the Wildlife Conservation Society, believes the Nagarhole National Park and its neighboring nature reserve hold one of the largest concentrations of tigers in the world. The wild boar and deer are plentiful in this 250-square-mile park, and Mr. Karanth’s research suggests that there are 60 to 80 tigers, depending on breeding fluctuations. The latest government-sponsored tiger census found Nagarhole and its two neighboring parks to have among the densest concentrations of the estimated 1,400 tigers left in the Indian wilds. But that total is still fewer than half the number estimated five years ago. Since the report was issued in February, the government has ordered the creation of 8 new tiger reserves, in addition to the existing 28. But making these wilds healthy for the tiger has taken 20 years of work by crusading forest officials driving out loggers, poachers, cracking down on cattle-grazing and pushing hundreds of villagers out of these woods and ultimately trying to resettle hundreds of families who have lived in these woods for generations. 

New WCS Study Predicts Where Corals Can Thrive

April 16, 2007  www.eurekalert.org

NEW YORK – The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth have developed a new scientific model that accurately maps where coral reefs are in the most trouble and identifies regions where reefs can be protected best. The model, which is being applied in areas throughout the Indian Ocean, is described in a recent issue of the UK-based journal Ecological Modelling.  Corals have been devastated in large areas across the world. Disappearing at rates up to 5.4 percent per year over the past 30 years, they are among the earliest victims of climate change. Bleaching, which climate change exacerbates, occurs when corals become so stressed that they eject the beneficial algae that give them their color. This eventually causes large sections of the reefs to lose much of their biodiversity.

World’s Oldest Living Tree Is In Sweden

April 16, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

The world's oldest recorded tree is a 9,550 year old spruce in the Dalarna province of Sweden. Its longevity is attributed to the fact that it grows between erect trees and smaller bushes in pace with the dramatic climate changes over time. Leif Kullman, Professor of Physical Geography at Umeå University found four “generations” of spruce remains in the form of cones and wood produced from the highest Swedish mountain regions.  The discovery showed trees of 375, 5,660, 9,000 and 9,550 years old and everything displayed clear signs that they have the same genetic makeup as the trees above them. Since spruce trees can multiply with root penetrating braches, they can produce exact copies, or clones. The tree has been tested by carbon-14 dating at a laboratory in Miami, Florida, USA.  Previously, pine trees in North America have been cited as the oldest at 4,000 to 5,000 years old.  In the Swedish mountains, from Lapland in the North to Dalarna in the South, scientists have found a cluster of around 20 spruces that are over 8,000 years old. Although summers have been colder over the past 10,000 years, these trees have survived harsh weather conditions due to their ability to push out another trunk as the other one died.

Roads Threaten Amphibian Species

April 16, 2008  news.uns.purdue.edu

Researchers recently found more than 65 animal species killed along a short stretch of roads in a Midwestern county. Nearly 95 percent of the total dead were frogs and other amphibians, The Purdue University study has found that habitat along roadsides heavily influences road-kill. More than 75 percent of the carcasses originated alongside a one-mile stretch of road that traverses a wildlife-friendly wetland known as Celery Bog in West Lafayette, Ind.  During the 17-month study, researchers found 10,500 dead animals along 11 miles of roads. Of those, 7,600 were frogs of unidentifiable species and another 1,700 were bullfrogs, said DeWoody, an associate professor of forestry and natural resources.  "In addition to indirect costs of habitat fragmentation, roads have direct costs in terms of animals' lives," he said.  Several steps can be taken to help reduce road-kill, said Dave Glista, study co-author and a Purdue master's graduate who began the study as part of his since-completed thesis measuring roads' environmental impact. For one, development planning should take into account an area's wildlife value. Second, structures to mitigate, limit and prevent road-kill should be explored whenever possible, he said. Options include underpasses, viaducts and overpasses to allow wildlife safe passage, and special fences to keep animals off roads.  The study, published online in the latest issue of the journal Herpetological Conservation and Biology, significantly underestimated the number of animals killed because many specimens were scavenged, degraded beyond recognition or moved, DeWoody said. About five times more animals died than could be recorded, he estimated.

Zookeeper Recovering From Gila Monster Bite

April 16, 2008  www.upi.com

CLOVIS, N.M., April 16 (UPI) -- A New Mexico zoo keeper was hospitalized for nearly a week with a Gila monster bite.  Keeper Cody Machen said "It's the most painful thing. It's more painful then a rattlesnake bite. I knew it was bad," Machen’s arm reportedly swelled to 3 times its normal size and doctors will be required to perform surgery on the arm if the swelling doesn't subside,

Edinburgh Zoo’s Spectacular Chimp Enclosure

April 16, 2008  www.independent.co.uk

Costing £6m, and boasting the world's biggest climbing frame for apes, Edinburgh Zoo's Budongo Trail will open on 1 May. It is the world’s largest chimpanzee enclosure and will hopefully become the centerpiece of a new £80m redevelopment of the city's principal tourist attraction. Iain Valentine, head of animals, education and conservation at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, "People will be able to see the animals in an environment never hitherto seen in the UK. From watching them play during the day to making nests at night, it will be an up-close experience unmatchable in terms of quality worldwide."  The building's architect, Gary Wilson, has designed the building around three central climate-controlled "pods", between which the apes can make choices over where they spend most of their time. Each pod will be maintained at its own humidity and temperature. They also have their own type of "substrate", or material such as wood chippings, spread across the floor. Children will be able to learn how chimps use tools in the wild, and will be encouraged to learn about ape locomotion. Visitors will be able to email their observations to the zoo's researchers after their trip.  Stephen Woollard, education and interpretation manager says: "We hope people will feel empathy towards the individuals, but we also want them to feel a connection with the issues that face the animals in a wild scenario." People will also be able to engage directly with the zoo's scientists. An annex off one of the principal enclosures will allow researchers and the public to present the animals – via a safety hatch – with different foods, or puzzles. Scientists claim that observing the behavior of chimps –can tell us reams about ourselves.

Zoo enclosures from around the world that helped inspire Budongo Trail: 1. New York's Bronx Zoo’s Congo Gorilla Forest with over 300 animals, including one of the largest breeding groups of lowland gorillas. Its "walk-through experience, discusses the forest before the gorilla is encountered". During this walk, visitors meet the creatures that share the gorillas' natural habitat, such as bush pigs, and the giraffe-like okapi.  2. Zurich Zoo has the particularly fine Masoala Rainforest Hall, a lush Madagascan habitat beneath a dome. "They have created an unobtrusive habitat and then introduced animals, such as lemurs. The visitor is given a book and is invited to explore it themselves. 3. Arnhem Zoo in the Netherlands has a covered rainforest house spanning several acres. The zoo has won honors for its fences, which keep the animals safely enclosed, but are not visible to the visitors It also has what experts term an "integrated approach" to exhibits and visitor attractions – including an animal-themed rainforest café. 4. Leipzig Zoo is one of the world's largest primate enclosures, with orang-utans and bonobo chimps. Pongoland is a faithfully reproduced home for apes. "There is a bridge walkway running through it; and the animals are not caged. They have a lot of room to move around so it feels more like the wild.
5. In the Costa del Sol's Fuengirola Zoo, architects have employed clever "set design" so that, as visitors move through the zoo along a path, they are shielded from seeing their fellow zoo-goers at different points. "They have tried to keep the public hidden while opening up the experience. This is something a lot of us are trying to incorporate."

560 Species Critically Endangered in India

April 16, 2008  www.outlookindia.com

NEW DELHI -- A total of 560 species of animals and plants in the country has been declared critically endangered species by the IUCN.  Of these, 247 are plant species and 313 are animals: mammals (89) tops the list of endangered species followed by birds (75) amphibians (63), fishes (39) and reptiles (25).

Cleveland Zoo Researchers Re-discover Vietnamese Turtle

April 16, 2008  www.cleveland.com    By Michael Scott

Researchers from the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo’s Asian Turtle Program have rediscovered a critically endangered turtle - Swinhoe's soft-shell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) Doug Hendrie, the Vietnam-based coordinator of the zoo program said only three others are alive - all in captivity - two in Chinese zoos and the other cared for in the Hoan Kiem ("Returned Sword") Lake in downtown Hanoi. "Finding one still living in the wild represents hope for the species - that others will be found and that the species will prevail in nature," Hendrie said.  The zoo began its effort to preserve and protect Asian turtles in 2003 amid reports of increased killings for food or to make traditional medicine from their bones. Development and pollution also led to loss of nesting habitats along rivers, zoo officials said.  The zoo has put more than $275,000 into Asian turtle conservation efforts since 2000 and has supported Hendrie since 2003.  His team and scientists from Education for Nature-Vietnam had searched lakes and wetlands along the Red River for three years before hearing about the creature living outside Hanoi. "This is one of those mythical species that people always talked about but no one ever saw, so it's hugely significant," said Geoff Hall, zoo general curator. "Our hopes are set on finding other turtles that have somehow been overlooked by hunters or were preserved in lakes and wetlands," Hendrie said. He said the turtle remains in the lake and that researchers notified the Vietnamese government of its existence.

San Diego Zoo Conservation Efforts in Hawaii

April 16, 2008   www.imperialvalleynews.com

KILAUEA, Hawaii – The Kilauea Volcano on the island of Hawai`i continues to cause seismic tremors, lava flow and toxic gas emissions. Despite this threat, a few miles down the slope from the crater, animal care staff at the San Diego Zoo's Keauhou Bird Conservation Center continue their efforts to save endangered species. "We are committed to saving these species," said Alan Lieberman, conservation program manager for the Hawai`i Endangered Bird Conservation Program. "The 11 staff members working at the Center are keeping close watch on the threats caused by the volcano but are still doing their work."  Although they are continuing their daily routine to care for the bird species, the animal care staff at the Center has also made preparations should Kilauea Volcano's activity become an imminent threat.  "We have crates stacked up ready to fill with these birds if it becomes apparent we need to leave," said Lieberman. "These are very delicate species, however, and any kind of move could potentially cause enough stress to cause them serious medical problems. Until there is an imminent threat we will continue to care for these birds at the Center."  The Center breeds and raises six species including a large breeding population of the critically endangered alala and palila as well as puaiohi and Maui parrotbill.  The breeding-and-release program is part of a collaborative effort undertaken by the USFWS, the Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife, the USGS and the San Diego Zoo to build a sustainable population of these birds in the wild.

Virginia Zoo Expansion

April 16, 2008  hamptonroads.com  By Debbie Messina

NORFOLK, Virginia -- Construction will begin in about a month on an $18.5 million Virginia Zoo expansion. The Trail of the Tiger, an Asian animal exhibit, is expected to debut in the spring of 2010.  The $710,000  Norfolk Southern Express, a one-third-scale replica of the first transcontinental railroad, is slated to start running in June.  A train ticket will cost $2.  Trail of the Tiger will occupy nearly 5 acres, filling in open space between the zoo entrance and an existing Siberian tiger exhibit.  Plans call for adding more than 20 new animals, a water feature for children to splash in, and underwater viewing of the tigers and otters. A protected walkway also will be built to connect the current tiger habitat with the new one so the big cats can be switched between exhibits. The second tiger habitat will focus on tiger breeding.  Among the new animals will be apes - including orangutans, gibbons and siamangs - sun bears or sloth bears, tapirs, otters, Malayan tigers and cassowaries, which are large flightless birds.  Zoo director Greg Bockheim said the train and the new exhibits will provide "a connectedness to the zoo." The zoo now has three disconnected areas separated by large open lawns within its 50 acres - a barnyard, an African savannah and the tiger habitat. About half of the $18.5 million expansion is being privately funded. The city's share is about $9.5 million. The Virginia Zoological Society has raised more than $2 million, and philanthropist Frank Batten Sr. provided a $7 million matching grant. Batten is the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Landmark Communications, parent company of The Virginian-Pilot.

Critical habitat for San Bernardino bluegrass and California taraxacum

April 16, 2008  www.epa.gov
The USFWS is reopening of the comment period on the proposed designation of critical habitat for Poa atropurpurea (San Bernardino bluegrass) and Taraxacum californicum (California taraxacum) We are also notifying the public that we have received new information concerning portions of three proposed critical habitat units (see ``New Information Received'' section) that may result in the final designation of critical habitat differing from the proposed rule published on August 7, 2007 (72 FR 44232). We also announce the availability of the draft economic analysis (DEA) of the proposed critical habitat designation and announce an amended required determinations section of the proposal. We are reopening the comment period to allow all interested parties an opportunity to comment simultaneously on the proposed rule, the associated DEA, the new information we have received, and the amended required determinations section. Comments previously submitted on this rulemaking do not need to be resubmitted. These comments have already been incorporated into the public record and will be fully considered in preparation of the final rule.  Public comments will be accepted until May 16, 2008.  You may submit comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov ,U.S. mail to  Public Comments Processing, Attn: RIN 1018-AV04; 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.   For futher 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. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.

Critical Habitat for the San Bernardino Kangaroo Rat

April 16, 2008   www.epa.gov

The USFWS is reopening of the comment period on our June 19, 2007, proposed revision to critical habitat for the San Bernardino kangaroo rat (Dipodomys merriami parvus) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). In this document, we also propose to: Increase the size of proposed critical habitat Unit 1 (Santa Ana River Wash), and add two new proposed units: Unit 4 (Cable Creek Wash) and Unit 5 (Bautista Creek). In total, we are adding approximately 1,579 acres (ac) (638 hectares (ha)), which are currently designated as critical habitat for this subspecies, to our proposed revision to critical habitat. We also announce the availability of the draft economic analysis (DEA) of the proposed revision of critical habitat and an amended required determinations section of the proposal. The DEA estimates potential costs attributed to the revised critical habitat designation (incremental costs) to be approximately $71.2 million in present value terms using a 3 percent discount rate over a 23-year period in areas proposed as critical habitat. We are reopening the comment period to allow all interested parties an opportunity to comment simultaneously on the original proposed revision of critical habitat, the additions to revised critical habitat proposed in this document, the associated DEA, and the amended required determinations section. Comments previously submitted on this rulemaking do not need to be resubmitted, as they will be incorporated into the public record and fully considered when preparing our final determination. Comments should be received or postmarked on or before May 16, 2008.  Comments may be submitted via the  Federal eRulemaking Portal http://www.regulations.gov or U.S. mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn: RIN 1018-AV07; 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. 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. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339. You may obtain copies of the original proposed revision of critical habitat and the DEA on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov  or by contacting the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office

Satellite Images Reveal Shrinking Amazon Rainforest

April 17, 2008  www.enn.com

High-resolution images released by an agency of the Brazilian government suggest that deforestation of Amazon rainforest may again be on the rise.  Deforestation accounts for approximately one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions and is responsible for significant species loss worldwide. Recent anti-deforestation measures under the administration of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva were claimed to have led to a marked drop in the rate of forest loss over the past three years. But the Brazilian National Space Research Agency (INPE) estimates a probable rainforest loss of 7,000 square kilometers between August and December 2007, a figure on track to surpass last year's total of 11,000 square kilometers.  The announcement by INPE is being disputed by President Lula while the Governor of the state which accounted for more than half the deforestation registered by the images, accused the INPE of releasing false information.

Many Captive Tigers Found to be Purebreds

April 17, 2008  news.nationalgeographic.com

Using a new method for assessing the genetic ancestry of tigers, researchers have discovered that many apparently "generic" tigers held in zoos, circuses and private homes, actually represent purebred subspecies and harbor genomic diversity no longer found in nature. " Assessment of ‘verified subspecies ancestry’ (VSA) offers a powerful tool that, if applied to tigers of uncertain background, may considerably increase the number of purebred tigers suitable for conservation management," said Shu-Jin Luo, of the National Cancer Institute, Frederick. “This approach would be of particular importance to tiger subspecies that have suffered severe population decline in the wild and/or lack of efficient captive breeding.”  For instance, he said, the Indochinese tiger has been classified as a different subspecies from the Malayan tiger, leaving just 14 recognized Indochinese individuals in captivity. “Thus,” Luo added, “verification of VSA Indochinese tigers, establishment of captive breeding programs, and preservation of remaining Indochinese tiger populations in the wild should be set as one of the top priorities in the global tiger conservation strategy.”  Tigers are disappearing rapidly from the wild, from over 100,000 in the 1900s to as few as 3,000 last year, said lead researcher,  Stephen O'Brien also of the National Cancer Institute. By contrast, captive tigers are flourishing, with 15,000–20,000 individuals worldwide, outnumbering their wild relatives between five and seven to one. A relatively small portion of the world's captive tigers—some 1,000—are managed through coordinated breeding programs that aim to preserve genetic variability. The rest are of hybrid or unknown origin. The research is published in the April 17th issue of Current Biology.

To address the issue in the new study, the researchers developed a strategy for assessing the subspecies affiliation of tigers on the basis of diagnostic genetic markers obtained from 134 "voucher" tigers. They applied the method to samples from 105 captive tigers from 14 countries collected over 20 years. Of those, 49 individuals were found to represent one of five purebred subspecies, or VSA. The rest of the cats had mixed backgrounds. They suspect that the proportion of purebreds observed in their study will be an overestimate for captive tigers worldwide. Nevertheless, they said, "If 14–23 percent of the over 15,000 existing captive tigers would prove to be VSA, the number of tigers with pure subspecies heritage available for conservation consideration would considerably increase. " Also, an important fraction of captive tigers retain genetic diversity unreported, and perhaps absent, in the wild populations. A wide-ranging identification of captive VSA tigers to assess their potential for inclusion into comprehensive, integrated in situ and ex situ management plans could significantly increase population sizes and help maintain genetic variability and population viability of this iconoclastic species."

Borneo Pygmy Elephants May Have Come From Java

April 17, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

The origins of the Borneo pygmy elephants, found only on the northeast tip of the island in part of the Heart of Borneo, have been a mystery. They look and behave differently from other Asian elephants and scientists have questioned why they never dispersed to other parts of the island. Now an article in the Sarawak Museum Journal, supports a long-held local belief that the elephants were brought to Borneo centuries ago by the Sultan of Sulu, now in the Philippines, and later abandoned in the jungle. The Sulu elephants, in turn, are thought to have originated in Java, an Indonesian island across the Javan Sea from Borneo.  “Just one fertile female and one fertile male elephant, if left undisturbed in enough good habitat, could in theory end up as a population of 2,000 elephants within less than 300 years,” said Junaidi Payne of World Wildlife Fund, one of the paper’s co-authors. “And that may be what happened here.”  Scientists solved part of the mystery in 2003, when DNA testing by Columbia University and WWF found that the Borneo elephants were genetically distinct from Sumatran or mainland Asian elephants, leaving either Borneo or –under this new theory– Java as the most probable source.  The new paper, “Origins of the Elephants Elephas Maximus L. of Borneo,” shows that there is no archaeological evidence of a long-term elephant presence on Borneo, thus making Java the possible source. There are only about 1,000 of the elephants in the wild, mostly in the Malaysian state of Sabah. WWF has captured and placed satellite collars on 11 elephants since 2005 to track them since they had never been studied before. The study has shown they prefer the same lowland habitat that is being increasingly cleared for timber, rubber and palm oil plantations.

New H5N1 Bird Flu Vaccine

April 17, 2008  news.uns.purdue.edu

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A new vaccine under development may provide protection against highly pathogenic bird flu and its evolving forms, according to researchers at Purdue University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who discovered the new preventative drug and have tested it in mice.  Unlike traditional influenza vaccines, the new vaccine could be produced quickly and stored for long periods in preparation for a pandemic of dangerous disease-causing avian influenza - H5N1 - and its variants, said Suresh Mittal, a Purdue virologist.  The importance of having a long-lasting, broadly protective vaccine is that it would give some cross-protection against new viruses with pandemic potential caused by mutations in currently circulating H5N1 viruses. Since H5N1 has been known, it has changed so that there are now two main subgroups, called clades. Within one of the clades, five subclades have emerged. This has complicated the task of developing a "perfect match" vaccine for the highly pathogenic bird flu. Other avian influenza viruses exist, but they have not proved to be as lethal to humans or other animals as has H5N1. New, often more dangerous flu strains develop when the H and N combinations change and combine with other genes from circulating influenza viruses. When the genes of a human or swine influenza mix with an avian variety, a highly pathogenic human flu likely will result, Mittal said.

The first bird-to-human H5N1 case was recorded in 1997 in Hong Kong. The deadly virus has been documented in more than 60 countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Though it mainly has struck wild birds and poultry, there have been more than 300 human cases in 14 countries in the past decade with a 60 percent fatality rate. Most of the human cases have occurred in people who live and work closely with their poultry, but a few cases have been documented of the disease spreading from person to person.  Mittal and his colleagues, including Suryaprakash Sambhara, the CDC principal investigator on the project, report their findings on the vaccine in the April 15 issue of The Journal of Infectious Diseases. In the December issue of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Mittal, Sambhara and their collaborators published their findings of the long-lasting capabilities of the vaccine. "In humans we want a vaccine to be fully effective for at least a year," said Mittal, a professor of comparative pathobiology. "How long it will last in humans, we don't know yet." 

Coyotes Kill Relocated SoCal Tortoises

April 17, 2008   www.mercurynews.com

BARSTOW, Calif.—Coyotes have killed 11 desert tortoises since March, when federal officials began relocating about 770 of them to make way for expansion of the Army’s tank training grounds in the Mojave Desert.  A dozen tortoises already living in the relocation area also have died.  A U.S. Fish and Wildlife expert says three tortoises survived attacks, although two lost a leg.  The coyotes may be attacking tortoises because a drought has depleted their usual prey: rabbits.  Federal authorities plan to track the coyotes and kill or capture them to protect the tortoises.

Washington State Northern Sea Otter Report

April 17, 2008  www.fws.gov

Although sea otters were native to Washington's marine waters the original population was extirpated by hunters in the early twentieth century. The current population is from animals translocated from Alaska in 1969 and 1970 and is not protected under the Endangered Species Act. They are, however, protected under the MMPA.  Although this population continues to expand, it is vulnerable to disease or catastrophic events such as oil spills because of its relatively low numbers and limited range. Current surveys indicate approximately 800 sea otters live along Washington's coast from the Straits of Juan de Fuca to Grays Harbor. In the northern end of their range, the otters are thought to be expanding at a rate of around eight percent annually, while those south of La Push are expanding at more than twice that rate. The National Marine Fisheries Service recently prepared a stock assessment report on the population which is available available for public review and comment at: http://www.fws.gov/westwafwo  Comments may be submitted by e-mail to waseaottersar@fws.gov , they may be faxed to (360) 753-9405 or they may be mailed or hand-delivered to: Manager, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Western Washington Fish and Wildlife Office, 510 Desmond Drive SE, Suite 102, Lacey, WA 98503. Comments must be received by midnight, July 16, 2008.

Lincoln Park Zoo Launches Reintroduction Database

April 17, 2008  www.physorg.com

On April 15, during the first International Wildlife Reintroduction Conference in Chicago, Lincoln Park Zoo announced the launch of a scientific resource called the Avian Reintroduction & Translocation Database (ARTD). The first of its kind, this comprehensive, standardized directory will serve as a valuable tool for wildlife managers and reintroduction scientists. The ARTD database centralizes information about 128 species of birds, 405 release sites worldwide and 1,207 wildlife release events. From Puerto Rican parrots, California condors, Guam rails and Bali Mynah to Hawaiian honeycreepers and European vultures, the database describes every aspect of the reintroduction effort for each species including the variables that impact the efficacy of releases, ranging from the species’ biology and ecology, habitat suitability, demography, and genetics to management.  Lincoln Park Zoo population biologist Joanne Earnhardt, Ph.D. spearheaded the effort after discovering the urgent need for such a resource when she and colleagues were working to save critically endangered birds from the island of Guam. The birds had been nearly exterminated by an invasive tree snake. Zoo-based breeding efforts have been successful and efforts for reintroduction are currently underway. Unfortunately, in the research and planning stage for reintroduction, finding details about past reintroductions of similar species was a daunting task.

Ebola Virus Threatens Gorillas

April 17, 2008  www.foxnews.com

Western lowland gorillas are the most common type of gorilla, but there are probably only between 50,000 and 100,000 left in the wild, all of them in the forests of the Congo basin in central Africa.  All other types of gorilla, including the cross river gorilla, the mountain gorilla, and the eastern lowland gorilla, total only a few thousand, and are also found in Africa. Over the past 20 to 25 years, hunting and disease alone have reduced the numbers of western lowland gorilla by 60 percent, according to the World Conservation Union (IUCN).  "Throughout their range the great apes in central Africa are being hammered by those triple threats: loss of habitat, hunting for the bush meat trade, and disease," said Kenneth Cameron, a field veterinarian with the Wildlife Conservation Society in the Republic of the Congo, at the Gateways to Conservation 2008: The State of the Wild conference here this week. "At their current rate of population decline, we stand to lose 80 percent of the population of [the western lowland gorilla] over the next ten years."  Because of the decimation Ebola has caused, the IUCN elevated the status of the western gorilla from endangered to critically endangered in September 2007. Scientists say their only chance to save the species is to combat Ebola, which kills about 95 percent of the gorillas it infects. The virus causes massive internal bleeding in its victims, and has no known cure.

3 Orphaned Grizzly Bears at Minnesota Zoo

April 17, 2008  www.startribune.com  By Paul Walsh

Three orphaned grizzly bears were found on three different days in 2006 in Alaska and have been residing at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center since their rescue.  Now Sadi, Haines and Kenai have been transferred to the Minnesota Zoo and are in routine quarantine until June 7 when the zoo's new "Russia's Grizzly Coast" exhibit opens. The exhibit will also include sea otters, Amur leopards and wild boars.

Duck Stamp Design Winners Announced at San Diego Zoo

April 18, 2008  www.ewire.com

SAN DIEGO-- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that a pair of nene (Hawaiian goose) will be featured on the 2008-2009 Federal Junior Duck Stamp. The design for the new stamp, painted by 18-year-old Seokkyun Hong of Dallas, Texas, was chosen by a panel of judges Thursday at the Federal Junior Duck Stamp Design Contest held at the San Diego Zoo.  Entries came from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and American Samoa. The 2008-2009 Federal Junior Duck Stamp, which the Fish and Wildlife Service will make available for $5 to stamp collectors, conservationists, and the general public will be released in June 2008. Proceeds from Junior Duck Stamp sales are used to support environmental education efforts and awards for contest winners.  The nene is endangered and endemic to the Hawaiian Islands.  It is one of the birds that the San Diego Zoo’s Hawaiian Endangered Bird Conservation Program breeds and releases in cooperation with Fish and Wildlife Service and the Hawaiian government. The forests of the Hawaiian Islands are listed as the most threatened of the Top 20 Most Threatened Bird Habitats in the United States.

FISH-BOL: NOAA’s Library of DNA Barcodes

April 18, 2008  www.nefsc.noaa.gov

FISH-BOL, is the global Fish Barcode of Life Initiative, which plans to collect at least five representatives each of all 30,000 plus marine and freshwater species in the world. FISH-BOL is part of the global Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL), started in 2003 to barcode everything from fishes, mushrooms and flowers, to microbes, insects and animals of every description. After decades of following similar taxonomic procedures often done by visual identification, DNA barcoding offers a new and much faster, more accurate way to identify species and share information.  Since nearly all biological species have distinct gene sequences, they can be identified using a short gene sequence collected from a standardized position in the genome – a DNA barcode. Barcoding of animals relies on differences between species in a relatively short segment of mitochondrial DNA. The first step is to build a public library of barcode sequences from museum reference specimens. Researchers using standard tools and techniques in molecular biology extract DNA from the tissue, locate and isolate the barcode region, then replicate and sequence the genes. Then the specimens, known as voucher specimens, are preserved and catalogued into archival museum collections.

Polar Bears May Have to Wait 10 Weeks

April 18, 2008  www.latimes.com  By A.P.

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA -- The Interior Department wants 10 more weeks, until June 30 to decide whether polar bears should be listed as threatened or endangered.  On Jan. 9 the department missed a deadline for a final decision and three conservation groups sued. Kassie Siegel, the principal author on the petition seeking polar bear protections, believes the request for more time is a tactic to delay a decision until the Minerals Management Service can finish issuing offshore petroleum leases in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest shore, home to one of two polar bear populations in Alaska. 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.  Summer sea ice last year shrank to a record low, about 1.65 million square miles in September, nearly 40% less than the long-term average between 1979 and 2000. Some climate models have predicted the Arctic will be free of summer sea ice by 2030. A U.S. Geological Survey study predicted polar bears in Alaska could be wiped out by 2050.  A decision to protect polar bears because of global warming could trigger a recovery plan with consequences beyond Alaska. Opponents fear it would subject new power plants and other development projects to review if they generate greenhouse gases.

BBC’s Elephant Camera Crew

April 18, 2008  www.telegraph.co.uk

A BBC film crew attached cameras to elephants to shoot remarkable footage of tigers for the corporation's latest natural history series.  The footage documents the lives of four cubs in the Pench National Park in central India.  John Downer came up with the idea of fixing cameras to the tusks and trunks of trained working elephants because the tigers were so dangerous and inaccessible.  Samples of pictures the elephant’s took can be seen at: http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/gallery/0,22056,5030650-5010140-1,00.html

Conservation at the Toledo Zoo

April 18, 2008  www.wtol.com

TOLEDO -- The Toledo Zoo is also one of the city’s biggest recycling and conserving partners.   In 2007 alone, they recycled more than 8.5 tons of printer paper. What they don't recycle, they shred and place in animal exhibits as bedding.  Marketing Manager Andi Norman says, "We are very environmentally conscious when it comes to our lighting, and we're moving toward all the incandescent lights. The zoo also puts donated firehoses to good use. The chimps and orangatans get great exercise swinging and climbing, and the visitors enjoy seeing the animals being active.  Volunteers also create animal shapes from recycled cardboard to get the attention of some very big cats. Norman explains, "The keepers then put the animal's food in the cardboard animals, put them around their exhibits. So the animals have to search for their food. It will hopefully bring out some natural behaviors of the animals." The largest eco-project at the zoo is something you can do at home...composting. "We take all of our on-ground waste...our grass clippings, our edgings, our old annuals...and the key ingredient -- elephant manure. We turn it all into compost."

Komodo Dragon Bite Analyzed

April 18, 2008  news.nationalgeographic.com

Komodo dragons rely on their razor-sharp teeth, strong neck muscles, and "space frame" skulls to kill prey. Using computer models, researchers from Australia's University of New South Wales analyzed a skull from the Australian Museum.  Measuring the forces and composition, they found that it was not designed for crushing. "The bite is incredibly weak for such a big lizard—less than you'd expect from the average house cat," said Stephen Wroe, an author of the study, If a Komodo actually tried to crush prey with its jaws, like a crocodile, the jaw would break.  It has a lightweight skull and a weak jaw, but it has optimized the way the skull structure and material is arranged.  The skull also varies in density. Some sections are composed of spongy bone, giving it an elasticity that allows the mouth to open wider. It also gives leverage to the sharp, serrated teeth.  “The system is beautifully adapted to bite and pull, so when it bites and pulls together it requires less force than if it was to bite and not pull," Wroe said.  Maneuvering its shark-like teeth, flimsy skull, and strong neck muscles in concert, the Komodo dragon "uses its head like a can opener," he added.  "It opens up major and traumatic wounds, and the prey dies of blood loss."  This killing method, called inertia eating, allows the lizards to take down much larger prey, including wild pigs, deer, and buffalo.   Listed as a vulnerable species by the World Conservation Union, about 4,000 to 5,000 Komodo dragons remain in the wild.  The study appears in the Journal of Anatomy.

Procession of the Species in Oakland

April 18, 2008  www.times-news.com   By Sarah Moses

An annual event that celebrates the nature – human connection through art will be held in downtown Oakland on May 3.  Josh Gambetta, event coordinator said. “We’re trying to teach people simple ways to express themselves.” Participants are creating masks, puppets and costumes, all to represent four categories: land, sky, sea or endangered species.  Participants may bring their own costumes or masks along with instruments to the event or they can make them at workshops to be held at the Oakland Armory, including the Batik Banner Workshop today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Musical instrument workshops April 26 include a Bucket Brigade Workshop from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and a Bell Boy (and Girl) Band Workshop from 3 to 5 p.m. All day that day, there will be a Shaker Construction Workshop, with a goal to make 200 shakers and rattles to pass out to the audience.  Finally, on the day of the parade, there will be a Critter on a Stick workshop on the Community Action parking lot with costume repair and face painting for participants. More information on the procession, go to www.garrettprocession.org .

San Francisco Zoo Security Upgrades

April 18, 2008  www.examiner.com  By Bill Reisman

SAN FRANCISCO (Map, News) – The San Francisco Zoo has spent nearly $2 million in security upgrades.  Increased staffing for after-hour shifts, a centrally located gun safe, direct access to the local police station and a handheld pendant that can trigger a code-red alarm with the touch of a button are some of the improvements.  “We have put forth a substantial effort to improve the functionality of the facility,” said Jesse Vargas, director of operations from the San Francisco Zoo. All zoo officials that work with a “code red” animal, meaning any animal that could be of harm to the public, now have access to a device that if held down for two seconds will send out a security alarm blasted over the facility’s loudspeakers, Vargas said.  The zoo also changed its radio codes to better coordinate with the nearby Taraval Police Station, and increased the number of employees working after the close of the facility from one to two, Vargas said. Another could be on the way, he said.

Cincinnati Zoo Will Redesign Web Site

April 18, 2008  www.bizjournals.com

The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden will redesign its Web site with the help of technology consulting firm Fusion Alliance.  Thane Maynard, Cincinnati Zoo executive director, said the Web site redesign will "show the world exactly why we are a first-class organization."  In 2007, the Center for Economic Education and Research at the University of Cincinnati recently found that the zoo has a total economic impact of $124.6 million in the Greater Cincinnati region, an amount that is projected to increase by more than $4 million per year.

Problems With Whooping Crane Conservation

April 19, 2008  www.jsonline.com

NECEDAH,  -  A record six pairs of whooping cranes have been seen incubating eggs this month on Necedah National Wildlife Refuge.  But after seven years and more than $10 million, the cranes continue to struggle. The project remains a work in progress with only one whooping crane born in the wild in the eastern United States since 2001.  Experts say the next few years will be critical if this species is to make a successful comeback. “Productivity is extremely poor right now," said Tom Stehn, whooping crane coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The birds are slow to reach maturity, and the young adults might be struggling with parenthood.  Among the issues is the quality of habitat in central Wisconsin, where first-year birds are led 1,250 miles by ultralight aircraft to their wintering grounds in Florida. The only successful hatch occurred in June 2006 at Necedah, the first in the wild in the eastern United States in more than 100 years. Last spring, four pairs of the ground-nesting birds deserted their eggs in a 24-hour period, a practice that has happened in other years. And in February 2007, a year's worth of work was lost when 17 of 18 first-year cranes died during a storm surge in the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. The surviving crane was killed afterward, probably by a predator. There are only 380 whoopers in existence, the fewest of the 15 species of crane in the world.

Columbus Zoo Elephant is Pregnant

April 19, 2008 www.wtte28.com

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium says one of its Asian elephants is pregnant.  Zookeepers said Friday that Phoebe is scheduled to deliver next March at the end of an almost two-year pregnancy. Harry Peachey, the zoo's elephant manager, says Phoebe was paired with Coco last June.  Phoebe was born in Israel in 1987 and was later taken to a zoo in Canada before arriving at Columbus in 2002.  Coco also fathered a 280-pound male calf with Phoebe. That pregnancy lasted about 21 months and resulted in the first live elephant birth at the Columbus Zoo. Zookeepers say they're hoping for a girl this time. In 1999, another elephant delivered a stillborn calf at the zoo.

Naval Facility Protects Bald Eagles

April 20, 2008  www.washingtonpost.com   By Matt Zapotosky

Officials at the Naval Support Facility Indian Head in Charles County recorded 12 bald eagle deaths at the facility between 2001 and 2005. The birds were flying into power lines and breaking their necks, or they were landing on towers and being electrocuted. Some Navy officials worried that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service might impose penalties if the deaths continued.  After making structural changes in the towers to make it less likely that the birds would be electrocuted, the base has not reported an eagle death since April 2005. Eagles were recently taken off the endangered species list but there is still concern for the species.  Navy officials and researchers from the College of William and Mary recently ran blood tests and tagged two baby eagles in a nest on the base. Their efforts were among the first steps in a three-year, $72,000 study mandated by the USFWS to make sure that the eagles at the facility stay healthy. Eagles need waterfront property and the Chesapeake Bay is a hot spot them. With tall trees and lots of coastline, the bay's shores have become a permanent home for many of the birds. In winter, the Northern birds migrate to it, as do the Southern birds in summer.

Budongo Primate Experience

April 20, 2008 www.dexigner.com

Pictures of the Edinburgh Zoo’s new £6m Budongo Trail, can be seen at: http://www.dexigner.com/design_news/budongo-primate-experience.html  Designed by architects Cooper Cromar, this new 1400m2 facility consists of three pods, linked by bridges and tunnels which are also connected to an external enclosure. Each pod has varying degrees of temperature, light and humidity that represent different aspects of the chimpanzees natural habitat.

Dominant Female Chimp Euthanized at Lincoln Park

April 20, 2008   www.chicagotribune.com

An elderly female chimpanzee who pushed aside a male to become the dominant leader of her troop at Lincoln Park Zoo was euthanized by keepers Thursday.  Born in the wild, the 42-year-old chimp named Donna had gone into a coma after being anesthetized for a routine physical exam.  Three zoo veterinarians, including chief vet Kathryn Gamble, had just completed Donna's annual physical, a 45-minute procedure, in the zoo's ape house when the animal's heart and breathing stopped during the recovery period from the anesthesia.  Applying CPR procedures, the veterinary staff managed to get the 140-pound animal's heart and breathing restarted, said Robyn Barbiers, the zoo's vice president for animal collections, herself a veterinarian. The staff worked on improving her condition for more than an hour, before deciding to euthanize her.  A necropsy found no immediate causes for the death.  More results of tests on tissue and fluid samples are expected in a few weeks.

Hattisberg Zoo’s Bird Fest 2008

April 21, 2008  www.hattiesburgamerican.com  By ED KEMP

Bird Fest 2008 is put on each year by the Pine Woods Audubon Society at the Hattiesburg Zoo entrance. The program is designed to celebrate Earth Day and International Migratory Bird Day, and helps children to understand birds and their environment.  Attendees receive a ticket at the zoo entrance, and proceed through a series of eight booths featuring such topics as "where birds live," "bird homes" and "what is migration."  They also gain a little first-hand knowledge of the zoo's bird population.  In one booth called "name that bird" the children attempted to identify the pictures of 17 regional birds. In another booth, a migration game was played in which youth threw birds shaped like model airplanes over a patch of grass representing the Gulf of Mexico, as a way of illustrating a bird's migration trip. Kids learn to use binoculars in the "find that bird" booth, and kids are taught how to "be a bird helper" by demonstrating what makes an ideal bird habitat.

Six Flags Celebrates Animal Longevity

April 21, 2008  www.mercurynews.com  By Linda Goldston

VALLEJO, California -- Sixty-eight-year-old Asian elephant is the oldest elephant in an accredited U.S. Zoo.  Forty-seven-year-old Terry, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, and Buzz, age 80, is an endangered smalltooth sawfish.  They aren't superstars at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo. But they do hold impressive longevity records. "These three animals demonstrate how good care contributes to a long and healthy life," spokeswoman Nancy Chan said. "There are one or two dolphins in Florida in their 50s," said Erin Hanahoe, marine mammal supervisor for the wildlife and theme park.  Chan said the Discovery Kingdom is proud of its geriatric animals and is trying harder to tell their stories. Last year, they started putting emphasis on marquee animals and letting people know more about them. Taj, a former circus elephant who has been at the park since 1978, cares for the younger elephants the same way female elephants do in the wild.  One of seven elephants at the park, she weighs 9,000 pounds and stands 8 1/2 feet tall but is still smaller than her African cousins. Asian elephants are endangered in the wild; only an estimated 30,000 live in the forests of south and southeast Asia.  Steve Johnson, supervisor of the park's Elephant Encounter,  has worked with Taj for 28 years.

Audubon Society and Toyota Partnership

April 21, 2008  www.birdlife.org

The National Audubon Society (BirdLife in the USA) and Toyota have launched TogetherGreen. The $20 million Toyota grant is the largest Audubon has received in its 103-year history, and the largest so far received by any BirdLife Partner.  TogetherGreen will provide Innovation Grants to fund dozens of on-the-ground projects that will promote partnerships between Audubon’s national network and other environmental and community partners, to help achieve measurable land, water and/or energy conservation results. Grant requirements will broaden project participation and promote innovation by uniting Audubon’s national network with environmental and community partners. The funding will also provide up to 200 Conservation Fellowships for promising environmental leaders, who can serve as role models, expert guides and organisers to engage new audiences in conservation action.  Volunteer Days at Audubon Centers and other locations nationwide will provide hands-on opportunities to address environmental problems and take part in restoration activities.  Toyota plans to engage its 36,000 US. employees and invite its business partners to join Audubon and other environmental and community partners as conservation volunteers in TogetherGreen projects. 

Lizard Movement Study

April 21, 2008  www.eurekalert.org 

ATHENS, Ohio (April 21, 2008) — The technique lizards use to grab their food influences how they move, according to researchers at Ohio University.  A research team led by doctoral student Eric McElroy tracked 18 different species of lizards as they walked or ran in order to understand how their foraging styles impact their biomechanics. Lizards use two basic foraging techniques: In ‘sit-and-wait’, (most of their time perched in one location waiting for their prey to pass. Then, with a quick burst of speed, they run after their prey, snatching it up with their tongues). In “wide or active foraging”, lizards move constantly but very slowly in their environment, using their chemosensory system to stalk their prey.  Although wide foraging evolved from the sit-and-wait technique, these two styles are almost opposites. Some wide foragers are on the move about 80 percent of the time while sit-and-wait foragers may move only about 10 percent of the time, said professor Stephen Reilly, co-author of a recent book on the topic, Lizard Ecology, published by the Cambridge University Press.  While all lizards have the ability to run, a predatory defense mechanism, the study found that sit-and-wait lizards won’t walk. Lizards that use the sit-and-wait method of foraging use running mechanics even when moving at slower speeds.  The study, funded by NSF, appears in the April 1 edition of the Journal of Experimental Biology. 

Bee Colonies Continue to Decline

April 21, 2008  www.enn.com 

Honey bee population declines continue to trouble the U.S. agricultural industry. America’s honey bees are responsible for pollinating more than 100 different crops worth $15 billion annually and continue to experience population decreases as evidenced by a study commissioned by Apiary Inspectors of America, (AIA).  U.S. beekeepers estimate colony losses across the country between September 2007 and 2008 were 36.3 percent which equates to 14 percent more total losses compared to last year (note: roughly 13% of the country’s 2.4 million colonies was surveyed). Nearly 70% of losses are attributed to non-CCD causes, such as lack of food.  Haagen-Dazs Help the Honey Bees program is donating $250,00 for a study of the problem by Pennsylvania State University and the University of California, Davis, by donating a portion of sales of its honey bee dependent flavors.  Home owners and gardeners are encouraged to do their part by planting pollen and nectar producing plants. The ubiquitous green lawn is a food-free wasteland for honey bees.  Haagen-Dazs is also working with community groups to distribute 1 million bee-friendly flowering seeds and provide educational info on the issue.

Protection Sought for Canada Lynx in N.M.

April 21, 2008  www.aspentimes.com  By Sue Major Holmes

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A coalition of conservation and animal protection groups is suing USFWS to protect the Canada lynx in New Mexico.  The Colorado Division of Wildlife, which has released more than 200 lynx in Colorado since 1999, tracked about 60 of the animals into New Mexico's Taos, Rio Arriba and San Juan counties between 1999 and 2006, the lawsuit said.  The federal government lists the lynx as threatened in 14 states - but not in New Mexico. USFWS officials determined that New Mexico was not in the species' historic range, but the lawsuit maintains that scientific studies have shown the animal was once found in north-central New Mexico. "What we're asking the Fish and Wildlife Service to do is to fix its past mistake by failing to give the lynx the safety net (in New Mexico) that the Endangered Species Act provides," said Nicole Rosmarino of WildEarth Guardians, one of the groups that sued.

10 Endangered Places to See

April 21, 2008  www.usatoday.com   By Peter Frank

1. Bosson Glacier, Chamonix, France
2. South Africa Lion Habitat,  Kruger National Park, South Africa
3. Monteverde Cloud Forest,  Costa Rica
4. The Everglades, South Florida
5. Mount Kilimanjaro,  Tanzania
6. Tanjung Puting National Park,  Indonesia
7. Taj Mahal, Agra, India
8. Hudson Bay Polar Bear Habitat, Churchill, Manitoba, Canada
9. Great Barrier Reef, Australia
10. Atchafalaya Basin,  Louisiana

Zoo Atlanta Panda Artificially Inseminated

April 21, 2008  www.ajc.com  By LEON STAFFORD

Zoo Atlanta officials artificially inseminated Lun Lun twice on Monday. It was the first time they have tried to make her a mother again since the birth in September 2006 of Mei Lan.  "We knew after Mei Lan was weaned, Lun Lun would go into another breeding season," said Dr. Maria Crane, the zoo's vice president of animal health.  Crane said Lun Lun's egg dropped sometime Sunday afternoon and that she was inseminated at midnight and again at noon Monday. Hou Rong, an official from China's Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, flew to Atlanta on Saturday to assist with the insemination. That included extracting fresh semen from Yang Yang, Lun Lun's mate and father of Mei Lan.  "We tried to allow them to breed naturally, but that did not happen," Crane said. "We had a window of only 24 hours so we chose artificial insemination."

Lincoln Park Zoo’s Bird Relocation Database

April 21, 2008  www.plentymag.com

The Lincoln Park Zoo has launched a database documenting a century’s worth of events where birds have been introduced into new habitats in the wild. The birds were either bred in captivity or relocated from one natural habitat to another, and the results have been mixed.  According to the World Conservation Union's 2007 Red List, 16,306 species are now defined as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered. About 12 per cent of birds are threatened, and dozens of reintroduction programs in the past few decades have attempted to repopulate fragile habitats. But they don’t always succeed, and wildlife reintroduction programs are often subject to criticism. One common argument is that the same funds dedicated to captive breeding could be devoted to protecting rainforests, potentially improving the chances of survival for hundreds more species. A study published in January 2008 found that two-thirds of captive-bred carnivores reintroduced into the wild don’t survive, many due to human activities, such as hunting and car accidents. The Avian Reintroduction & Translocation Database, is a standardized directory that combines results from 1,207 avian reintroduction programs, dating back to 1925. It encompasses 128 bird species and 405 sites around the world.  See: http://www.lpzoo.org/artd/index.php

Amphibian Sperm Cryopreservation

April 21,  2008   www.fwf.ac.at

Throughout the world, almost 2,000 amphibian species are classed as endangered.  The long-term storage of amphibian sperm to be used for breeding purposes is a current research project being funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF)  Project manager, Prof. Robert Patzner from Paris Lodron University of Salzburg (Department of Organismic Biology) explains the advantages of sperm cryopreservation: "Although it is, in principle, technically possible to store eggs instead of sperm, the size, shape and contents of eggs are problematic for cold storage. The temperature exchange is not ideal and causes damage to the eggs. Sperm on the other hand can be collected from living animals and, due to its compactness, can be frozen under ideal conditions." Patzner and his colleague Dr. Nabil Mansour are investigating methods for optimizing sperm cryopreservation. Parameters under investigation include: the optimum dilution medium, the concentration of the cryoprotectants used to lower the freezing point of the water in the sperm, the precise freezing rate and details of the subsequent thawing process. The overall aim is to end up with sperm that is ideal for use in androgenesis, which is the development of a living being from exclusively paternal chromosomes. This process involves the use of frozen semen to fertilize eggs that have previously had their genetic material destroyed using UV radiation. Then, the fertilized eggs are subjected to a heat shock that causes the paternal genetic material to duplicate. This produces two sets of chromosomes in each egg, which is essential for the development of a viable amphibian.  This method is ideal for protecting endangered species as eggs can be taken from reared species rather than from endangered species. If these eggs are then fertilised with frozen sperm from endangered species, only offspring of the endangered species are produced.

May 16 Designated Endangered Species Day

April 21, 2008  www.boston.com

WASHINGTON—California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and a senator from Maine have introduced a resolution to designate May 16 as the third annual Endangered Species Day. Celebrity Jack Hanna will serve as national spokesman for the day and promote species conservation.

Buffalo Zoo Featured on AquaKids

April 21, 2008  www.wivb.com

BUFFALO, N.Y. - - River otters were extinct in Western New York until scientists began to reintroduce them in 1995. The Buffalo Zoo has four of them. River otters are extremely sensitive to changes in their habitat and require lots of unpolluted space to thrive. The Buffalo Zoo has accomodated the river otters well and their efforts will be featured in an episode of "AquaKids." A program that can be seen on cable and public access channels.  It teaches kids about saving marine and aquatic environments on cable and public access channels. The Buffalo episode filmed today is scheduled to air in September.

Recovery Plan for Northern Spotted Owl

April 21, 2008  www.fws.gov

USFWS Pacific Regional Director Ren Lohoefener has released a scientific review of the northern spotted owl draft recovery plan that will help guide completion of a strategy for recovering the threatened bird.  The report, prepared by Sustainable Ecosystems Institute of Portland, Oregon, is the result of three months of evaluation led by Dr. Steven Courtney, Vice-President of SEI, under contract with the Service. Nine eminent owl and forest experts, five external reviewers and SEI staff considered all written scientific comments on the April 2007 draft plan as well as scientific presentations made at two public meetings and additional information from scientists. The 150-page report is available today at http://www.fws.gov/pacific/ecoservices/endangered/recovery/NSORecoveryPlanning.htm
In addition to the SEI review, the Service recently convened three working groups of scientists to provide additional expert advice on habitat issues, barred owls and fire impacts. The final recovery plan for the northern spotted owl is being completed by members of the Interagency Support Team (IST), which consists of scientists from the Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. A final plan is expected in May.

Ugandan Red Colobus Exposed to Orthopoxvirus

April 22, 2008  www.news.uiuc.edu

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Researchers report this month that red colobus monkeys in a park in western Uganda have been exposed to an unknown orthopoxvirus, a pathogen related to the viruses that cause smallpox, monkeypox and cowpox. Most of the monkeys screened harbor antibodies to a virus that is similar – but not identical – to known orthopoxviruses.  The findings appear online in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. The study was begun in 2006 when Colin Chapman, a researcher at McGill University, began a health assessment of two groups of red colobus monkeys in Kibale National Park, in western Uganda. The agent that infected the monkeys “looked a little bit like monkeypox virus, a little bit like vaccinia virus, a little bit like cowpox virus, but not exactly like any of them,” said Tony Goldberg, a professor of veterinary pathobiology and anthropology at the University of Illinois. Chapman, also an associate scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, had spent two decades studying the behavior and ecology of the monkeys. He wanted to broaden the study to include an analysis of the pathogens they carried. Wildlife veterinarians from the Wildlife Conservation Society helped collect the samples, and a team from Oregon Health and Science University, led by Mark Slifka, conducted immunological analyses to characterize the virus.  An initial screening for antibodies to the vaccinia virus yielded positive results in about one-quarter of the monkeys tested. This was not clear evidence of infection with vaccinia, however.

Simplified Method of Giving Rabies Vaccine

April 22, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

A clinical trial in healthy volunteers has found that a simpler and cheaper way of using rabies vaccines proved to be just as effective as the current most widely used method at stimulating antibodies against rabies. The trial is published in this week's PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. Dr Mary Warrell (Centre for Clinical Vaccinology and Tropical Medicine, University of Oxford, United Kingdom) and colleagues, say that the simplified method has the advantages of requiring fewer clinic visits, being more practicable, and acceptable, and having a wider margin of safety, especially in inexperienced hands. It would therefore, they say, be "suitable for use anywhere in the world where there are financial constraints.  Anti-rabies immunoglobulin is very rarely available in developing countries, and so prevention relies on giving people bitten by rabid animals effective vaccine treatment.  The vaccines that are currently approved by the World Health Organization, which are usually injected into the muscle, are prohibitively expensive, and so are unaffordable in developing countries. In Africa, for example, the average cost of an intramuscular course of vaccine is $US 39.6, equivalent to 50 days' wages.  Two economical regimens, involving injecting small amounts of vaccine into the skin (intradermally) at 2 or 8 sites on the first day of the course, with subsequent booster doses are available in a few places. With the 8-site method, a large dose of vaccine is given on the first day only, whereas with the 2-site method the same dose is divided between the first and third days, entailing an extra visit to the clinic. However, practical or perceived difficulties have restricted widespread uptake of these economical methods. Dr Warrell and colleagues therefore set out to test a new, similar simplified regimen, involving injections at 4 sites on the first day.

Endangered Species Recovery Permit Applications

April 22, 2008  www.epa.gov 

Endangered Species Recovery Permit Applications
The public is invited to comment on the following permit applications on or before May 22, 2008. Submit comments 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-094318
Applicant: Jessica S. Vinje, Escondido, California.
    The applicant requests an amendment to take (nest monitor) the lease Bell's vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus) in conjunction with monitoring in San Diego County, California for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-817400
Applicant: East Bay Regional Park District, Oakland, California.
    The applicant requests an amendment to take (harass by survey, locate/monitor nests, and conduct predator control) the California least tern (Sterna Antillarum browni) in conjunction with surveys and population monitoring studies within Alameda County, California, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-177979
Applicant: Allison DuRose Rudalevige, Costa Mesa, 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-177978
Applicant: John D. Gerlach, Fair Oaks, California.
    The applicant requests an amendment to remove/reduce to possession the Tuctoria mucronata (Solano grass) from federal lands in conjunction with reintroduction and research studies in Yolo County, California for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Permit No. TE-179013
Applicant: Scott M. Werner, Oak View, California.
    The applicant requests an amendment to take (nest monitor) the lease Bell's vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus) in conjunction with monitoring in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Ventura Counties, California for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-179034
Applicant: Angela D. Hyder, Sandia Park, New Mexico.
    The applicant requests a permit to take (survey by pursuit) the Quino checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha quino) in conjunction with surveys throughout the range of the species in California for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

5-Year Review of Midwestern Species

April 22, 2008   www.epa.gov

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), is initiating 5-year reviews of
Endangered least tern (Sterna antillarum) (interior nesting population),
Endangered Illinois cave amphipod (Gammarus acherondytes),
Endangered Minnesota dwarf trout lily (Erythronium propullans),
Threatened Lake Erie water snake (Nerodia sipedon insularum), all of which are
found among the western Lake Erie offshore islands and adjacent waters
in the United States and Canada,
Lakeside daisy (Hymenoxis herbacea),
Leedy's roseroot (Sedum integrifolium ssp. leedyi)
Northern wild monkshood (Aconitum noveboracense),

Possible Endangered Status for Cook Inlet Beluga Whale

April 22, 2008    www.epa.gov
The NMFS is extending the date by which a final determination will be made regarding the April 20, 2007, proposed rule to list a Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of beluga whale, Delphinapterus leucas, found in Cook Inlet, Alaska, as endangered. We believe that
substantial disagreement exists regarding the population trend, and that allowing an additional 6 months to obtain the 2008 abundance estimate would better inform our final determination as to whether the Cook Inlet beluga whale should be listed as endangered under the ESA. A final determination on this listing action will be made no later than October 20, 2008. The proposed rule, maps, and other materials relating to this proposal can be found on the NMFS Alaska Region website at http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/   For further information contact: Brad Smith, NMFS, 222 West 7th Avenue, Anchorage, Alaska 99517, (907) 271-5006, fax (907) 271-3030;

Endangered Species Recovery Permit

April 22, 2008   www.epa.gov

Written comments on this request for a permit must be received by May 22, 2008. Submit to the Assistant Regional Director, Fisheries--Ecological Services, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 25486, Denver Federal Center, Denver, Colorado 80225-0486; facsimile 303-236-0027. Documents and other information submitted with these applications are available for review, subject to the requirements of the Privacy Act [5 U.S.C. 552A] and Freedom of Information Act [5 U.S.C. 552], by any party who submits a request for a copy of such documents within 30 days of the date of publication of this notice to Kris Olsen, by mail or by telephone at 303-236-4256.

Applicant--ERO Resources, Denver, Colorado, TE-040510.
    The applicant requests a permit amendment to add nest searching during surveys for Southwestern willow flycatchers (Empidonax traillii extimus) in conjunction with recovery activities throughout the species' range for the purpose of enhancing its survival and recovery.

Take of Anadromous Fish (Pacific Salmon)

April 22, 2008  www.epa.gov
The  NMFS has received 15 scientific research permit application requests relating to Pacific salmon. The proposed research is intended to increase knowledge of species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and to help guide management and conservation efforts. Comments or requests for a public hearing on the applications must be received no later than 5 p.m. Pacific standard time on May 22, 2008. Send comments to the Protected Resources Division, NMFS, 1201 NE Lloyd Blvd., Suite 1100, Portland, OR 97232-1274. Comments may also be sent via fax to 503-230- 5441 or by e-mail to resapps.nwr@NOAA.gov   For further information contact:  Garth Griffin, Portland, OR (ph.:503-231-2005, Fax: 503-230-5441, e-mail: Garth.Griffin@noaa.gov  

The following listed species are covered in this notice:
    Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha): threatened lower Columbia River (LCR), threatened upper Willamette River (UWR), endangered upper Columbia River (UCR), threatened Snake River (SR) spring/summer (spr/sum), threatened SR fall, threatened Puget Sound (PS).
    Chum salmon (O. keta): threatened Columbia River (CR), threatened Hood Canal summer (HCS).
    Steelhead (O. mykiss): threatened LCR, threatened UWR, threatened middle Columbia River (MCR), threatened SR, endangered UCR, threatened PS.
    Coho salmon (O. kisutch): threatened LCR, threatened Southern Oregon Northern California Coasts (SONCC), threatened Oregon Coast (OC).
    Sockeye salmon (O. nerka): endangered SR.

Pittsburgh Zoo Generator Failure Kills Fish

April 22, 2008  www.post-gazette.com 

Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium officials are investigating why a generator failed to start an oxygen pump after a weekend power failure killed at least 15 rainbow and brown trout in the native Pennsylvania fishes exhibit Saturday.  Trout need a lot of oxygen because they live in moving streams.  In the wild, rainbow trout can live up to four years and brown trout up to seven years.

In other aquarium mishaps:
• Ten sharks and a puffer fish died in 2006 after a worker released too much ozone into the tank.
• Six bonnethead and two black-tip sharks died in 2002. Bacterial reactions and drug reactions were among the causes.
• Five sharks died in 2000 after an ozone machine malfunctioned and a vendor accidentally put cyanide in a tank.

World’s Largest Panda Breeding Center

April 22, 2008  en.ce.cn

The world's largest giant panda breeding center in Sichuan province will be set up by the end of this year, with a capacity to house about 200 pandas.  The new nature reserve will cover 1 sq km, including 20 outdoor homes and a 20,000-sq-m playground.  Zhang Hemin, chief of the administrative bureau of the Wolong Nature Reserve, is in charge of developing the new facility, said.  The Wolong Nature Reserve covers 2,000 sq km and is China's first and largest reserve devoted to panda conservation.  By the end of last year, the reserve had bred 130 captive pandas from an original 10.  The new reserve itself is part of green efforts that have seen more than 2,400 nature reserves of various kinds being set up, covering more than 15 percent of the nation's land area.  Nationwide, 47 percent of wetland, 30 percent of desert, 20 percent of natural premier forest, 85 percent of endangered wildlife and plants, and 65 percent of vascular plant communities are under protection.  Eight young pandas from the reserve will also leave their habitat for Beijing next month, to allow visitors from different parts of the world a glimpse of the endangered animals during the Olympic Games.

Oregon Zoo’s Mother of the Year

April 22, 2008   www.katu.com 

The Oregon Zoo is celebrating Mother's Day by naming its 2008 Zoo Mother of the Year, and the public is invited to help choose the winner. This year's finalists are a Norway rat named Marge, an Oregon silverspot butterfly named Lyta and a colobus monkey named Mali. An online ballot featuring photos and short biographies of the zoo moms is posted on the zoo's Web site.  "These three moms are responsible for bringing 420 babies into the world," said Tony Vecchio, zoo director. "That's a first in the five years we've been voting at the Oregon Zoo."  Finalists were selected by zoo employees from an initial list of 10 zoo moms, and zoo employees have been known to campaign for their favorite mom.  In addition, a Mother's Day brunch for human moms and their families will take place in the Oregon Zoo's Cascade Crest Banquet Center on Sunday, May 11.

Tibetan Antelope Population Increases

April 22, 2008   en.ce.cn

The population of Tibetan antelopes (Chiru) in Hol Xil, a key nature reserve in northwest China has increased to 60,000 from less than 20,000 in 10 years.  Cega, director of the Hol Xil Natural Reserve Administration in Qinghai Province, attributed the increase to the improved environment and anti-poaching efforts. . One luxury pashmina product requires the pelts of three to five Tibetan antelopes and there were only 20,000 left in Hol Xil when rangers started to fight against the illegal practice in February 1998.  More than 300 patrols have been launched in the past decade, covering nearly 700,000 kilometers. They have cracked more than 100 cases of armed poaching and seized approximately 4,000 Tibetan antelope pelts.  The administration also sent rangers to guard Tibetan antelopes during their migration, which eliminated armed poaching as of 2005.  The Tibet-Qinghai Plateau is the habitat of Tibetan antelopes, recognized as an endangered species since 1979. The animal was selected as Fuwa Yingying, a mascot for the Beijing Olympics

N.C. Zoo Features Giraffes and Bees

April 22, 2008   www.thepilot.com

An anonymous gift of $201,000 will go toward a giraffe feeding station at the North Carolina Zoo. The raised deck near the Zoo's Forest Edge overlook, will raise the giraffes heads to visitor level and provide guests of all ages with the opportunity to feed them.  Russ Williams, N.C. Zoo Society Executive Director said, "These personal encounters will serve as physical reminders that each of us ultimately holds the future of the natural world in our hands."  The same donors also gave another $25,000 this week for a large honeybee sculpture to be part of the N.C. Zoo's new honeybee exhibit.  The zoo broke ground in December on the exhibit that will include a working beehive and other features to introduce visitors to the North Carolina state insect and its many benefits to our daily lives. Children will be able to play safely on the bee sculpture. Both the honeybee exhibit and the giraffe feeding station are scheduled to open in Spring 2009.

New Science Center Across from Calgary Zoo

April 22, 2008  www.canada.com    By Kim Guttormson  

CALGARY, Canada -- The Telus World of Science unveiled the distinctive design for its new building Monday, with construction scheduled to begin this fall. "Buildings tend to be designed not to change. "This building is designed to change in a number of ways as Calgary changes." The 140,000-square-foot facility -- twice the size of the existing centre, with a red roof resembling a mountain range -- will be built on a 15-acre site across Memorial Drive from the Calgary Zoo. Using triangular scrim, a fabric, on the walls will allow the centre to cast images or words on the outside of the building, creating a different version depending on the angle it's viewed from.  "If you look at the building one way, you get one color, one set of images," Peters said. "Another way, it will look different.  It will house both the science centre and the children's museum. "Bringing both of those elements together.  The city has given $40 million to the $160-million project, and remediated the new location, which was a brownfield site that once housed a landfill.  The province has also committed $40 million to the project. The science centre has also raised about $20 million from corporate Calgary. It is still waiting to hear about its $40-million funding request to the federal government and hopes to raise the remaining amount from the public.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom –10th Birthday

April 22, 2008   www.orlandosentinel.com  By Scott Powers

As Animal Kingdom celebrates its 10th anniversary today, its twin missions of wildlife management and theme-park enjoyment appear to be thriving, even if Disney has not quite managed to wed them yet.  After the investment of tens of millions of dollars in both Expedition Everest and Finding Nemo, attendance at Walt Disney World's fourth theme park has climbed rapidly the past two years, pushing Animal Kingdom close to the 10 million-visitors-a-year mark. At the same time, the theme park's worldwide reputation for wildlife conservation and research has attracted respect and acclaim. Yet the park, founded on Earth Day -- April 22, 1998 -- struggles to find a balance between emphasizing live animals, such as lions and rhinos, which give Animal Kingdom its mission, and fantasy animals, such as the Himalayan yeti or Nemo, which sell tickets. "the park should end up being balanced between live animals, imaginary animals, prehistoric animals, and fantasy," said the park's chief designer, Joe Rohde, executive designer and senior vice president of Walt Disney Imagineering. Designers set out to create fantasy worlds that visitors could enter, so that the attractions felt more like adventures than exhibits. Earlier this decade, Disney ran a national advertising campaign that declared Disney's Animal Kingdom was "NAHTAZU." The park has a zoo, Disney officials said, but that doesn't make it a zoo.  David Koenig, author of the unauthorized 2007 history book Realityland: True-Life Adventures at Walt Disney World, said Disney had trouble from the start promoting the zoo angle, anyway.  "Everything at Disney is supposed to be different and better than anything around you," he said. "And everybody's got a zoo."  The park is an accredited zoo -- and is often cited as one of the top zoos in the nation, with involvement in many high-profile international wildlife-conservation movements. It has 1,500 animals, representing more than 300 species, including 35 species listed as threatened or endangered. The park also employs most of Disney World's 550 animal-care specialists, ranging from technicians to Mark Stetter, one of only 100 board-certified zoo-and-wildlife veterinary specialists in the world; Anne Savage, a conservation biologist who serves as a vice president of the International Society of Primatologists; and Matt Hohne, whose titles include special survival-plan coordinator for the North American pygmy hippopotamus.  "We can say with pride that now we really are viewed as a leader in conservation and animal care," said Jackie Ogden, Disney World vice president of animal programs and environmental initiatives.

San Diego Zoo Giraffes Move to New Enclosure

April 23, 2008  www.imperialvalleynews.com

SAN DIEGO, California - Six Masai giraffes are enjoying a new habitat.  “They are doing really well,” says Bill Austin, primary giraffe keeper at the San Diego Zoo. “The move went great and they have been calm the whole time. They are still getting used to the change, but are settling in nicely.”  The old giraffe exhibit is scheduled for demolition to make room for “Elephant Odyssey”, a new multi-species exhibit which will open in 2009. The dominant male giraffe, Silver (who is 16 feet tall), was transported by trailer all by himself. The other giraffes traveled in groups.

Turning Baghdad’s Zoo Into an Amusement Park

April 23, 2008  www.timesonline.co.uk

Despite threats of insurgent attacks and looting, Llewellyn Werner, a California investor, hopes to incorporate the Baghdad’s Al-Zwara Zoo into an amusement park. Mr Werner, chairman of C3, a Los Angeles-based holding company for private equity firms, is investing millions of dollars into The Baghdad Zoo and Entertainment Experience, a massive American-style amusement park that will feature a skateboard park, rides, a concert theatre and a museum. It is being designed by the same firm that developed Disneyland. “The people of Iraq need this kind of positive influence. It’s going to have a huge psychological impact,” Mr Werner said. The 50-acre swath of land, which sits adjacent to the Green Zone and encompasses Baghdad’s existing zoo, was looted, left without power and abandoned after the American-led invasion in 2003. Only 35 of 700 animals remained after the invasion. Lawrence Anthony, a South African conservationist who ran the initial animal rescue effort after the invasion, has been hired to help.  Mr Werner, has been sold a 50-year lease on the site by the Mayor of Baghdad for an undisclosed sum. The project will cost $500 million to develop and will be managed by Iraqis. Mr Werner will retain exclusive rights to housing and hotel developments.  A $1 million skateboard park, the first phase of the development, will be opened in July. The project, wholly financed by Mr Werner, is meant to lure “the demographic of 14 and 20 kids standing idly by on corners who are susceptible to influence from the bad guys. But I wouldn’t be doing this if I wasn’t making money,” he said. “It will be enormously profitable”.

Scotland Rejects Wind Farm Proposal

April 23, 2008  www.enn.com  By AFP

The Scottish government has decided that a proposed one-billion-dollar, (625-million-euro) windfarm would threaten rare and endangered bird populations and damage peatland on the remote Isle of Lewis, northwest of the Scottish mainland. Lewis Wind Power, a consortium of AMEC and British Energy, had proposed constructing 181 turbines, with a capacity of 651.6 megawatts -- enough to meet the average domestic electricity requirement of more than 20 percent of Scotland's population. "The Lewis wind farm would have significant adverse impacts on the Lewis Peatlands Special Protection Area, which is designated due to its high value for rare and endangered birds," said Scottish Energy Minister Jim Mather. "This decision does not mean that there cannot be onshore wind farms in the Western Isles. That's why we will urgently carry out work on how to develop renewable energy in the Western Isles, in harmony with its outstanding natural heritage." Golden eagle, merlin, red throated diver, black throated diver, golden plover, dunlin and greenshank populations in the area are subject to special protection under a European birds directive.

Somali Wild Ass Born at St. Louis Zoo

April 23, 2008 www.myfoxstl.com   By A.P.

ST. LOUIS  - The Saint Louis Zoo has a new baby African wild ass. The female foal was born April 10, and is the first offspring for mother Fataki and the sire Abai. The Somali wild ass is a critically endangered wild member of the horse family. The zoo says fewer than 1,000 exist in desert areas of northeastern Africa. The Saint Louis Zoo has seven of the 27 Somali wild asses in North America. Only one other zoo in North America has bred the species. Fataki arrived in 2005 from the San Diego Wild Animal Park. Abai was born at the Basel Zoo in Germany in 2003. Hunting, along with fewer grazing grounds and water resources, have placed the animals at risk of extinction.

12 Patas Monkeys Escape from Florida Preserve

April 23, 2008  www.msnbc.msn.com   By Keith Morelli

LAKELAND, Fla. - A dozen monkeys that escaped from a wildlife preserve during the weekend are among the fastest of primates, clocked at up to 35 mph, but success in the wild means avoiding unfamiliar predators and search parties. So don't look for this colony to follow the lead of rhesus monkeys that escaped captivity and have been living in the wild around Silver Springs since the 1930s. Their keepers thought the monkeys would avoid the dark waters of an 8-foot-deep, 60-foot-wide moat around their 1-acre island preserve north of Lakeland. That doesn't surprise Mark Wilson, a veterinarian who runs the Florida Teaching Zoo in Bushnell and who imports patas monkeys for placement in preserves and zoos. He imported these patases, captured from the grasslands of Puerto Rico, and had them placed at the Safari Wild preserve in Polk County. Safari Wild is new, scheduled to open in 2009. Its co-owner is Lex Salisbury, president of Tampa's renowned Lowry Park Zoo. The moat might work for captive-born monkeys, Wilson said, but wild ones don't see water as a danger.  This colony was taken from the wilds of Puerto Rico, where their numbers have grown rapidly, and they faced euthanasia. Wilson's group intervened and brought them to the preserve. The monkeys arrived as a group Thursday, and after two days of reconnaissance, they left as a group, led by a female with a baby on her back. 

Saving the Critically Endangered Magenta Petrel

April 23, 2008 www.birdlife.org 

Magenta Petrel Pterodroma magentae  was rediscovered in 1978 on Chatham Island, New Zealand, and has undergone an estimated historical decline of 80% over 45 years. The primary cause is introduced species – such as pigs, cats, Weka and rodents. There are now thought to be between 8 and 15 breeding pairs left in the world.  Male and female birds look extremely similar, but scientists collected blood samples from almost the entire known living population over a 20 year period, and molecular analysis determined that 95% of non-breeding adults were male. This suggests that critically low population levels may make it difficult for males to attract a mate. Their calls are too spread out to attract the rare female passing by. Conservationists are planning to increase the male Magenta Petrel’s pulling power by creating a new breeding colony within a predator-proof fence.  The sex-ratio of males to females was approximately even in petrel chicks and breeding adults. However, 95% of non-breeding birds were found to be male. This finding suggests that unpaired males may be having difficulty in attracting females to burrows.  Conservationists are helping to increase the petrel’s density by focusing birds within the Sweetwater Secure Breeding Site. This is being achieved by translocating chicks, and by using calls to attract adult petrels to the refuge. Eight chicks were successfully moved and fledged last year, and The Chatham Island Taiko Trust was established in 1998 to provide legal status to the continuing work.

Scientists are hoping to use knowledge of male behaviour traits to make the plan work. “It has been found in other petrel species – such as Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus, Cory’s Shearwater Calonectris diomedea, and Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans - that males return most frequently to the site where they were reared as a chick”, commented Ben Lascelles BirdLife’s Marine IBA Research Assistant. By using the DNA sexing technique to slightly favour male chicks for translocation, the team hope to increase the numbers of birds returning as adult breeders to the refuge.

Fate of Arctic Marine Mammals

April 23, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

The April Special Issue of Ecological Applications examines the potential effects of climate change, puts them in historical context, and describes possible conservation measures to mitigate them. The assessment reflects the latest thinking of experts representing multiple scientific disciplines.  Sea ice is the common habitat feature uniting a group of unique and diverse Arctic inhabitants, and serves as a platform for resting and reproduction, influences the distribution of food sources, and provides a refuge from predators. The loss of sea ice poses a particularly severe threat to certain species, such as the hooded seal, whose natural history depends on, sea ice.  The Arctic undergoes dramatic seasonal transformation and Arctic marine mammals appear to be well adapted to the extremes and variability of this environment, having survived past periods of extended warming and cooling.  “However, the rate and scale of current climate change presents unique challenges.  For polar bears and the walrus, it is likely to reduce the availability of their prey, requiring them to seek alternate food. Others, like the beluga whale and bearded seal who are more opportunistic in their eating habits, may be less vulnerable, at least in this regard.  Using a quantitative index of species sensitivity to climate change, Kristin Laidre (University of Washington) and colleagues found that the most sensitive Arctic marine mammals appear to be the hooded seal, polar bear, and the narwhal, primarily due to their reliance on sea ice and specialized feeding.

Shifts in the prey base of Arctic marine mammals would likely lead to changes in body condition and potentially affect the immune system of marine mammals, according to Kathy Burek (Alaska Veterinary Pathology Services). She and fellow researchers point out that climate change may alter pathogen transmission and exposure to infectious diseases, possibly lowering the health of marine mammals and, in the worst case, their survival. Changing environmental conditions, including more frequent bouts of severe weather and rising air and water temperatures, also could impact the health of Arctic marine mammals. The effects of climate change will be compounded by a host of secondary factors. The loss of ice will open the Arctic to new levels of shipping, oil and gas exploration and drilling, fishing, hunting, tourism, and coastal development. These, in turn, will add new threats to marine mammal populations, including ship strikes, contaminants, and competition for prey.  Timothy Ragen (US Marine Mammal Commission) and colleagues describe how conservation measures may be able to address the secondary effects of climate change, but that only reductions in greenhouse gas emissions can—over the long-term—conserve Arctic marine mammals and the Arctic ecosystems on which they depend.

Uganda’s Efforts to Save It’s Apes

April 23, 2008  allafrica.com  By Martin Ssebuyira

The Ngamba island chimpanzee sanctuary was created to care for chimpanzees being rescued within Uganda.  In addition to providing a safe home, the island provides high quality educational experience for visitors as well as benefiting the island community members.  The sanctuary director Dr Lawrence Mugisha says approximately 5,000 chimpanzees are killed by poachers for bush meat and trade every year.  "As a by-product of this illegal practice, dozens of infant chimpanzees are taken alive from forests, bound for the pet trade throughout Africa and the rest of the world while others are killed." Dr Mugisha adds that the threats to the remaining chimpanzee population and their habitats are still numerous. "One of these threats is the possibility of disease transmission from humans to gorillas and vice versa." Apes are highly susceptible to Ebola and HIV. "In order to address the issue of potential disease transmission to the gorillas and chimps, we must mitigate behavioural disturbances to this fragile population,”  Mugisha warns.  Tourism, based on gorilla trekking and chimpanzee viewing needs strict rules.

Does Disney Inspire Conservation?

April 23, 2008  www.nytimes.com 

In his book  “The Idea of Nature in Disney Animation”  David Whitley, argues that the imagery and emotional power of Disney movies like “Bambi” and “Finding Nemo” helped inspire generations of environmentalists.  “These films have taught us variously about having a fundamental respect for nature,” he writes. “Some of them, such as Bambi, inspired conservation awareness and laid the emotional groundwork for environmental activism.”  But many scholars have taken Disney to task on this very issue, citing the company for environmentally unfriendly policies and the films for candy-coated sentimentalism and distorted views of nature and animals. Ralph H. Lutts, the author of “The Nature Fakers: Wildlife, Science & Sentiment,” wrote that Disney’s version of the original Bambi story by Felix Salten, first published in English in 1928, was “a ‘Sunday school’ vision of nature as a place without stress, conflict or death,” and that compared with the original story on which it is based, the Disney version was a much less “ecologically and philosophically complex vision of nature.” And while the Oxford scholar Marina Warner declares, “It is simply unthinking and lazy to denounce all the works of Disney and his legacy,” she too has been critical of the black-and-white viewpoint of the films. Rod M. Fujita, the director of Oceans Programs at the Environmental Defense Fund, acknowledged the dangers of such simplification. “Movies and nature documentaries that tug at one’s heartstrings and offer simplified ways of understanding complex environmental problems can provide a bump up in awareness of nature and threats to nature, and can also motivate action to address those threats, but unfortunately these effects seem to be quite transitory.” They “won’t result in behavior and attitudinal changes by themselves — they need to be reinforced by deeper learning experiences.”  Disney announced this week that it is creating a new production unit for nature documentaries.  

Infa-red Thermography Used By Taronga Zoo Vets

April 24, 2008  www.news.com.au

Infra-red thermography, is being used to diagnose health problems in elderly elephants at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo. Senior vet Benn Bryannt described the non-invasive technology as "brilliant" and said it would enable zoo staff to build a clear picture of the elephants' health over time. A camera that detects heat caused by inflammation was trained on the animals' bodies as they stood in their stalls, Dr Bryannt said. The treatment will be repeated in the coming months, enabling staff to chart the elephants' health.  "What we're hoping to be able to do is to use the pictures this camera generates as it reads the surface temperature of an animal and try to pinpoint areas where there are abnormal increases," Dr Bryannt said. "We want to be able to identify and locate painful limbs, particularly joint pain, because a lot of old elephants end up with degenerative, or age-related, arthritis."  He said the zoo had an ageing elephant population, with three Asian elephants in their 50s and two African elephants in their mid to late 30s. Yesterday's tests confirmed Dr Bryannt's suspicion that two of the animals were experiencing some degree of discomfort. http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,23587539-5001021,00.html

Dublin Zoo Phone Lines Jammed by Hoax

April 24, 2008  afp.google.com  By A.F.P.

DUBLIN (AFP) — Dublin Zoo appealed to the public on Thursday not to be taken in by hoax text messages that have led to its switchboard being jammed by an estimated 100,000 calls in two weeks.  People are receiving text messages to their mobile phones asking them to ring the zoo's number for an "urgent message." The texts are signed with names like G. Raffe, C. Lion, Rory Lyons and Anna Conda.  "This is proving to be a very serious waste of our time and resources," the zoo said.  The zoo's marketing manager said previously they got hoax calls on April Fool's Day but the current situation "was getting out of hand."

Madagascan Radiated Tortoise Hatched at Chester Zoo

April 24, 2008  www.flintshirestandard.co.uk

A Madagascan Radiated Tortoise is believed to be the first UK hatching of this critically endangered species.  The tortoise is the first to hatch from a clutch of five eggs laid at the Chester Zoo.  Richard Gibson, Chester's curator of lower vertebrates and invertebrates, said:
the tortoise was incubated for just 136 days and took two days to fully break out of its shell. The hatchling is now being cared for by zoo staff.  Five Malagasy species, including the Radiated Tortoise, have recently been re-assessed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. The other critically endangered species are the Ploughshare Tortoise, Flat-tailed Tortoise, Spider Tortoise and Madagascar Big-headed Turtle, all of which are found nowhere else on the planet.

Europe Adds Preserves to Natura 2000

April 24, 2008  www.enn.com 

To address biodiversity loss, European countries decided in 1992 to establish a network of specially protected sites to protect and maintain habitats and species. Now 19,000 km2  has been added to Natura 2000.  Brown bears, wolves, lynx, owls and black storks have been given vast new areas to roam in as the European Commission accepts new areas from central and eastern Europe. Andreas Beckmann, WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme’s Deputy Director, said, “WWF has been working for several years to support preparations for introducing Natura 2000 to new EU member states.”  Poland has added 18 sites in the Carpathian range, among them the Gory Slonne Mountains, classified as an important bird area. Slovakia has added a wealth of sites, including the traditional farming area of Mala Fatra.  Other areas are from Austria, Cyprus, Finland, France, Malta, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. Natura 2000 now covers almost 20% of the continent’s land and 100,000 km2 of its seas. It also fulfils part of the obligations of the EU and its member states under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.  The network is expanding in marine areas and even non-EU countries, including those in the Dinaric Arc and Turkey, are starting to follow similar conservation approaches as part of their effort towards EU accession.

Dinosaur’s Closest Relatives Are Modern Birds

April 24, 2008  www.nsf.gov

Molecular analysis, or genetic sequencing, of a 68-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex protein from the dinosaur's femur confirms that T. rex shares a common ancestry with chickens, ostriches, and to a lesser extent, alligators. The new research results, published this week in the journal Science, represent the first use of molecular data to place a non-avian dinosaur in a phylogenetic tree, a "tree of life," that traces the evolution of species.  "These results match predictions made from skeletal anatomy, providing the first molecular evidence for the evolutionary relationships of a non-avian dinosaur," says Science paper co-author Chris Organ, a researcher at Harvard University. "Even though we only had six peptides--just 89 amino acids--from T. rex, we were able to establish these relationships.

“Plaza Beastro” is New Restaurant Name

April 25, 2008   www.bizjournals.com

Sedgwick County Zoo's new sit-down restaurant now has a name. A sign bearing the name Plaza Beastro.  The name was chosen out of more than 3,0000 entries from a naming contest put on by local radio.  Jinger Titus was credited with picking the winning name. The restaurant has a seating capacity of 125 people. Zoo executive director Mark Reed says the $2.8 million facility is larger and more modern than the concession area that was once perched in the zoo's plaza. That structure was recently razed and the site converted into a man-made pond.

Indianapolis Zoo Goes Green

April 25, 2008   www.theindychannel.com

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Zoo launched a new initiative Friday to get central Indiana residents thinking about conservation.  The zoo is switching from incandescent to compact fluorescent lightbulbs, and it wants a million residents to do the same.  "If the Midwest were a nation, we would be the fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world," said Michael Crowther, Indianapolis Zoo president.  Lowe's and the zoo partnered for the program, with a goal of enlisting Hoosiers to get involved in the effort to help save animals threatened by global warming, such as polar bears.  The goal is to get Indianapolis-area residents to pledge to change a single bulb in their home from incandescent to CFL within a year, with hopes that a million bulbs will be changed by this time next year.  A Web site is the centerpiece of the collaborative effort.http://www.mycarbonpledge.com/

Selling Naming Rights to the L.A. Zoo?

April 25, 2008  www.labusinessjournal.com   By JOEL RUSSELL

Under Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s proposal to sell the naming rights for Los Angeles facilities, the possibility of a “Purina L.A. Zoo” exists.  In response to a projected deficit of $406 million, the mayor’s budget identifies selling naming rights for city sites as a way to way to generate cash. While the city already has contracts for ads on buses, benches and airports, the 2008-2009 budget proposes hiring a media agency to inventory city assets and develop a plan to capitalize on them. Mike Wolfsohn, creative director at Ignited Minds LLC ad shop in Marina del Rey, said “You have to be objective in balancing the monetary goal without compromising the desires of the people these properties are intended to serve”  The core values of the brand must align with the venue.  The Nashville-based guitar maker Gibson bought the naming rights to the Universal Amphitheatre in 2005, under a 10-year deal worth $14 million.  Zack Rosenberg, general manager at Horizon Media Inc., an ad buying agency in Century City declined to speculate on how much the city could collect from a licensing program, but noted the Staples Center deal as an example. Although Staples Inc. paid $100 million for the naming rights, the contract lasts 20 years so the average income totals about $5 million per year.  Also, New York City in January proposed a plan to sell the naming rights to sites at Central Park and other locations. The plan estimated the revenue at $3 million per year.

London Zoo Celebrates 180th Birthday

April 26, 2008  www.telegraph.co.uk  By Richard Gray

The London Zoo is now one of the world's leading conservation organisations, helping to protect endangered wildlife with breeding programs, carrying out vital research and educating the public. But Archival photos reports and keepers logs reveal a far different zoo 180 years ago when it opened: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2008/04/26/eazoo126.xml There were plans to domesticate some of the animal species at the zoo, exploiting reptiles for medicine and turning antelope and exotic birds into farm animals for food. The zoo even began running trials in 1831 with zebra-drawn passenger carts to give rides to members of the public around the grounds. "At that time they wanted to make animals less wild and domesticate them," said John Edwards, vice president of the Zoological Society of London and an expert on the history of London Zoo. "In the early 19th century they would dress up the chimpanzees in human clothes and the public could ride on the animals and play with even the more dangerous animals like bears. "The focus now has shifted…we are now trying to make sure animals remain wild. They are being bred for reintroduction into the wild rather than being taken out of the wild." View and purchase pictures online at the ZSL Print Store: http://www.zslprints.com/

Canada Says Polar Bear Is Not Endangered

April 26, 2008  www.startribune.com

OTTAWA - A scientific committee that advises Canada's government on endangered species said Friday that climate change is a threat to the survival of the polar bear, but the species does not face extinction. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada determined that the polar bear was a "special concern species" because evidence wasn't strong enough to recommend elevating the polar bear's status to threatened or endangered. Committee chairman Jeff Hutchings said changing the status is not recommended because it's difficult to calculate how melting summer sea ice correlates with declining numbers of the species. However, Pete Ewins of the World Wildlife Fund pointed out that seven of Canada's 13 populations are either in decline or showing signs of stress such as reduced body weight due to climate change. Ewins called the committee's recommendation not to change the polar bear's status "an easy way out."  If the polar bear had been placed in the "threatened" status, Canada would have required prohibitions like bans on hunting and destruction of habitat for the country's estimated 15,500 polar bears, roughly two-thirds of the global population.  The Canadian discussion on the polar bear's status mirrors a similar debate in the United States, where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is deciding whether to declare the animals endangered.

Edinburgh Zoo Keeper Leaps for Frogs

April 26, 2008  news.scotsman.com

The Edinburgh Zoo's senior education officer, plans to descend 165 feet to raise cash for the EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria) 2008 Year of the Frog Campaign.  She plans to rappel from the Forth Bridge dressed as a frog as part of a fund raising drive to support Amphibian Ark, a World Conservation Union program.  Funds are needed to finance regional initiatives such as rescues, training workshops and cooperatively managed centers.

Wildlife World Zoo Will Add Aquarium

April 26, 2008 www.azcentral.com  by Erin Zlomek

PHOENIX, Arizona -- Mickey Ollson grew up on a hobby farm in East Phoenix and bought five acres of his own upon graduating college. He raised exotic birds as a side business while teaching full time.  He ended up trading birds for llamas, deer, camels and other animals.  In 1974, he had bought 30 more acres and now owns 65 acres.  Throughout the 1990s, the zoo slowly added new attractions - large vertebrates and monkeys. In 2002, Ollson decided the next step was to build an aquarium next to the existing zoo.  The operation buys animals raised in captivity, has accepted gifts of animals from other zoos and aquariums, and has also provided a home for exotic animals confiscated by government agencies. About a year ago, Ollson started collecting marine life for the future aquarium.  "You have to kind of be opportunistic, get (the animals) when you can and hang on to them. Some only become available seasonally," he said. Many of the future aquarium animals are now babies being cared for at a site on zoo.  Known as the Wildlife World Zoo, Ollson’s attraction had revenues of $4 million in 2007

N.C. Zoo Receives Energy Award

April 26, 2008  www.thepilot.com 

The North Carolina Zoo has been named the 2008 recipient of the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Champion Award presented last week at the fifth annual N.C. Sustainable Energy Conference held in Raleigh. The zoo was recognized for nearly 20 years as a state leader in environmental stewardship, energy efficiency, alternative fuels and renewable energy.  Led by its Conservation Captains committee, the zoo has developed a variety of sustainable programs including recycling, water meters, reduced water usage, energy management and composting. Other zoo projects include a biodiesel processor that converts waste cooking oil to diesel fuel, solar picnic shelters that produce enough electricity to run 13 homes and a constructed wetland that filters runoff water from its North America parking lot. The zoo also presents education programs on energy conservation and environmental stewardship for the more than 750,000 visitors who annually attend the park. The zoo is among 31 state agencies, universities and community colleges to receive a grant from the state's first Energy Efficiency Reserve Fund. The zoo will be given $115,000 from the $5 million fund administered by the State Energy Office to replace more than 600 light fixtures in the park's Stedman Education Center with smaller, more efficient units. It is estimated the project will save $23,000 per year in energy bills.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s ‘Rocky Mountain Wild’

April 26, 2008  www.gazette.com

The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is featuring species native to the Rockies to send message of conservation and provide close encounters for visitors.  “Rocky Mountain Wild”, is the new home to grizzly bears, mountain lions, playful river otters and a moose named Tahoma. The three-acre exhibit, which opens Friday, is much more than a collection of animals. Bob Chastain, the zoo's president and CEO says  “The animals simply help us tell the story," Chastain says. And each animal tells a chapter. Animals such as the Canada lynx, once driven from Colorado and now the subject of an ambitious restoration program.  The bald eagle, a national symbol whose populations have rebounded after being nearly wiped out by hunters and pesticide poisoning.   Mountain lions, which once ranged from coast to coast but are now largely confined to the West.   "When we picked our animal list, we realized an interesting thing," Chastain said. "Many had been gone from Colorado, then came back through positive steps by man." The message of Rocky Mountain Wild is that there's room enough for all of us on this planet - if we act responsibly. The educational message is the driving force of the exhibit.  Planning began in May 2003 and though the message hasn't changed, some aspects of the exhibit have. Plans for a  frontier village were abandoned. The journey begins at the Lodge at Moose Lake, where the loft houses a few small animals, such as snakes and insects. We want to get up close and personal, and “talk about conservation on all levels," says Nicole Mantz, education curator.

Taronga Zoo Rat Gets Corneal Transplants

April 27, 2008  www.smh.com.au

Harold, a two-year-old black-footed tree rat from Taronga Zoo, had been gradually going blind, developing cataracts on both eyes after sustaining an injury.  Vets were fearful he would lose his eyesight or eyes completely if his condition was left untreated, but after a two-hour operation by one of the city's top animal ophthalmologists, Harold is now sporting artificial lenses in both eyes worth more than $4500. Five zoo staff, including a vet, Kimberley Vinette Herrin, and a nurse, Liz Arthur, accompanied him to the Crows Nest clinic.  Watched by three nurses, two visiting vets and zoo staff, Harold's pupils were dilated by the ophthalmologist, Jeff Smith. He was then anaesthetised by an exotic species specialist, David Vella, and electrodes were attached to his retinas to test his vision before his ruptured lens and cataracts were removed.  Black-footed tree rats are native to the Kimberley, the Top End and Cape York Peninsula.  "Australia has more than 60 varieties of native rodents but most people don't know that. I long for the day when people arrive at the zoo asking directions to the rats rather than the koalas," said his keeper Wendy Gleen. 

Oregon Zoo Dinosaur Exhibit

April 27, 2008  www.ktvz.com

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - An outdoor dinosaur exhibit from Texas is heading to Portland for display from the end of May until Labor Day. There will be 25 animatronic dinosaurs in the exhibit, from the huge brachiosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex, to a flying pteranodon.  The exhibit also features activity stations where parents and their children can learn what these giants ate, how they cared for their young, what their relationships to other animals were like and possible reasons they became extinct.

Sanjay Gandhi Zoo’s Rhino Breeding Program

April 28, 2008  www.dailyindia.com   By Ajay Kumar

PATNA, India -- Sanjay Gandhi Zoo is earning acclaim at the international level for its rhino population and breeding techniques.  Recently, California's San Diego Zoo the number one rhino breeding facility in the world, sought two male rhinos in return of a rhinoceros and a baby rhino as part of an animal exchange program to expand the rhino gene pool.  The Sanjay Gandhi Jaivik Udyan, a zoological and a botanical garden has raised its population of rhinos from two to eleven. Every year we get one baby rhino," said Shubhash Verma, the Deputy Director. Under the exchange program, the Santiago zoo has taken two male rhinos from Patna zoo in return of a female and calf.  Patna is now ready to join the International Species Information System (ISIS) and will be able to share information with 700 zoos across the world. It will be updated about the scientific developments that occur in rhino breeding and husbandry.

New Kiwi Enclosure At Wellington Zoo

April 28, 2008  www.stuff.co.nz  By GREER McDONALD

When visitor feedback indicated it was difficult to see the kiwi, the Wellington Zoo decided on a $80,000 renovation.  The Zoo's visitor experience manager, Edy McDonald, (former CRES employee) said “Te Ao Maahina, The Twilight”, was reminiscent of a typical Kiwi tramping hut.  In exploring the new research hut and adventure through the bush, visitors will discover many of New Zealand's native reptiles and birds and learn how they can help protect the amazing wildlife in their backyards.  We have also renovated the animals' enclosures to make their habitats more appropriate." 

Toledo Zoo Honored For Renewables Commitment

April 28, 2008  www.aer-online.com  

The Toledo Zoo has received a 2008 Green Frog Award from the Lake Erie Western Alliance for Sustainability (LEWAS) for its commitment to renewable energy practices.  New parking lot ticket booths will be wind- and solar-powered, and a new geothermal heating and cooling system will be installed in its aquarium. Additionally, the zoo was honored for its recycling efforts, its elimination of foam containers from food operations, and its conversion from regular light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs.

Protection for Western Sage Grouse

April 28, 2008  www.fws.gov

The USFWS announced today it will begin a status review to determine whether the western sage-grouse qualifies for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The review will determine whether the western sage-grouse qualifies as a subspecies and if so, whether it requires ESA protection. For the next 60 days, the Service is seeking information from the public that will help the agency make these determinations. The Service is requesting that any relevant information be submitted by June 27, 2008. Currently, the greater sage-grouse occurs in eleven states and three Canadian provinces, although its distribution has declined in a number of areas. The western sage-grouse was first described as a new subspecies in 1946, but the validity of separating eastern and western populations of the greater sage-grouse into subspecies has since been questioned and, in some cases, dismissed. At the time of the Service's 2003 finding, little information was available regarding potential differences in the physical appearance or behavior of western sage-grouse and there was no information available to indicate whether a geographic boundary exists between western sage-grouse and the rest of the greater sage-grouse population. A 2003 genetics study intended to clarify subspecies status concluded there was no genetic evidence to support a subspecies distinction. In 2005, a more extensive study using genetic analysis was conducted. While it did not specifically address the subspecies question, it did identify numerous genetic 'clusters' of sage-grouse, leading to enough uncertainty in the minds of some experts to suggest further review of the bird's taxonomy is appropriate.

Phoenix Zoo Controls Stereotypic Behavior

April 28, 2008  www.azfamily.com  By Christina Goulart, Bear Keeper

Stereotypic behavior is any prolonged, repetitive behavior that an animal in the wild would not normally exhibit. Eleven years ago, the Phoenix Zoo planned a bear exhibit with the behavioral needs of the animal in mind, and in 1997, opened a 1.5 acre Andean (Spectacled) bear exhibit featuring two sister cubs. The space  was maximized by giving the exhibit a unique shape with multiple water features, plants, climbing structures, and keeper implemented enrichment. Bears in captive settings have often demonstrated that large naturalistic environments tend to stimulate natural behaviors and it is assumed that the exhibit design was mainly responsible for the fact that no stereotypic behaviors were observed in the female cubs as they grew to adulthood. In 2005, one female was shipped to another zoo for breeding and the Phoenix Zoo acquired a 22 year old male, "Willie." He was to be paired with the remaining female, "Rio." The male had a history of pacing and almost immediately presented this stereotypic behavior. Pacing was a concern to zoo staff due to the fact that he did it most of the day, and his paws had scarring and irritation present. Pacing continued for some months before keepers started noticing a slow decrease in these behaviors. The stereotypic activity actually ceased in less than a year.  This exhibit provides multiple climbing opportunities, primarily used by the female, with a fabricated tree, log climbing structures, and elevated rocky areas - Andean bears are excellent climbers. Keepers take advantage of the water feature by placing large, frozen treat items in the water. Floating items, such as boomer balls, rotten logs, and empty beer kegs add to the water interaction. Live fish in both ponds provide hunting opportunities, while natural, non-toxic algae growth in the streams offer browse foraging. The male has been observed slapping at the surface of the water to stun fish before consuming them.  Enrichment opportunities are provided on a daily basis with the use of claws and teeth an objective.  Enrichment focuses on the bears being able to investigate an item, tear at it, or manipulate it. Items that the bears never tire of are large rotten logs to tear apart (honey or other food items can be placed inside). Various types of feeders and feeding devices are used, and browse is placed around the exhibit daily to encourage nest building, as this is an important behavior to practice for Andean bears.

The exhibit also allows for privacy from large crowds. This aspect is important to the bears well being, as well as privacy from the other bear. There are multiple areas for retreat from the public, if needed. The bulk of the shade plants were placed near the perimeter fence to facilitate hiding. Although the public has a 360 degree viewing radius of the exhibit, heavy planting creates a good barrier along certain sides.  The female, having spent most of her life in this exhibit, appears to be a fairly calm individual and displays an even, low-stress temperament, with no stereotypic behaviors ever observed. She appears to dominate the space shared with the male, which he appears to accept with little confrontation, as there are many opportunities for him to utilize the space away from the female.

Sumatran Rhino Birthday

April 28, 2008   www.kypost.com  PJ O'Keefe

Harry, one of Cincinnati Zoo's critically endangered Sumatran rhinos, will celebrate his first birthday on Tuesday.  Ingredients for rhino cake include a giant bread bowl donated by Panera, stuffed with apples, sweet potatoes and mashed banana frosting, then garnished with ficus leaves and topped off with a carrot birthday candle.  Over 70 percent of the Sumatran rhino population has been lost in the last 20 years.  This is mostly due to poaching and habitat destruction, and less than 300 survive in the wild.  Three years ago, Harry's mother, Emi, became the first Sumatran rhino in history to produce three calves in captivity.  The Cincinnati Zoo is home to the only four Sumatran rhinos in the United States and four of only nine in captivity worldwide.  Weighing 86 pounds at birth, Harry now weighs 860 pounds.  The zoo has invited Tri-States residents to join the birthday celebration at the Sumatran Rhino Exhibit at Wildlife Canyon on Tuesday, April 29, at 10:30 a.m.

New Species Found in Ireland

April 28, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Dave Tosh, from the School of Biological Sciences at Queens University, found the greater white-toothed shrew in Tipperary and Limerick while working with University College Cork and BirdWatch Ireland. Its natural range is in parts of Africa, France and Germany and before now the closest it has been spotted to Ireland is in the Channel Islands.  As part of his PhD, Dave was studying the diet of the Barn Owl in Ireland. Last winter John Lusby, Barn Owl Research Officer from Bird Watch Ireland, sent him some regurgitated pellets from owls in Tipperary and Limerick that contained a very large shrew skull.  “Having looked at hundreds of pellets from Ireland I knew that what I was looking at was very unusual as our native pygmy shrew is very small in comparison.” In March seven greater white-toothed shrews were trapped at four locations in Tipperary and their existence has just been recorded in the scientific journal Mammal Review. Professor Ian Montgomery, Head of the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s, says the animal is likely to have been introduced recently to Ireland and the discovery of a new mammal species in Ireland is extremely rare.

Extinction of Gharials in Pakistan Feared

April 28, 2008  www.thenews.com.pk  By Jan Khaskheli

Authorities fear the Gharial, Gavialis gangeticus, has been wiped out from Pakistani waters due to widespread hunting. A few were seen in eastern Nara in 1978, but there have been no recent reports of their existence in the Nara and Jamrao Canals, said Rafiq Khanzada, Field Officer, for the Sindh Wildlife Department (SWD).  SWD and the World Wildlife Fund-Pakistan travelled from the Rohri Canal to the Mouth of Jamrao Canal in search of the Cessar (the local name). The Gharial is one of the two surviving members of the family Gavialidae, a group of crocodile-like reptiles with long, narrow jaws. Young Gharials eat insects, larvae and small frogs. Mature adults feed almost solely on fish, although some have been known to scavenge dead animals. The mating season for Gharials starts during November and ends well into January. The nesting and laying of eggs takes place in the dry seasons of March, April, and May. (During the dry season, the rivers shrink a bit and the sandy banks are available for nesting.) Between 30 and 50 eggs are deposited into holes dug up and covered carefully by the females. After about 90 days, the juveniles emerge.  There is no record of the female assisting the juveniles into the water after they hatch (probably because their jaws are not suited for carrying the young due to the needle-like teeth), but she does protect the young in the water for a few days till they learn to fend for themselves.

New Species Discovered in Brazil’s Cerrado

April 29, 2008  www.enn.com

The Cerrado comprises 21 percent of Brazil and is the most extensive woodland-savanna in South America and one of the world’s 34 biodiversity conservation hotspots. Large mammals such as the giant anteater, giant armadillo, jaguar and maned wolf struggle to survive in the fast-changing habitat also know as Brazil’s breadbasket.  An expedition comprising scientists from Conservation International (CI) and Brazilian universities found 14 species believed new to science — eight fish, three reptiles, one amphibian, one mammal, and one bird — in and around the Serra Geral do Tocantins Ecological Station, a 716,000-hectare (1,769,274-acre) protected area that is the Cerrado’s second largest. The lizard, of the Bachia genus, resembles a snake due to its lack of legs and pointed snout. Other suspected new species include a dwarf woodpecker (genus Picumnus) and horned toad (genus Proceratophrys). The team also recorded several threatened species such as the hyacinth macaw, marsh deer, three-banded armadillo (tatu-bola), the Brazilian merganser, and the dwarf tinamou among more than 440 species of vertebrates documented during the 29-day field expedition. Final results of the study, including the formal description of new species, will be used to support the development of a management plan for the Ecological Station, which was created in 2001.

5-Year Status Reviews for Pacific Island Species

April 29, 2008  www.epa.gov 

The  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is initiating 5-year status reviews for 70 species in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and the Pacific Islands under the Endangered Species. We request any new information on these species that may have a bearing on their classification as endangered or threatened. Based on the results of these 5-year reviews, we will determine whether these species are properly classified under the Act.  We must receive your information no later than June 30, 2008. In addition to the 11 animal species listed below there are 59 plants
Common name                                   Scientific name                             Status      Range                           

Akepa, Hawaii (honeycreeper)........  Loxops coccineus  coccineus               EN           HI
Akiapola`au (honeycreeper)..........    Hemignathus munroi.....                       EN           HI
Coot, Hawaiian......................            Fulica americana alai..                       EN           HI
Creeper, Hawaii.....................            Oreomystis mana........                      EN           HI
Megapode, Micronesian...............      Megapodius laperouse...                    EN       MP, Palau
Millerbird, Nihoa (old world warbler)   Acrocephalus familiaris kingi                EN           HI
Moorhen, Hawaiian common............  Gallinula chloropus sandvicensis         EN           HI
Shearwater, Newell's Townsend's..... Puffinus auricularis newelli                   TH           HI
Stilt, Hawaiian.....................                Himantopus mexicanus knudseni     EN            HI                                       
Swiftlet, Mariana gray..............           Aerodramus vanikorensis  bartschi     EN        GU, MP
White-eye, Rota bridled.............         Zosterops rotensis.....                       EN           MP

Mono Basin Area Population of the Greater Sage-Grouse

April 29, 2008  www.epa.gov 

Two petitions have requested that USFWS list the Mono Basin area population of the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) in the Bi-State area of California and Nevada as threatened or endangered under the ESA.   A status review is now being initiated to determine if listing the Mono Basin area population of greater sage-grouse is warranted. To ensure that the status review is comprehensive, USFWS is soliciting scientific and commercial data and other information regarding this population of the species. Information must be submitted on or before June 27, 2008 to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov   or by U.S. mail or hand-delivery: to Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R8-ES-2008-0043; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.  No  e-mails or faxes.  For further information contact:  Robert D. Williams, Field Supervisor, Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office, by mail (see ADDRESSES), by telephone
(775-861-6300), or by facsimile (775-861-6301

Bison Study in Yellowstone National Park

April 29, 2008  www.eurekalert.org  By Stephen Sautner

NEW YORK – Bison can repopulate large areas from Alaska to Mexico over the next 100 years provided a series of conservation and restoration measures are taken, according to an assessment of this species by the Wildlife Conservation Society other conservation groups, scientists, ranchers, and Native Americans/First Nations peoples.  The general sites identified  range from grasslands and prairies in the southwestern U.S., to Arctic lowland taiga in Alaska where the sub-species wood bison could once again roam. Large swaths of mountain forests and grasslands are identified as prime locations across Canada and the U.S., while parts of the desert in Mexico could also again support herds that once lived there.  The researchers assessed the restoration potential of these areas by creating a “conservation scorecard” that evaluated the availability of existing habitat, potential for interaction with other native species, such as elk, carnivores, prairie dogs, and grassland birds, and a variety of other factors, including the socio-economic climate of the regions and the potential for cultural re-connection with bison. The higher the score of these factors, the more likely restoration could take place over time. Bison once numbered in the tens of millions but were wiped out by commercial hunting and habitat loss. By 1889 fewer than 1,100 animals survived. In 1905 the American Bison Society (ABS) formed at WCS’s Bronx Zoo headquarters and began efforts to re-populate reserves on the Great Plains with animals from the zoo’s herd and other sources (bison continue to be exhibited at the Bronx Zoo and Queens Zoo). Of the estimated 500,000 bison existing today, 20,000 are considered wild; the rest live on private ranches.  The study appears in the April issue of the journal Conservation Biology. Dr. Eric Sanderson of the Wildlife Conservation Society is lead author.

Ancient Mexican Farmers Grew Sunflowers

April 29, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Ancient farmers were growing sunflowers in Mexico more than 4,000 years before the Spaniards arrived, according to an article published in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).  Authors Lentz and Pohl found evidence for sunflowers in Mexico by 2600 B.C. The paper is in response to scientists who still believe that sunflowers were first domesticated as an agricultural crop in eastern North America and that the Spaniards introduced the sunflower to Mexico from further north. In fact, the researchers argue that after the Spanish Conquest, the Spaniards tried to suppress cultivation of the sunflower because of its association with solar religion and warfare. The research was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society.

Wolves Still Need Protection

April 29, 2008  www.latimes.com   By Tami Abdollah

A dozen environmental groups have sued the federal government in an attempt to reverse the decision to remove gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains from the endangered species list.  Since the delisting went into effect March 28, at least 35 wolves have been killed in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Since delisting, wolves are managed by each state under plans approved by the USFWS. They are required to maintain about 300 wolves throughout the tri-state area, but the current state plans call for a total of at least 1,050 wolves. Wolf management program officials for the three states immediately said they would intervene on behalf of the federal government.  The lawsuit says federal officials ignored scientists who said a connected population of 2,000 to 5,000 wolves was necessary to ensure long-term genetic viability of the wolf in the northern Rockies.  Gray wolves once were plentiful from central Mexico to the Arctic, but virtually disappeared from the American West by the 1930s. In 1974, they were listed as endangered, and since then about $27 million has been spent by the federal government to conserve the wolves.  In 1995 and 1996, officials reintroduced 66 wolves to central Idaho and the Yellowstone National Park area. The population has soared beyond the program's goal of 300, to 1,500 wolves throughout the northern Rockies region. The growth rate of the population is estimated at 24% annually. 

U.S. Judge Orders May 15 Decision Polar Bears

April 29, 2008  www.reuters.com  By Deborah Zabarenko

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration must decide by May 15 whether polar bears should be listed as threatened by climate change under the Endangered Species Act.  U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in Oakland, California, ruled in favor of the plaintiffs -- the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace -- finding the U.S. government broke the law by missing the deadline for a polar bear decision by four months. The Interior Department, which has responsibility for the decision, was supposed to issue a decision in January but postponed that for a month. Most recently, it asked for a delay until June 30 so its lawyers could finish reviewing and revising the decision.  Wilken denied this request."To allow defendants more time would violate the mandated listing deadlines under the ESA (Endangered Species Act) and congressional intent that time is of the essence in listing threatened species."  Polar bears live only in the Arctic and depend on sea ice as a platform for hunting seals. A report by the U.S. Geological Survey said two-thirds of the world's polar bears -- some 16,000 -- could be gone by 2050 if predictions about melting sea ice hold true.  This is the first time global warming has been a factor in proposing a threatened status for any U.S. species.

India’s Kashmir Stag is Endangered

April 29, 2008  www.deccanherald.com  By J N Raina.

The Kashmir stag or the hangul, native to the Elysian valley, is facing extinction. The unique stag is found only in Kashmir, and is critically endangered. Only 190 individuals were found in the last census conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India. There are about 73 species of stag and the European red stag most closely resembles the Kashmir stag. By the end of the 19th century, it is estimated there were about 3,000-5,000 hangul in Kashmir, but their number went down drastically, to between 1,000 and 2,000 in 1947. By 1954, only 300 stags remained and by 1970, the number was 140. In 1951,  the Dachigam National Park, an area of 141 sq km, created and by 1965.   The problems worsened when the Government set up a Sheep Breeding Farm in the Lower Dachigam area, considered a prime hangul habitat. Further, a hangul in captivity died in 1977 because of Johne's disease, which originated from a sheep farm nearby. Despite these problems, the decline was arrested, following improved conditions in Dachigam and there was a gradual increase in the number of the hangul from 140 in 1970 to 320 in 1979, and further to 440 in 1983.  The distinct feature of a hangul is its horns. These horns are used to make the handles of swords and knives. They are also used as medicine and as a charm to keep evil spirits away.

Cataract Surgery for Hogle Zoo Howler Monkey

April 29, 2008  www.sltrib.com

MURRAY, Utah  — Doctors removed cataracts from a 10-year-old monkey named Eli and replaced his natural lenses with acrylic ones designed for children. Within an hour, veterinarian Nicole MacLaren says the monkey was "running around and acting like he can see."  Eli, a howler monkey, lives at Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City. The lenses were donated by Texas-based Alcon Surgical and should last the rest of his life.

New Zealand Scientists Examine Giant Squid

April 29, 2008  www.nytimes.com 

WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- Marine scientists in New Zealand are thawing the corpse of the largest squid ever caught to examine the mysterious animal that weighs 1,089-pounds, and is 26-foot long.  The examination will begin Wednesday, and will be broadcast live on the Internet at  http://www.r2.co.nz/20080427/rotate-1.asx  Carol Diebel, director of natural environment at New Zealand's national museum, Te Papa Tongarewa, said they will examine the squid's anatomical features, remove the stomach, beak and other mouth parts, take tissue samples for DNA analysis and determine its sex. The squid is believed to be the largest specimen of the rare deep-water species Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni, or colossal squid, ever caught..

Wings Over Wetlands Project

April 29, 2008   www.birdlife.org

The Wings Over Wetlands (WOW) Project has launched its new website. The pages provide an insight into the largest international wetland and waterbird conservation initiative ever to take place in the African-Eurasian region.  WOW is fostering international collaboration along the African-Eurasian flyways, building capacity and demonstrating best practice in the conservation and wise-use of wetlands.  “Waterbird migrations are presently underway across much of Europe, as birds head back from Africa to their northern breeding grounds. The WOW project is helping to safeguard this amazing sight for future generations to enjoy”, said Dr Leon Bennun, Director of Science, Policy and Information at BirdLife International.  The new website gives visitors an overview of the different components of the project. It provides information on the Critical Site Network Tool and the Flyway Conservation Training Framework. Furthermore, the website also contains pages for demonstration projects being carried out in 12 African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) countries.  The WOW Project Website can be found at www.wingsoverwetlands.org

Tokyo’s Panda Dies at 22

April 30, 2008  afp.google.com

TOKYO (AFP) — Ling Ling, the only giant panda owned by Japan (The 8 other pandas in Japan are leased from China), died of old age Wednesday at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo, where he had been one of the most popular attractions.  Officials said the zoo would open Ling Ling's enclosure to mourners after decorating it with flowers and bamboo.  Ling Ling's death comes just days before Chinese President Hu Jintao is set to pay a landmark visit to Tokyo during which zoo officials are hoping for an agreement that will bring another panda to Japan. At 22 years and seven months old, Ling Ling had been the equivalent age of a 70-year-old human.  The animal died a day after the zoo stopped public viewing as Ling Ling had suffered heart and kidney malfunction due to old age. Ling Ling never mated with visiting pandas and Ueno's female panda, Tong Tong, died in 2000. Ling Ling, born in Beijing Zoo in 1985, was given to Ueno Zoo in 1992 in exchange for a Japanese-born panda to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Photochemical Compass for Bird Migration

April 30, 2008  www.nature.com

A team of researchers at Arizona State University and the University of Oxford are the first to model a photochemical compass that may simulate how migrating birds use light and Earth's weak magnetic field to navigate. The team reports in the April 30, 2008, online issue of Nature that the photochemical model becomes sensitive to the magnitude and direction of weak magnetic fields similar to Earth's when exposed to light. The research funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) demonstrates that this phenomenon, known as chemical magnetoreception, is feasible and gives insight into the structural and dynamic design features of a photochemical compass.  The most common bird migration pattern in the northern hemisphere is to fly north in the summer to breed in the Artic and to fly south to warmer regions for the winter. Regardless of which way they are flying, migrating birds are important ecologically as a food source for other animals. They also transport plankton, materials involved in plant reproduction and hitchhikers such as ticks and lice, which can carry micro-organisms harmful to human health. About 50 animal species, ranging from birds and mammals to reptiles and insects, use Earth's weak magnetic field for navigation. Earth's magnetic field ranges from approximately 30 to 60 millionths of one tesla. By comparison, magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, uses magnetic fields from 1.5 to 3.0 tesla.

White-naped Mangabey Born at London Zoo

April 30, 2008  www.timesonline.co.uk

Conchita is only the second white-naped mangabey to be born in the UK.  It was born three weeks ago by Caesarean section and the mother, who was seriously ill for several days, was unable to care for the newborn. The three-week-old monkey is being raised by zookeeper Andrea Payne. – a 24-hour job involving twice hourly bottle feeds and regular weight checks. A suitably sized teddy bear has been found to act as a surrogate.  “She will run to the bear when she’s alarmed. She won’t run to me. She clamps on to it just like she would her mother,” said Payne. “The teddy bear is now a bit poo-ey and smelly but to the baby it is her own special smell which reassures the animal. The baby recognizes the smell, it’s a comfort to her. Zoo staff hope to be able to reintroduce the baby to its mother over the next few weeks and to allow it to join the three adult white-naped mangabeys.  Ms Payne is hopeful that a reunion with the mother, Leonie, and father, Lucky, will go smoothly, and the signs are encouraging. “The mother is beginning to show an interest again and the dad is showing the most interest of all, watching her play and being fed,” she said.

Sea Lion Dies at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

April 30, 2008  www.efluxmedia.com By  Anna Boyd

TACOMA, Washington -- Last month, the National Marine Fisheries Service granted permission for state authorities to kill as many as 85 sea lions a year at Bonneville Dam, where, in recent years, they have consumed a growing proportion of Endangered Species Act-listed salmon and steelhead.  But last week, a federal court ruled that sea lions could not be killed under the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act. Therefore, rather than killing them, state authorities have found shelters for as many as 20 sea lions in zoos and aquariums. One of the seven animals being held in temporary quarantine at the Tacoma zoo for disease testing before being transferred to other zoos and aquariums has died.  The male sea lion was anesthetized so blood samples and other biological work could be done to make sure it was healthy, but as it was coming out of anesthesia, it struggled to resume breathing and died, said Sandra Jonker, representative for Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, according to the Seattle Post Intelligencer. Steve Jeffries, a state Department of Fish and Wildfire marine mammal biologist said “He was extremely obese – very, very large. His sheer size and mass may have contributed to its death,”   The death prompted the Humane Society of the United States, which opposes relocation of nuisance sea lions, to demand that captures stop until the death is investigated.

New Entrance for Kansas City Zoo

April 30, 2008  www.kansascity.com  By MATT CAMPBELL

After years of hearing complaints and frustration, the zoo today opens a new entrance that lets people drive up to the front door, zip right in, grab a stroller and a snack and immediately be entertained by cavorting animals.  The $11 million project is the largest makeover since the African exhibits opened in 1995 and is designed to undo some of the previous mistakes made then, such as requiring visitors to work too hard to see animals. The new zoo entrance features a grand archway with the figure of a lioness draped on top and a clock tower to serve as a gathering place. There are shaded waiting areas, and later this month, a playground will be installed.   Zoo Director Randy Wisthoff said “Now can see animals within 20 seconds instead of 20 minutes.”  The project created a new 129-space parking lot and a drop-off zone directly in front of the gate, adding greatly to the convenience for families laden with picnic baskets or other supplies. Members of Friends of the Zoo can waltz right in after scanning their bar-coded cards, and there are more ticket windows for nonmembers.  Just inside is a new Missouri Trails exhibit featuring trumpeter swans and North American river otters. The otters’ space has water slides and a 12,500-gallon pool with glass walls for underwater viewing of the active creatures. The exhibit is positioned for viewing from a shaded outdoor picnic area adjacent to a new Beastro Cafe. The new entrance is privately funded, with the largest donations coming from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Zoo Learning Fund, which receives proceeds from the annual Jazzoo fundraiser.  The zoo has also raised prices and cut expenses to cope with a $600,000 cut in this year’s city subsidy.

Saving & Eating Endangered Species

May 1, 2008  www.nytimes.com 

“Renewing America’s Food Traditions: Saving and Savoring the Continent’s Most Endangered Foods” (Chelsea Green Publishing, $35). tells the stories of 93 ingredients both obscure (Ny’pa, a type of salt grass) and beloved (the Black Sphinx date), along with recipes that range from the accessible (Centennial pecan pie) to the challenging (whole pit-roasted Plains pronghorn antelope).  Each animal or plant on the list -  whether American eels, pre-Civil War peanuts or Seneca hominy flint corn — has to be more than edible. It must meet a set of criteria that define it as a part of American culture. Gary Nabhan’s book is part of a larger effort to bring foods back from the brink by engaging nursery owners, farmers, breeders and chefs to grow and use them.“This is not just about the genetics of the seeds and breeds,” said Mr. Nabhan, an ethnobotanist and an expert on Native American foods who raises Navajo churro sheep and heritage crops in Arizona. “If we save a vegetable but we don’t save the recipes and the farmers don’t benefit because no one eats it, then we haven’t done our work.”  The list is organized into 13 culinary regions : The Pacific Coast from California to northern Mexico is one area.  Nabhan engaged seven culinary, environmental and conservation groups to help him identify items for the list and return them to culinary rotation.  He acted like a broker for the groups, some of which had been trying to save traditional food for decades. Organizations including the Seed Savers Exchange and the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy contributed suggestions for the list. Then, leveraging the rising interest in regional food, he engaged hundreds of chefs, farmers and curious eaters to grow and cook some of the lost breeds and varieties.

Palm Beach Zoo’s Migratory Bird Day

May 1, 2008  www.bocaratonnews.com

WEST PALM BEACH, Florida -- The Palm Beach Zoo will host the 6th annual International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) on Saturday, May 10, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  International Migratory Bird Day is celebrated each year to recognize the annual migration of birds from their summer breeding grounds in North America to their non-breeding winter feeding grounds in Central and South America.  IMBD was created to focus public attention on the need for conservation efforts to sustain birds and their habitats.  The theme of this year’s event is Tundra to Tropics: Connecting Birds, Habitats, and People.  Migratory birds travel long distances between breeding and non-breeding sites throughout the Western Hemisphere. In 2008, IMBD will explore the birds that make these fantastic journeys, the habitats on which they depend, and the people who are important to the conservation of birds and their habitats along the way. Young zoo guests will become migratory birds and fly through the zoo to be banded, measured, and weighed.  Additional activities include bird presentations and the new “Wings over Water” bird show.  Bird-related craft activities will be provided by local environmental and cultural organizations.  All of the event activities will raise public awareness of migratory birds, their habitats, and inform people of how they can help with conservation efforts. The event is hosted by the Palm Beach Zoo, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service A.R.M., Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, and the Audubon Society of the Everglades.

Chester Zoo Aids Small Conservation Organizations

May 1, 2008  www.flintshirestandard.co.uk

The Chester Zoo, the U.K.’s largest zoo, has launched “DIY SOS”, to assist smaller conservation organizations.  A team of keeping and maintenance staff, under Chester's director of Conservation and Education, Mark Pilgrim, will start work at Galloway Wildlife Conservation Park,  to help rebuild some of Galloway's animal enclosures, particularly those near the main entrance. Through the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), Mark is the mentor for the Galloway Wildlife Conservation Park and has been offering the park, run by husband and wife team John and Kathryn Denerley, advice and support. Mark said: "There are differences between Chester and Galloway in terms of our acreage, the number of species and the visitors we receive. But, both of our organizations are passionate about conservation and education.  "Galloway has great potential for development and is in a stunning location. We have a lot of expertise and experience at Chester and, as the largest zoo in the UK, we are happy to pass on and lend our support to Galloway." The project is being funded through Chester's Keeper for a Day program, which provides the opportunity for people to work alongside the animal teams. Funds from the program are put back into conservation projects.

Snow Monkey Born at Minnesota Zoo

May 1, 2008  www.startribune.com  By Paul Walsh

"Tama", born Saturday at the Minnesota Zoo is the zoo's fifth snow monkey birth since 2004. The baby's mother's is Suzi. Snow monkeys can only be seen at nine other accredited zoos in the United States, and legend has it that the snow monkey is the species depicted in the ancient visual maxim, "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil."  This year, the Minnesota Zoo will begin supporting field research on snow monkeys at the Primate Research Institute at Kyoto University in Japan. They originate from Japan and live in troops ranging from 25 to more than 500 individuals. They stand anywhere from 2 to 4 feet tall and weigh 20 to 40 pounds. The males are twice as large as females.  They have a complex system of communication including more than 30 vocal sounds and a wide range of facial and body expressions. They eat fruit, roots, leaves, insects, crops such as rice, maize and potatoes.

New Denver Zoo Polar Bear Habitat

May 1, 2008  www.rockymountainnews.com  By Bill Scanlon

Frosty, Voda, Olaf and Soosha are digging, foraging and enjoying the Denver Zoo's new shipwreck habitat.  When first introduced to their new habitat, they became very curious, said Denver Zoo Manager of Behavior Programs Emily Insalaco.  They looked for hidden treats and climbed on top of the ship to play with the attached balls and ropes.  The bears are able to forage for fish, and each morning, before the bears are let out onto the shipwreck, zookeepers place the fish and other treats in hidden crevasses throughout the ship.  Zoo staffers also rub different scents on the ship, sometimes squirting the wood with honey.  Some of the bears are using their front paws to wiggle and break wood, akin to polar bears in the Arctic breaking ice.  In the past, the bears hadn’t used the western part of their habitat, so that's where the shipwreck was built. The $23,000 project was constructed off-site and then assembled in the polar bear yard.  The mast is 18 feet high and 12 feet wide. The bow of the ship is 20 feet long, 14 feet wide and 5 feet tall. The ship is built of steel and natural woods and finishes. The project manager for the shipwreck was Jeramy Boik, a graduate student in landscape architecture at the University of Colorado at Denver. Recent graduates of the Art Institute of Colorado helped out.

Manatee Rehab Center at Lowry Park Zoo

May 1, 2008  www2.tbo.com  By Keith Morelli

TAMPA – Virginia Edmonds, is assistant curator of Florida mammals at the Lowry Park Zoo.  She knows each manatee in the Rehab Center by name, what was wrong with them when they came in, and when they might be released. She knows which 10 are in critical condition. The David A. Straz Jr. Manatee Hospital hit a record number of patients two weeks ago with the arrival of Goody and her newborn Two Shoes, victims of propeller strikes. Propellers account for about 22 percent of manatee deaths. And their habitat is disappearing, putting them under increasing stress.  Designation as endangered by the federal government has helped them rebound from near-extinction, and their numbers hover around 3,000 in Florida waters. Three places that treat the injured creatures are - Lowry Park, SeaWorld in Orlando and the Miami Seaquarium.  State money, about $350,000 a year, accounts for about a third of the cost of operating these centers. But the state is facing a budget crisis, so that source may be drying up.  Manatees typically eat about 10 percent of their body weight daily, and with some weighing 1,500 pounds or more, that adds up to about 35 cases of Romaine lettuce a day. A case goes for $18, so lettuce alone costs $630 a day.  "This is the most we've ever had," said Edmonds, after bottle-feeding the last orphan a green gooey paste of seaweed. She has worked here 20 years and tended to manatees for the past 12.  The hospital has had a near full house twice before. In 2003 and 2006, the number of patients rose to 14. The filtration system in the hospital's tanks can process enough water to accommodate 20 of the mammals.

Breeding Success at Johannesburg Zoo

May 1, 2008  www.joburg.org.za  Written by Lesego Madumo  

Since the beginning of last year, the City-owned Johannesburg Zoo has recorded almost 200 births. There are more than 2 000 animals, representing some 380 species, in the 54 ha zoo already, and this number grows almost every year. "Breeding is seen as a measure of the comfort and happiness of animals. The zoo has a proud record of births and is always delighted to welcome a new baby born to it," reads a statement from the zoo. The numbers testify to the Zoo’s status as a world-class zoo.  Among the new members of the extensive zoo family are a spider monkey, an anaconda, a wattled crane, a sitatunga, a red leche, an oriba, a genet, an African wild cat, a coati mundi, black and white ruffed lemurs, an nyala, a blue crane,  a fennec fox, and a common waterbuck.  Jeanne Marie Pittman, the co-ordinator of the Wattled Crane Recovery Programme, says that numbers of blue crane, South Africa's national bird, have declined drastically to about 25 000 birds in the wild. It is the first time that the zoo is rearing three types of crane at the same time - blue cranes and common cranes, as well as wattled cranes. White and marabou storks, wattled cranes and secretary birds are among the largest species of bird it has. By promoting crane conservation and wetlands, the zoo is playing a major role in encouraging safe environmental practices. The Joburg Zoo is involved in a number of ambitious conservation projects, including the Wattled Crane Recovery Programme and the Joburg Zoo South African Frog Project. Together with the Jane Goodall Institute and the University of the Witwatersrand, the zoo is part of a conservation research project on chimpanzees, and it is also a part of the International Species Information System (ISIS).  More than 600 institutions in 54 countries are on the system.  Richard Shirinda, the acting manager of the antelope section.  While the antelope fertility rate has risen, the zoo has had some problems with breeding elephants and rhinos. Other projects include monitoring and breeding of ground hornbills, research on African rock pythons, and studying animal behavior. Many university and technology students use the zoo as a resource to do animal observation studies and studies of particular species regarding feeding, reproductive habits and behavior enrichment.

Madagascar Animals Die at Johannesburg Airport

May 1, 2008  www.thetimes.co.za

More than 800 wild animals from Madagascar were abandoned at the Johannesburg airport last month after a shipping agent neglected to send them onward following their arrival in the country. Of the approximately 802 snakes, lizards, frogs and millipedes in the shipment, 150 died at the airport because they were left for five days without food, water or adequate climate control. Another 200 animals have died since the rescue, due to stress, said the Johannesburg Zoo’s senior veterinarian, Michelle Barrows. The animals are indigenous to Madagascar and were destined for people who collect exotic creatures.  The 405 surviving Madagascan animals are now in quarantine at the zoo.  Barrows said she faced a dilemma because the zoo cannot house the animals indefinitely and that they might not survive the flight back to Madagascar.  “There’s also a possibility these amphibians have contracted a virus in South Africa, so sending them back to the wild in Madagascar could jeopardize the animals there,” she said. “I don’t want to euthanase them, but we don’t have space in our zoo either,” Barrows said. The consignment of animals was meant to stop over briefly in Johannesburg on March 1, on its way to an exotic pet distributor in the Czech Republic.  South Africa is often used as a connecting port for exotic animals being transported out of Madagascar.

Zoo Animal Tech Program in Pensacola

May 1, 2008  news.google.com

The Zoo Animal Technology Program at Pensacola Junior College is accepting applications for  August admissions.  PJC’s associate of science degree in Zoo Animal Technology is a full-time, two-year program offering a wide range of academic and practical instruction and hands-on experiences in animal care. The program is conducted in association with the Zoo Northwest Florida near Gulf Breeze and the Chehaw Wild Animal Park in Albany, Ga., which is accredited by the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and other animal facilities in the region. The program prepares graduates for employment in zoological parks or in settings requiring animal care, husbandry, breeding and health. Graduates are employed at zoos nationwide as zookeepers and managers, veterinary assistants, animal breeders, trainers and running their own animal businesses. Joyce Kaplan is director of PJC zoo programs. 

Cambodian Turtles Rescued

May 1, 2008  news.yahoo.com  By KER MUNTHIT

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - Almost 300 reptiles — weighing a total of 925 pounds — were confiscated this week in Cambodia's northwestern Battambang province, by Cambodian forestry officials and police who stopped a pickup truck headed for Vietnam.  Two dozen reticulated and Burmese pythons and twelve endangered yellow-headed temple turtles were among the cargo.  The animals were released into their natural habitat in Cambodia.  Dany Chheang, deputy director of the wildlife protection office at Cambodia's Agriculture Ministry, called the seizure the biggest in recent memory. The animals had been illegally collected in three northwestern provinces, then moved to a large-scale holding facility in neighboring Thailand before being shipped back through Cambodia en route to Vietnam.  The animals were released into their natural habitat in Cambodia.  The Washington, D.C.-based Wildlife Alliance assists the government agencies in dealing with the multimillion-dollar illegal wildlife trade  as various trade routes and wildlife stockpile locations are exposed,

Dwarf Cloud Rat Rediscovered

May 1, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

CHICAGO -- A team of Filipino and American scientists have rediscovered ¨a greater dwarf cloud rat ¨ last seen 112 years ago. Furthermore, it has never been seen in its natural habitat and was thought by some to be extinct. The greater dwarf cloud rat (Carpomys melanurus) has dense, soft reddish-brown fur, a black mask around large dark eyes, small rounded ears, a broad and blunt snout, and a long tail covered with dark hair. An adult weighs about 185 grams. “A British researcher was given several specimens by local people in 1896, so he knew almost nothing about the ecology of the species," said Lawrence Heaney, Curator of Mammals at the Field Museum and Project Leader. "Since then, the species has been a mystery, in part because there is virtually no forest left on Mt. Data, where it was first found."  On 24 April, the research team completed the first comprehensive survey of the small mammals of Mt. Pulag National Park, and a dwarf cloud rat, which is a smaller relative of the giant clouds rats, was captured. (Giant cloud rats are spectacular animals found only on Luzon Island, but are widespread and comparatively well known.)  Cloud rats are one of the most spectacular cases of adaptive radiation by mammals anywhere in the world, with at least 15 species ranging in size from 2.6 kg to 15 grams, all living only in the Philippines. Cloud rats are a prime example of why biologists refer to the Philippines as "the Galapagos times ten," Heaney said. "The Philippines may have the greatest concentration of unique biological diversity, relative to its size, of any country in the world."

Male Seahorse Pregnancy Study

May 1, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

COLLEGE STATION – Male pregnancy is a complex process unique to the fish family Syngnathidae, which includes pipefish, seahorses and sea dragons. Texas A&M University evolutionary biology researcher Adam Jones and colleagues are studying the effects of male pregnancy on sex roles and sexual selection of mates and are trying to understand how the novel body structures necessary for male pregnancy evolved.  When seahorses mate, the female inserts her ovipositor into the male’s brood pouch (an external structure that grows on the body of the male) and deposits her unfertilized eggs into the pouch. The male then releases sperm into the pouch to fertilize the eggs. “It wouldn’t be that interesting if the brood pouch were just a flap of skin where the females put regular fish eggs and they developed in the bag instead of on the sea floor,” Jones said. “But the male pregnancy in some species of seahorses and pipefish is physiologically much more complex than that.”  After the female deposits her unfertilized eggs into the male, the outer shell of the eggs breaks down, and tissue from the male grows up around the eggs in the pouch. After fertilizing the eggs, the male closely controls the prenatal environment of the embryos in his pouch. The male keeps blood flowing around the embryos, controls the salt concentrations in the pouch, and provides oxygen and nutrition to the developing offspring through a placenta-like structure until he gives birth.

Mexican Plant Rediscovered

May 1, 2008  www.physorg.com   By Cheryl Wittenauer

A single specimen of a rare parasitic plant was found in Mexico in 1985, but the plant wasn't seen again until St. Louis botanist George Yatskievych and a colleague found it in a pine oak forest in Mexico's mountains.  The plant, which he is identifying and naming for the first time, is orange-brown, and fleshy-stemmed.  It’s formal Latin name will be "little hermit of Mexico".  It has a pine cone-shaped dense cluster of flowers and juicy celery-like stalks. Wayt Thomas, scientist at the New York Botanical Garden, was looking for other plants in Mexico when he encountered a single specimen of the plant in 1985.  He cut a piece of it, and kept a dried, pressed specimen at his institution. He sent queries and photos of it to fellow botanists, but no one recognized or claimed it, he said, not even the late Larry Heckard who was the leading North American expert on parasitic plants. It went unrecognized because parasitic plants, when dried, don't maintain their color and structure well. 

Cloned Horse Gives Birth

May 1, 2008  www.physorg.com

Italian scientist Cesare Galli says the world's first cloned horse, Prometea, has given birth to a healthy foal. Galli, a pioneer in animal cloning, said the foal was conceived using artificial insemination but is not a clone, ANSA reported Wednesday. He said he hoped the birth will allay concerns about the health and normality of Prometea, who was created by Galli in 2003 as the world's first cloned horse.  "Pegasus shows that cloned animals can grow normally and reproduce in a natural fashion," Galli said. 10 cloned horses have been created in the past five years, including Prometea.

How Birds Learn to Sing

May 1, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

CAMBRIDGE, MA--Young songbirds babble before they can mimic an adult’s song, much like their human counterparts. Now, in work that offers insights into how birds—and perhaps people—learn new behaviors, MIT scientists have found that immature and adult birdsongs are driven by two separate brain pathways, rather than one pathway that slowly matures. “The babbling during song learning exemplifies the ubiquitous exploratory behavior that we often call play but that is essential for trial-and-error learning,” says Michale Fee, the senior author of the study.  Early on, baby zebra finches produce a highly variable, babbling song. They practice incessantly until they can produce the stereotyped, never-changing song of adults. “This early variability is necessary for learning, so we wanted to determine whether it is produced by an immature adult motor pathway or by some other circuit,” Fee explains.

Listing the Sonoran Desert Bald Eagle DPS

May 1, 2008   www.epa.gov  

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), is designating bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in the Sonoran Desert area of central Arizona as threatened under the authority of the Endangered Species Act.  This action is effective May 1, 2008. However, the court order
had legal effect immediately upon being filed on March 6, 2008. For further information contact Steve Spangle, Field Supervisor, U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Ecological Services Field Office, 2321 West Royal Palm Road, Suite 103, Phoenix, Arizona 85021; telephone 602-242-0210; facsimile 602-242-2513 e-mail: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/arizona/ Information about the bald eagle's life history can be found in our July 9, 2007 (72 FR 37346), final delisting rule for bald eagles in the lower 48 States.

Indian Vultures Near Extinction

May 1, 2008  news.nationalgeographic.com 

A survey of vultures in northern and central India has found the birds' populations have plunged to near-extinction levels—one species is down 99.9 percent since surveys began in the 1990s. Todd Katzner, director of conservation and field research at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, predicts they may be gone in 10 years or sooner. The study appeared this week in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. Their decline was first noticed in the 1990s. The drug diclofenac, a popular and inexpensive anti-inflammatory drug given to livestock in India was the suspected cause of the vulture’s death due to kidney failure.  A 2004 study confirmed it.  and the drug was banned in India in 2006, but enforcement has been poor, and even a single exposure can be lethal for the birds.  Researchers from the Bombay Natural History Society and the Zoological Society of London counted live vultures along roadways in northern and central India between March 2007 and June 2007, covering more than 11,700 miles (18,900 kilometers). There may be as few as 11,000 oriental white-backed vultures today, compared to tens of millions two decades ago.  Long-billed and slender-billed vultures have each fallen by almost 97 percent: 45,000 and 1,000 individuals, respectively, remain in India.  A 2004 conservation plan calls for the creation of six breeding centers in South Asia, each producing 25 pairs from each of the three critically endangered species. According to the plan, a center would be able to release a hundred pairs of vultures in about 15 years. Three centers are up and running in India, and a fourth center was established in Pakistan in 2006.

Global Warming Linked to Carabou Calf Mortality

May 1, 2008  www.science.psu.edu

Fewer caribou calves are being born and more of them are dying in West Greenland as a result of a warming climate, according to Eric Post, a biologist from Penn State. Post, analyzed data showing that the timing of peak food availability no longer corresponds to the timing of caribou births. The study, which was conducted in collaboration with Mads Forchhammer at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, will be published in the 12 July 2008 issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London.  The phenomenon, called trophic mismatch, is a predicted consequence of climate change, in which the availability of food shifts in response to warming, whereas the timing of demand for those resources does not keep pace. Trophic mismatches have been documented in birds -- with the most famous example being the study on Dutch birds and their caterpillar prey that was highlighted in former Vice President Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth -- but, until now, the phenomenon had not been observed in terrestrial mammals. "Our work is the first documentation of a developing trophic mismatch in a terrestrial mammal as a result of climatic warming," said Post. "And the rapidity with which this mismatch has developed is eye-opening, to say the least."

Results of Giant Squid Examination

May 1, 2008  news.nationalgeographic.com  By Dave Hansford

A colossal squid was examined this week at Te Papa Tongarewa, New Zealand’s national museum by biologist Dan-Eric Nilsson, of the University of Lund in Sweden, biologist Steve O'Shea of the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, Tsunemi Kubodera of Japan's National Museum of Nature and Science, and others. These are the details:

Sharks Repelled by Metal

May 1, 2008  news.nationalgeographic.com  By Helen Scales

A metal mix that reacts with seawater to produce an electric field could help curb the global death toll of sharks caught inadvertently on longline fishing gear.  An alloy of the rare earth metals palladium and neodymium caused captive sandbar sharks to avoid hooked bait, according to a recent study released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). "We could see them shudder and then dash away," said study co-author Rich Brill, a NOAA fisheries biologist. Tests conducted by Shark Defense confirmed that target fish species are not sensitive to the electric fields generated by the metal alloy. Lines snag an estimated 11 to 13 million unwanted sharks each year, contributing to worldwide shark declines. (Related news: "8 Million Sharks Killed Accidentally off Africa Yearly"  "Being slow growing and slow to reproduce, sharks usually cannot take a lot of fishing pressure," Brill said. It's also possible that the metal could deter sharks from attacking human swimmers, but the researchers are cautious about this application, as the alloy only works at a distance of about 20 to 24 inches (50 to 60 centimeters). "If you had a very large bull shark coming toward you, the metal may work," said study co-author Eric Stroud, a chemist from the research company Shark Defense.

Sandbar sharks are among the largest coastal sharks in the world, reaching up to 8 feet (2.4 meters) long and weighing up to 200 pounds (90.7 kilograms).  Like other sharks, sandbars hunt by sensing the tiny electrical fields given off by their prey. (See photos of sharks on the prowl.) Stroud had been studying magnets as potential shark repellents when he noticed the animals' dislike for certain rare earth metals that were being used as controls. "It was then that we suspected we had an electrochemical repellent on our hands," he said.  Stroud and colleagues tried various different metals and identified a group of alloys, known as misch metals, as likely cost-effective candidates for a shark repellent.

Salmon Fishing Curtailed on West Coast

May 2, 2008 www.enn.com

PORTLAND, Oregon -- The U.S. government has decided to prohibit almost all salmon fishing off the West Coast to salmon fishing, allowing governors of states hard hit by years of declining catches to seek federal relief aid for losses estimated at $290 million.  West Coast salmon populations have declined sharply in the last few years, with experts citing a variety of reasons including climate change and hungry sea lions. "Today NOAA's Fisheries Service will close most of the West Coast salmon fisheries based on the recommendations of the Pacific Fisheries Management Council," said James Balsiger, citing "low returns of fall Chinook salmon to the Sacramento River system." The cause of the "sudden" collapse of the Sacramento River run, is unknown but NOAA scientists are suggesting changes in the ocean conditions are responsible.  NOAA estimates fewer than 60,000 salmon will make it back to the Sacramento River this year -- about one-third the number needed to sustain a healthy fish population.

Endangered Species Permit Applications

May 2, 2008   www.epa.gov 

Comments on these permit applications must be received on or before June 2, 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. For further information contact: Daniel Marquez, Fish and Wildlife Biologist,

Permit No. TE-180579
Applicant: Dwane N. Oberhoff, Los Osos, California.
    The applicant requests a permit to take (harass by survey and handle) the Morro shoulderband snail (Helminthoglypta waleriana) in conjunction with surveys throughout the range of the species in California, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-180517
Applicant: Dylan O. Burge, Durham, North Carolina.
    The applicant requests a permit to remove/reduce to possession the Ceanothus ferrisae (coyote ceanothus) and Ceanothus roderickii (pine hill ceanothus) from federal lands in conjunction with genetic research and taxonomic status studies in Santa Clara and El Dorado Counties, California for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Permit No. TE-180430
Applicant: Jeffrey P. Jorgenson, Sacramento, California.
    The applicant requests a permit 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 within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Service Office, California, for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Permit No. TE-180428
Applicant: Ramon E. Aberasturi, Sacramento, California.
    The applicant requests a permit 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 within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Service Office, California, for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Permit No. TE-040510
Applicant: Ero Resources Corporation, Boise, Idaho.
    The applicant requests an amendment to take (harass by survey, and locate/monitor nests) the southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) in conjunction with surveys and monitoring activities throughout the range of the species in California and Nevada for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-094308
Applicant: Shay E. Lawrey, San Bernardino, California.
    The applicant requests an amendment to take (harass by survey) the southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax trailli extimus) in conjunction with surveys throughout the range of the species in California for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-180585
Applicant: Bill A. Arnerich, Santa Rosa, California.
    The permittee requests a permit to take (harass by survey, capture, handle, and release) the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) in conjunction with surveys in Sonoma County, California, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Listing of Tasmanian Devils

May 2, 2008  au.news.yahoo.com

More than half of the wild devil population of Tasmanian devils has been wiped out by a deadly facial tumor disease, and “Save the Tasmanian Devil” Program manager Dr Steven Smith says there is now enough scientific evidence to upgrade the status of the species from vulnerable to endangered. Fortunately there is some indication that the spread of the disease is slowing. 63 healthy young devils have been taken from western Tasmania recently for captive breeding,
And Dr Smith says there are promising signs that some devils in the west could be resistant to the disease. Dr Smith is confident the species can be saved from extinction in the wild.  "I think one of the most important things we're doing in the short term is establishing a viable breeding population that's healthy that's got the maintaining the same genetic diversity as found in the wild," he said.  Dr Steven Smith will retire from his position next week.

Using Animal Robots to Study Animal Behavior

May 2, 2008  www.nytimes.com

AMHERST, Mass. -- Many robotic critters worldwide are helping researchers observe animals in their natural environments rather than in labs. The research could provide better understanding of  how animals work in groups, court, intimidate rivals and warn allies of danger.  In Indiana, for instance, a fake lizard shows off its machismo as researchers assess which actions intimidate and which attract real lizards. Pheromone-soaked cockroach counterfeits in Brussels, exert peer pressure on real roaches to move out of protective darkness. In California, a tiny video camera inside a fake female sage grouse records close-up details as it's wooed -- and more -- by the breed's unusually promiscuous males. The use of fake critters to infiltrate real groups of animals is so new that few companies build or sell such tools to researchers.  Many of the scientists using animal doppelgangers have modified toy animals or, cobbled together their own with fake fur, small motors, circuits and other material. Sarah Partan, an assistant professor in animal behavior at Hampshire College, has created a squirrel whose movement is controlled by basic computer programs, and it has tiny speakers inside that play recordings purchased from an animal-sounds library at Cornell University.

NY Botanical Garden's Tree Barcoding Project

May 2, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By A.P.

NEW YORK (AP) – Researchers at the New York Botanical Garden are about to lead a global effort to capture DNA from thousands of tree species from around the world.  The Bronx garden is hosting a meeting this week where participants from various countries will lay the groundwork for how the two-year undertaking to catalog some of the Earth's vast biodiversity will proceed. The project is known as TreeBOL, or tree barcode of life. As in a similar project under way focusing on the world's fish species, participants would gather genetic material from trees around the world. A section of the DNA would be used as a barcode, similar to way a product at the grocery store is scanned to bring up its price. But with plants and animals, the scanners look at the specific order of the four basic building blocks of DNA to identify the species. The resulting database will help identify many of the world's existing plant species, where they are located and whether they are endangered. The results are crucial for conservation and protecting the environment as population and development increases, said Damon Little, assistant curator of bioinformatics at the Botanical Garden and coordinator of the project. Trees make up 25 percent of all plants, and Little estimates there could be as many as 100,000 species. The participants hail from countries such as South Africa, India, and, of course, the United States. More than 40 organizations will be participating.  The garden received a grant of nearly $600,000 to coordinate the project.

Finding a Cure for Bees Disease

May 2, 2008  www.blackwellpublishing.com

Scientists in Germany have discovered a new mechanism of infection for the most fatal bee disease. American Foulbrood (AFB) is the only infectious disease which can kill entire colonies of bees. The only control measure is to destroy the infected hive.  The mechanism of infection (pathogenic mechanism) was originally thought to be through the growth of a bacterium called Paenibacillus larvae in the organ cavity of honey bee larvae. The accepted view was that the bacteria germinate preferentially at either end of the gut of honey bee larvae then make holes in the gut wall and enter the larval organ cavity, the presumed primary place of bacterial   proliferation.  In a paper published in Environmental Microbiology, Professor Elke Genersch and colleagues in Berlin explain that they have discovered that these bacteria cause infection in a completely different way. They colonize the larval midgut, do most of their multiplying in the mid-gut - living from the food ingested by the larvae - until eventually the honey bee larvae gut contains nothing but these disease-causing (pathogenic) bacteria. It isn’t until then that the bacteria ‘burst’ out of the gut into the organ cavity thereby killing the larvae. These findings are a major breakthrough in honeybee pathology.  “Now that we fully understand the way in which this disease works, we can start to look at ways of preventing the spread of infection” said Professor Genersch.

Patna Zoo Has Too Many Gharials

May 5, 2008  www.ndtv.com  By Prakash Singh

Earlier this year, the death of over one hundred gharials in the Chambal sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh sent wildlife experts and environmentalists into a tizzy.  Now, Patna zoo has thrown up another concern. It is facing a gharial crisis of plenty. Five years ago, there were just 13. Now, there are 129, Not surprisingly, the zoo wants to get rid of them.  ''We have requested all the zoo directors of India to take gharials from our zoo. Some of them have responded. Hopefully more zoos will take them away from here,'' said Rakesh Sinha, Director, Sanjay Gandhi Zoological Garden, Patna.  But until that happens, the zoo authorities are finding it hard to take care of  these reptiles. Eleven big reptiles live in an enclosure meant for three, and about ninety young ones scramble for space in another corner. ''There's little space for three-year-old. There are about 80 in one cage alone. They often fight and get injured. So there's a problem in their upkeep,'' said Anand Kumar, ghariyal caretaker.  Around 500 kg of fish are required to feed these reptiles every month, way more than the zoo can manage.  Faced with such constraints, the zookeepers are even thinking of releasing some of them into the Gandak river.

USDA Announces Director for Wildlife Research Center

May 5, 2008  www.aphis.usda.gov

FORT COLLINS, Colo., Larry Clark of the APHIS wildlife services (WS) program has been named director of WS’ National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC), headquartered in Fort Collins, Colo. Prior to accepting his current position, he served as NWRC’s assistant director and was responsible for managing the center and its field stations, setting internal policies and directives and promoting collaborations among research programs.   Over the past 17 years, Clark has been instrumental in establishing NWRC’s wildlife disease research capabilities and has held positions as both an APHIS science fellow and research scientist.  In 1995, he became one of the first NWRC staff members to establish cooperative relationships with the Colorado State University community.  Before joining APHIS, Clark was a faculty member at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, a private research institute in Philadelphia, Pa.

Tropical Wildlife Most Vulnerable to Climate Change

May 6, 2008   www.enn.com 

There are far fewer species living in the Arctic and Antarctic and in the temperate zones than in the tropics, says Curtis Deutsch of the University of California at Los Angeles.  If the climate warms even a few degrees in places that are already hot, the species residing there will be extremely imperiled.  Many of these tropical creatures are living at the edge of their temperature tolerance already. Even the slight tropical warming predicted by 2100 -- 5.4 degrees F (3 degrees C) -- could push them to the brink, Deutsch said in a  telephone interview.  In research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Deutsch and his co-authors investigated what could happen to cold-blooded animals in the tropics over the next 100 years if the predictions of greenhouse warming hold true.  They chose cold-blooded creatures -- mostly insects but also frogs, lizards and turtles -- because warm-blooded animals have other ways of regulating their body temperatures, such as growing a thick coat of fur to guard against cold and shedding when it gets warm.

Bee Hive Collapse Linked to Plants

May 6, 2008  www.enn.com 

The quality of pollen a plant produces is closely tied to its sexual habits.  A new study in the British Ecological Society's journal Functional Ecology  may help to explain the recent dramatic decline in certain bumblebee species found in the shrinking areas of species-rich chalk grasslands and hay meadows across Northern Europe.  While ecologists have long known that pollinators such as honeybees and bumblebees are often faithful to certain flowers, and have done much work on the role of nectar as a food source, very little is known about how pollen quality affects these relationships.

SD Zoo Partners with Al Ain Wildlife Park

May 6, 2008  www.gulfnews.com   By Rayeesa Absal

The Al Ain Wildlife Park and Resort and San Diego Zoo have entered into a 20-year agreement to transform Al Ain Zoo into a world-class wildlife destination.  The partnership was signed yesterday by the AWPR represented by Shaikh Sultan Bin Tahnoun Al Nahyan, Chairman of AWPR and the San Diego Zoo, represented by Berit Durler and Douglas Meyers, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the zoo.  The Al Ain Zoo and Aquarium are being given a billion dollar facelift to be transformed into Al Ain Wildlife Park and Resort (AWPR). The first phase of the project will be ready in 2010, and final completion will be in 2013.  From desert safaris, themed desert wildlife experiences, botanical gardens, desert science and learning facilities and water parks to outdoor and indoor shopping and dining areas, the park promises to enthral its visitors.  "It is a project that will not only facilitate growth in Al Ain but also preserve the heritage and natural wildlife from future extinction," said Majid Al Mansouri, Managing Director of AWPR.

Spread over 900 hectares at the foothills of Jebel Hafeet, the focus of the AWPR will be the core zoo and an area displaying deserts of the world. Each of these themed deserts will exhibit the natural inhabitants and plants indigenous to those areas.  The core zoo will include a children's zoo and the Shaikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre, showcasing the conservation efforts of the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Six residential clusters will be integrated within the area as well as exclusive camps linked to the resort hotel. Living communities and shopping areas allow visitors and residents access to the themed deserts and luxury of the five-star resort.  The facility will also include a multi-level retail area which will include shopping promenades, cafes and restaurants.

FBI Ivestigates Houston Zoo Text Message Prank

May 6, 2008   www.click2houston.com 

HOUSTON -- The FBI is investigating a prank that caused the Houston Zoo to be inundated with thousands of phone calls. Zoo officials said they received about 4,000 calls Monday about a text message that has been circulating. (The zoo normally receives 300 to 350 calls per day.) Thousands of people have received a message that someone has been talking about them. Some of the messages read: "Hey y is someone calln me and lookn for u n askn me where r u at n where u live heres tha # 713 555 650 tell then to stop calln me"  Many of the messages appear to have been forwarded by friends or family members, leading investigators to believe that address books of some cellular phone users have been hacked.

The Metabolic Magic of Sled Dogs

May 6, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By DOUGLAS ROBSON

When humans engage in highly strenuous exercise day after day, they start to metabolize the body’s reserves, depleting glycogen and fat stores. When cells run out of energy, a result is fatigue, and exercise grinds to a halt until those sources are replenished. Dogs are different, particularly the sled dogs that run the Iditarod Sled Dog Race in Alaska. Studies show that during this 1,100-mile race, the dogs somehow change their metabolism.  Dr. Michael S. Davis, of  Oklahoma State University found that sled dogs did not chew up their reserves and avoided the worst aspects of fatigue. He secured a $1.4 million grant in 2003 from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and is partnering with Texas A & M researchers to study the  physiology of fatigue resistance of sled dogs. Researchers have not demonstrated that ability in other species, but Dr. Davis said migratory mammals or birds could have it. Nor is it similar to the mammalian diving reflex that lets aquatic mammals like seals, otters and dolphins stay under water for long periods of time by slowing metabolic rates. “The level of metabolism is staying the same,” Dr. Davis said. “It’s not slowing down their calorie burn rate.”  In fact, sled dogs in long-distance racing typically burn 240 calories a pound per day for one to two weeks nonstop. The average Tour de France cyclist burns 100 calories a pound of weight daily, researchers say. The researchers hope to identify the biomarker, or “switch,” that could help the military understand and develop ways to control and prevent the physiological effects of fatigue in strenuous cases like combat.

Listing the White-tailed Prairie Dog

May 6, 2008    www.epa.gov

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will begin a 12 month status review for the white-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys leucurus) throughout its range in the United States. The status review will include analysis of whether the white-tailed prairie dog warrants listing as threatened or endangered.  We encourage all interested parties to provide us information regarding the status of, and any potential threats to, the white-tailed prairie dog throughout its range, or any significant portion of its range.  DATES: We will accept information received or postmarked on or before July 7, 2008 You may use the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov  or mail to : Public Comments Processing,  Attn: FWS-R6-ES-2008-0053; 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.

Critical Habitat for Louisiana Black Bear

May 6, 2008   /www.epa.gov

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), proposes to designate critical habitat for the Louisiana black bear under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). Concurrently, we withdraw our December 2, 1993, proposal for Louisiana black bear
critical habitat (58 FR 63560). In total, approximately 1,330,000 acres (538,894 hectares (ha)) fall within the boundaries of this proposed critical habitat designation. The proposed critical habitat is located in Avoyelles, East Carroll, Catahoula, Concordia, Franklin, Iberia, Iberville, Madison, Pointe Coupee, Richland, St. Martin, St. Mary, Tensas, West Carroll, and West Feliciana Parishes, Louisiana. We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before July 7, 2008.

Arctic Ice Melt Could Produce Grolar Bear

May 7, 2008  www.enn.com 

LONDON: Scientists have suggested that due to the adverse effects of Arctic ice melting, the hybrid of a polar bear and grizzly bear - dubbed the 'grolar bear', might rise.  Grizzlies are moving north, at the same time the polar bears are forced to be on the beach and we have found a number of grizzly bear polar bear hybrids," said biologist Dr George Divoky, who has worked in the Arctic region for over three decades.

Toronto Zoo Won’t Cull 'Surplus' Reindeer

May 7, 2008   www.upi.com

TORONTO, -- The Toronto Zoo, responding to public outcry over its plan to euthanize three male "surplus" reindeer calves, has found a home for them at another zoo.  The well publicized opposition began when the Toronto Sun published a story Sunday detailing how the zoo  had already put down two male calves and was planning to euthanize three more to reduce the number of males in its herd.  Monday and Tuesday, farmers and animal park operators offered to take the calves, which the zoo said had gone unclaimed on an international zoological posting service. Tuesday night, the zoo's board met and announced the reindeer would go to the Bowmanville Zoo, east of Toronto, but also said the euthanasia policy wasn't being entirely scrapped, the Sun said.  John Verhoeven, president of the Alberta Reindeer Association, told the National Post the euthanasia policy in a small herd made sense, as reindeer bulls can become very aggressive in rutting season, and can even kill other herd members in the process.

Seed Dispersal in Mauritius

May 7, 2008  www.enn.com 

Reporting in this week’s PLoS ONE, Dennis Hansen, Christopher Kaiser and Christine Mailler from the University of Zurich investigate how the loss of seed dispersal interactions in Mauritius may affect the regeneration of endemic plants. The recent loss of most frugivores in Mauritius has left many fleshy-fruited plant species stranded without crucial seed dispersal interactions, leaving the natural regeneration dynamics of the forests at a standstill.  The ecologists investigated seed germination and seedling survival patterns of one of the many critically endangered endemic trees, Syzygium mamillatum (Myrtaceae),  in relation to distance from maternal trees. The results showed strong negative effects of proximity to maternal trees on growth and survival of seedlings, suggesting that dispersal is crucial for successful seedling establishment of this species. However, no extant frugivores eat the fruits of S. mamillatum, and most fruits are left to rot on the forest floor. In pristine Mauritius, the fruits would likely have been eaten and the seeds dispersed by ground-dwellers such as the dodo, the giant tortoises or giant lizards.

Platypus Genome Decoded

May 7, 2008  www.nsf.gov

The platypus, found in eastern Australia, including Tasmania, is comfortable on both land and in water. It is one of the five species of mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young. The four species of echidna are the other mamimals that share this distinction.  British scientists thought the discovery in 1798 of the duck-billed, egg-laying, otter-footed, beaver-tailed, venomous platypus in Australia must be a hoax. Sketches of its appearance were thought to be impossible.  But new research now proves that the oddness of the platypus' looks isn't just skin-deep. Platypus DNA is an equally cobbled-together array of avian, reptilian and mammalian lineages that may hold clues for human disease prevention. Mark Batzer and Andrew C. Pereboom of Louisiana State University, along with an international group of scientists led by Wes Warren at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, recently completed the first draft sequence and analysis of the platypus genome.  It was the first genome sequencing project of a mammal that lays eggs.  "Their genomic organization was strange and a little unexpected," says Batzer. "It appeared much more bird- and reptile-like than mammalian, even though it is indeed classified as a mammal."

The platypus occupies the first branch of the mammalian tree of life after the split from "saurepsoids" about 315 million years ago. It maintains some long dated features and, as a result, should provide information on how mammals evolved.  "DNA contains small 'mobile elements' that make copies of themselves and then are inserted elsewhere into the genome. These elements can influence important evolutionary processes," says Weiss.  "These mobile elements were once thought to be so small that they had no function," says Batzer. "But, in reality, they cause insertions and deletions which can lead to genetic diseases in humans and they are also involved in the creation of new genes and gene families."  This was one of the largest platypus population genetics studies ever conducted, and researchers found that several of the platypus populations seem to have been geographically separated for a long time. Based on an analysis using mobile elements, the population on the island of Tasmania seemed genetically far distanced compared to other platypus populations from the mainland of Australia. Platypuses are extremely shy by nature and only a few places like Healesville Sanctuary in Victoria, Australia, have had success breeding them in captivity. Researchers hope that some of the clues unearthed in the platypus genome might lead to a better understanding of the history of the species and new conservation efforts.

Platypus Genome Sequence Published

May 7, 2008  www.nature.com

An international group of scientists from the U.K., U.S. and Australia have analyzed the DNA of the platypus, one of only a few surviving monotremes, and the mammal most distantly-related to humans. The sequencing was done by scientists at the Genome Sequencing Centre of Washington University School of Medicine, USA , and the analysis is published in the 8 May issue of Nature.  The platypus is thought to have diverged from a common ancestor shared with humans approximately 170 million years ago, and has many features that are unique to mammals - it has fur and rears its young on milk. However, it also shows reptile-like characteristics -  females lay eggs and the males produce venom. Some features, such as a specialized system in the platypus bill that uses electricity to detect food under water (electro-reception), are unique to monotremes. The researchers found that these diverse characteristics are mirrored by a patchwork of genes resembling those from reptiles, birds and other mammals. Lead researcher Chris Ponting from the MRC Functional Genomics Unit at the University of Oxford said “The platypus genome is extremely important because it is the missing link in our understanding of how we and other mammals first evolved. This is our ticket back in time to when all mammals laid eggs while suckling their young on milk. It also provides an essential background to future advances in understanding mammalian biology and evolution.”

The researchers searched the genome for DNA sequences that are unique to the monotremes, as well as those known to be involved in venom production, electro-reception and milk production in other species. They discovered that platypus venom is a cocktail of proteins that originally had very different functions. Amazingly, the same proteins are found in reptile venom even though platypus and snake venom evolved independently. They also found that the platypus has many more sex chromosomes – the organized structures into which DNA is packed that determine sex – than do humans. The platypus has ten sex chromosomes, compared with our two. Furthermore, the gene sequences responsible for determining sex are more similar to those in birds than in mammals. Ewan Birney, who led the genome analysis performed at the European Bioinformatics Institute, commented “The platypus looks like such a strange blend of mammalian, bird-like and reptilian features and now we know that the genome is an equally bizarre mix of all of these. It’s much more of a mélange than anyone expected.”

Platypus Genome Sequence Published

May 8, 2008  www.enn.com    By Michael Perry

SYDNEY - The genome of a female platypus from Australia named Glennie contained roughly 18,500 genes, similar to other vertebrates. Researchers found genes that support lactation, and egg laying, and genes responsible for venom production, which evolved from ancestral reptile genomes. Rick Wilson, director of The Genome Center at Washington University in St Louis, directed the platypus genome report. The platypus represents the earliest offshoot of the mammalian lineage, some 166 million years ago, from primitive ancestors that had features of both mammals and reptiles. It is classified as a mammal because it produces milk,  suckles its young and is covered in fur, but it also lays eggs like a bird or reptile and males have poisonous spurs on their hind legs like a reptile. The platypus swims with its eyes, ears and nostrils closed, relying on electrosensory receptors in its bill to detect faint electric fields emitted by underwater prey. The researchers found the platypus had genes that allowed the platypus to detect odors underwater. Similar genes are found in dogs and rodents that use smell to forage. The scientists compared the platypus genome with human, mouse, dog, opossum and chicken genomes and found that the platypus shares 82 percent of its genes with these animals. Platypus sex chromosomes may help study sex determination in mammals and infertility in humans. The platypus has 10 sex chromosomes, 5 male and 5 female. Humans only have one of each. Researchers at Stanford University's School of Medicine in California  said the genome of the platypus, which unlike other mammals carries its testicles internally, allowed them to study two genes that move testes into the scrotum in most mammals. They said understanding this process may explain why testes of about 30 percent of premature boys fail to descend properly.

Federal Polar Bear Research Flawed?

May 8, 2008  www.informs.org

HANOVER, MD -- Research done by the U.S. Department of the Interior to determine if global warming threatens the polar bear population is so flawed that it cannot be used to justify listing the polar bear as an endangered species, according to a study being published later this year in Interfaces, a journal of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS®). Professor J. Scott Armstrong of the Wharton School says, “To list a species that is currently in good health as an endangered species requires valid forecasts that its population would decline to levels that threaten its viability. In fact, the polar bear populations have been increasing rapidly in recent decades due to hunting restrictions. Assuming these restrictions remain, the most appropriate forecast is to assume that the upward trend would continue for a few years, then level off.  Prof. Armstrong and colleagues originally undertook their audit at the request of the State of Alaska. Professor Armstrong is author of Long-Range Forecasting, the most frequently cited book on forecasting methods, and Principles of Forecasting. He is a co-founder of the Journal of Forecasting, the International Journal of Forecasting, the International Symposium on Forecasting, and forecastingprinciples.com.

The authors examined nine U.S. Geological Survey Administrative Reports. The studies include “Forecasting the Wide-Range Status of Polar Bears at Selected Times in the 21st Century” by Steven C. Amstrup et. al. and “Polar Bears in the Southern Beaufort Sea II: Demography and Population Growth in Relation to Sea Ice Conditions” by Christine M. Hunter et al.  Prof. Armstrong and his colleagues concluded that the most relevant study, Amstrup et al. properly applied only 15% of relevant forecasting principles and that the second study, Hunter et al. only 10%, while 46% were clearly contravened and 23% were apparently contravened. Further, they write, the Geologic Survey reports do not adequately substantiate the authors’ assumptions about changes to sea ice and polar bears’ ability to adapt that are key to the recommendations. Therefore, the authors write, a key feature of the U.S. Geological Survey reports is not scientifically supported.  Prof. Armstrong testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works on January 30, 2008 in a hearing, “Examining Threats and Protections for the Polar Bear.” A portion of the testimony can be viewed on a website partly supported by Prof. Armstrong and questioning climate change http://theclimatebet.com.

INFORMS  (The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences) is an international scientific society with 10,000 members, including Nobel Prize laureates, dedicated to applying scientific methods to help improve decision-making, management, and operations. Members of INFORMS work in business, government, and academia. They are represented in fields as diverse as airlines, health care, law enforcement, the military, financial engineering, and telecommunications. The INFORMS website is www.informs.org. More information about operations research is at www.scienceofbetter.org.

Ausralia Zoo Case Settled Out of Court

May 8, 2008  www.abc.net.au 

A multi-million dollar lawsuit against Queensland's Australia Zoo and its owner Terri Irwin has been settled out of court. Debt collection agency Alyssa Treasury Services was suing the zoo for $2.5 million for alleged debts relating to a complex financial restructure of the zoo in 2006. But yesterday a Melbourne County Court judge ordered the case be dismissed, after a confidential agreement was reached between the parties involved.  Australia Zoo has issued a statement saying it admitted no liability and will not be making any further comment.

Puyallup Tribe Donates $685,000 to Tacoma Zoo

May 8, 2008  seattlepi.com  By A.P.

TACOMA, Wash. -- The Puyallup Indian Tribe is donating $685,000 to the Point Defiance Zoo to help pay for a new red wolf exhibit.  The zoo has played a key role in a federal recovery program that saved the red wolf from extinction.  The zoo society director, Caryl Zenker, says the zoo is nationally known for its red wolf breeding program. Construction should start next year on a $1 million red wolf exhibit.

Endangered Species Permit Application

May 8, 2008   www.epa.gov 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), invites the public to comment on the following application to amend an existing permit.  We must receive your written data or comments by June 9, 2008.  Send comments to:  Program Manager, Endangered Species, Ecological Services, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 911 NE. 11th Avenue, Portland, OR 97232-4181. For further information contact:  Grant Canterbury, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, at the above address or by telephone (503-231-2063)    Please refer to the permit number for the application when submitting comments.

Permit No. TE-146777
    Applicant: Arleone Dibben-Young, Kaunakakai, Molokai, Hawaii. The applicant requests an amendment to an existing permit to take (capture, measure, band, mark, release, and recapture) the Hawaiian duck (Anas wyvilliana) in conjunction with research on the Island of Molokai in the State of Hawaii, for the purpose of enhancing its survival. This permit currently covers capture and banding of the Hawaiian coot (Fulica alai) and Hawaiian stilt (Himantopus mexicanus knudseni), for which a notice was originally published in the Federal Register on May 22, 2007 (72 FR 28709).

Baboon Exhibit at Seneca Park Zoo

May 9, 2008  www.mpnnow.com  By Linda Quinlan

ROCHESTER, N.Y. - A new baboon exhibit has opened at the Seneca Park Zoo. The exhibit is part of Phase II of the zoo’s A Step Into Africa expansion project. Phase l moved the zoo's African elephants to a new, larger exhibit a couple of years ago.  The new exhibit features 12 olive baboons (papio anubis). The eight females and four males range in age from five months to 16 years old.  The baboons were acquired for Rochester from the Tulane National Primate Center in Louisiana. Olive baboons are native to equatorial Africa, and can be found in 25 African countries. Larry Sorel, director of the zoo said the  new exhibit also has educational, interactive features like baboon puzzle doors and a researcher’s field desk. The $2.7 million exhibit was funded in part by a $400,000 state grant obtained through Robach.  The balance of the exhibit’s cost, from design to construction, was funded by private contributions to the Seneca Park Zoo Society. No county tax dollars were used.  An elephant splash pool, which will open later this month, is also part of Phase II of the expansion project.  Construction on the third and final phase of the project, including a new lion habitat, is scheduled to start in fall 2009.

USDA Will Amend Animal Transport Regulations

May 9, 2008  www.aphis.usda.gov  

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today announced a proposal to amend the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulations by adding minimum age requirements for the transport of all covered animals in commerce.  The regulations currently contain such requirements only for dogs and cats, and not for other regulated animals such as nonhuman primates and marine mammals, among others. Establishing minimum age requirements for the transport of all animals covered by the AWA helps to ensure their humane treatment.  Under the proposed rule, animals would have to travel with their mother or be weaned and at least 8 weeks of age in order to be transported in commerce.  Unweaned animals and animals under the age of 8 weeks are generally not yet able to eat and drink independently of their mothers and have a need for frequent nourishment and water.  For this reason, shipping young animals increases their risk of illness and death.  This risk may be further increased if the animals are delayed during transport to their final destination.
The proposal provides an exception for transport to a licensed veterinarian for medical care when animals are less than 8 weeks of age and/or unweaned.  The proposal also provides an exception for animals to be transported to registered research facilities for use in specific approved research protocols, provided a transportation plan is submitted and approved by the appropriate APHIS animal care regional office.  The AWA authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to set standards and regulations governing the humane handling, care, treatment and transportation of certain animals by dealers, research facilities, exhibitors, carriers and intermediate handlers. Notice of the proposed rule is published in the May 9 Federal Register. Consideration will be given to comments received on or before July 8.   Send two copies of postal mail or commercial delivery comments to Docket No. APHIS-2006-0024, 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/component/main?main=DocketDetail&d=APHIS-2006-2004 ; then click on “Add Comments.”  This will also allow you to view public comments and related materials available electronically.

Bear Awareness Days at San Diego Zoo

May 9, 2008  www.imperialvalleynews.com 

On Thursday San Diego Zoo zookeepers kicked off Bear Awareness Days, an educational event that is sure to bring fun times to visitors and bears alike through Sunday, May 11.  Polar bears Chinook (sha-NOOK) and Kalluk (ka-LUKE) received one of their favorite items - burlap  sack dolls - to carry, cuddle or simply rest on. This is the first of many enrichment items that will be offered over the weekend, including snow at the Conrad Prebys Polar Bear Plunge on Saturday and a mock campsite for the brown bears on Sunday.  Bear Awareness Days,  presented by Mission Federal Credit Union, offers an opportunity for guests to speak one on one with bear keepers and researchers about these animals and the conservation work being done to save these species. There are eight living bear species, most of which require conservation efforts to protect their survival. Visiting the San Diego Zoo is one way to aid in bear conservation. A second opportunity to provide financial assistance can be found through the Zoo's Web site at www.sandiegozoo.org, where anyone can bid for a piece of one-of-a-kind, paw-made artwork that was created by the Zoo's bear residents. Proceeds from the sale of the paw paintings, as well as special behind-the-scenes bear tours and an exclusive "Pandas, Polars and Pancakes" breakfast, will help fund bear projects through the International Bear Association and Polar Bears International.

Female Gorilla Celebrates 55th Birthday

May 9, 2008  afp.google.com  By Tony Gutierrez, AP

DALLAS, TX -- Jenny, 55, celebrated her birthday with cake and treats in her habitat inside the Dallas Zoo.  She is recognized as the world's oldest gorilla in captivity. Her caretakers say she's a little creaky and her eyesight isn't what it used to be, but she looks good for an old ape. Gorillas in the wild normally live to about 30, gorilla specialist Kristen Lukas of Cleveland said. There  are approximately 360 gorillas in North American zoos. 4 of them are over the age of 50. All are female. Trudy lives at the Little Rock Zoo in Arkansas, Colo at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio and Helen at the Louisville Zoo in Kentucky.  Jenny was born in  western central Africa in 1953.  She shares her habitat with  Hercules, 43; Timbo,  45; and Patrick, 17.

Prague Zoo Plans to Save Gharial

May 9, 2008  afp.google.com

PRAGUE (AFP) — Last year,  hundreds of dead gharials were found near the Indian Chambal river. An investigation led by a group of  international veterinarians showed that they had fed on fish contaminated with toxins. There are only between 150 and 200 of this species, the Gavialis gangeticus also known as the gavial, living in the wild along India's rivers today. Another 20 or so are in captivity in India, Japan, Singapore, Sri Lanka and the United States. "All of the conservation plans launched in the world have failed up until now. The gharial is one of the most threatened species on the planet," said Petr Veselsky, in charge of reptiles at the Prague Zoo.  The Zoo hopes a million-dollar pavilion for the reptiles to bask, and hopefully reproduce in, will save the species from extinction.  The new gharial pavilion -- the first such programme in Europe -- contains three males and four females from a park in Madras in southern India. Along with his colleagues, he designed the new bamboo-decorated pavilion with deep waters, sandy beaches, waterfalls, and quiet hideaways. A powerful infrared lamp heats a little island lying only centimetres away from the massive window separating them from the public.  "That's their favourite spot, they love to heat themselves there like in sunshine. They bask there an hour, their skin heats up to 50 degrees and then they go into the water to cool down. It's exactly what they need,"  "The  final goal is to see these gharials reproduce so as to send their young to other zoos or even to release them into their country of origin," said Veselsky. He predicts it will take another 10 years for this to take place, the time for the tank's new inhabitants to reach sexual maturity.

Neil and Buzz Arrive at Detroit Zoo

May 9, 2008  www.freep.com 

Twelve-year-old polar bears Neil and Buzz (named for Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin) have touched down at the Detroit Zoo’s Arctic Ring of Life for a two-year stay while their habitat at Como Zoo in St. Paul, Minn., is being renovated.

DDT Still Found In Antarctic Penguins

May 9, 2008  www.enn.com    By Deborah Zabarenko

WASHINGTON - The pesticide DDT, banned decades ago in much of the world, still shows up in penguins in Antarctica, probably due to the chemical's accumulation in melting glaciers, a sea bird expert said on Friday.  Adelie penguins, have long shown evidence of DDT in their fatty tissues, although not in enough concentration to hurt the birds, according to Heidi Geisz of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.  But researchers were surprised to see that the level of the pesticide in Adelies' fat had not declined, even after DDT was banned for exterior use in the 1970s in the United States and elsewhere.

Bats Dying in Northeast

May 9, 2008  www.enn.com 

A mysterious illness has resulted in the deaths of thousands of bats since March 2008. At more than 25 caves and mines in the northeastern U.S, bats exhibiting a condition now referred to as “white-nosed syndrome” have been dying.  USGS wildlife disease specialist Dr. Kimberli Miller advises that "anyone finding sick or dead bats should avoid handling them and should contact their state wildlife conservation agency or the nearest U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service field office to report their observation.” Large-scale wildlife mortality events should be reported to the USGS at http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/mortality_events/reporting.jsp. The condition was first observed in February 2007 in caves near  Albany, N.Y. Dead and hibernating bats had a white substance on their heads and wings. In early 2008, “white-nosed” bats were once again seen at hibernation sites.  The most common findings in the bats have been emaciation and poor body condition. Many of the bats examined had little or no body fat; some exhibited changes in the lung that have been difficult to characterize; and a majority had microscopic fungi on their bodies.  The white substance observed on some bats may represent an overgrowth of normal fungal colonizers of bat skin during hibernation and could be an indicator of overall poor health, rather than a primary pathogen.

Koalas Under Threat from Climate Change

May 9, 2008  www.enn.com 

New research shows increased temperatures and carbon dioxide levels are a threat to the Australian national icon, the koala. Professor Ian Hume, and his students from the University of Sydney have been researching the effects of CO2 increases and temperature rises on 
eucalypts.  They have shown in the laboratory that increases in CO2 affect the level of nutrients and 'anti-nutrients' (things that are either toxic or interfere with the digestion of nutrients) in eucalypt leaves. Anti-nutrients in eucalypts are built from carbon and an increase in carbon dioxide levels will favour the production of anti-nutrients over nutrients.  Koalas are fussy about the species of eucalypts that they eat as different species contain different ratios of nutrients to anti-nutrients. Some eucalypt species may have high protein content, but anti-nutrients such as tannins bind the protein so it can't be used by the koala.  Hume said 'I'm sure we'll see koalas disappearing from their current range even though we don't see any change in tree species or structure of the forests.'  This research was presented at the Academy of Science's peak event, Science at the Shine Dome, April 24, 2008.

S.F. Denies Claim of Tiger-Attack Survivors

May 10, 2008   www.sfgate.com 

SAN FRANCISCO-- The city of San Francisco has denied a claim by two San Jose brothers who seek unspecified monetary compensation after surviving a Christmas Day tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo.  A letter from the City Attorney’s office states there is "no indication of liability on the part of the city and county" in the incident, and directs the brothers to file a claim with the San Francisco Zoological Society, the nonprofit organization that operates the zoo.  The zoo and its animals are owned by the city of San Francisco. The city maintains that the zoological society's lease and management agreement require it handle liability claims.  City Attorney spokesman Matt Dorsey said this "deny and refer" is routine, adding that the zoological society is insured. Zoo spokeswoman Lora LaMarca said officials there have been working closely with Herrera's office. She declined to comment on the brothers' claims because of the expected lawsuit.

Oregon Zoo Dinosaur Exhibit

May 11, 2008  www.spokesmanreview.com  By Christianne Sharman

25 animatronic dinosaurs from McKinney, Texas, can be seen at the Oregon Zoo in Portland  through Labor Day. They can be seen on foot or the "dino train" – along an ancient rainforest path surrounded by the roaring, snarling, life-size creatures, 14 species in all. An audio tour by cell phone is available.  The rainforest path has activity stations with fossil digs, photo ops and "identification posts." The Zoo also has a 3-D thrill ride called "Dino Island II: Escape from Dino Island" that "catapults riders straight into the action. As an erupting volcano threatens to destroy life on the island, the Earth Science Team must rescue Tony, the only male T. rex left in the world." The dinosaurs'  biological descendants get their fair share of attention this summer, too. "Wild Life Live" puts you in proximity to free-flying raptors like hawks, owls, vultures and eagles"Jungle Journey" features kinder, gentler birds from the tropical rainforest, such as parrots and kinkajou. You'll learn how they've adapted to life in the forest canopy.

Henry Doorly Zoo’s Butterfly Pavilion

May 11, 2008  www.omaha.com   By Jane Palmer

Life expectancies for butterflies vary from a few days to a few months and they are found on every continent except Antarctica;  even at the Arctic Circle.  Butterfly farms are springing up all over the world (Malaysia, Kenya, Peru, Panama, Costa Rica, Florida) and butterfly farmers  will raise 900 to 1,000 species of butterflies for Henry Doorly Zoo’s Butterfly and Insect Pavilion.  Most butterfly farmers sell to entomological supply companies that work internationally to supply zoos with all types of insects.The Omaha zoo has budgeted about $70,000 per year for butterfly chrysalises. The price per chrysalis varies depending on the rarity and popularity of the butterfly. Many species cost $1 to $2.50, but the sought-after Blue Morpho can cost $15 to $25.  Purchasing butterflies in their pupal state from farmers in Third World countries supports one of the zoo's long-term goals: conserving wildlife and wildlife habitat, said Dr. Lee Simmons, the zoo's director. In addition, butterfly commerce gives those countries an economic boost. The zoo will raise some butterflies that are native to the Nebraska-Iowa region at the butterfly building.  The new $10.5 million, 14,000 square foot pavilion will also display rare and endangered species of frogs, flowering plants and unusual creatures including tarantulas, orchid mantises and tailless whip scorpions.  The conservatory has 10-foot-high glass walls and a glass ceiling to allow maximum light and to encourage the butterflies to fly. In the absence of light, butterflies tend to fold their wings and rest.

Female Concave-eared frogs Ultrasonic Calls

May 11, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Most female frogs don’t call; lacking or having only rudimentary vocal cords. A typical female selects a mate from a chorus of males and then –silently – signals to him. But the female concave-eared torrent frog, Odorrana tormota, has a more direct method. She emits a high-pitched chirp that to the human ear sounds like that of a bird.  This is one of several unusual frog-related findings reported this week in the journal Nature. O. tormota's ability to home in on the sound call is astonishingly precise, said Albert Feng, a professor of molecular and integrative physiology at the University of Illinois and team.  “The frog’s response is instantaneous – right after the stimulus,” Feng said. In the laboratory, the males usually chirped and then leapt directly at the source of the female call. Their ability to home in on the sound call was astonishingly precise, Feng said. A typical male could leap toward the sound with an accuracy of over 99 percent. “This is just unheard of in the frog kingdom,” he said.  Only elephants, humans, barn owls and dolphins are known to detect sound with similar precision. The small distance between the frog’s ears (about one centimeter) makes its ability to localize the sound that much more impressive, Feng said.  The only other animals known to use ultrasonic communication are bats, dolphins, whales and some insects.  The calls are quite complex. A single O. tormota frog broadcasts its message over several frequencies at once, at harmonic intervals, like a chord strummed simultaneously on several strings. How the female picks a mate in the wild is still unknown.

Toledo Zoo Keeper Injured by Tiger

May 11, 2008  www.wtol.com  

A Toledo Zoo keeper was going through his daily routine around 8:30 a.m. Sunday. He was giving the tigers their normal cleaning and feeding when one tiger reached his paw through a double mesh barrier and swiped the keeper's chest.  The keeper was treated for three 
minor chest lacerations and released from the hospital.  It happened at the Tiger Terrace where the two 5-year-old cats named Kat and Marta live. The tigers remained in their enclosure the entire time. The zoo says there was no risk to the public.  Zoo Director Dr. Anne Baker says, "I do want to stress that this was not keeper error.  I think the cat was just jumping up on the mesh to see if maybe there was any food coming. My guess is that...the cat was as surprised as the keeper."

Detroit Zoo’s $10M Campaign

May 12, 2008  crainsdetroit.com  By Sherri Begin

The Detroit Zoological Society hasofficially launched a $10 million campaign to fund capital improvements at the zoo and strengthen its ability to generate new sources of revenue.  Lead gifts in the campaign include $750,000 from Joel and Shelley Tauber, $250,000 from  the Chrysler Foundation to support refurbishment of the zoo's historic train, and $220,000 from the Orchard Lake-based Tuktawa Foundation for new signs. The campaign will fund a zoo-themed animal carousel, enhancements to the Tauber Family Railroad, a corporate pavilion, new signs and enhancements to the Ford Education Center and the Belle Isle Nature Zoo. About $3 million of the total will go to bolster the zoo's $8 million endowment.  The zoo recorded revenue of just under $20 million for fiscal 2008 ended March 31, down from $26.6 million in fiscal 2007, when it received $4 million from the state and $5 million from the city of Detroit in transitional funding. It's operating on a budget of about $26 million for fiscal 2009, Kagan said.

First Vet Corneal Implant in U.S.

May 12, 2008  www.public.iastate.edu
Sinisa Grozdanic an assistant professor of Veterinary Clinical Sciences performed surgery that restored sight to 7-year-old Dixie, a Mountain Cur.  Dixie's sight was restored through a two-step surgical procedure that involves cutting into the eye to take out the cloudy cornea and inserting a permanent, plastic cornea. The new cornea is sutured, or stitched, into place. The entire eye including the new, plastic cornea is then covered with tissue from the dog to help the eye heal from the surgery. After several weeks, the bandages are removed and a hole is cut into the tissue exposing the new, plastic cornea.  In addition to being the first such procedure in North America, it was one of only a few in the world. The technology is still being developed.  A German company called Acrivet is developing the plastic corneas. "These are special prototypes," said Joyce Wickham from Acrivet's U.S.-based office in Salt Lake City. "They are not made routinely, and are not yet available commercially." The new cornea is working for Dixie, but she has very little peripheral vision.

Dallas Zoo Euthanizes Elephant

May 12, 2008  www.star-telegram.com 

DALLAS — Keke, a 39-year-old African elephant at the Dallas Zoo had a habit of eating dirt and rocks, and at least once a year would get colic from her unapproved diet.  Her keepers are unsure of what happened this time.  She had been ill for more than 10 days.  When her condition worsened Monday afternoon, crews used a crane to lift her but she was unable to continue standing and her condition deteriorated dramatically and she was euthanized. KeKe came from the Caldwell Zoo in Tyler Texas in 2003.  Dallas has one remaining female elephant, 31-year-old Jenny.

Dogs Trained to Recognize Endangered Species Scat

May 12, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

ARLINGTON, Virginia -- In the Cerrado region of Brazil, four dogs trained to detect animal feces by scent are helping researchers monitor rare and threatened wildlife such as jaguar, tapir, giant anteater and maned wolf in and around Emas National Park, a protected area with the largest concentration of threatened species in Brazil. The researchers analyze feces found by the dogs to learn about where and how the threatened mammals live. Data such as numbers, range, diet, hormonal stress, parasites and even genetic identity contribute to a study of how the mammals use environments inside and outside the park, especially on privately owned lands of the region. The information helps develop conservation and development strategies that meet the needs of both the animals and local farmers. The dogs are rewarded for their good work with tennis balls to chase and chomp. The project is led by Carly Vynne of the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington as part of her doctoral thesis, in partnership with Conservation International (CI) Brazil.  After a brief pilot study in 2004, research began in 2006 in a 3,000-square-kilometer (equivalent to 300,000 soccer fields) area in the western portion of Emas National Park and surrounding farms in Mato Grosso do Sul state and Goiás state.

Animal Artisans - A Gallery Showing

May 12, 2008  www.journaltimes.com   By Janine Anderson

Animal Artisans: A Gallery Showing is a silent auction fundraiser for the Racine Zoo, featuring art created by the zoo’s rhinos, tigers, orangutans and other animals. It will occur this Thursday at 6 p.m. at Monfort’s Fine Art Gallery, 423 Main St. Cydney Peterson, an animal care specialist at the Racine Zoo, helped Timu, a black rhino to explore the paint and canvas using food and lots of scratches to motivate her. “We had to teach her to touch the canvas with her lip,”  Peterson said. “She would come up, I’d show her the canvas and say ‘Paint.’ She’d stick her lip out and touch it, and I’d blow the whistle and say ‘Good job.’ Beth Rich, animal care supervisor at the zoo, says the painting is part of the zoo’s environmental enrichment, allowing animals the opportunity to engage in natural behaviors.  “It’s like providing toys for a dog at home,” Rich said. “We try to find creative ways to keep any animal happy and healthy physically  and mentally. That’s where the knowledge of animal care specialists  comes in: What is this animal capable of or not capable of?”  The orangutans don’t have access to 40-foot trees, so the zoo provides them with suspended fire hoses. Shredded paper and sheets stand in for plant material in nest-building.  “It’s finding those equivalent behaviors,” Rich said.

34 Rays die at Canadian zoo

May 13, 2008  www.nationalpost.com  By Tiffany Crawford

OTTAWA (AFP) — Authorities suspect foul play in the recent deaths of dozens of rays at a zoo in western Canada.  According to a zoo statement, keepers noticed the rays swimming erratically Sunday and observed that they seemed to be in "extreme distress."  Veterinarians don’t believe bad water or tainted food was the cause. They also don't believe it could be a disease because it happened over a 24-hour period.  Zookeepers found 26 of the cownose rays dead on Sunday.  Then, eight more died Monday morning. The rays were suffering from breathing problems and inflamed gills.  Zoo veterinarian Doug Whiteside, who performed the necropsies, said the diseased rays had changed from their normal light-grey colour to having splotches of  dark grey and yellow. The zoo's director of conservation Cathy Gaviller said there was no mechanical failure in the tank's life support system, and numerous water tests since the exhibit opened in February were normal.  The zoo sent food and water samples, as well as ray tissue samples to a lab for testing Monday to determine if  there were toxins in the water. Only nine remain and they have been removed to a holding tank with oxygenated water to be monitored closely.  They seem to be doing better.

Koalas Come to Indianapolis Zoo

May 13, 2008  www.chicagotribune.com

INDIANAPOLIS - A new Indianapolis Zoo exhibit will feature two male koalas named Bamba and Coombah. The Queensland koalas on loan from the San Diego Zoo are scheduled to be on display in Indianapolis from Memorial Day weekend through Sept. 1. The exhibit will feature other Australia natives, including the spotted python, the inland bearded dragon and various finches. The zoo will receive shipments of eucalyptus twice each week from Arizona and Florida.

Minnesota Corporations Support Minnesota Zoo

May 13, 2008 www.startribune.com  By Tim Harlow

APPLE VALLEY, MN -- The Minnesota Zoo wants to become one of the top 10 zoos in America and the $2.7 million in gifts and pledges received this past year from several local corporations and firms, will help the zoo achieve that goal.  Leading the list of donations are two $1 million gifts from the Cargill Foundation and the Medtronic Foundation to help with future improvements and expansion of facilities and programs. Cargill's gift will be dedicated to a new Environmental Learning Center, which is planned as part of a new zoo entry and visitor center. Medtronic's gift will support the recently renovated and updated Minnesota Trail, which celebrates the state's animals and their environment. The Medtronic Foundation also gave $150,000 to be used over the next three years to support zoo education programs, including the Zoomobile, the zoo's mentor program and the Science Education Scholarship Fund. Other significant gifts have come from Ecolab, Faegre & Benson LLP, KPMG LLP, the Toro Company, Piper Jaffray and TCF Bank, the zoo said.

Chester Zoo Has 32,000 Members

May 13, 2008 www.chestereveningleader.co.uk 

CHESTER ZOO's annual memberships are at an all time high, with a record 32,000 members.  Benefits include unlimited free admission to the zoo, free admission to other leading zoos, discount in the zoo gift shops, restaurants and cafes, a quarterly full colour zoo magazine and a special invitation to members' days throughout the year. The members' days were introduced last year, and the first one of 2008 was held on Sunday. Over 1,500 members visited the zoo and took part in the special program of activities including Meet the Keepers, talks from zoo staff, nursery and garden tours, an opportunity to feed the free-flying birds in the Tropical Realm and a junior craft workshop. Two further members' days are due to be held on July 8 and November 8.  Members pay an annual subscription each year; £60 for an adult and £30 for a child.

Temperature, Humidity and Sticky Gecko Feet

May 13, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

AKRON, Ohio -- A team of five University of Akron researchers (Dr. Peter Niewiarowski, professor of biology; Stephanie Lopez, biology grad student; Liehui Ge, grad assistant in polymer science; Emily Hagan, undergraduate; and Dr. Ali Dhinojwala, professor of polymer science.)  has published the paper, “Sticky gecko feet: the role of temperature and humidity” in PLoS ONE.  They tested the effect of temperature and humidity on the ability of geckos to stick to glass, and found that both affected their ability to cling to glass. “For example, under very humid conditions, geckos stick with twice the force compared to dry conditions at low temperatures. At high temperatures, geckos stick comparatively poorly and the humidity level is less important. Previous work by other labs using isolated setae suggested that clinging ability should be insensitive to variation in both temperature and humidity. Our work with live geckos indicates a need to further explore the role of temperature and humidity on adhesion to different surfaces in both natural (geckos) and synthetic materials.”

Sleep “Recording” of 3-Toed Sloth

May 13, 2008  www.eurekalert.org .

In the first experiment to record the electrophysiology of sleep in a wild animal, three-toed sloths carrying miniature electroencephalogram recorders slept 9.63 hours per day—6 hours less than captive sloths did, reports an international team of researchers working on the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Barro Colorado Island in Panama.  “If we can determine the reasons why some species sleep longer than others, we will gain insight into the function of sleep in mammals, including humans,” said first author Niels Rattenborg, group leader of the Sleep and Flight Group at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. “If animals behave differently in captivity (where all previous comparative studies were performed) than they do in the wild, measuring their brain activity in captivity can lead to the wrong conclusions.”  The research team used a technique developed for monitoring brain activity in humans in conjunction with a newly developed miniature recorder for neurophysiological data in order to monitor sleep in the wild. In addition to two brain activity sensors worn as a cap on their heads, three adult three-toed sloths, Bradypus variegatus, also were fitted with radio-telemetry collars and accelerometers so that their exact locations and movements could be monitored during the next three to five days. The activity of two other sloths was monitored via radio-telemetry collar alone, for approximately seven months using a unique Automated Radio Telemetry System in place on the island. Martin Wikelski, director of the Max Plank Institute for Ornithology, researcher at Princeton University and research associate at the Smithsonian, said. “We certainly encourage researchers who would like to monitor animals in the wild to join our ongoing studies or initiate work using the system.”

New Columbus Zoo Chief Selected

May 13, 2008    dispatch.com  By Kathy Lynn Gray

Jeffery Swanagan, the director of the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta will become the new executive director of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.  He will succeed Jerry Borin, who's retiring after being in charge of the zoo since 1992.  Swanagan, a Cleveland native, started his career  as a Columbus zookeeper in 1980 and was education director from 1982 to 1987. He worked for Zoo Atlanta in Georgia from 1987 to 1998, rising to the position of deputy director. He spent four years at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa before becoming president and executive director of the Georgia Aquarium in 2002.

Baby Animals Favorite Sing-A-Longs

May 13, 2008  www.indiantelevision.com

The latest DVD from the Baby Genius home entertainment and toys for infants and toddlers, is Baby Animals Favorite Sing-A-Longs.  The DVD was filmed exclusively at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park, and features little kids, baby animals and lively sing-a-long tunes.  It has won the iParenting Product award in the  Home Video/DVD category.

Wildlife Excursions at Binder Park Zoo

May 13, 2008  www.battlecreekenquirer.com 

Binder Park Zoo's Wildlife Excursions will take place on the second Monday of every month at 8:00 a.m. All tours are led by experienced Zoo staff and take approximately one hour. Squirrels, chipmunks, beaver and the occasional red fox scurrying across Zoo paths are not unusual sights, but the Zoo is a hot spot for spotting some rather uncommon birds like pied billed grebes, bald eagle, pine siskin,  woodpeckers and yellow-billed cuckoo.  “We have amazing natural  habitat here, including an endangered prairie fen, that is very rare to find in a zoo,” said Jenny Barnett Binder Park Zoo Director of  Wildlife and Conservation. “The Wildlife Excursion is a great way to get the community involved in conservation right in their own backyard.” Participants should  bring their own bird books, binoculars, and any other items desired for recording their bird findings. The Zoo will provide the guide and hot chocolate at the end of the tour.

Atlanta Zoo Researchers Report on China Earthquake

May 13, 2008  www.ajc.com   By CRAIG SIMONS

BEIJING — A 7.9 magnitude quake struck a poor mountainous area of  Sichuan on Monday afternoon has killed at least 12,000 people and sent tremors radiating hundreds of miles into neighboring nations and  coastal cities.  In Chengdu, Sichuan's capital, 323 people were 
killed and several buildings tumbled. Ben Charlton, a 37-year-old researcher working with Zoo Atlanta and a giant panda research base in Chengdu, said "Everything started shaking and people were running outside in their underwear and standing in the middle of the road 
waiting for it to subside."  Maryanne Heard, a 23-year-old from North Druid Hills who was in Chengdu to study reproductive behavior among pandas for Zoo Atlanta, said that while she had seen little structural damage in Chengdu, a city of 10 million people, roads leading west had been damaged, blocking rescue efforts and raising fears that the death toll could rise.  Sarah Bexell, a former Zoo Atlanta conservation expert who now works for the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, was traveling in southern China when the earthquake struck.  Because roads and telephone lines had been cut, "no one can get through to Wolong," The Associated Press reported that more than two dozen British and American tourists who were thought to be panda-watching in the area around Wolong are missing.  The epicenter was right in the middle of all the panda reserves.

Chengdu Zoo Animals Respond to Earthquake

May 13, 2008  www.china.org.cn    By Xiang Bin

Mr. Wu, the Chengdu Zoo's Breeder of Birds, spoke about what had happened the afternoon of May 12, when the Schuan earthquake hit:"The Bird House began to shake violently at about 2 o'clock  which made the baby parrots and peacocks flee in disorder. Fortunately the door was closed, or else they would have escaped.""Inside the Penguin House, the water in the pool suddenly began to churn and the frightened penguins had no idea where to run".  In the Orangutan House, the tame orangutans become violent, using all their strength to bang on the door and shake the iron chains. Many keepers in the zoo said there were no abnormal signs before the earthquake. "Only after the earthquake, some animals behaved very unusually. I've never seen them like this before", Wu said.  The zoo has already adopted emergency measures to ensure the safety of the animals. Big animals such as elephant, hippopotamus and giraffe have been removed from their glass cages to safer places. All the animals are secure, and no  problems have been reported in Chengdu's panda breeding research base.

Pandas in Chengdu are Safe

May 13, 2008  www.enn.com   by Emma Graham-Harrison

BEIJING - Some 60 giant pandas at a Chengdu research centre near the worst hit part of the massive China earthquake are safe, but there is no word yet on the fate of pandas at another research centre at Wolong, near the epicentre of Monday's 7.9 magnitude quake. 

Critical Habitat for Acanthomintha ilicifolia (San Diego thornmint)

May 13, 2008   www.epa.gov 

On August 10, 2004, the Center for Biological Diversity and California Native Plant Society challenged our failure to designate critical habitat for Acanthomintha ilicifolia as well as four other plant species.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announces the reopening of the comment period on the proposed designation of critical habitat for Acanthomintha ilicifolia (San Diego thornmint). We are reopening the comment period because of new information we received following the close of the last public comment period on this proposed action. This new information leads us to propose revised boundaries for Subunit 1A and to update the areas we are proposing for exclusion from the final designation. We will consider comments and information received or postmarked on or before June 12, 2008.  You may submit comments by one of the following methods: Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov , U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: RIN 1018-AU86; 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. All comments will be posted on http://www.regulations.gov  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.

Areas Proposed as Critical Habitat for Acanthomintha ilicifolia After the Corrections and Amendments to the Areas Proposed as Critical Habitat  on March 14, 2007 (72 FR 11945), as Described in This Document and the Document Published on November 27, 2007 (72 FR 66122),

                                                            Unit 1: Northern San Diego County
1A. Palomar Airport   7 ac
1B. Southeast Carlsbad   Private  73 ac
1C. Manchester   Private  92 ac

                                                            Unit 2: Central San Diego County
2A. Los Pe[ntilde]asquitos Canyon    State/Local  63 ac
2B. Sabre Springs     Private 1 ac   State/Local  51 ac
2C. Sycamore Canyon      Private  30 ac  State/Local  276 ac
2D. Slaughterhouse Canyon    Private. 77 ac

                                                       Unit 3: Viejas Mountain and Poser Mountain
3A. Viejas Mountain Private  33 ac
3B. Viejas Mountain   Private. 156 ac   Federal.   52 ac
3C. Viejas Mountain    Private   38 ac  Federal    280 ac
3D. Viejas Mountain    Private 50 ac    Federal.    32 ac
3E. Poser Mountain    Federal  34 ac
3F. Poser Mountain     Private     Federal  156 ac

                                                            Unit 4: Southern San Diego County
4A. McGinty Mountain    Private 18 ac   Federal.   0 ac (0 ha
4B. McGinty Mountain    Private   210 ac    State/Local  10 ac
4C. McGinty Mountain    Private  27 ac     Federal  0 ac
4D. Hollenbeck Canyon   Private  23 ac    State/Local  61 ac

A complete list of all references we cite in the proposed rule and this document is available on http://www.regulations.gov

Sloth Activity Study

May 13, 2008  www.nature.com  By John Whitfield

The average day of the average sloth goes something like this: 8 a.m.: wake up; 6 p.m.: dinner; 11 p.m.: bed. Studies of captive sloths had suggested that the animals slept for almost 16 hours a day. But the first recordings of brain activity from wild animals show that the actual figure is less than 10 hours.  “I  expected minor differences, but six hours a day is a very big difference,” says the study’s lead author, Niels Rattenborg of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Starnberg, Germany.  The finding shows that the amount that animals sleep in the lab might not reflect how much shut-eye they get in the wild. And it suggests that comparisons of the sleeping patterns of different species need to take into account many different behaviours and environmental factors. Rattenborg and his colleagues fitted three adult female brown-throated three-toed sloths (Bradypus variegatus ) living in the Panama rainforest with ten-gram devices to record their brain’s electrical activity. The sloths also wore radio tracking collars, and another recorder to measure how much they were moving.  Between three and five days later, the researchers recaptured the sloths and removed the recorders. Downloading the data, they could easily tell when the animals had been awake, when they had been asleep and when they had been in REM sleep, which in humans is associated with dreaming. The results are published in Biology Letters The movement sensor showed that the animals do most of their chewing after the Sunsets. And the brain recorder showed that sloths almost invariably sleep from 4 to 6 a.m. Sloths’ total sleeping time — about one-fifth of which is spent in REM sleep — is roughly what you would expect for an animal of their size, says Rattenborg. “In terms of brain function, sloths may not be as slothful as was previously thought,” he says.  Wild sloths might be wakeful because they need to find food or avoid predators, Rattenborg suggests. Or there might be individual differences: the 16-hour figure comes from a study published in 1983, which looked at an unspecified mixture of adult animals and juveniles. Young animals tend to sleep more.

Polar Bears Listed as ‘Threatened’

May 14, 2008  www.latime.com  By Kenneth R. Weiss

The polar bear was officially designated as threatened with extinction today - the first animal added to the endangered species list primarily because of global warming.  The listing requires designation of critical habitat as well as the formulation of a strategy to assist the bear’s  recovery. A U.S. District Court in Oakland imposed a May 15 deadline for a final decision that was supposed to have been completed by Jan. 9. It was the first time in more than two years that the Interior Department extended protections to a species under the Endangered Species Act -- the longest hiatus since President Richard Nixon signed the law in 1973.  Conservation groups had urged the Interior Department to give the polar bear a designation of "endangered " rather than "threatened,"  because of a 9-volume USGS report released in September, indicating that two--thirds of the bear's habitat would disappear by 2050.  Polar bears are experts at hunting ringed seals and other prey on sea ice, but are so unsuccessful on land, they spend their summers fasting, losing more than 2 pounds a day. This forced fast is an average of three weeks longer than it was 30 years ago, according to studies in Canada's western Hudson Bay. With less time to hunt and build up fat reserves the bears have become thinner, the reproductive rates of females have declined. The survival rate of cubs has also fallen.  Overall, the western Hudson Bay population has dropped by 22% since 1987. Scientists don't know if similar trends exist elsewhere in the arctic, which is a vast and forbidding place to conduct field world. Surveys have shown other problems, including bears swimming and drowning in open waters left by ever-increasing gaps in the sea ice and cannibalism among hungry bears.  Overall, scientists believe the global population of 20,000 to 25,000 bears remains robust. But virtually all polar bear experts predict rapid population declines in the Arctic, which is warming faster than anywhere else in the word, and changing too rapidly for the bears to adapt and find another source of food.

The court's deadline evolved from a lawsuit seeking a court order to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to comply with the legal deadline for the decision and another suit challenging the offshore leases. And then the Interior Department's inspector general opened an investigation into allegations that the decision had been detained by "inappropriate political influence." The yearlong clock began ticking when Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne on Dec. 27, 2006, announced that there was sufficient scientific evidence of the bear's melting habitat to officially propose that the polar bear join the list of species threatened with extinction. The proposal did not include designating critical habitat. Nor did it include a scientific analysis of the causes of climate change, which Kempthorne said was beyond the scope of scientific review under the Endangered Species Act. He directed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to work with the public and the scientific community to broaden understanding of what is happening to the species. Since then, the arctic sea ice last summer retreated to record levels -- a retreat that about half of the climate modelers did not think would happen until 2050.

A group of Canadian scientists last month declared the polar bear as a "species of concern," but stopped short of saying it was "threatened" with extinction -- a designation that could have restricted hunting by Canada's Inuit people. Canada has about two-thirds of the world's polar bear population. Interior Secretary Kempthorne joined Canada's environmental minister last week to sign an agreement that the two governments would form an intergovernmental group with tribal government to consider "the best available scientific information and aboriginal traditional knowledge."  The Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, which operates in Canada's far north, recently proposed reducing the quota of polar bears hunted in Baffin Bay, a proposal opposed by Inuit trappers and hunters saying their traditional knowledge reveals there are too many bears in the area.

Canada Will Not List Polar Bear as Threatened

May 14, 2008   www.reuters.com

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada, home to two-thirds of the world's polar bears, does not plan to follow the United States and list the animals as a threatened species.  Canada has an estimated 15,500 polar bears. Last month an official Canadian advisory council gave the polar bear its weakest classification, that of "special concern," saying the carnivores were in trouble but not at risk of extinction.  Environment Minister John Baird said Canada should take unspecified "supplementary action" to protect the bears.  There was no immediate reaction from Canada's vast Arctic territory of Nunavut, home to the aboriginal Inuit people and most of the country's polar bears.  Inuit officials fear listing the bear as endangered will deter U.S. hunters, who spend millions of dollars a year for the right to shoot the animals.  Dr Peter Ewins, director of species conservation at World Wildlife Fund Canada, praised the U.S. decision.

Schaller Receives Indianapolis Prize

May 14, 2008  www.chicagotribune.com

INDIANAPOLIS – George Schaller who has spent more than 50 years working to save endangered species around the world will be awarded the 2008 Indianapolis Prize -- $100,000 at a gala in September.  The 74-year-old Schaller said "I am honored and proud, but I also feel humbled because I know, scattered around the world, there are lots of conservationists who do the things I am doing."  He has worked to save mountain gorillas, giant pandas, tigers, lions and the wild sheep and goats of the Himalayas. He has studied the endangered Tibetan antelope (chiru) and is working to save Marco Polo sheep and snow leopards. He has also helped to develop 15 wildlife reserves throughout the world. Schaller grew up in Germany but moved to Missouri as a teenager.  He is senior conservationist for the Wildlife Conservation Society, which is headquartered at the Bronx Zoo, and plans to use his prize money for grants to young biologists so they can gain experience in wildlife research and conservation.

John Ball Zoo’s New Attractions

May 14, 2008  www.mlive.com   By Kyla King

The new $4.1 million lion exhibit is almost complete at the John Ball Zoo.  It is  modeled after the forested Lake Manyara area of Tanzania, where lions climb trees. Special features include an artificial tree that can be cooled or heated; a rock that appears to pass through the glass, allowing visitors and lions to sit close to one another; a 24-foot open air viewing tower; an off-exhibit outdoor exercise yard and training room.  Last month, the zoo also opened an exhibit near the children's zoo that features 15 species of frogs.  On Saturday, a two-story elevated ropes course will open to complement the year-old, 300-foot long zip line the zoo unveiled last year.  The ropes course will be on the west hillside of the zoo, near the children's area. It will feature ladders, bridges and swings.  Visitors will be secured in a harness connected to an overhead tracking system for the 10-minute experience, Bylund said.  The course was built and will be operated by Allegan-based Ropes Courses Inc., which also built the zipline. Bylund said the firm is paying the zoo rent and will pass along a portion of any profits.  The ropes course will cost $7, and the zipline is $5. Visitors can buy a combination ticket for $11, she said.

Pygmy hog conservation project in Assam

May 14, 2008  www.newkerala.com 

SONAI-RUPAI SANCTUARY --  In a landmark conservation project,  authorities in Assam plan to release about 16 critically endangered pygmy hogs back into the wild.  The animals are currently in an enclosure in  the grasslands of Sonai Rupai wildlife sanctuary, the site of their new habitat.  Porcula salvania is the world's smallest pig with a height of 25-30 cms.  Its preferred grassland habitat across the southern foothills of the Himalayas is now occupied by humans. “the remaining pig population fragments are isolated from each other and are susceptible to other forms of disturbance," said William Oliver, Chairman, Pigs Peccaries and Hippos Specialist Group. These mammals have got a new lease of life with the project of Jersey's Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, which has been breeding Assam pygmy hogs in captivity for over 10 years. As a result of the successful breeding programme the number of pygmy hogs have risen to about 80.  By  the 1960s, it was believed that the mammal is almost extinct. But in 1971, the species was rediscovered in Assam.

American Museum of Natural History Horse Exhibit

May 14, 2008  equisearch.com   By Nancy Jaffer

Humans and horses are “powerfully linked.” The 13th- and 14th-century Mongols, held their empire together with the aid of the horse, and also used hair from its tail to create the ancestor of the modern violin bow.)  With the aid of dioramas, interviews, computer graphics, varied skeletons, archaeological finds, reproductions of cave paintings and objects including a World War I gas mask for a horse, the history of the horse becomes humanized.  Horses “have  cleared forests, plowed land, herded cattle and driven machines.”  From the moment they were first used to pull chariots into battle (perhaps 1500 B.C.) until their valedictory cavalry campaigns in the Second World War, horses were bound up in human warfare. The opening diorama shows ancient horses of North America, some 50 million years ago: a three-toed Hypohippus feeds on forest shrubs as a large, modern-looking Dinohippus grazes in the grasses. A large number of horse species were “forest browsers” with three toes. But with the changes in climate about 35 million years ago, the predecessor of the modern horse became dominant, his two outer toes yielding to the single hoof, suited to the harder grasslands.

Critical Habitat for the N. Carolina Wintering Population of Piping Plover

May 15, 2008   www.epa.gov

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announces the reopening of the comment period on the proposed revised designation of critical habitat for the wintering population of the piping plover (Charadrius melodus) in Dare and Hyde Counties, North Carolina .  We e are proposing to add 215 acres of critical habitat to two previously proposed units. As a result, our proposed revised critical habitat designation for the species now includes 4 revised critical habitat units totaling approximately 2,043 ac.. We also announce the availability of the revised draft economic analysis (DEA) and environmental assessment of the proposed revised designation of critical habitat. We are reopening the comment period on the June 12, 2006, proposed rule to allow all interested parties an opportunity to comment simultaneously on that proposal, the proposed revised critical habitat units described in this document, our amended required determinations, and the associated revised DEA and environmental assessment.

Threatened Status for the Polar Bear Throughout Its Range

May 15, 2008   www.epa.gov 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), is designating threatened status for the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) under the Endangered Species Act. Polar bears evolved to utilize the Arctic sea ice niche and are distributed throughout most ice-covered seas of the Northern Hemisphere. We find, based upon the best available scientific and commercial information, that polar bear habitat--principally sea ice-- is declining throughout the species' range, that this decline is expected to continue for the foreseeable future, and that this loss threatens the species throughout all of its range. Therefore, we find that the polar bear is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all of its range. This final rule activates the consultation provisions of section 7 of the Act for the polar bear. The special rule for the polar bear, also published in today's edition of the Federal Register, sets out the prohibitions and exceptions that apply to this threatened species. Comments and materials received, as well as supporting scientific documentation used in the preparation of this rule, will be available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Marine Mammals Management Office, 1011 East Tudor Road, Anchorage, AK 99503. Copies of this final rule are also available on the Service's Marine Mammal website: http://alaska.fws.gov/fisheries/mmm/polarbear/issues.htm  

Listing of the Ashy Storm Petral

May 15, 2008  www.epa.gov 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), is initiating a status review of the ashy storm-petrel (Oceanodroma homochroa) to determine if listing the species is warranted. Wee are soliciting information and data regarding this species and will make a determination on critical habitat for this species, which was also requested in the petition, if, and when, we initiate a listing action. Information must be submitted on or before July 14, 2008. Please use the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov  or U.S. mail:  Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R8-ES-2008-0049; 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 for faxes.  For further information contact  Mike Long, Field Supervisor, Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office, 1655 Heindon Road, Arcata, CA 95521; telephone 707-822-7201; facsimile 707-822-8411.

Orangutan Escapee Attacks Keeper at Blackpool Zoo

May 15, 2008  news.bbc.co.uk

Blackpool Zoo staff are in the process of being interviewed in an attempt to find out how an orang-utan got out of the ape enclosure on Friday.  A primate keeper, who has worked at the zoo for five years, was taken to hospital for treatment after being bitten.  She suffered injuries to her arm and foot when she was attacked by the female orang-utan in the staff access corridor to the Ape House. 

Lions Escape at South African Zoo

May 15, 2008   www.dispatch.co.za

SOUTH AFRICA -- Fearing for their lives, zoo staff hid in a bird aviary when two lions escaped from their enclosure at the East London Zoo after rusty bolts gave way. The lions attacked and killed a water mongoose before one was chased back into its compound and the other was darted.  It happened just 24 hours before the zoo was packed with visitors over the long weekend. Then last Saturday a troop of chimpanzees escaped from their enclosure, using bamboo poles to force open the thick steel bars. A staff member was bitten on the hand by one of the chimps. The wound required medical assistance. The two incidents have raised concerns over the safety of visitors, and questions have been asked over whether the zoo’s current level of funding is sufficient.  After investigating, zoo manager Nico Roux said he thought lioness Tia and her adult daughter must have pushed against the chain-link fencing when they were playing – and the rusted bolts holding it in place gave way.  The chimps made their way into various parts of the zoo including the zoo kitchen, the public kiosk and the area between the tiger enclosure and children’s Smartie train, but were coaxed back into their enclosure with sweets and food.   A wire mesh has since been secured around the pen.

Mangrove Loss Intensified Myanmar Devastation

May 15, 2008  www.scidev.net  T. V. Padma

NEW DELHI -- Large-scale destruction of mangroves contributed heavily to the damage inflicted by cyclone Nargis in Myanmar last week, says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Myanmar is home to the eighth largest mangrove area in the world, but FAO estimated a loss of  around 70,000 hectares between 1972 and 2005, but 2008 estimates suggest this could be much higher. Losses have been particularly substantial in the Irrawaddy delta, the country's largest mangrove area, where cyclone Nargis struck. At barely 100,000 hectares the delta has lost half its mangrove area since 1975.  The mangroves were destroyed for conversion into rice fields, large-scale shrimp and prawn farming introduced in 1995, extraction of fuel wood and charcoal for Yangon — the country's largest city — and expansion of human settlements. Jan Heino, assistant director general of FAO's forestry department, said "Settlements have been established closer to the sea and the combination of proximity to coastal hazards and lack of a protective forest buffer has increased the risks to human populations in many countries, including Myanmar."  In dense mangroves, the tree's trunks, branches and roots offer resistance to the force of waves and reduce the impact. Mangroves also trap and stabilise sediments and reduce the risk of shoreline erosion, while ground vegetation can protect against smaller waves.

Removal of Maguire Daisy from Endangered Species List

May 16, 2008   www.epa.gov

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), proposes to remove the plant Erigeron maguirei (commonly referred to as Maguire daisy) from the List of Endangered and Threatened Plants. The best scientific and commercial data available indicate that this species has recovered and no longer meets the definition of threatened or endangered under the Act. Our review of the status of this species shows that populations are stable, threats have been addressed, and adequate regulatory mechanisms ensure the species is not currently and is not likely to again become an endangered species within the foreseeable future in all or a significant portion of its range. We seek information, data, and comments from the public regarding E. maguirei, this proposal to delist, and the Post-Delisting Monitoring Plan.

Wildlife Mortality From National Wildlife Health Center

May 16, 2008  www.nwhc.usgs.gov

USGS and a network of partners across the country work on documenting wildlife mortality events in order to provide timely and accurate information on locations, species and causes of death. This information was updated on May 16, 2008 on the USGS National Wildlife Health Center web page, New and Ongoing Wildlife Mortality Events Nationwide. Quarterly Mortality Reports are also available from this page. These reports go back to 1995 and can be found at: http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/mortality_events/ongoing.jsp

An Epidemic of Extinctions

May 16, 2008  www.independent.co.uk

The Living Planet Index out today shows the impact of humanity as biodiversity has plummeted by almost a third in the 35 years from 1970 to 2005. The report, produced by WWF, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Global Footprint Network, tracked nearly 4,000  species and says land species have declined by 25 per cent, marine life by 28 per cent, and freshwater species by 29 per cent.  Jonathan Loh, editor of the report, said that such a sharp fall was "completely unprecedented in terms of human history". Scientists say the current extinction rate is now up to 10,000 times faster than what has historically been recorded as normal.  Ben Collen, extinctions researcher at ZSL, said: "Between 1960 and 2000, the human population of the world has doubled. Yet during the same period, the animal populations have declined by 30 per cent. It's beyond doubt that this decline has been caused by humans." The study picked out five reasons for species decline, all of which can be traced back to human behavior: climate change, pollution, the destruction of animals' natural habitat, the spread of invasive species, and the overexploitation of species. At a time when America has finally added the polar bear to the endangered species list, it is emerging that the scale of species destruction reaches far beyond  the headline animals. But as in the case of the polar bear, mankind's behavior needs to be radically changed in order to stop this pillaging of the Earth's biodiversity.

Rabinowitz Moves from WCS to Panthera

May 16, 2008  www.sciencemag.org

Alan Rabinowitz, 54, has spent his entire career at WCS, where he ran the Society’s science and exploration division.  But he became frustrated by the bureaucracy at the $185 million nonprofit, which runs four New York zoos and works in 53 countries and has taken a new job at Panthera, a New Yor city-based nonprofit that promotes the conservation of 36 species of wild cats.  “I’m completely free to play to my passions,” Rabinowitz says about his new job, which he began last month.  He’s now overseeing Panthera’s budget of $6.4 million, including $400,000 in grants for wild cat research.   As part of his move, Rabinowitz has hired Luke Hunter, a specialist in African cats, and George Schaller away from WCS.  But he hasn’t severed all ties.  One of his goals is to help WCS and other large organizations work together on cat conservation.

Asian Tiger Mosquito Goes Global

May 16, 2008  www.sciencemag.org  By Martin Enserink

The Asian tiger mosquito, an aggressive daytime biter, is on a global rampage. The mosquito has invaded 36 U.S. states, as well as many countries in South and Central America. It's on the march in Africa and the Middle East, has exploded in Italy, and poised to invade large swaths of Europe. A worldwide trade in secondhand tires--which often contain water--has enabled its invasion and lately, an exotic plant called Lucky bamboo has enabled its free ride.  Europe and the United States could now experience serious outbreaks of diseases currently restricted to the tropics.  In lab studies, researchers have shown that more than two dozen viruses can reproduce in Ae. albopictus. The most prominent is dengue, a viral disease that causes severe muscle and joint pains and can also lead to dengue hemorrhagic fever, a rare and often fatal disease. “Dengue in the continental United States is a real possibility," wrote Anthony Fauci and David Morens of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the Journal of the American Medical Association in January.  So far, there's solid evidence for the tiger mosquito's role in the transmission of only two diseases: dengue and chikungunya. The latter is prominent in Africa and Asia. And even for those two, the mosquito isn't historically known to be a very efficient vector.  The reason appears to be its wide host range. If a mosquito bites a dengue-infected child only to move on to a lizard, the virus goes nowhere because it infects only primates. By contrast, a species called Ae. aegypti--also known as the yellow fever mosquito--dines almost exclusively on humans, which is why it has caused an explosive rise in dengue cases in the tropics the past 2 decades. Dengue outbreaks in places that have only Ae. albopictus tend to be mild - a 2001-02 outbreak in Hawaii infected only 122 people, for instance.

U.S. Concerns over Bluetongue

May 16, 2008  www.sciencemag.org   By Paul J. Gibbs

The United States and the Americas have been endemic for several bluetongue virus (BTV) serotypes since first reported in the 1950s. The historically prevalent U.S. BTV serotypes, though pathogenic in sheep, have caused little to no disease in U.S. cattle.  Recently, eight new serotypes of BTV and a new serotype of the related orbivirus, epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus (EHDV), have been identified in the United States. Some of the virus isolates were from clinically affected sheep and deer, with others being detected through testing of cattle for export. The presence of these new serotypes raises the specter that the epidemiology of these viruses in North America may be changing and could result in more extensive disease in U.S. livestock and wildlife then ever seen previously. This is bad news for the U.S. livestock industries and for our ruminant wildlife.  Our ability to understand the current situation is hindered because there is currently no comprehensive surveillance in the United States for either BTV or EHDV. A comprehensive surveillance system, greater risk assessment, and risk prevention through vaccine development and vector control are all needed.

Wolong Response to Eathquake

May 17, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By JIM YARDLEY

CHENGDU, China — The 772 sq mile Wolong Nature Reserve was extremely close to the epicenter of Monday’s quake. Birds suddenly disappeared. The pandas were strangely skittish, and within minutes, the mountains above China’s most famous panda reserve exploded as if hit by a megaton bomb.  The 7.9-magnitude earthquake hit at 2:28 and the cliffs above the center started exploding, collapsing in landslides and boulders started flying down.  The aftershocks finally halted but boulders blocked the path leading to a bridge that linked the breeding center to the road to Wolong village. A Frenchman, three Americans, a tour guide and the panda keepers created a route by climbing over cages, stepping along the top of a wall high above a river and rigging a ladder up to the bridge.  3 groups of tourists (Americans, French and British) made it out to the road.  The staff raced back for the 13 baby panda cubs.  The tourists were evacuated to Chengdu by military helicopters.  Lu Zhi, one of China’s leading panda experts, said researchers at the Sichuan reserves were combing the mountains in search of pandas. As yet, not a single panda is known to have died, but a senior security administrator died while taking part in rescue efforts. 

Orangutan Escape Attempt at L.A. Zoo

May 18, 2008   www.latime.com

After punching a hole through the mesh surrounding his habitat at 3:50 p.m., Bruno, a 29-year-old orangutan at the Los Angeles Zoo,  tried to escape from his enclosure Saturday.  But instead of heading for freedom, he ended up in a holding area behind the cage, where a handler soon noticed him.  Bruno never made it into the zoo's public area, but his attempt prompted officials to ask the park's 3,000 visitors to head toward the exit at the front of the zoo. Keepers quickly approached Bruno, one of the zoo's six orangutans, and sedated him.  Bruno's escape lasted 20 minutes. None of the zoo's other orangutans has ever tried anything similar, said director John 
R. Lewis.

Su-Lin Young, Panda Explorer, Dies

May 18, 2008  www.sfgate.com   By Patricia Yollin

In the 1930s, Adelaide "Su-Lin" Young, the pampered and glamorous daughter of a New York nightclub owner, morphed into one of the first female explorers to venture into the part of China devastated by last week's earthquake.  She became the namesake for two giant pandas living in the United States. Mrs. Young died on April 17 of natural causes. She was 96. Born in New York City in 1911, she married explorer Jack Young in 1933.  The next year, the bride left with her husband, brother-in-law Quentin Young and others on a nine-month expedition to China to acquire specimens for the Museum of Natural History in New York.  The Young family explorers brought a half-dozen pandas to the United States. The one that Harkness named for Su-Lin lived in the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago and is mounted in that city's Field Museum. The second Su-Lin was born in 2005 and resides at the San Diego Zoo.  Mrs. Young also worked as a disc jockey in Taiwan and was an employee at the Social Security Administration in San Francisco's Chinatown from 1968 to 1977. She spoke a couple of dialects and helped people claim what was due them. Mrs. Young is survived by daughters King of Honolulu, Wan of Hercules and Jocelyn Fenton of Dallas, two grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Her husband, from whom she was divorced after more than three decades of marriage, died in 2000.  A memorial for Mrs. Young will be held in New York in September.

Photonic Beetle Biomimicry

May 19, 2008  www.eurekalert.org 

SALT LAKE CITY – A beetle has provided engineers with one of the technologically most sought-after structures for the next generation of computing – an ideal “photonic crystal” to manipulate visible light.  Study leader Michael Bartl, of the University of Utah, said “Nature has simple ways of making structures and materials that are still unobtainable with our million-dollar instruments and engineering strategies.”  The study will be published later this week in the journal Physical Review E.  The beetle is an inch-long weevil named Lamprocyphus augustus. The team is now trying to design a synthetic version of the beetle’s photonic crystals, using scale material as a mold to make the crystals from a transparent semiconductor.  The scales can’t be used in technological devices because they are made of fingernail-like chitin, which is not stable enough for long-term use, is not semiconducting and doesn’t bend light adequately. The goal – still years away – is an ultrahigh-speed computer with optical integrated circuits or chips that run on light instead of electricity.  “You would be able to solve certain problems that we are not able to solve now,” Bartl says. “For certain problems, an optical computer could do in seconds what regular computers need years for.”

Staffers Killed, Pandas Missing at Wolong

May 19, 2008  www.latimes.com  By Tony Perry

The latest word from China is that the Wolong Giant Panda Breeding Center was severly damaged by last week's 7.9-magnitude earthquake. The Associated Press reported that five staffers at the center were killed.  As many five pandas escaped, according to officials of the San Diego Zoo, and all but two have been recaptured.  Ron Swaisgood, panda team co-leader at the San Diego Zoo, has been in contact with Chinese officials and says some Wolong employees are living in tents and cars while they tend the pandas.  San Diego and other U.S. zoos with pandas are organizing a fund to help repair the Wolong facility. 

Human Zoo Opens in Bancock

May 19, 2008  www.iol.co.za 

BANCOCK - Thai provincial officials have allowed a new "human zoo"  featuring "long-necked" or "giraffe" women to open in Sattahip near Bangkok despite mounting international criticism of the exploitative tourism practice, media reports said on Monday. Kayan women wear brass rings around their necks as status symbols and beauty enhancements. Seven Kayan villages are already marketed as tourist attractions in Thailand's northern provinces of Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai, where there is a sizeable population of Kayan, some of whom are refugees from neighbouring Myanmar. The new "village" of Kayans charges and entrance fee of 25 baht (about R5,87) for Thai visitors and 250 baht for foreigners.  Sattahip district chief Narong Thirachantarangkoon said "This is better for the Kayan than staying in their home region and starving."  The rings worn by the Kayan women can weigh 10 kilograms or more, and over the years, the weight pushes down their collar bones and shoulders, making their necks appear longer and giving the women their nicknames of "long-necked" women.

Major Adelaide Zoo Upgrade for Pandas

May 19, 2008  www.abc.net.au 

Premier Mike Rann has confirmed that the Adelaide Zoo will receive $19 million in State Government funding.  Chris West, head of the zoo, says the money will be used to build a new entrance and a fence, which will also incorporate an underwater fairy penguin enclosure. The money will also be used to help prepare for the arrival of two giant pandas from China.

Australia Starts Controversial Kangaroo Cull

May 19, 2008  www.nytimes.com   By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

SYDNEY, Australia -- The Australian Defense Department has begun killing about 400 eastern gray kangaroos at the abandoned military site outside Canberra after a proposal to truck them to remote forest land proved too costly.  Authorities say the overabundant kangaroos are destroying other native species such asdestroying the native grassland habitat of threatened species such as the grassland earless dragon lizard, striped legless lizard, golden sun moth and perunga grasshopper.  European settlers built Australia's cattle and sheep industries on grass seed imported from Britain, and native grassland, which is imperative for some species, is now rare. In some parts of Australia, it can only be found in old cemeteries where livestock never grazed.  Between 20 to 40 kangaroos were tranquilized and then killed with lethal injections by defense contractors, said Angie Stephenson, project manager of Animal Liberation New South Wales.

Calgary Zoo Elephant Handler Injured

May 19, 2008   www.theglobeandmail.com 

CALARY --  An elephant handler at the Calgary Zoo was injured after one of his charges knocked him to the ground yesterday in front of visitors. The keeper was bumped from behind by Swarna, a 2,000-kilogram Asian elephant, just before 2 p.m. The handler was hospitalized but in stable condition with a gash to his face.

Henry Doorly Zoo Expansion

May 19, 2008  www.omaha.com   BY C. DAVID KOTOK

OMAHA -- The Ted Hubbard Madagascar exhibit was unveiled today as the first phase of the Henry Doorly Zoo's ambitious, $100 million expansion plan that includes taking over the Rosenblatt Stadium.  Completion if the $7.5 million Madagascar exhibit is scheduled for next summer and when fully developed, the exhibit will display more than 60 lemurs, said Dr. Lee Simmons, the zoo's executive director. The size of the zoo will also grow by nearly a third with the addition of the nearly 36 acres where Rosenblatt Stadium now sits,  making room for a new mega Arctic Center, and new elephant exhibit. The expansion will mean more animals, more attractions and a lot more parking. The elephants, Arctic animals and an Australian kangaroo exhibit — could take anywhere from seven to 15 years to develop depending on how quickly the zoo can find donors, Simmons said. The City Council will be asked to approve an agreement June 10 that would allow the Rosenblatt property to be transferred to the Omaha Zoo Foundation for the $11.9 million the city owes on past stadium improvements.

New National Zoo Master Plan

May 19, 2008   www.examiner.com 

WASHINGTON  - The Smithsonian Institution is expected later this week to release its favored plan for improvements at the National Zoo. The master plan at the zoo was last updated in 1984. The new version calls for an aerial tram across the zoo, new visitor centers and  expanded exhibits. A public plaza would be built at what is now the site of the Great Ape House, and the zoo would get nearly 600 additional parking spaces. Older exhibits would be revamped. and educational and administrative facilities would be expanded. The tram would stop at the zoo's four entry gates.

Animals in the White House

May 19, 2008  www.galesburg.com   By TOM WILSON

White House pets have included parrots, bear cubs, sheep, silkworms, alligators, tiger cubs, elephants, mice,  opossum, squirrels, hyena, zebra, antelope and the traditional dogs and cats.  Although George Washington never lived in the White House he had 36 hound dogs, his favorite horse Nelson and parrot named Polly at his Mount Vernon estate. Only Millard Fillmore, Franklin  Pierce and Chester Arthur choose to not keep furry friends while living in Washington. President Abraham Lincoln allowed his sons Tad and Willie to have as many pets as they wished. The menagerie that included turkeys, goats, rabbits, pigs and of course a vast assortment of cats and dogs. The Lincoln goats Nanny and Nanko often rode with Abe in the presidential carriage. Theodore Roosevelt set a record for pets including a lizard named Bill, a bear named Jonathon,  a one-legged rooster, Maude the pig, a blue macaw named Eli and even a barn owl. Teddy’s most unusual pets included Jonathon, a piebald rat; Emily Spinach, a garter snake; and an unnamed zebra.  Many of the unusual presidential family pets have been gifts from foreign  leaders. President James Buchanan received a herd of elephants from the king of Siam and Martin Van Buren was the recipient of a pair of tiger cubs from the sultan of Oman. President Calvin Coolidge had a raccoon named Rebecca who he took for walks on a  leash.

Surgery on Cameroon Chimpanzee

May 19, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

An orthopedic surgeon at the University of Liverpool has performed a groundbreaking operation on a chimp in Cameroon to correct a deformity more commonly seen in dogs  The three year-old chimp called Janet was rescued from the Cameroon pet trade last year and now lives in a chimpanzee reserve supported by the Cameroon Wildlife Aid Fund. Janet was unable to climb and had difficulty walking because a bone in her forearm - the ulna - had stopped growing.  It is thought that her condition, known as angular limb deformity, is a congenital problem, but could also have been caused or aggravated by being chained at the wrist by traders. This forced the arm’s radius to grow in a circular manner making her arm severely bent. Vets have seen the deformity in dogs before but never in chimpanzees.   “The first step was to remove the far end of the ulna, which had become compacted due to the continued growth of the radius. A 14mm triangular section of bone was then removed from the radius in order to straighten the limb and a bone plate was inserted into the radius to secure the two ends of the bone.” The Cameroon Wildlife Aid Fund’s website is at: http://www.cwaf.org/index.html

Integrating Ecosystem Restoration and Conservation

May 19, 2008  www.eurekalert.org 

The Society for Ecological argues that “as habitat destruction increases and the effects of climate change continue to accelerate, conservation alone is no longer sufficient in protecting the health and continuity of many species”.  They call attention to the complementary roles of ecological restoration and biological conservation, and their potential for integration within a unified ecosystem approach. According to Keith Bowers, SER’s Vice Chair, “large-scale conservation planning is now taking into account the important role of ecological restoration in preserving biodiversity, whether it is restoring critical elements of the landscape matrix or entire habitats from the ground up”. In the United States, two statewide conservation plans have been built around ecological restoration principles: the New Mexico Forest and Watershed Health Plan and the Statewide Strategy for Restoring Arizona’s Forests. Ultimate success will depend on avoiding top-down approaches by consulting with all stakeholders (e.g. private landowners, indigenous peoples, and government agencies) from planning to implementation and monitoring. Collaborative efforts between those working in the fields of restoration and conservation, specifically utilizing an integrated ecosystem approach, will yield synergies needed to effectively deal with the daunting challenges of preserving biodiversity while simultaneously improving human livelihoods.

Genes from Extinct Tasmanian Tiger function in Mouse

May 19, 2008  www.eurekalert.org 

Researchers from the University of Melbourne, Australia, and the University of Texas, USA, have extracted genes from the extinct Tasmanian tiger and inserted them into a mouse and observed a biological function.  The results, published in the international scientific journal PLoS ONE this week, showed that the thylacine Col2a1 gene has a similar function in developing cartilage and bone development as the Col2a1 gene does in the mouse.  “This is the first time that DNA from an extinct species has been used to induce a functional response in another living organism,” said Dr Andrew Pask, RD Wright Fellow at the University of Melbourne’s Department of Zoology who led the research.  “As more and more species of animals become extinct, we are continuing to lose critical knowledge of gene function and their potential.” The last known Tasmanian tiger died in captivity in the Hobart Zoo in 1936. This marsupial carnivore was hunted to extinction in the wild in the early 1900s. Fortunately some thylacine pouch young and adult tissues were preserved in alcohol in several museum collections around the world.  The research team used thylacine specimens from Museum Victoria in Melbourne Australia to examine how the thylacine genome functioned.  The research team isolated DNA from 100 year old ethanol fixed specimens.

Tasmanian Devil Listed as Endangered

May 19, 2008  wdin.blogspot.com

SYDNEY (AFP) — Australia's Tasmanian devil will be listed as an endangered species this week as a result of the deadly cancer outbreak. The disease, a fast-growing head tumour which is transmitted by biting and spreads over the marsupial's face and mouth and prevents it from eating, often killing it within months, has cut the island's devil population in the wild by as much as 60 percent. A spokeswoman for Tasmania's Primary Industries Minister David Llewellyn said it would be upgraded from a vulnerable to an endangered species so that the "appropriate resources and effort" can be poured into protecting it. The government has also backed a plan to build an "insurance population" of healthy Tasmanian devils at wildlife reserves, zoos and other protected areas. "If required, these animals could be utilised to help re-establish Tasmanian devil numbers in the wild," Llewellyn said. The devil is the world's largest marsupial carnivore and now lives only in Australia's southern island state.

Wind Farms Are Spreading

May 19, 2008  www.enn.com   By Carey Gillam

Wind power has been growing steadily for the past three years, with wind farms springing up all over the windy expanse of the Great Plains and beyond.  While only 1 percent of U.S. electricity comes from wind, it is attracting so much support these days that many in the industry believe it is poised for a growth spurt.  Last year, a record 3,100 turbines were installed across 34 U.S. states and another 2,000 turbines are now under construction from California to Massachusetts. In all, there are about more than 25,000 U.S. turbines in operation, an investment of $15 billion. On May 12, the U.S. Energy Department said wind power could provide 20 percent of U.S. electricity by 2030, or 304 gigawatts, up from the current 16.8 gigawatts. Achieving that will require that wind turbine installations rise to almost 7,000 a year by 2017, the department said.

Montana’s Bison Preserve Turns 100

May 19, 2008  www.montereyherald.com  By JIM MANN

MOIESE, Mont. — The National Bison Range at Moiese is widely known as a hot spot for wildlife watching, but less known for its role in saving a species from extinction 100 years ago. "The whole concept of saving an endangered species sort of began with the American Bison Society 100 years ago," said Bill West, the Bison Range's project leader. "And it started the idea of philanthropy in the wildlife realm, and the idea of buying land specifically for wildlife."  An estimated 30 million to 60 million bison roamed North America prior to settlement of the West in the 1800s, a period that delivered a stunning slaughter that drove bison populations to the brink of extinction.  By 1902, there were only 700 bison in private herds and the only protected herd, in Yellowstone National Park, numbered just 23 animals.  West said the Bison Range and its original herd were the products of a fortunate chain of events and efforts on the part of a few key people.  A Pend d'Oreille Indian called Falcon Robe, was the first to suggest that tribal chiefs start their own bison herds. His stepfather, Walking Coyote, acquired bison calves from Eastern Montana in 1873, bringing them to the Flathead Valley and starting a herd.  In 1884, Michel Pablo and Charles Allard purchased 13 bison from Walking Coyote for $2,000 in gold. The herd numbered about 300 animals by 1896, when Allard died, and his portion of the animals were sold to Charles Conrad of Kalispell. The American Bison Society was founded in 1905 by William Hornaday, director of the New York Zoological Park, with the support of President Theodore Roosevelt. The Bison Range was established in 1908, and the following year 34 animals were purchased from the Conrad herd and donated by the bison society to the range.  It is believed that the existing herd is directly descended from the original herd established by Walking Coyote.

West noted that when Charles Conrad died in 1902, his wife Alicia's perseverance in maintaining the herd was remarkable for a time when most private bison herds were not successful, and most privately owned bison were slaughtered and eaten. ”As we got down to 100 animals in the wild and maybe 1,000 left on the continent, they were only carrying limited genetic traits," West said. "Now that we are at a half-million, they still have those limited traits that existed at the population bottleneck." Now private, federal and tribal bison managers keep close tabs on bison genetics. Some bison can be the sole possessors of specific traits called "private" genes. While animals sometimes are shipped out to other refuges, it's been 23 years since animals have been taken in. The herd last fall numbered about 340 animals, Jamieson said, and 40 to 60 calves will be born by the end of this month. The success in maintaining a bison herd served as a model for populating the 18,766-acre range with other wildlife. In 1910, four whitetail deer were moved from Missoula to the range and antelope from Yellowstone National Park were released. Seven elk from Wyoming were released on the range in 1911 and mule deer were brought to the range in from Yellowstone in 1918. Twelve bighorn sheep, donated from Canada's Banff National Park, were released in 1922, and in 1964 mountain goats were released on the range.

Endangered Species Permit Applications

May 19, 2008   www.epa.gov 

USFWS invites the public to comment on the following applications to conduct certain activities with endangered species.  Comments must be received on or before June 18, 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.  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-839891
Applicant: Jack Levy, Pasadena, California.  The applicant requests an amendment to take (survey by pursuit) the El Segundo Blue butterfly (Euphilotes battoides allyni) in conjunction with surveys throughout the range of the species in California for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-181715
Applicant: Jared Bond, Riverside, California. The applicant requests a permit 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 in Riverside, Orange, and San Diego Counties, California, for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Permit No. TE-181713
Applicant: Cynthia A. Hartley, Ventura, California. The applicant requests a permit to take (locate/monitor nests) the California least tern (Sterna Antillarum browni) in conjunction with population monitoring studies within Ventura County, California, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-051248
Applicant: Paul M. Lemmons, San Diego, 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); and take (harass by survey) the southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) in conjunction with surveys throughout the range of each species, for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Permit No. TE-093591
Applicant: Linda M. Robb, Dana Point, 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-082546
Applicant: Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research, Watsonville, California.  The applicant requests an amendment to take (survey, capture, collect biological samples, and release) the Santa Cruz long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum croceum) in conjunction with biological and genetic research in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties, California, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Status Review for Sonoran Desert Bald Eagle

May 20, 2008   www.epa.gov

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announces the initiation of a status review for the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in the Sonoran Desert area of central Arizona and northwestern Mexico, hereafter referred to as the ``Sonoran Desert area bald eagle.'' All information should be submitted on or before July 7, 2008. Please use the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov or U.S. mail : Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R2-ES-2008-0059; 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. For further information contact: Steve Spangle, Field Supervisor, Arizona Ecological Services Office, 2321 West Royal Palm Road, Suite 103, Phoenix, AZ 85021-4951; telephone 602-242-0210; facsimile 602-242-2513.

At this time, we request any additional information from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, Native American Tribes, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested parties on the status of the Sonoran Desert area bald eagle, including:
    (1) Information regarding Sonoran Desert area bald eagles' historical and current population status, distribution, and trends; biology and ecology; and habitat selection. We also solicit information of this type on adjacent populations and geographic areas for use in evaluating discreteness and significance of the Sonoran Desert area bald eagle.
    (2) Information that supports or refutes the appropriateness of considering the Sonoran Desert area bald eagle to be discrete, as defined in the Policy Regarding the Recognition of Distinct Vertebrate Population Segments Under the Endangered Species Act (61 FR 4722,
February 7, 1996), including, but not limited to:
    (a) Information indicating that Sonoran Desert area bald eagles are markedly separated from other populations of bald eagles due to physical, physiological, ecological, or behavioral factors. This may include information regarding bald eagles of Sonoran Desert area natal origin breeding with bald eagles from populations of different natal origin, and information regarding the Sonoran Desert area bald eagles' isolation from other breeding populations of eagles.
    (b) Information indicating whether or not the Sonoran Desert area bald eagle is delimited by international governmental boundaries within which significant differences in control of exploitation, management of habitat, conservation status, or regulatory mechanisms exist.
    (3) Information that supports or refutes the appropriateness of considering the Sonoran Desert area bald eagle to be significant, as defined in the Policy Regarding the Recognition of Distinct Vertebrate Population Segments Under the Endangered Species Act (61 FR 4722, February 7, 1996) including, but not limited to:
    (a) Information indicating that the ecological setting, including such factors as temperature, moisture, weather patterns, plant communities, etc., in which the Sonoran Desert area bald eagle persists is unusual or unique when compared to that of bald eagles found elsewhere in the United States or Mexico. This may also include information indicating that the Sonoran Desert area bald eagle has or has not developed adaptations to that unique environment, such as breeding behavior, morphological characteristics, egg development and characteristics, or nest types.
    (b) Information indicating that loss of Sonoran Desert area bald eagle would or would not result in a significant gap in the range of the taxon.
    (c) Information indicating that the Sonoran Desert area bald eagle differs markedly from other populations of bald eagles in its genetic characteristics.
    (4) Information regarding the availability of suitable, but unoccupied, breeding habitat that might allow for expansion of the Sonoran Desert area bald eagle populations. This may include
information on areas outside of the boundaries delineated for the Sonoran Desert area bald eagle in our May 1, 2008, final listing rule (73 FR 23966).
    (5) 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) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of the Sonoran Desert area bald eagle's breeding habitat or range, including but not limited to the effects on habitat from: Water management (river diversions, dams, dam operations, surface and groundwater withdrawals); human population growth and accompanying increases in water demands; human recreation; reduced riparian health and regrowth of streamside trees for nesting, foraging, and roosting; urban development; and climate change;
    (b) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes;
    (c) Disease or predation, including but not limited to the effects of avian pox or West Nile virus, Mexican chicken bugs, or ticks;
    (d) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms, including but not limited to adequacy or inadequacy of funding for ongoing management; appropriateness and effect of incidental take permitted for Sonoran Desert area bald eagles while listed under the Act; impacts of low-flying aircraft and effectiveness of flight advisories; and the adequacy or inadequacy of protections under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; and
    (e) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence, including but not limited to information on: Productivity, survival, and mortality rates of this population; the occurrence and
effect of inbreeding; effects to Sonoran Desert area bald eagles while outside the Sonoran Desert area; effects to Sonoran Desert area bald eagles' prey base and productivity, including effects of nonnative predatory fish and native fish restoration; the presence and abundance of pesticides and contaminants such as lead, mercury, or dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE); the effects of climate change; and the effects from eggshell thinning.
    (6) Information supporting the existing boundary developed in our May 1, 2008, final listing rule (73 FR 23966) for Sonoran Desert area bald eagles under consideration in this status review, or information indicating that the boundary should be modified to include other areas.

Dinosaur Fossils Discovered on Arabian Peninsula

May 20, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

ATHENS, Ohio – Scientists have discovered the first dinosaur tracks on the Arabian Peninsula. In this week’s issue of the journal PLoS ONE, they report evidence of a large ornithopod dinosaur, as well as a herd of 11 sauropods walking along a Mesozoic coastal mudflat in what is now the Republic of Yemen.  No dinosaur trackways had been found in this area previously. The finding also is an excellent example of dinosaur herding behavior, the researchers report. The site preserved footprints of 11 small and large sauropods — long-necked, herbivorous dinosaurs that lived in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods — traveling together at the same speed – an interesting social behavior for reptiles.” was happening on the southern landmasses. It’s exciting to see new paleontological data coming out of Yemen – and I think there is a lot more to discover.”

Adaptive Evolution Seen in Snake Proteins

May 20, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Previously, it was assumed that innovation and divergence at the morphological and physiological level would be easily explained at the molecular level. Molecular explanations for physiological adaptations have, however, been rare. In a study published in PLoS ONE on, May 21, David Pollock a professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Genetics at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine and colleagues provide evidence that major macroevolutionary changes in snakes (e.g., physiological and metabolic adaptations and venom evolution) have been accompanied by massive functional redesign of core metabolic proteins. Over the last ten years, scientists have shown that snakes have remarkable abilities to regulate heart and digestive system development. They endure among the most extreme shifts in aerobic metabolism known in vertebrates. This has made snakes an excellent model for studying organ development, as well as physiological and metabolic regulation. The reasons that snakes are so unique had not previously been identified at the molecular level. But this study shows that mitochondrially-encoded oxidative phosphorylation proteins in snakes have endured a remarkable process of evolutionary redesign that may explain why snakes have such unique metabolism and physiology.  Amino acids that are normally highly conserved in these proteins have been altered, affecting key molecular functions such as proton transfer (which establishes a proton concentration gradient that drives energy production in the cell). In addition to the accelerated burst of amino acid replacements, evidence for adaptation comes from the remarkable levels of molecular coevolution and convergence that were observed. 

Walrus Vocalization Study

May 20, 2008  www.nytimes.com

Pinnipeds are fin-footed carnivores.  There are 19 species in the family of so-called true seals, and 14 in the family of fur seals and sea lions, the walrus is the only living representative of the family Odobenidae, those that walk with their teeth. And though the walrus is an Arctic species and harder to study in the wild than the elephant seals and sea lions found on the beaches of Northern California, scientists are gathering evidence that Odobenus is the most cognitively and socially sophisticated of all pinnipeds.  Like the polar bear, which was granted threatened status last week, the walrus depends on the seasonal rhythms of the polar ice cap for every phase of its life, which means it is particularly vulnerable to the warming of the earth’s climate and the retreat of the ice. The walrus shares with other big-brained species an unusually extended childhood. Walrus calves remain with their mothers for several years, compared with several weeks or months for the young of other pinnipeds, and that sustained dependency “could very well provide an opportunity for learning.

Evidence suggests that the bonds between walruses are exceptionally strong: the animals share food, come to one another’s aid when under attack and nurse one another’s young.  Males woo females with lengthy compositions that have been compared in the complexity of their structure and phrasing to the songs of nightingales and humpback whales, but that use a greater number of body parts. Walruses sing with their fleshy and muscular lips, tongues, muzzles and noses. They sing by striking their flippers against their chests to hit their pharyngeal pouches, balloon-like extensions of the trachea that are unique to Odobenus and that also serve as flotation devices. In full breeding tilt, the bulls whistle, beep, rasp, strum, bark and knock. They make bell tones, jackhammer drills, train-track clatters and the rubber-band boing! They mix and match their boings, bells and knocks, they speed up and slow down, they vocalize underwater, in the air, at the bubbly border between. They sing nonstop for days at a time, and their songs can be heard up to 10 miles away. They listen to one another, take tips from one another and change their tune as time and taste require.  Nobody yet knows what a female listens for while she hears one or more suitors singing, but eventually she dives from her icy perch and into the water to mate, and evidence suggests she will shun anyone who can’t carry a tune. And though females in the wild do not sing as the males do, they have the anatomical equipment to make music and will perform if given the right incentive — like the promise of food or affection from Leah Coombs, one of the trainers at Six Flags.  Reporting in the December issue of the journal Animal Cognition, Dr. Ronald J. Schusterman of the University of California, Santa Cruz and Dr Colleen Reichmuth of the Long Marine Laboratory at the University of California, Santa Cruz described their efforts to explore the extent of the walrus’s vocal talents, its capacity to invent acoustical sequences when given the cue.

Measuring the Emotions of Animals

May 20, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Many studies have demonstrated beneficial effects of enriched compared to barren housing, and scientists at Bristol University Veterinary School have found that rats housed in standard conditions show a stronger response to the loss of an expected food reward than those housed in enriched conditions, perhaps indicating a more negative emotional state.  The researchers have developed a new approach to the measurement of animal emotional states based on findings from human psychology that emotions affect information processing.  In general, people are more sensitive to reward losses than gains, but depressed people are particularly sensitive to losses.

Critical Habitat for the Piping Plover

May 20, 2008    www.epa.gov

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), proposes to designate revised critical habitat for the wintering population of the piping plover (Charadrius melodus) in 18 specific units in Texas under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). In total, approximately 138,881 acres (ac) (56,206 hectares (ha)) fall within the boundaries of the proposed revised critical habitat designation. The proposed revised critical habitat is located in Cameron, Willacy, Kenedy, Kleberg, Nueces, Aransas, Calhoun, Matagorda, and Brazoria Counties, Texas. Other previously designated critical habitat for the wintering piping plover in Texas or elsewhere in the United States is unaffected by this proposal.

Endangered Species Permit Applications

May 20, 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 at the address given below, by June 19, 2008.  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.  You may also send e-mail to : david_dell@fws.gov Please include your name and return address in your e-mail message.

Applicant: Assistant Regional Director, Ecological Services, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southeast Region, TE697819
    The applicant requests renewal of existing authorization to take or remove and reduce to possession listed species occurring in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Southeast Region for scientific purposes, the enhancement of propagation or survival, and for approved recovery activities. The applicant also requests amendment of their existing permit to add or remove all newly listed or de-listed species since the last permit renewal, as well as to add candidate species expected to be listed in the near future.

Applicant: Harold Schramm, USGS, Mississippi Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Mississippi State, Mississippi, TE178448
    The applicant requests authorization to capture, implant acoustic transmitters into, and release pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus) for tracking purposes in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers in Mississippi and Louisiana.

Applicant: Scott Slankard, Eco-Tech Consultants, Inc., Frankfort, Kentucky, TE810274
    The applicant requests authorization to amend an existing permit to capture, handle, radio-tag, and release Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis) and gray bats (Myotis grisescen) for presence/absence surveys and scientific research aimed at recovery of the species throughout the states of New Jersey, West Virginia, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.

Applicant: Peggy Measel, Round Mountain Biological and Environmental Studies, Inc., Nicholasville, Kentucky, TE121059
    The applicant requests authorization to amend an existing permit to capture, identify, measure, sex, and release Indiana bats and gray bats while conducting presence/absence surveys throughout the species ranges in Tennessee.

Applicant: Norman Wagoner, Forest Supervisor, Ouachita National Forest, Hot Springs, Arkansas, TE125605
    The applicant requests renewal of existing authorization to capture, handle, band, and release the Indiana bat while conducting inventory and monitoring surveys within the boundaries of Ouachita National Forest, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Applicant: Chris Fleming, BDY Environmental, LLC, Nashville, Tennessee, TE111326
    The applicant requests renewal of existing authorization to capture, identify, sex, photograph, temporarily hold, release, and relocate the Nashville crayfish (Orconectes shoupi) while conducting presence/absence surveys and translocation activities in Mill Creek Watershed, Davidson and Williamson Counties, Tennessee.

Applicant: Robert Oney, Palmer Engineering, Winchester, Kentucky, TE178524
    The applicant requests authorization to capture, identify, temporarily hold, and release Indiana bats, gray bats, and Virginia big-eared bats (Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus); cumberlandian combshell (Epioblasma brevidens), Cumberland elktoe (Alasmidonta atropurpurea), Cumberland bean (Villosa trabalis), fanshell (Cyprogenia stegaria), ring pink (Obovaria retusa), orangefoot pimpleback (Plethobasus cooperianus), rough pigtoe (Pleurobema plenum), pink mucket (Lampsilis abrupta), clubshell (Pleurobema clava), and fat pocketbook (Potamilus capax); and locate white-haired goldenrod (Solidago albopilosa), running buffalo clover (Trifolium stoloniferum), and Virginia spiraea (Spiraea virginiana) while conducting presence/ absence surveys throughout the range of the species.

Applicant: Paul Stone, Crosby Resource Management, LLC, DeRidder, Louisiana, TE179330
    The applicant requests authorization to harass the red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis) while surveying population occurrence and conducting management activities for this species throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.

Applicant: Jeffrey Walters, Department of Biological Sciences, VirginiaTech, Blacksburg, Virginia, TE070846
    The applicant requests renewal of existing authorization to monitor nests, capture, band, radio-tag, collect blood, construct cavities, and translocate red-cockaded woodpeckers for the purposes of banding juveniles and adults, monitoring populations and nest cavities, and various research projects throughout the species range in Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

Applicant: Michael Keys, North Florida Wildlife, Crawfordville, Florida, TE834056
    The applicant requests renewal of existing authorization to capture, band, and release red-cockaded woodpeckers for the purposes of banding juveniles and adults and monitoring populations and nest cavities throughout the species range in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Virginia, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Applicant: Shaun Williamson, Forest Supervisor, National Forests in Mississippi, Jackson, Mississippi, TE020890
    The applicant requests renewal of existing authorization to harass red-cockaded woodpeckers for the purposes of constructing and monitoring artificial nest cavities and restrictors; for capturing, banding, and translocation of birds; and for monitoring populations and nest cavities throughout the species range in Mississippi.

Applicant: Charles Rabolli, CCR Environmental, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia, TE096132
    The applicant requests renewal of existing authorization to harass red-cockaded woodpeckers while conducting presence/absence surveys, constructing artificial nest cavities, controlling vegetation, and monitoring activities in clusters throughout the species range in Virginia, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

Applicant: Curtis Garriock, Pittsboro, North Carolina, TE179329
    The applicant requests authorization to capture, identify, photograph, temporarily hold, and release the Saint Francis Satyr butterfly (Neonympha mitchellii francisci) while conducting presence/ absence surveys for this species throughout North Carolina and Virginia.

Applicant: Eric Hoffman, Department of Biology, University of CentralFlorida, Orlando, Florida, TE179312
    The applicant requests authorization to capture, examine, draw blood, collect hairs, and release the Lower Keys marsh rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris hefneri) to assess genetic diversity in Monroe County, Florida.

Applicant: Chris Isaac, Appalachian Technical Services, Inc., Wise, Virginia, TE009638
    The applicant requests authorization to amend an existing permit to capture, handle, radio-tag, and release Indiana bats, gray bats, Virginia big-eared bats, and blackside dace (Phoxinus cumberlandensis) for presence/absence surveys and scientific research aimed at recovery of the species throughout the species ranges in Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Applicant: Brian Estes, Jordan, Jones, and Goulding, Inc., Norcross, Georgia, TE087127
    The applicant requests renewal of existing authorization to capture, identify, and release blue shiner (Cyprinella caerulea), Etowah darter (Etheostoma etowahae), Cherokee darter (Etheostoma scotti), amber darter (Percina antesella), goldline darter (Percina aurolineata), snail darter (Percina tanasi), Conasauga logperch (Percina jenkinsi), and the eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi) for presence/absence surveys throughout the species ranges in Georgia.

Applicant: Jeffrey West, Columbia, South Carolina, TE178643
    The applicant requests authorization to harass the Carolina heelsplitter (Lasmigona decorate) for presence/absence surveys throughout the species range in North Carolina and South Carolina.

Applicant: John Alford, Ecological Solution, Inc., Roswell, Georgia,TE070800
    The applicant requests authorization to amend an existing permit to harass all threatened and endangered fish, mussel, and snail species native to Georgia and Alabama for presence/absence surveys.

Applicant: Julie Lockwood, North Brunswick, New Jersey, TE075916
    The applicant requests authorization to amend an existing permit to capture, band, collect blood samples, release, and monitor nests of the Cape Sable seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus mirabilis) while conducting demographic studies in Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve, Monroe and Miami-Dade Counties, Florida.

Status of California’s Peregrine Falcon

May 20, 2008  www.kcra.com

SACRAMENTO, California -- California Fish and Game is asking for input about the taxonomic status, ecology, biology, life history, management recommendations, distribution and other factors related to the status of the Peregrine falcon.  The falcon was listed as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act in 1971 because of a dramatic population decline linked to environmental contamination.  The pesticide DDT and other dangerous pesticides, called organochlorine pesticides, were linked to falcon egg shell thinning, breakage, hatching failure and other abnormal factors in the species that led to a decline in bird numbers.  At the time of listing, only five breeding pairs of the falcons were documented as nesting in California.  Following the ban on these pesticides in the United States, the falcon made a comeback. An active captive breeding campaign was led by Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group, the Peregrine Fund and state and federal government.  Comments should be sent to the following address by July 15th.: Wildlife Branch - Nongame Wildlife Program / California Department of Fish and Game / Attn: Lyann Comrack / 1812 Ninth St. / Sacramento, Calif. 95811

2 South African Birds Endangered

May 20, 2008  www.news.com.au   By CARA JENKIN, SARAH WOTHERSPOON

TWO South Australian birds have joined the endangered species list because their habitat has been destroyed.  The Mallee Emu-wren, of which about 100 are found in a tiny pocket of Victoria and South Australia, was yesterday upgraded from vulnerable to endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).  The South Australian Osprey, of which the largest population exists on the West Coast, has also been added to the endangered species list.  Scientists have blamed severe habitat fragmentation, prolonged drought and climate change for limiting the Mallee Emu-wren to the Murray Sunset National Park, Ngarkat Conservation Park and Hattah-Kulkyne National Park on SA's eastern border.

Pygmy Owl’s Delisting is Challenged with Lawsuit

May 20, 2008  www.tucsoncitizen.com   by B. POOLE

The Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity and The Defenders of Wildlife intend to sue the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to get a southern Arizona owl species put back on the endangered species list.  They hope to force the relisting of the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl, which was removed from the list in 2006. The owl was listed as endangered in 1997 then removed after federal officials deemed the Arizona population not significant to the species, which mainly exists in northern Mexico. In the final listing ruling, published in the Federal Register on March 10, 1997, Fish & Wildlife named four distinct subspecies of the pygmy owl - in Texas, Arizona and eastern and western Mexico. All four subspecies were deemed significant in that ruling. The decision to delist the owl nine years later was contrary to the information provided by Fish & Wildlife's own biologists, said Noah Greenwald, a Center biologist and the main author of the relisting petition.

San Diego Zoo Partners with Al Ain Zoo

May 21, 2008  www.e-wire.com
SAN DIEGO, California --  The Zoological Society of San Diego has entered into an agreement with representatives of the Abu Dhabi government, which manages the Al Ain Zoo and Aquarium Public Institution (AZAPI). The agreement will create a 2,000-acre wildlife park called Dowh Al Ain in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The relationship is expected to span more than a decade as both organizations work together on conservation and outreach efforts in the region. Abu Dhabi has worked to build sustainable populations of endangered species in the region:  the Arabian oryx, Houbara bustard, Arabian tahr and Arabian leopard. Included in these efforts is a previous collaboration between  San Diego and the Abu Dhabi emirate, which reintroduced scimitar-horned oryx to reserves in Northern Africa. This new agreement adds Dowh Al Ain to a list of organizations partnered with the Zoological Society that includes the Ministry of Forestry in China, the Nature Conservancy on the Komodo Island in Indonesia, the Darwin Research Station in the Galápagos Islands, the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem, the Philippines Government, the Kenyan Wildlife Trust and the International Rhino Foundation.

New Micke Grove Zoo Master Plan

May 21, 2008 www.recordnet.com   By Zachary K. Johnson

STOCKTON - The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors has approved Micke Grove Zoo’s 20-year master plan. They also voted to explore creating a committee to bring together public and private stakeholders interested in the future of the zoo. Over the next two decades the zoo will have penguins, jaguars and even a lion. Future exhibits, like the lion exhibit, wouldn't happen until the zoo begins to increase its footprint to three times that size in the more distant future.  Existing and current exhibits will be placed according to geography, said Lee Engler, a consultant with Kansas-based WDM Architects. The zoo's core area would contain California, South American, Madagascar and Asian themes, featuring new exhibits, like a Komodo dragon exhibit in Asia and a black bear exhibit in California. The core area would also have a play area for children to watch animals while pretending to be animals themselves as they hop on rocks like mountain goats or climb giant spider webs, Engler said.  The plan is to have a walk-in aviary by next summer, where visitors will be able to feed exotic birds by hand and the money is available to build this first exhibit. A rough price tag of $55 million was suggested.

Humpback Whale Population Increases

May 21, 2008   www.nature.com

Humpback whale numbers in the northern Pacific Ocean have ballooned to nearly 20,000, the largest population seen since the majestic mammals were hunted nearly to extinction half a century ago. The number of humpbacks hit an all-time low of 1,400 or even lower by 1966, when their hunting was banned internationally. The new census, from one of the largest whale studies ever undertaken, shows that the animals have rebounded much better than expected.  “We had no idea the population could have grown this high,” says John Calambokidis, a biologist at Cascadia Research Collective, a non-profit environmental research institute in Olympia, Washington, and a principal investigator on the study.  But cetologists are concerned about the estimated 900 humpbacks that migrate to the western Pacific. This subpopulation may be being hunted illegally, with some getting entangled in the nets of fishermen. Still, researchers say that the western Pacific population is increasing at more than 6% per year — roughly the same rate as humpbacks in other regions.  The three-year study, called SPLASH (Structure of Populations, Levels of Abundance and Status of Humpbacks), involved more than 400 researchers from 10 nations. Its US$3.7-million price tag was paid for with funding from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Canadian government and private sources. It used everything from ocean-going research ships to motorized outrigger canoes to identify whales by their fluke markings, then monitor them from their feeding grounds off Canada and the Aleutian Islands to their winter and breeding grounds off Hawaii, Latin America and Asia.

Canadian Debate Over Zoos

May 21, 2008  www.cbc.ca   By John Bowman  

Recently, the deaths of over 40 cownose stingrays at the Calgary Zoo and the death of a visitor at the San Francisco Zoo stirred up the debate on whether animals should be kept for public viewing.  While zoos often tout their educational programs, Rob Laidlaw, executive director of Zoocheck Canada, a national wild animal protection charity, disputes this argument. "All of the media that allow us to learn about animals today did not exist when zoos arose in the 19th century, yet the concept has stayed pretty much the same."  Laidlaw says the research doesn't support the zoos' claims that exhibiting animals is necessarily educational. But Bill Peters, national director of the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA), says such research does exist, and it shows that people learn in a different way when the animals they're studying are right in front of them.  "Where they're in the presence of animals, it's not the same as seeing them in a book or seeing them on television," says Peters. "There is a very different kind of emotional bond or connection created and that facilitates in the delivery and the assimilation of information." CAZA has 25 member zoos and aquariums across the country, and Peters says CAZA's accreditation requirements have special emphasis on education. 

Relocation of Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle

May 21, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

There are only four specimens of the Yangtze giant softshell turtle left—one in the wild and three in captivity. A conservation team (Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), working in conjunction with partners from two Chinese zoos and the China Zoo Society) recently paired two of them. An 80-year-old, female, living in China’s Changsha Zoo has been introduced to the only known male in China.  He was more than 100-year-old living more than 600 miles away at the Suzhou Zoo.  The Bronx Zoo and the Fort Worth Zoo-based TSA coordinated the important move; TSA provided much of the funding, animal reproduction and technical expertise while WCS provided veterinary and logistical support and coordination with wildlife partners in China and New York. Other project partners include Ocean Park and Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, both in Hong Kong.  On May 5, turtle biologists, veterinarians, and zoo staff convened at the Changsha Zoo to collect and transport the female to the Suzhou Zoo where she joined her new mate. The move was coordinated to coincide with the female’s reproductive cycle.  “This is a story of hope for a species truly on the brink,” said Colin Poole, Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Asia Programs. “We are extremely grateful to our conservation partners both in China and here in the U.S. who made this historic move possible. The risks were high—relocating an animal can be highly stressful for it and research shows that breeding attempts by males can become aggressive. However, since the female has arrived safely and is settling well into her new habitat at the Suzhou Zoo, biologists are optimistic for breeding success.

Missing Link Between Frogs & Salamanders Found

May 21, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Gerobatrachus hottoni (Hotton’s elder frog) was originally discovered in Texas in 1995 by a field party from the Smithsonian Institution that included the late Nicholas Hotton, for whom the fossil is named. It remained unstudied until it was “rediscovered” by scientists at the University of Calgary. Careful examination of the fossil has revealed that some modern amphibians, frogs and salamanders evolved from one ancient amphibian group called temnospondyls.  The discovery is described in the journal Nature, and provides a much fuller understanding of the origin and evolution of modern amphibians. The skull, backbone and teeth of Gerobatrachus have a mixture of frog and salamander features—the fossil has two fused bones in the ankle, which is normally only seen in salamanders, and a very large tympanic ear (ear drum). It also has a lightly built and wide skull similar to that of a frog. Its backbone is exactly intermediate in number between the modern frogs and salamanders and more primitive amphibians. The new data indicates that frogs and salamanders separated from each other sometime between 240 and 275 million years ago, much more recently than previous molecular data had suggested

Critical Habitat for Northern Spotted Owl

May 21, 2008   www.epa.gov  

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces the reopening of the comment period on the proposed revised designation of critical habitat for the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis
caurina)  We also announce the availability of the draft economic analysis (DEA) of the proposed revised critical habitat designation and an amended required determination section of the proposal. We are reopening the comment period to allow all interested parties an opportunity to comment simultaneously on the proposed revised rule, the associated draft economic analysis, and the amended required determinations section.  We will consider comments received or postmarked on or before June 20, 2008.  Submit comments to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov or by U.S. mail to  Public Comments Processing,  Attn: RIN 1018-AU37; 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. For additional information contact: Matt Kales, Acting Project Leader, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2600 SE., 98th Ave., Suite 100, Portland, OR 97266; telephone 503-231-6179. You may obtain copies of the proposed revised rule and DEA by mail from the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office , by visiting the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov
You may obtain copies of the Final Recovery Plan and Sustainable Ecosystems Institute report on the Internet at http://www.fws.gov/pacific/ecoservices/endangered/recovery/NSORecoveryPlanning.htm

Maze-A-Palooza at Fort Worth Zoo

May 22, 2008  www.journalgazette.net

Maze-A-Palooza, a 1,000-square-foot maze, has opened at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. This temporary exhibit offers puzzles, games and brainteasers, featuring optical illusions, mirrors and clues to guide visitors.  A 300-square-foot Mini-Maze is available for young adventurers. Families can also travel together across four large floor mazes on the site.  The exhibit will remain through Sept. 1.

5 Amur Tiger Cubs Born at St. Louis Zoo

May 22, 2008 www.msnbc.msn.com 

ST. LOUIS - Kalista, a rare Amur (Siberian) tiger is the first-time mother of five cubs at the Saint Louis Zoo. Although tiger litters are usually only two to three cubs, as many as six have been recorded.  Kalista has nursed and cared for all five cubs, but zoo officials intervened when two of the three female cubs dropped weight and became fragile shortly after their births. Staff provided extra food and care but kept the cubs with their mother. The five weigh now weigh between.5 to 7 pounds each. The family will remain in a private indoor den until the cubs reach about three months of age. Their father, Khuntami, who was born in the wild  will stay on public display. Approximately 300 Amur tigers are part of the AZA’s breeding program.  Only about 500 of this species remain in parts of eastern Russia and northeast China.

Official Manipulated California Endangered Species Rulings

May 22, 2008  www.sacbee.com  By MICHAEL DOYLE

The Department of Interior’s investigation of Julie MacDonald, who oversaw the USFWS until her resignation in May 2007, has been completed.  Investigators found that she inappropriately manipulated eight endangered species decisions, including one involving the California red-legged frog. The Government Accountability Office investigators noted MacDonald oversaw some 200 Fish and Wildlife Service endangered species decisions during her five-year tenure. The investigators also cited the Sacramento splittail, a tiny silver fish found in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and the Central California tiger salamander found around Santa Barbara and Sonoma counties. MacDonald insisted on lumping the Central California salamander population together with populations found elsewhere, causing a downgrading of federal protections. A federal court later overturned the move. R. Lyle Laverty, a former Forest Service ranger and Colorado state parks director, has replaced MacDonald. He insisted Wednesday that the Interior Department has "made great strides" in improving decision-making and will "maintain a strong emphasis on ethical conduct." The department is now cleaning up after MacDonald, including plans to issue new red-legged frog habitat by Aug. 29.  Last spring, the agency designated 450,288 acres as critical habitat for the amphibian once made famous by Mark Twain's story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County." The critical habitat was 39 percent smaller than scientists originally proposed.

DNA Analysis Finds New Family of Gecko

May 22, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Scientists have long been interested in geckos and their evolution because they are key biodiversity indicators and are found on nearly every continent. The Gecko’s sticky toe pads, which allow them to scale rough and smooth surfaces, may have human application in medicine, emergency rescue service and military industries.  Graduate students Tony Gamble from the University of Minnesota and Aaron Bauer from Villanova sequenced DNA from 44 species of gecko and used this genetic data to reconstruct the animals’ family tree. The resulting new classification is different from previous classifications, which are based solely on foot structure. The researchers have named the new family “Phyllodactylidae,” referring to the leaf-shaped toes of many of the species in this group (phyllo meaning “leaf:” dactyl meaning “toe”). The new family consists of 103 species found in semiarid and tropical regions of North Africa, the Middle East, North and South America and the Caribbean.

Sharks Endangered

May 22, 2008  www.physorg.com 

An international study organised by the IUCN Shark Specialist Group (SSG), was conducted by 15 scientists from 13 different research institutes around the world, with additional contributions from scores of other SSG members.  The experts determined that 16 out of the 21 oceanic shark and ray species that are caught in high seas fisheries are at heightened risk of extinction due primarily to targeted fishing for valuable fins and meat as well as indirect take in other fisheries. In most cases, these catches are unregulated and unsustainable. The increasing demand for the delicacy ‘shark fin soup’, driven by rapidly growing Asian economies, means that often the valuable shark fins are retained and the carcasses discarded. Frequently, discarded sharks and rays are not even recorded.  Sharks and rays are particularly vulnerable to overfishing due to their tendency to take many years to become sexually mature and have relatively few offspring.

Lincoln Park Zoo’s Chimpanzee Research Program

May 22, 2008  news.medill.northwestern.edu   by Angela Nitzke

Scientists at the Lincoln Park Zoo have recently begun reaching out to give visitors the chance to see apes through the eyes of a scientist. Zoo researchers are keenly aware of the threats to wild great ape populations (Habitat loss, hunting and disease are all threats to wild chimps with an estimated population of about 173,000 to 300,000, according to the United Nations Environmental Program.  As recently as 50 years ago, millions of chimpanzees were running wild in Africa ) Mark Foster is education program coordinator at the zoo’s Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes.  “The first step in conserving the world's ape populations in the wild is to recognize and understand the complexities of these threats. Mitigating the risks takes a deeper understanding of ape behavior,” according to published research by Elizabeth Lonsdorf, director of the Fisher Center.  The zoo gives visitors the opportunity to try their hand at evaluating the behavior of the resident chimpanzees. Visitors are given a lesson on ape behavior and then use a hand-held device to record what the animal is doing for a set period of time.  The visitor observations aren’t included in official data records. But the mountain of data collected by researchers is used to design better housing for captive apes and to give the animals a stimulating environment.

Chengdu Giant Panda Research Base Update

May 22, 2008  npr.org  By Melissa Block, All Things Considered

There are 239 pandas in captivity — including 48 at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Sichuan.  When the earthquake hit, the base's director, Zhang Zhihe said the baby pandas panicked and tried to climb up the iron bars of their indoor enclosure.  The adult pandas rushed outside and got as high off the ground as they could climb. They were making sounds indicating they were terrified, he says. The pandas at the Chengdu base seem fine now, and the base has taken in eight pandas from Wolong so far; Zhang expects he will be receiving more from Wolong and, possibly, injured pandas rescued from the wild in the earthquake zone. Search teams will be sent out to look for them, high in the mountains.

The Chengdu base started 20 years ago with six sick and starving pandas rescued from the wild. Zhang Zhihe, 42, has been the director for six years.  A few years ago, Zhang did something revolutionary at the panda base. At the time, the staff was feeding the pandas a diet heavy on grains and dairy, convinced that a human diet was best.  But Zhang observed that the pandas weren't healthy — they were chronically ill and exhibited stunted development — and decided to change their diet and feed them mainly bamboo.  It sounds simple, but he was bucking a rigid system was extremely difficult according to Kati Loeffler, the panda base's director of animal health, who is one of two Western scientists Zhang hired — the only foreigners ever to be hired by the base.  Now, Zhang is worried about the bamboo supply for these animals, because the panda base harvested much of its bamboo from an area near the earthquake's epicenter. But the director says he knows the panda reserve at Wolong is far worse off. So even though he worries about his own supply of bamboo, he decided to send a large truckful to Wolong.

When the immediate crisis settles down, another fight looms over reintroducing giant pandas into the wild. The pandas at the breeding center have all been raised in captivity: They've been handled intensively by humans since birth and have no survival skills. Loeffler says if you want to introduce a new generation of pandas into the wild — and do it right — it would take five to 10 years of planning. But she says Zhang is facing pressure from the Chinese government to move pandas into the wild — and fast. It's perceived by the Chinese authorities as the next, high-profile achievement. "That's the next sexy thing to do," Loeffler says. "But I'm very encouraged by Zhang Zhihe's support of really trying to do it well — and really taking the time to do the necessary planning and research that really has to go into it — rather than just flinging a panda out there and seeing what happens kind of thing." And they've seen what can happen: Two years ago, the Wolong panda reserve released a panda that had been bred and raised in captivity. Xiang Xiang was found dead within a year. Scientists believe he was killed by rival males.

There is another area in which Zhang may face an uphill battle — the traditional push to get the pandas to breed as much as possible. The panda base isn't called a breeding center for nothing: Its goal is to boost the panda population. In the wild, the baby pandas that are drinking from bottles would still be nursing. But at the base, they are weaned a year or two early, so the mothers can go into estrus — being "in heat" — and, perhaps, get pregnant again. A female panda might be anesthetized three to six times in one day for artificial insemination. Veterinarian Loeffler says in the wild, a female panda will raise a cub on average about once every four years. "In captivity, the goal is to get at least one cub, ideally twins, out of that female every single year, which of course is physiologically completely abnormal," Loeffler says. She likens the panda base to a "panda factory." But Zhang, the panda base director, disagrees with that label. "Maybe for the first phase, it can be called a panda factory. But this factory [is] a factory in which pandas with good quality, with good genetic diversity [will] be produced," he says. Zhang walks a tightrope, balancing the interests of the pandas against the need to increase the population so it can sustain itself. He hopes that soon the staff at the base can let panda moms stay with their cubs longer. It's better for the babies, he says.

Video of Elusive Knysna Forest Elephant

May 23, 2008  www.theherald.co.za

On May 15th, after four days of solid tracking through dense, indigenous forest, film-makers Mark van Viwijk and Lianne Slegh, together with experienced trackers Karel Maswatie and Wilfred Oraai, captured four minutes of rare footage of a Knysna forest elephant.  After studying photographs taken in recent years, staff at SANParks are convinced that only one of these elusive giants remains. They drew this conclusion by studying the ragged edge at the exterior of the elephant‘s ears and comparing the pattern to that on the other photographs.  However, DNA tests on elephant dung found in the forest indicate that at least five elephants inhabit the area, according to environmentalist Gareth Patterson.  In the 1800s, it was thought that several hundred forest elephants lived in Knysna, but by 1908 the number had dwindled to between 20 and 30 due to their slaughter by ivory hunters.  Van Viwijk, an independent film- maker, met Patterson in 2001 and then contacted Herd before the film was commissioned by production company Natural History Unit Africa. The company joined forces with e.tv, focusing on natural history and wildlife filming, at the end of last year.

St Louis Zoo Announces 25-Year Plan

May 23, 2008   www.ksdk.com

After two years of research the St. Louis Zoo announced its long range plan for the future today. The zoo has seven major initiatives for the next 25 years.  President and Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Bonner,  says he wants to keep the St. Louis Zoo free, but there are some expensive goals.  They include building brand new, up to date animal exhibits for animals like the California Sea Lion, the polar bear, the grizzly bear, and endangered species like the Spectacled Bear. Zoo leaders also want to expand the elephant exhibit, and allow visitors to check out the growing in house elephant population by train. Other goals including improving the zoo's 100- year-old infrastructure, replacing things like roofs and walkways. The plan calls for improving computer and surveillance camera systems as well. Expand staff, research, conservation, and educational initiatives are also zoo goals. Zoo officials don't have even a ballpark figure on how much the initiatives will cost yet, but they say consider building just one new sea lion exhibit alone could between $15,000,000 and $25,000,000.

Condor Chick Recovering at Oregon Zoo

May 23, 2008  seattletimes.nwsource.com

PORTLAND — Zoo staff have worked feverishly this month to hatch an underweight and shell-bound California condor chick. Monitoring the egg at the zoo's Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation, keepers determined it would not be able to hatch alone.  Fearing the chick would suffocate, they broke away part of the shell and removed the chick. After a week of antibiotics and a blood transfusion from an adult condor, the chick has turned the corner and is getting stronger.

Rhino Poaching Increases in India

May 23, 2008  www.enn.com 

Three rhinos were recently killed in Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park, and two in Kaziranga on the last week of April. No later than April 28, a calf and his mother were poached again in Kaziranga National Park. In 2007, 16 rhinos were killed and four more till February this year. Rhinos in Nepal are also victims as one was killed last week, making the total of poached one-horned rhino rise to six specimens since January. Until recently, an average of five to ten rhinos were killed each year, but a rise in the number has been recorded recently. This tragic upsurge of poaching contrasts with WWF-India’s opening operations of Indian Rhino Vision 2020, an ambitious plan to give India a population of 3000 rhinos spread over protected areas in the northeastern state of Assam. That project is a joint project with the Government of Assam State. The situation of the Indian rhinos remains precarious as global market pressures continue to push the demand for their horns currently valued at about US$ 37,000 per kilo in international market.

Top 10 Newly Described Species in 2007

May 23, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

TEMPE, Ariz. – The International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University and an international committee of taxonomists – scientists responsible for species exploration and classification – today announced the top 10 new species described in 2007.

The taxonomists are also issuing a SOS – State of Observed Species report card on human knowledge of Earth’s species. In it, they report that 16,969 species new to science were discovered and described in 2006. The SOS report was compiled by ASU’s International Institute for Species Exploration in partnership with the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, the International Plant Names Index, and Thompson Scientific, publisher of Zoological Record. Photos and other information on the top 10 and the SOS report are online at species.asu.edu.  There are about 1.8 million species that have been described since Linnaeus initiated the modern systems for naming plants and animals in the 18th century. Scientists estimate there are between 2 million and 100 million species on Earth, though most set the number closer to 10 million.

Wolong – Panda Update

May 23, 2008  news.xinhuanet.com

CHENGDU, May 23 -- Six pandas left Friday a major panda base in Wolong, southwest China's Sichuan Province, because of damaged shelters and food shortages after the May 12 earthquake. The pandas were taken by trucks from China Giant Panda Protection and Research Center to Ya'an, another base less affected by the tremor, said Xiong Beirong, an official with the Sichuan provincial forestry bureau. The latest evacuees brought to 14 the number of pandas trucked out of the Wolong center, only 30 kilometers from the epicenter of the May 12 earthquake, measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale. Eight other pandas left on May 18 for the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. They will be airlifted by China Southern Airlines (CSA) to Beijing, where they will stay at the Beijing Zoo, Saturday, said Wolong director Zhang Hemin.  Liu Shaoyong, general manager of CSA, said the pandas were scheduled to leave Chengdu at 3 p.m. Saturday. They will travel on a Boeing 747-700 cargo plane. Before the earthquake, the center kept 53 pandas. Two were injured and six disappeared after the quake, but four later returned. Staff are scrambling to get enough food for the remaining pandas. "There is enough water now, but food is still a major problem. The pandas are in urgent need of bamboos and apples," Xiong Beirong said. She said center staff had repaired some of the damaged panda shelters after the earthquake, but they collapsed again in strong after-shocks. The supply of bamboo was suspended as residents, struggling to cope with their own losses, stopped providing bamboo for the pandas. After the earthquake, tons of bamboo shoots, apples, soybeans, eggs, milk powder and medicines were brought to the center, but the supplies could only last about a week, she said.

Polar Bear Listing Opens Door to Lawsuits

May 23, 2008  www.sciencemag.org   By Dan Charles

The Bush Administration's decision last week to list the polar bear as a threatened species is about to spark a new round of litigation over greenhouse gas emissions.  Secretary Dirk Kempthorne tried to preempt litigation to force cuts in greenhouse gases. No specific source of these gases, Kempthorne asserted, will kill any individual polar bear, so the ESA doesn't require power plants, refineries, or even the nation's fleet of automobiles to reduce their emissions. But attorneys on both sides of the long-running legal war over endangered species predict that some courts will reject that argument. Kassie Siegel, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity is leading the environmentalists' strategy. The "attempt to exempt greenhouse gas emissions is illegal and won't stand up," she says. CBD, Greenpeace, and the Natural Resources Defense Council jointly filed their initial legal challenge on 16 May. Siegel, who also filed lawsuits that forced the government to list the polar bear, plans to argue that the ESA requires every government agency to consult with polar bear experts at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before taking any step that could increase emissions of carbon dioxide. Such steps include authorization of oil and gas drilling, issuing permits for coal-fired power plants, or writing new fuel-economy standards for sport utility vehicles and trucks. "It's high time that federal agencies rolled up their sleeves and did what they're supposed to do on greenhouse emissions," she says.  More animals may also be called as witnesses in the fight against U.S. climate change policy, as the polar bear is far from the only animal threatened by the shrinking field of arctic ice. Ice-dwelling mammals such as the Pacific walrus and several species of seals "are in even worse shape," says G. Carleton Ray, an environmental scientist at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. CBD has already filed petitions demanding that the ribbon seal and Pacific walrus also be listed as threatened.

Release of Regent Honeyeater

May 23, 2008  www.birdlife.org

In total, twenty-seven birds, all fitted with radio transmitters, have been released into the Chiltern National Park (Australia). Community involvement is now playing a vital part in monitoring activities. The Regent Honeyeater Xanthomyza Phrygia was once seen in flocks hundreds-strong but “recent surveys have suggested that the species has declined dramatically during the past five years,” warned David Geering (National Regent Honeyeater Recovery project Co-ordinator). “There could be as few as 1,000 birds left in the wild.”  Conservation partnerships between government agencies, Birds Australia (BirdLife in Australia), community groups and landholders, have sought to protect the Regent Honeyeater's habitat and ensure this species continues to exist in the wild. Efforts are now focused on protecting and restoring habitat at regularly-used sites with funding by the Federal Government’s Natural Heritage Trust program and the following organizations: the Department of Environment and Climate Change (NSW), DSE, Parks Victoria, Birds Australia Threatened Bird Network, NSW State Forest, the Threatened Species Network (WWF), LaTrobe University, University of New England and Taronga Conservation Society Australia and community volunteer and conservation groups.

Climate Change Threatens World’s Plants

May 23, 2008  www.sciencemag.org  By Dan Charles

A day after polar bears made headlines last week, the world's leading botanical gardens issued a call to remember threatened plants, too. Their new report, Plants and Climate Change: Which Future? makes the case for protecting the botanical foundations of terrestrial life.  Suzanne Sharrock, is director of Global Programmes for Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) in London and a co-author of the report.  BGCI, a network of 2000 organizations involved in plant conservation, says climate change could kill off half of Earth's plant species. Plants that grow on islands or on mountainsides are at greatest risk because they have "nowhere to go" as the climate shifts around them.  BGCI also announced its own global effort to catalog and preserve threatened plants. It will update a 10-year-old survey of the world's trees, identifying species that need additional protection in their native habitat and collecting others for preservation in botanic gardens and arboreta. BGCI plans to reintroduce some threatened plants into their former habitats.

America’s Best Zoos 2008

May 23, 2008  www.buffalonews.com

“America’s Best Zoos 2008” has been published by the Intrepid Traveler, a Brantford, Conn., 60 zoos were chosen by authors Allen W. Nyhuis and Jon Wassner for the new guidebook. Nyhuis, a statistician and father of four who has visited more than 200 zoos worldwide, and Wassner, a former zookeeper, single out Vanishing Animals, where several of the world’s threatened or endangered species are displayed, for special mention.


Werribee Zoo’s Future is in Question

May 24, 2008   www.theage.com.au   By Cameron Houston

VICTORIA, Australia --  An organization known as the Village Roadshow is proposing to build a $220 million theme park, called African Safari World, on 40 hectares of the existing Werribee Zoo and the plan has the backing of Tourism Minister Tim Holding.  But former Werribee Zoo director David Hancock said rhinoceroses should not be combined with roller-coasters, and warned the amusement park and said "It completely degrades the animals and diminishes the purpose of zoos, which is to help people form an understanding and appreciation of wildlife."  Another former director, Peter Stroud, said he was puzzled by the State Government's support for the plan. "I know they are talking about creating a lot of jobs and a major tourist attraction, but this could be done without compromising a cultural institution like Zoos Victoria and giving $100 million to a private company," Mr Stroud said. He also expressed concerns about Village Roadshow's ability to manage the zoo's exotic animal collection.  Friends of the Zoo — which has more than 67,000 members and contributes $1.7 million annually to Zoos Victoria — is mounting a campaign against the Village Roadshow development bid

Facts and figures about China Quake

May 24, 2008   www.chinaview.cn 

BEIJING, China --  Following are the latest facts and figures about the massive 8.0-magnitude earthquake that rocked southwest China's Sichuan Province on May 12:
    -- The death toll from the quake rose to 55,740 nationwide as of Friday noon, while 292,481 people were injured and 24,960 people were missing.
    -- Domestic and foreign donations had reached 24.6 billion yuan (3.5 billion U.S. dollars), up 3.2 billion yuan overnight. And 3 billion yuan had been forwarded to the earthquake-affected areas.
    -- A total of 443,340 tents, one of the most urgently needed relief supplies, had been delivered to quake regions.
    -- A total of 18,334 makeshift houses, 2,319,347 quilts and 3,074,526 garments had been sent to these regions.
    -- The government disaster relief fund reached 14.6 billion yuan as of 2 p.m. Friday, up 654 million yuan from the previous day. The fund included 10.826 billion yuan from the central budget and 3.8 billion yuan from local budgets.
    -- A total of 3,451 people injured in the quake had died in hospitals as of Friday noon.
    -- A total of 175 aftershocks measuring above four on the Richter scale had been monitored in the quake areas by midday Friday.

Business Buys Condor Experts Silence

May 25, 2008   ap.google.com  By NOAKI SCHWARTZ

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Biologist Noel Snyder got an intriguing call from a development-company representative a day after it announced it was moving forward with plans to build nearly 3,500 luxury homes, condos and hotels on land used by the endangered California condor.  Would he like to make $3,000 for just one day's work reviewing the company's plan to safeguard the condor from the development?  There was just one catch: Snyder would have to sign a promise not to publicly criticize the Tejon Ranch Co. project.  "My jaw dropped to the floor," said Snyder, one of the foremost experts on the condor.  He turned the job down but others have taken the offer from Tejon (TAY-hone). The developer has retained the services — and secured the public silence — of three condor experts. That's a significant portion of the half-dozen or so scientists specializing in condors on Tejon, according to the developer's chief consultant on the bird, Peter Bloom.

In truth, many environmentalists are delighted by the deal, under which Tejon will set aside an extraordinary 375 square miles for the bird and other wildlife. It would be the biggest parcel in California history to be designated for conservation.  Five of the nation's most influential environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Audubon California, helped negotiate the plan and gave it their blessing when it was announced earlier this month.  But critics say that with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, Tejon is systematically trying to stifle any remaining opposition to its plans, which are still awaiting approval from various government entities. Bloom, who previously worked on condor issues for the National Audubon Society, was Tejon's lead condor consultant during the confidential negotiations. He said he was paid "a healthy amount" but would not be more specific, saying it would "taint people's opinion" about a deal he feels provides adequate protection. Lloyd Kiff, who once called Tejon Ranch Co. the "anti-Christ for condors," was hired to scrutinize the condor plan about a month before the agreement was made public. He, too, declined to say what he was paid but said he was persuaded to take the job because of the impressive roster of environmental groups that signed off on it. Kiff said he endorsed the plan only after Tejon incorporated many of his suggestions. Bob Risebrough, the third hired condor consultant, said he was pleased with the final product but declined to comment on his deal with Tejon, citing the confidentiality agreement.

New Life for Washington Park Zoo

May 25, 2008   thenewsdispatch.com by Jason Miller

MICHIGAN CITY, Indiana – When Washington Park Zoo was $700,000 in the red and facing closure,  Mayor Chuck Oberlie gave officials an ultimatum to develop a plan to save the zoo or lose ALL funding.  That plan began with a fiscal design that assured the zoo would never again experience a budget shortfall of such large proportions.  Parks Superintendent Darrell Garbacik said the department and park board set a goal that officials would do whatever it took to keep any shortfalls from rising above $350,000.  Since the mid-1990s, when the order was put in place, the deficit has stayed under the mark, and this year - thanks to the completion of several new exhibits - the zoo reached goals officials hadn't expected. The 2007 operating shortfall came in at $292,458 on the strength of a record $257,960 in gate revenues. The plan began with the repair and re-opening of the observation tower, "Then we made a plan like that for the following years and everything began to fall like dominoes," he said. Those dominoes are more than $1 million in renovations over the past three years, including a new and safer entrance, a home for the zoo's bobcats, its North American carnivores - bears, river otters and mountain lions - and a soon-to-be-completed primate house. New zoo director Johnny Martinez gets the lion's share of the credit for the new exhibits and the zoo's new direction. He had worked for years in zoos around the country at which he helped design new visitor and animal friendly exhibits.  In 2007, according to park department reports, the zoo received $168,420 from adult admissions, $56,299 from children's admissions, $21,051 from group admissions and $12,107 from senior admissions.  Nearly 70,000 people visited the zoo. "What Johnny Martinez has done since he's been here is really amazing."

San Jose Zoo Will Auction Off Memorabilia

May 25, 2008  www.mercurynews.com  By Holly Hayes

On June 7, hundreds of items - from vintage carousel horses to  signage from the Happy Hollow Park & Zoo’s  47-year history,  will be sold to make way for the top-to-bottom park renovation that begins in earnest in July. Some items will be auctioned while others will be priced for on-the-spot sales.  Proceeds from Danny's Estate Sale - named for Happy Hollow's treasured Danny the Dragon ride, which is definitely not on the auction block - will go toward purchasing items for the new-and-improved Happy Hollow that will emerge in the fall of 2009.  The master plan for the park is valued at $75 million, and $50 million was authorized through the Parks Bond Act approved by San Jose voters in 2000.  Hopefully the auction will clear $200,000 or more. The metal Looff carousel horses that still have their original paint. "That carousel was built in 1948 by Arrow Development in Mountain View, and it came with some really cool metal horses and chariots. It operated like that for years at Happy Hollow," Coats says. Later, the metal horses were removed and replaced by fiberglass sea creatures, transforming the ride into King Neptune's Carousel. Five of the remaining six horses from the old Happy-Go-Round ride will be up for bids.

Zookeeper Attacked by Lioness at Detroit Zoo

May 25, 2008  www.detnews.com  By  Christina Stolarz

In Katie's 15 years at the Detroit Zoo, the lioness has never been in close contact with her keepers thanks to a pulley system that remotely ushers the big cats from outside to their indoor habitat. The injured keeper, Brett Kipley, began ushering the lions indoors for the night. Everyone reacted quickly and promptly according to emergency protocol." He was taken to the hospital for stiches. Katie was contained inside the holding area; no tranquillizer was used to subdue her, she said. Zoo officials said they don't know what happened to allow the keeper and the lioness to be in the same space at the same time."   Scott Carter, the zoo's director of conservation and animal welfare said "We will be investigating what exactly happened." 

Lincoln Park Zoo’s New Organic Concession Stand

May 26, 2008  www.chicagotribune.com

CHICAGO -  Officials at Lincoln Park Zoo say organic arugula, spiced sunflower seeds and smoked blue cheese are the perfect concession stand foods.  The zoo and Levy Restaurants have opened a food stand featuring all organic and locally-grown foods. It's among the first concession stands to go all organic.  The menu includes paninis with smoked mozzarella and organic tomatoes, salads with organic baby greens and organic potato salad. For kids, there are with turkey dogs with fresh fruit and baby carrots.  Officials at the zoo say the concession stand is also taking an environmentally conscious approach to packaging.

‘Art for Conservation’: at Aukland Zoo

May 26, 2008   www.scoop.co.nz

AUKLAND -- Justine Woosnam, a mammal keeper, is the star talent behind an art exhibition opening at Auckland Zoo on Thursday, 5 June (World Environment Day) to raise funds to help endangered frogs.  The zoo’s historic Old Elephant House will be transformed into a gallery from 5 to 8 June, where Woosnam’s 13 works, along with those of “support artists” –elephants Kashin and Burma, and chimpanzee Janie, will be available for public viewing and purchase. The elephants and Janie periodically paint as part of their behavioral enrichment program to keep them physically and mentally challenged.  All of Woosnam pieces (paintings on canvas, on stone, and pencil drawings) feature Auckland Zoo animals as subjects. Her largest piece, Kereru (native wood pigeon), will be auctioned off on opening night (Thursday, 5 June) to the highest bidder. Visit www.aucklandzoo.co.nz  to view this painting, and examples of her other work.  Art for Conservation opening night (Thursday 5 June, 5.30pm to 7.30pm) is a free event featuring live music with The Blackbird Strings. Numbers are limited so register to attend, phone (09) 360 3805 by 30 May. From 6 to 8 June artworks can be viewed at the zoo’s Old Elephant House from 11am to 3pm. Normal Zoo admission prices apply on these days.

Indiana Zookeeper Attacked by Leopard

May 26, 2008  www.southbendtribune.com/  By ALICIA GALLEGOS

SOUTH BEND, Indiana -- A zookeeper was in listed in stable condition at a South Bend hospital late Saturday after reportedly being attacked by an adult female Amur leopard at the Potawatomi Zoo at about 11:00 a.m. She was conscious and appeared alert as she was placed into an ambulance. Zoo director Terry Derosa said the attack happened in a holding room at the zoo and was not witnessed by any of the zoo visitors.  He did not have details about what led to the injury, but explained that the zookeeper was conducting her regular duties when she was attacked. The victim had been at the zoo for 12 years and had worked with the adult female Amur leopard before.  The animal was shifted out of the area where the attack took place,  but was not being detained or separated from its normal housing area at this time.

Lioness Bites and Claws Detroit Zookeeper

May 26, 2008  www.dailytribune.com   By Mitch Hotts

ROYAL OAK, Michigan -- Zookeeper Brett Kipley, 20,  was injured over the weekend by a lioness at the Detroit Zoo.  An initial investigation shows Kipley was ushering the lioness into her indoor habitat about 5 p.m. Saturday through a pulley system that keeps the handlers at some distance from the animals.  The lioness, a 16-year-old named Katie, was the first of three big cats -- one male and another female -- to be escorted inside, when Kipley somehow got too close to her and she bit and scratched him. Kipley, who's in his 20s and has worked at the zoo for a couple years, was able to free himself by spraying the lioness with pepper spray. He was held overnight after receiving stitches for his wounds but did not require surgery. No action was taken against the lioness, which went into its den and did not require sedation. The lioness was back on public display with two other lions on Sunday, said Scott Carter, the zoo's director of conservation and animal welfare.

Gunman Steals $30,000 from Pittsburgh Zoo

May 26, 2008  www.pittsburghlive.com  By Brian C. Rittmeyer

A man pointed a gun at a Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium employee and got away with at least $30,000 of Sunday admissions.  The female employee was accosted as she was leaving the admission area at the Highland Park zoo's main entrance to make a deposit, said Frank Cartieri, the zoo's chief operating officer. The money was in a bank deposit bag.  The robber got out of a white SUV while two or three other men remained in the vehicle.  No shots were fired, and the employee, though shaken up, was not hurt. There were a number of witnesses to the robbery, Lando said. In addition, detectives were examining footage from surveillance cameras.  The robbery occurred at 5:12 p.m., Cartieri said. The zoo closed to new admissions at 4:30 p.m., and many guests had left for the day. This was the first weekend for the summer schedule, when the zoo stays open until 6 p.m.

Citizen Science” Projects Aid Conservation

May 26, 2008    www.nytimes.com   By BARBARA HALL

CONNECTICUT -- A series of “citizen science” outings has been organized by the Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration’s Amphibian Monitoring Project.  The aquarium is helping in an international bid to save frogs and amphibians by identifying and counting species amid scientists’ concerns that some of them have become vulnerable in recent years.  The aquarium’s amphibian monitors will conduct weekly searches starting 30 minutes after sunset or later, at a chosen wetlands site. The monitoring program will eventually widen to include Connecticut’s eight species of frogs and two toad species.  “It’s a fun and worthy exercise for my family to get involved in a big science project at the local level,” said one father.  Before the hunt, MaryEllen Mateleska, an educator for the aquarium, told the volunteers that there are 5,500 frog and amphibian species worldwide.  Of these, 1,500 species are reportedly in decline, and 34 species have become extinct. Of the 280 amphibian species in the United States, 38 are on the Endangered Species Act’s official list.  FrogwatchUSA, (established by the National Wildlife Federation) and the USGS, created this rendition of citizen science, in which members of the public are asked to gather localized field data, like which species are discovered where and the number of animals found at each location.  While they are aiding science, volunteers are introduced to homespun projects to help preserve a species. In the aquarium’s case, for example, Ms. Mateleska provided instructions for creating “Toad Abodes” — habitats that could be made of terra cotta pots or rock piles.

Chester Zoo’s New 16-year-old Conservation Partner

May 26, 2008  www.flintshirestandard.co.uk  

CHESTER Zoo is partnering  with a teenage entrepreneur. Chokolit, a chocolate company set up and run by 16-year-old Louis Barnett, is launching the Biting Back chocolate bar.  Part of the proceeds from sales of the bar will go towards funding orangutan conservation projects run by Cheste Zoo and  the Sumatran Orangutan Society.  The Biting Back bar aims to highlight to consumers the threats faced by orangutans in the wild due to unsustainable palm oil production. Louis, who will launch the bar at Chester Zoo, said: "Habitat loss and poaching are pushing orangutans towards imminent extinction. Every minute, every day, an area the size of six football fields of rainforest disappears due to unsustainable palm oil production. At 16, I'm old enough to understand the reality of this issue and the impact it could have on the future. But I'm also young enough to act now and help shape the world I want to be living in." Martin Davies, Chester zoo's head of catering, retail and events, said: "The Biting Back bar is chocolate with a conscience and we would hope that anyone who buys it will read the important messages on the wrapper. Similarly, the proceeds from the sale of the bars will help our Realm of the Red Ape field programme and provide a welcome boost to our vital orangutan conservation work."

Peacock Attacks Toddler at Oregon Zoo

May 26, 2008  www.kgw.com     By KATHERINE COOK

PORTLAND -- Cyrus Vafi said a peacock attacked his son near the zoo's train depot without being provoked. "My son was watching the peacock when all of a sudden without warning it jumped up, latched onto his face, then let go," said Vafi.  The child suffered scratches around his eyes, on his eyelids, forehead and behind his ears. About two dozen peacocks roam freely around the Oregon Zoo as they have for decades. Curious about the bird's history, Vafi said he went home and searched "peacock attack" on the internet.  "An article popped up from KGW.com in 2006 and talked about another toddler who'd been scratched by one of those peacocks," said Vafi. "I couldn't believe it... it's not as if they didn't know that this could happen."  Oregon Zoo Director Tony Vicchio admitted that 2 peacocks had lashed out on 2 separate occasions in 2006. In one instance, he said a 2-year-old boy received deep scratches on his arm after he and a peacock went after the same piece of candy on the ground. Vecchio said the other bird had been provoked when a child chased after it. The zoo relocated 2 birds to farms in the country and looked at the incidents as isolated.

Oregon Zoo Investigates Peacock Attack

May 26, 2008  www.oregonlive.com  by Holly Danks

Oregon Zoo officials are investigating an attack on a 4-year-old boy by a free-roaming peacock. Carmen Hannold, the zoo's deputy director, said today that the peacock has been captured and shut in an enclosure until zoo officials decide what to do with it.  The incident happened Saturday afternoon near the train station. Hannold said the male peacock scratched the boy under his eye when it "landed on his head." Security guards responded, and the boy was taken to the zoo's first-aid center "for observation," but did not need medical treatment. Hannold said she was waiting to see a report from zoo security personnel, but the boy's parents told KGW-TV that he didn't do anything to provoke the peacock.  Hannold said she has worked at the Oregon Zoo for 29 years and the peacocks have been allowed to walk the grounds since before that. She said at the time of the attack, there were four males -- bigger and more colorful, with long, blue and green tail feathers -- and four females roaming the grounds.  Two years ago, one of the zoo peacocks was sent to live on a farm after it scratched a boy on the arm when both went after the same piece of candy on the ground.  Zoo officials will determine if the bird that attacked the boy this weekend "can live here nicely or if he needs to go to a farm as well," Hannold said.

Edinburgh Zoo Sends Aid to Wolong

May 27, 2008  news.bbc.co.uk  By Iain Valentine

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, which owns Edinburgh Zoo, is the first in the world to offer aid to the Wolong Animal Sanctuary. They are sending money and satellite communications equipment to an emergency fund set up by the China Wildlife Conservation Association.   Edinburgh Zoo is due to become the eighth in the world to be given breeding-aged pandas from the reserve.  The pandas were to arrive in April 2009 but may come sooner due to the disater. Iain Valentine, head of animals, conservation and education for RZSS, said: "The Wolong Nature Reserve has been left absolutely devastated.

Pakistan’s Marghazar Zoo Expands

May 27, 2008  www.dailytimes.com.pk  By Imran Naeem Ahmad

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Raja Muhammad Javed, the Capital Development Authority’s Director Zoo and Wildlife, said that tenders for the Rs 20 million first phase of the expansion of the Marghazar Zoo have gone out, and the project is due to start the 2nd week of June.  Project Director Abdur Rashid said the area of the zoo will expand from 25 to 82 acres. A modern hospital, computerized ticketing and public address systems should be in place in three years. The first phase involves the construction of pathways for the public, animal enclosures, boundary and service roads.  Van Riet & Louw, a prominent name in landscaping and zoo planning, will assist with this phase.  The Rs 632 million second phase will create more animal enclosures along with bird aviaries and wetlands.  The  third phase will include the hospital, restaurants, administrative block and the construction of a new entrance. Officials said that once complete, the zoo will have five distinct areas - mountains, plains, wetlands, desert and exotic species areas. The zoo’s expansion also means that the paramilitary Rangers camping just outside the facility will have to move out. 

Binder Park Zoo’s Snow Leopard Encounter

May 27, 2008  www.battlecreekenquirer.com 

Snow leopards Lotus and Caperon are moving to the Smith Snow Leopard Encounter, the next generation in exhibit design.  The May 31st opening will feature guest speaker, Brad Rutherford, Executive Director of the International Snow Leopard Trust.  He will discuss  snow leopards in the wild and what the ISLT is doing to protect this species. A half million dollar donation from Jeff Smith, an Environmental Lawyer in Maryland, and his brother Doug Smith was given in honor of their parents. The Smith family has been part of the Battle Creek community for three generations. Other contributions that helped fund the project came from Battle Creek Glass, Consumers Energy, Hoffman Brothers, INC., and Triangle Associates.  The new exhibit is almost four times the size of the existing exhibit and will provide more natural habitat features. It also provides a better viewing area for the public as well as an interactive design for guests to learn more about the species.  Through glass partitions visitors can watch the cats travel along large tree trunks that have been cut and positioned up to 20 feet off the ground. The tall perches will give the cats a feeling of security and a less stressful environment.  It will also promote natural behaviors for zoo visitors to witness. Piles of large rocks will be provided as well as a large geothermal-cooled boulder. The snow leopard off-exhibit holding area has been constructed with a high roofline to provide elevated platform areas and space for behavioral management training, veterinary supervision, security, and good husbandry. The holding area will make it possible for zookeepers to promote breeding, monitor health needs, provide dietary management, and observe the stability of snow leopard offspring.

Oregon Zoo Hosts Zoo Brew

May 27, 2008  www.ktvz.com

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The Oregon Zoo Foundation hosts Zoo Brew, which is beer and ale from Northwest breweries and food from the Oregon Zoo's renowned executive chef, Paul Warner. There is also live entertainment featuring Sam Bamboo and Pat O'Neal's Dixieland Jazz Band. The event is happening Friday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Elephant Plaza near the Oregon Zoo's concert lawn.  The proceeds from Zoo Brew go toward the "Bring Back the Roar" campaign to bring lions back to the zoo.  Zoo Brew features nearly 25 of the area's best microbrews. Organizers emphasize that this is a tasting event, not a drinking event.  According to Oregon state law, no one under 21 may attend.

Toledo Zoo Wins Green Award

May 27, 2008  www.thenews-messenger.com

TOLEDO-- The Toledo Zoo's commitment to conservation was recognized last month as the Zoo received the Green Frog Award from the Lake Erie Western Alliance for Sustainability. This award honors those who make the community greener, healthier and more sustainable, and the Zoo was cited for its many conservation efforts and overall dedication to green practices. The zoo participates in numerous programs that protect endangered animals, including the Butterfly Conservation Initiative, which has made great strides on behalf of butterfly species native to this region. The Zoo's recycling efforts extend to more than 30 different items.  The concession and catering departments have eliminated Styrofoam and offer only sustainable seafood options. In addition, most incandescent light bulbs have been replaced by compact fluorescent bulbs.  In 2006, the Zoo adopted its Principles of Green Construction, which will guide its building activities into the future. For example, as the parking lot is renovated, the ticket booths there will be wind and solar powered. Conservation messages are incorporated into the Zoo's employee orientations and staff briefings as well as on-grounds messaging and programming.

Spanish Imperial Eagle Web Cam

May 27, 2008  www.birdlife.org

A new webcam trained on a family of Spanish Imperial Eagles Aquila adalberti will aid the Alzando el vuelo (Taking off) conservation program.  The nest is located in the Cabañeros National Park (Spain), in the centre of the Iberian Peninsula, and is home to a pair of Spanish Imperial Eagles and their young chick. SEO/BirdLife (BirdLife in Spain) has been working to conserve the species for many years, whose main threats include poisoning and power-lines. The global population is located exclusively in Andalucia, Castilla-La-Mancha, Castilla y Leon, Extremadura and Madrid in Spain, and has now started to re-colonise Portugal.  The Alzando el vuelo programme is successfully engaging private landowners in the eagle's conservation. Currently, there are 16 states and around 11,000 hectares subscribed to the project.  You can visit the webcam at http://aguilaimperial.org/

Toledo Zoo’s “ZOOtoDO”

May 27, 2008   toledoblade.com  By KATHIE SMITH

ZOOtoDO, the Toledo Zoo's annual black-tie affair, has become a culinary and entertainment extravaganza. The event, to be held on June 20, begins at 6 p.m. with hors d'oeuvres and beverages in the Africa exhibit from 10 vendors. Leap from there at 7:30 p.m. until midnight to the historic side of the zoo for an assortment of foods and beverages from 44 vendors. This year's party theme is Leap Year, and frogs are the featured animals.  The eclectic dress code for men ranges from tuxedoes to dinner jackets and bow ties paired with black shorts and tennis shoes, or even cowboy boots. Ladies are dressed in sundresses, pantsuits, or formal dresses with fancy tennis shoes or sandals (remember, this is a walking event). The menu from the 54 restaurants is eclectic, from bar food to high-end choices. There are plenty of interesting ingredients, chefs and restaurants, and items to fit anyone's taste.  Chef Marcel Hesseling, executive chef at Toledo Zoo, is preparing Pan-Asian Glazed Sustainable Organic Salmon pan-seared and served on petite watercress salad with quinoa, organic dried cherries and roasted beets finished with lemon vinaigrette.  "I try to tie food into locally produced and sustainable produce from local producers and purveyors," says the chef who has been at the zoo more than 6 years. "The zoo is trying to be health conscious and environmentally conscious with menus and materials."

Huntia Study on Guantanamo Bay

May 27, 2008   www.sent-trib.com  by JENISE FOUTS

Hutias weigh 10-15 lbs, are nocturnal rodents, look similar to a large guinea pig and use guinea pig-like vocalizations. Of the 32 living species in the West Indian hutia family, 20 have recently become extinct.  Almost all are endangered.  Dr. Stephen Vessey recently studied a group at Guantanamo Bay.   “Hutias are prey to two enemies in Cuba, boa constrictors and man.” He said. Cubans find these things are very tasty. Off-base, over the years, they have been hunted. The base is serving as a safe haven for the snakes and hutias for now.” The rodents live everywhere there, from the mangroves near the bay to the hills, and even around buildings on base where they are considered pests. They can chew irrigation hoses, electrical cables and car wires. Vessey was invited to study them by Peter Tolson, director of research and conservation at the Toledo Zoo. Tolson studies boa constrictors at Guantanamo Bay. When he started to analyze their food source, hutias, he wanted additional help and turned to Vessey.

Scientists Produce First Smell Map

May 27, 2008  www.physorg.com

Weizmann Institute scientists have shown for the first time that smells can be mapped and the relative distance between various odors can be determined. Their findings appeared recently in Nature Methods, and may help scientists to unravel the basic laws underlying our sense of smell, as well as potentially enabling odors to be digitized and transferred via computer in the future. To create their map, the scientists began with 250 odorants and generated, for each, a list of around 1,600 chemical characteristics. From this dataset, the researchers, led by Rafi Haddad, a graduate student with Prof. Noam Sobel in the Neurobiology Department, and Prof. David Harel of the Computer Science and Applied Mathematics Department, together with their colleague Rehan Khan, created a multidimensional map of smells that revealed the distance between one odor molecule and another.  Eventually, they pared the list of traits needed to situate an odor on the map down to around 40. They then checked to see whether the brain recognizes this map, similar to the way it recognizes musical scales. They reexamined numerous previously published studies that measured the neural response patterns to smells in a variety of lab animals – from fruit flies to rats – and found that across all the species, the closer any two smells were on the map, the more similar the neural patterns.  The scientists also tested 70 new odors by predicting the neural patterns they would arouse and running comparisons with the unpublished results of olfaction experiments done at the University of Tokyo. They found that their predictions closely matched the experimental results. 

Unique Chinese Subspecies of Ape May Be Extinct

May 27, 2008  www.ens-newswire.com 

KUNMING, Yunnan, China -- An ape subspecies that once roamed China's Yunnan province has disappeared, a Chinese-Swiss research team has concluded. A white-handed gibbon, or lar gibbon, Hylobates lar, was last observed in 1988 in the Nangunhe Nature Reserve in southwestern Yunnan province, and the loud, melodious calls of this species of ape were last heard in Yunnan in 1992.  After two weeks of recent field work, the 14 member team of scientists assembled by anthropologists from Zurich University concluded that as a result of continued forest destruction, fragmentation and deterioration as well as hunting, this gibbon species no longer exists in Yunnan.  The scientific team surveyed all Chinese forests that ever had reported supporting white-handed gibbons at any time during the last 20 years, but no trace of the animals was found. The team includes scientists who are members of the Gibbon Conservation Alliance based at Zurich University, and the Kunming Institute of Zoology, as well as staff members of the Nangunhe National Nature Reserve.  "This loss is particularly tragic," says anthropologist Thomas Geissmann, "because the extinct Chinese population was described as a distinct subspecies, the so-called Yunnan white-handed gibbon."  This subspecies, Hylobates lar yunnanensis, is not known from any other place.  The white-handed gibbon, like the gorilla, chimpanzee and orangutan, is an ape, not a monkey. Unlike monkey species, gibbons have no tail, assume an upright posture and have a more highly developed brain.  Geissmann now hopes that the Yunnan white-handed gibbon subspecies may have survived in neighboring Myanmar, but so far, he has no evidence of this.

Condor Chick Has Help Hatching

May 27, 2008  www.oregonlive.com

PORTLAND – 0n Monday, May 7 zoo staff helped an underweight and shell-bound condor hatch.  After a week of antibiotics and a blood transfusion from adult condor Nootka, the chick is doing well.  Condor Curator Shawn St. Michael said "It is common for chicks to be pretty quiet for the first 24 hours after hatch. It's an exhausting process. But we became concerned when this chick failed to perk up the way we would expect after his rest." St. Michael and condor keepers provided around-the-clock care, administering antibiotics and enlisting the help of an adult condor, Nootka, for a life-saving blood donation. "The chick will be puppet-reared by human foster parents and later mentored by another adult condor." The assisted hatch is the fourth successful hatch of 2008 for the Oregon facility.  One more is expected in early June. Video of the assisted hatch is at: www.oregonzoo.org/VideoArchive/CondorHatch.htm

Wind Energy Study

May 28, 2008  www.enn.com 

Wind energy can supply 20 percent of U.S. electricity needs by 2030 at a "modest" cost difference, a new U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) report says. The analysis predicts that the 20 percent wind scenario would cost about 2 percent more than sticking with the current energy mix, which relies more heavily on traditional fossil fuels. There would be initial capital costs (to install wind capacity and associated transmission infrastructure, but 500,000 new jobs would be created. To reach their goal by 2030, the department said wind energy installation would need to triple from the current rate of 5.2 gigawatts (GW) added in 2007 to more than 16 GW per year by 2018, with that pace continuing through 2030. The total wind energy growth, 290 GW, would displace the projected use of coal for power generation by 18 percent and the use of natural gas by about 50 percent.  Such a dramatic increase in wind capacity would require large-scale expansion of the U.S. electrical transmission grid to access the best wind resources and relieve grid congestion. Power companies would also have to add gas turbine generators to provide back-up electricity when the wind isn't blowing, which ranges from 60 to 75 percent of the day in some areas, according to Thomas Key, renewable energy technology leader for the Electric Power Research Institute.

Columbus Zoo’s Zoombezi Bay

May 28, 2008  www.thisweeknews.com   By Kelley Youman Truxall

Last summer the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium bought the old Wyandot Lake and began renovations at a cost of $45 million. This Monday Zoombezi Bay opened. The 23-acre water park and dry amusement area looks nothing like the old Wyandot Lake.  Peter Fingerhut, associate zoo director, said it is meant to look like an island where a family was marooned and that they used parts of the ship to make the buildings.  Zoombezi Bay will be run by a private company and its profits will benefit conservation and education programs at the zoo.  During the inaugural season, about 400,000 visitors are expected to come to Zoombezi and the dry side, known as Jack Hanna's Landing which features more than a dozen rides and attractions.  Ride tickets or wristbands are purchased separately.  About 30,000 season passes expected to be sold.  Season passes are $79.99 per person for ages 2 and up. Single-day passes are $24.99-$29.99. Hours will be 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. through mid-June. The park will stay open until 8 p.m. during the week and 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. It will take about 1-million gallons of water and 250 employees to run the park.  About 90 percent of the water will be recycled, Fingerhut said.

 “Nature’s 100 Best” Biomimicry Projects

May 28, 2008  www.enn.com  By Alister Doyle 

OSLO - - "Biomimicry is a field whose time has come," said Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) in a statement issued to coincide with a May 19-30 U.N. conference on protecting the diversity of animals and plants in Bonn, Germany.  The project, called "Nature's 100 Best," was created by Janine Benyus and Gunter Pauli and points to environmentally friendly advances mimicking natural solutions evolved over almost 4 billion years.  Nature has been a blueprint for human inventions throughout history -- such as flight inspired by birds -- but the project identifies 100 less obvious modern spinoffs.  Humpback whales pump six bathtubs of blood around their bodies and regulate the beats with electrical signals passing through thick non-conductive blubber shielding the heart from cold. A cheap operation for humans that bridged damaged heart muscles by mimicking the tiny "wiring" could cut demand for battery-powered pacemakers in humans, based on research at the Whale Heart Satellite Tracking Program in Colombia, it said. Fitting a new pacemaker costs up to $50,000 per patient and the world market is projected at $3.7 billion by 2010.

Endangered Species Permit Applications

May 28, 2008    www.epa.gov  

The public is invited to comment on the following permit applications for certain activities with endangered species. Submit your written data, comments, or requests for copies of the complete applications 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   We must receive written comments on or before June 27, 2008.

Permit Number TE089872
Applicant: Macalester College, St. Paul, Minnesota. The applicant requests a permit renewal to take Higgins' eye pearlymussel (Lampsilis higginsi) and winged mapleleaf (Quadrula fragosa) in Minnesota and Wisconsin. This permit renewal is requested to continue long-term mussel and habitat monitoring in the St. Croix River aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number TE125333-1
Applicant: Francesca Cuthbert, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota. The applicant requests a permit renewal to take piping plover (Charadrius melodus) in Michigan and Wisconsin. The research entails capture and marking of piping plovers, erecting nesting enclosures to improve nesting success, and salvaging eggs and nestlings to enhance the survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number TE130900
Applicant: EnviroScience, Incorporated, Stow, Ohio.  The applicant requests a permit renewal to take (collect) listed fish and mussel species throughout Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The following species may be collected and temporarily held in the course of surveys and habitat studies to determine presence or absence of the species: Clubshell (Pleurobema clava), Northern riffleshell (Epioblasma torulosa rangiana), Orange-footed pimpleback pearlymussel (Plethobasus cooperianus), Pink mucket pearlymussel (Lampsilis orbiculata), Rough pigtoe (Pleurobema plenum), Purple cat's paw pearlymussel (Epioblasma obliquata obliquata), White cat's paw pearlymussel (Epioblasma obliquata perobliqua), Fanshell (Cyprogenia stegaria), Fat pocketbook (Potamilus capax), Higgins' eye pearlymussel (Lampsilis higginsi), Winged mapleleaf (Quadrula fragosa), White wartyback (Plethobathus cicatricosus), Fat three-ridge (Amblema neislerii), Chipola slabshell (Elliptio chipolaensis), Purple bankclimber (Elliptoideus sloatianus), Upland combshell (Epioblasma metrastriata), Southern acornshell (Epioblasma othcaloogeniss), Fine-lined pocketbook (Lampsilis altilis), Shiny-rayed pocketbook (Lampsilis subangulata), Alabama moccasinshell (Medionidus acutissimus), Coosa moccasinshell (Medionidus parvulus), Gulf moccasinshell (Medionidus penicillatus), Ochlockonee moccasinshell (Medionidus simpsonianus), Southern clubshell (Pleurobema decisum), Southern pigtoe (Pleurobema georgianum), Ovate clubshell (Pleurobema perovatum), Triangular kidneyshell (Ptychobrachus greeni), Oval pigtoe (Pleurobema pyriforme), Shortnose sturgeon (Acipenser brevirostrum), Blue shiner (Cyprinella caerulea), Cherokee darter (Etheostoma scotti), Etowah darter (Etheostoma etowahae), Amber darter (Percina antesella), Goldline darter (Percina aurolineata), Conasauga logperch (Percina jenkinsi), and Snail darter (Percina tanasi). Activities are proposed to identify listed species within proposed project areas and to assist in the development of methods and alternatives to minimize or avoid impacts to those listed species. Surveys are used to enhance survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE135267
Applicant: Robert Vande Kopple, Pellston, Michigan. The applicant requests a permit renewal to take Hungerford's crawling water beetle (Brachius hungerfordi). The scientific research involves surveying potential habitat to document the species range and to determine dietary habits of the species. The work is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number TE144832
Applicant: Detroit Zoological Society, Royal Oak, MI. The applicant requests a permit amendment to take piping plover (Charadrius melodus) in Michigan. The Detroit Zoological Society currently holds a permit to take Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) in Michigan for a captive rearing study and are requesting the same authority for piping plover eggs salvaged from abandoned nests in the wild. The work is a collaborative effort between the applicant and the University of Minnesota, who will salvage the
eggs from abandoned nests. The applicant will incubate the eggs, hand raise the chicks, and release fledglings to the wild. The scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number TE179707
Applicant: Sanders Environmental Inc., Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. The applicant requests a permit to take the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) throughout Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The activities proposed involve capture and marking individual bats to identify populations of this listed species and to develop methods to minimize or avoid project related impacts. The surveys are used to formulate project features aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number TE179708
Applicant: Western EcoSystems Technology, Inc., Cheyenne, Wyoming. The applicant requests a permit to take the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) throughout its range. The activities proposed involve capture and marking individual bats to identify populations of this listed species and to develop methods to minimize or avoid project-related impacts. The surveys are used to formulate project features aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number TE179711
Applicant: Bernardin-Lochmueller & Associates, Evansville, Indiana. The applicant requests a permit to take the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) throughout the range of the species. The activities proposed involve capture and marking individual bats to identify populations of this listed species and to develop methods to minimize or avoid project-related impacts. The surveys are used to formulate project features aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number TE182430
Applicant: Nicholas Owens, Oak Brook, IL. The applicant requests a permit to take Fanshell (Cyprogenia stegaria), Pink Mucket pearlymussel (Lampsilis abrupta), Higgins' eye pearlymussel (Lampsilis higginsi), Orangefoot Pimpleback pearlymussel (Plethobasus cooperianus), Clubshell (Pleurobema clava), and Fat Pocketbook (Potamilus capax) throughout the States of Illinois and Indiana. This permit is requested to determine presence or absence of species in conjunction with other projects, and is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number TE182436
Applicant: Illinois Natural History Survey, Champaign, IL.  The applicant requests a permit to take the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) throughout the State of Illinois. This permit is requested to determine presence or absence of the species and to determine distribution of the species. Activities are aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

New West Nile Vaccine Produced

May 29, 2008   www.eurekalert.org

GALVESTON, Texas — University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston researchers have developed new vaccines to protect against West Nile and Japanese encephalitis viruses. The investigators created the vaccines using an innovative technique that they believe could also enable the development of new vaccines against other diseases, such as yellow fever and dengue fever, which are caused by similar viruses.  The scientists showed that the vaccines successfully protected laboratory mice and hamsters against the viruses, which can cause fatal brain inflammation in humans. The  findings have been published in the current issue of the journal Vaccine.  Peter Mason, senior author of the Vaccine papers said “The new vaccines are known as "single-cycle" or "pseudoinfectious" vaccines, and contain flaviviruses that have been genetically modified so that each virus can only infect a single cell. Unable to spread from cell to cell and create disease, these crippled viruses nonetheless continue to copy themselves within the cells they infect, thus producing the viral proteins needed to induce immune protection. "With these vaccines, we mimic a viral infection and get amplification of the antigens that are important for stimulating an immune response without amplification of the virus," Mason said. To make the West Nile vaccine, the researchers deleted the piece of the West Nile virus genome that codes for a "capsid" (or "C") protein, a part of the virus particle that encloses the genetic material of the virus and is essential to its ability to move between cells. They then introduced this truncated RNA into cells specially designed to produce high concentrations of the C protein. The result: large numbers of virus particles that had capsids but lacked the ability to pass the C gene on to their progeny.

Javan Rhino Caught on Film

May 29, 2008  www.enn.com 

AKARTA -- Hidden cameras have captured rare footage of critically endangered Javan rhinos in the jungles of Indonesia, by the wildlife conservation group WWF said on Thursday.  The rhinos have appeared twice on cameras one month after the devices were installed in the Ujung Kulon National Park in the westernmost region of Java island, with one rhino mother charging a camera and damaging it.  "With fewer than 60 Javan rhinos left in the wild, we believe this footage was well worth the risk to our equipment," said Adhi Rachmat Hariyadi, who leads WWF-Indonesia's project in the national park.  Javan rhinos are found only in Indonesia and Vietnam, with Java home to more than 90 percent of the population.

Study on Economics of Ecosystems & Biodiversity

May 29, 2009  ec.europa.eu

The German Federal Ministry for the Environment and the European Commission, andseveral other partners, have jointly initiated preparatory work for this global study, which is named 'The Economics of Ecosystems & Biodiversity (TEEB)'. Mr Pavan Sukhdev, Managing Director and Head of Deutsche Bank’s Global Markets business in India, and a Founder-Director of the ‘Green Accounting for Indian States Project’, will head the study.  The study will evaluate the costs of the loss of biodiversity and the associated decline in ecosystem services worldwide, and compare them with the costs of effective conservation and sustainable use. It is intended that it will sharpen awareness of the value of biodiversity and ecosystem services and facilitate the development of cost-effective policy responses, notably by preparing a 'valuation toolkit'. An international expert workshop on 'The Economics of the Global Loss of Biological Diversity" was held on 5-6 March 2008 in Brussels, and provided ideas and recommendations on the way forward for the study. The proceedings of the workshops and the presentations made are available at: http://www.ecologic-events.de/eco-loss-biodiv/presentations.htm

Biomimicry: Insects’ Compound Eye

May 29, 2008  www.fraunhofer.de

Research scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Jena, are working on the development of an ultra-thin image sensor based on the insect eye. In his dissertation “High-precision position determination with artificial compound eyes”, Andreas Brückner improved the imaging properties of these systems with regard to sensor applications. Insects have not just two, but thousands of eyes. Each facet of their eye picks up one image point, and the numerous facets, each with its own lens and visual cells, are spread over the surface of a hemisphere. As a result, the insect eye can cover a wide viewing angle – but the resolution of the images produced is not particularly high. This is surprising, given that insects can fly very precise maneuvers. They are able to do so because of the principle of hyperacuity – insects see more than the images actually captured by their compound eyes because the visual fields of adjacent facets overlap, and Andreas Brückner is replicating this phenomenon in a technical system. “The aim was to develop micro-optical compound eyes which contain numerous parallel imaging channels and which are also extremely compact, thinner than 0.5 millimeters,” reports Andreas Brückner. To achieve this, he began by analyzing how images are created in artificial compound eyes. Given that each facet captures one image point, the challenge was to accomplish controlled overlapping in the technical system. With a precise knowledge of the angular sensitivity, image signals of adjacent facets can then be compared with each other. This makes it possible to determine the position of the object viewed in a two-dimensional visual field with an accuracy which is many times higher than the image resolution. A comparison has shown that an artificial compound eye lens can transfer information with an effective image resolution of 625 x 625 pixels although the number of actually available image pixels is limited to 50 x 50. As a result, the sensor can recognize simple objects, precisely determine their position and size, and also reliably detect movements. Brückner is to be presented with the Hugo Geiger Prize (1st place) for the results of his dissertation.

New Zealand Protects 2 Endangered Dolphins

May 29, 2008  www.nytimes.com 

The number of indigenous Hector's dolphins has declined from an estimated 29,000 in the 1970s to just 7,000, while there are only 111 remaining Maui's dolphins.  The tiny Maui's dolphin could be extinct within a few years.  They only exist in New Zealand, and the government has moved to protect them by banning coastal net fishing and protecting their living areas around both main islands – areas ranging from 1.2 - 7.7 miles from the shore. 

Wolong Panda Reserve Needs a New Home

May 29, 2008  www.nytimes.com 

SHANGHAI, China  -- The world's most famous panda reserve wants to find a new home after its current one was badly damaged by this month's deadly earthquake in China.  ''It's better to move, I think,'' Zhang Hemin, the chief of the Wolong Giant Panda Reserve, said by phone Thursday. Another  panda reserve, China's largest, has had to call off patrols and its annual panda census because of the quake's aftershocks.  ''We've not been able to get into the heart of the forests to check if the giant pandas are OK,'' Huang Huali, deputy director of the Baishuijiang Nature Reserve Administration, told Xinhua. The reserve is in Sichuan and neighboring Gansu province and is about 62 miles from the quake's epicenter. The Wolong reserve is just 20 miles from the epicenter of the May 12 quake, which has killed more than 68,000 people, including five reserve staff members.  One panda remains missing. Conditions remain so bad that the Chinese government last week arranged an emergency food shipment of about 5 tons of bamboo for the 47 pandas still at the reserve. Many panda enclosures were heavily damaged but any move of the Wolong reserve has to wait for a damage assessment by geologists, Zhang said.. 

Elephant Kills 7 in Northern India

May 29, 2008  www.nytimes.com 

NEW DELHI (AP) -- An elephant rampaged through a village in northern India on Thursday, killing at least seven people who tried to surround it.  The village is on the edge of the Jim Corbett National Park, and chief wildlife officer, Srikant Chandola, gave no other details.

Swiss Zoo Gorilla Paternity Mix-up

May 29, 2008   afp.google.com

GENEVA (AFP) — A paternity test has revealed that the Basil Zoo’s silverback gorilla has effectively been cuckolded by a young male half his age.  The test revealed that 17-year-old Kisoro, is not the father of little Chelewa -- instead it's Viatu, another male who is just nine years old.  Viatu has "broken all the rules that apply in gorilla communities," said a zoo statement. Normally, only male gorillas aged 12 or over have the right to have sex with females in the tribe.  The discovery wasn’t made until the zoo carried out the test as part of the data it keeps on animals born in captivity.

Nature Conservancy’s Podcast Series

May 29, 2008    support.nature.org

The Nature Conservancy's latest edition to its "Nature Stories" podcast series is “Rwanda Gorillas”  which explains how the species is rebounding after the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The series started in February 2006, and currently there are well over 100 podcasts available on the site. Visitors can also sign up for the free podcast feed via iTunes.

Collecting Blood from Zoo Animals

May 29, 2008  news.bbc.co.uk

A bloodsucking insect is being used to collect blood samples from animals at zoos, London Zoo has said.  Kissing bugs crawl onto the animal and release a pain-reducing enzyme as they bite and suck the blood from veins.  The "stress-free" method simplifies collecting blood from animals, who do not have to be sedated, the zoo said.  The pilot project, which is underway at London and Whipsnade zoos, has seen blood collected from a hippo, cheetah, giraffe, elephant and white rhino.  The "non-invasive" method is expected to make collecting blood samples from small animals easier as their size makes veins inaccessible.  The scheme is part of a study by Wuppertal Zoo in Germany and the insects are bred in a laboratory there. The procedure has been tried on 32 species of zoo animals since the project was launched in Germany.  London Zoo's veterinary officer Tim Bouts said: "This pioneering procedure means we can take a stress-free blood sample from an animal that we would otherwise need to sedate or anaesthetise. "It might take somewhere between 10 and 30 minutes to get a decent sample dependent on how hungry the bug is, how quickly it finds a blood capillary and how thick the skin of its host is." The bugs are humanely killed after the blood samples are collected.  The process is pictured at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/7425073.stm

First Wildlife Reintroduction Conference

May 29, 2008  www.sciencemag.org  By Virginia Morell

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS-- Organized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Lincoln Park Zoo (LPZ) in Chicago, more than 200 scientists and wildlife managers from 31 countries met for the first time April 15-16 2008, hoping to map out and share strategies for wildlife reintroduction success.  Early reintroduction efforts often failed; and today, less than half of all such projects are proven successful, says Joanne Earnhardt, an LPZ population biologist. In some cases, reintroduced species do well at first, only to be felled later by the same forces that drove them extinct in the wild in the first place. In other cases, there are simply no data on how reintroduced species are doing. And yet the field is exploding, growing from a total of some 100 reintroduced species in the early 1990s to more than 700 by this year, 74% of them mammals and birds. (Another conference, focused on bird reintroductions, takes place this week at the Zoological Society of London.)

Every reintroduction faces daunting challenges, from assessing the genetic diversity of the animals to ensuring that the habitat can sustain them. "Habitat quality is certainly key," said Debra Shier, a behavioral ecologist with the Zoological Society of San Diego in Escondido, California. "But you have to measure it from the perspective of the animal." In essence, any reintroduction is a "forced dispersal," she explained, and there can be many reasons why an animal won't settle after being released into what humans think is perfect habitat. For example, even after 40 years, red kites in Britain haven't moved into the high-quality habitat scientists had identified for them; instead, they crowd in with other kites in central Wales. Animals often settle in better if there are signs of their fellows nearby; thus, before translocating black rhinos in South Africa, biologists from the San Diego Zoo spread rhino dung around the new area. "It doesn't seem to matter whose dung it is," said Shier, "just so long as it's black rhino dung." Similarly, playback calls of black-capped vireos in Texas have helped reassure newcomers, and wooden decoys have drawn fairy terns in New Zealand to reestablish old breeding territories.

Robotic Biomimicry of Toad’s tongue-feeding

May 29, 2008  www4.nau.edu 

Science has long held that muscles behave largely like motors. But Northern Arizona University researcher Kiisa Nishikawa, after observing the remarkably fast tongue-feeding action of the toad, suggests that muscle acts more like a spring.  "Existing theories don't explain how muscles shorten rapidly," Nishikawa said. "Muscles can only shorten to do work; they can't do work by lengthening." A spring also can only do work by shortening.  Nishikawa explains that the jaw muscles in toads and chameleons shorten in the lower jaw, and the opening of the jaws causes the tongue to stretch by its own momentum.  "When a toad or chameleon captures prey with its tongue, it exerts force over a distance. Figuring out how they do it has immense application to any device that actually moves." A toad's jaw muscles can produce forces greater than 700 times the animal's weight. "The best electric motor achieves about one-third of that force-to-weight ratio," Nishikawa noted.  Muscles also function as self-stabilizing springs. "They have built-in self-correcting mechanisms. Before the brain can even react, muscles are changing their elasticity adaptively," she said. Think of walking down a flight of steps and missing a step. Leg muscles instantly become less stiff to afford better shock absorption. "It's an intrinsic property of muscle," Nishikawa said.

Tom Sugar and his colleagues Arizona State University have been inspired by biology in designing a robotic tendon. After meeting with Nishikawa about her work, Sugar said, "We were amazed at the speed, energy storage and power of muscle. We learned how a frog tongue will store energy and release it in a powerful burst."  At ASU's Human Machine Integration Laboratory, Sugar and his team are building "SPARKy" (Spring Ankle with Regenerative Kinetics) that mimics biology by storing and releasing energy during the ankle gait cycle. "Energy is stored as the leg and body rolls over the ankle, and then this energy is released in a powerful burst to propel the user forward. By mimicking biology, we are able to build a very lightweight and functional device," Sugar said.  "Putting motors and springs together in a smart way is something nature hit on about 600 million years ago (with the earliest vertebrates)," Nishikawa said. It's a notion that captured the interest of Discovery Channel Canada, which spent a day at NAU and a day at ASU taping for a segment of its Daily Planet show that will air in the fall.

Recovery Plan for N.E. Atlantic Loggerhead Sea Turtle

May 30, 2008   www.epa.gov 

The NMFS and USFWS, announce the availability for public review of the draft Recovery Plan (Plan) for the Northwest Atlantic Population of the Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta). We are soliciting review and comment on the Plan from the public and all interested parties, including state and local governments, and national governments beyond the U.S. whose actions may contribute to the conservation and recovery of the loggerhead turtle in the Northwest Atlantic. We will consider all substantive comments received during the review period before submitting the Plan for final approval. Comments on the draft Plan must be received by close of business on July 29, 2008.  Send comments via e-mail to: seaturtle@fws.gov  In the subject line of the e-mail put: Comments on Northwest Atlantic Loggerhead Recovery Plan. Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only. Comments may also be mailed to : NMFS National Sea Turtle Coordinator, Attn: Draft Loggerhead Recovery Plan, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Room 13657, Silver Spring, MD 20910 or USFWS National Sea Turtle Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 6620 Southpoint Drive South, Suite 310, Jacksonville, FL 32216.
For further information contact: Barbara Schroeder (ph. 301-713-1401, fax 301-713-0376) or Sandy MacPherson (ph. 904-232-2580). The Draft Recovery Plan may be viewed at:
http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/recovery/plans.htm or http://www.fws.gov/northflorida/SeaTurtles/loggerhead-recovery/default-loggerhead.htm

Sedgewick County Zoo Master Plan

May 30, 2008  www.bizjournals.com  By Josh Heck

WICHITA, Kansas -- Sedgwick County Zoo director Mark Reed has unveiled a 14-part master plan to revamp the zoo which was built in 1972.  After a new entrance, a key project that Reed hopes to get started on is changes to the 3.5-acre "Africa: Downing Gorilla Forrest and Elephants" exhibit.  Guests will pass through the world’s first walk-through elephant exhibit by way of bridges and tunnels that would allow the elephants to go under the pedestrian path. The estimated cost of the project is between $8 million and $10 million. It could start this fall or in early 2009.  Many of the zoo's current exhibits, including the popular Cessna Penguin Cove, that drew nearly 600,000 visitors when it opened last year, were made possible through sizeable private donations.  A  $3 million donation is currently funding the construction of an Asian Tiger exhibit. Judy and Don Slawson donated the initial $1 million in November 2006 and challenged the Sedgwick County Zoo Foundation to match that contribution. The Slawsons then matched the remaining $1 million.  "We think this town has been very supportive," Reed says. "We think success has bred success here."  The parking lot, central plaza, children's farm, aquatic complex, amphibians and reptiles area and jungle are among the other exhibits included in the plan. WDM Architects did the design work for the master plan, which was recently approved by the zoo board. The original master plan was updated in 1997.

US Zoos Raise Money for Panda Researchers

May 30, 2008  www.washingtonpost.com  By Michael Ruane

The National Zoo and three other U.S. zoos with giant pandas are launching an effort to raise money for colleagues at China's Wolong National Nature Reserve, in Sichuan province.  An appeal for donations went up today on the zoo's Web site: http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/GiantPandas . David Wildt, head of the zoo's Center for Species Survival, who was to have been on the visit.  Although the trip was postponed, the National Zoo is joining together with zoos in Atlanta, Memphis and San Diego to raise funds to assist their Chinese colleagues.  Of the 35 enclosures at the reserve's breeding center, 14 were totally destroyed and 18 others were severely damaged, Wildt said. He said that, about five days after the quake, the zoo got an e-mail from the reserve's director, Zhang Hemin, saying, "We need your help."  The zoo pays China $1 million a year for the loan of the two adults under a 10-year agreement. They arrived in 2000. The zoo also has paid $600,000 for baby Tai Shan's first two-year stay. He is scheduled to be returned to China next year for breeding purposes.

London Zoo’s Recycled Sculpture Show

May 30, 2008  www.timesonline.co.uk

London Zoo’s latest inhabitants are a shark made from discarded hubcaps and a polar bear cub made of plastic bags.  The Recycled Sculpture Show kicks off the Love London Festival of eco-events.  The zoo’s landmark symbol of modernist architecture, the Berthold Lubetkin Penguin Pool, has also been infested with a plague of bugs made from salvaged car parts.  View several pieces in the show at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article4030045.ece
And http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/2008/05/30/in-pictures-recycled-animal-sculptures-at-london-zoo-89520-20589255/

Toronto Macaques Go Green

May 30, 2008  www.newswire.ca

The lion-tailed macaques at the Toronto Zoo are going green, with some help from a provincial fund that supports community-based conservation projects.  Their exhibit will be retrofitted  with a geo-exchange heating and cooling system - and to showcase the technology through education programs and tours for the zoo's 1.4 million annual visitors. The retrofit project is one of 22 that will receive a total of $740,000 in funding from the 2008-2009 Community Conservation Initiatives (CCI) fund. The CCI fund is designed to support not-for-profit organizations that are delivering innovative energy conservation initiatives in local communities. The goal is to raise awareness about energy conservation, to encourage energy consumers to take action and to achieve long-term change. Priority is given to projects that enhance the capacity of individuals or communities to conserve, and/or promote small-scale renewable energy.  In its first two years, the CCI fund supported 55 conservation projects across the province. The Ontario government has authorized its energy planner, the Ontario Power Authority, to invest up to $1.2 billion in new conservation initiatives across the province to achieve an additional 1,350 MW of conservation and demand reductions by 2010. Learn more about Ontario's Community Conservation Initiatives (CCI)
program at www.energy.gov.on.ca .  Read about Go Green, Ontario's action plan on climate change at www.gogreenontario.ca 

Somali Wild Ass P.R. Problem

May 30, 2008   www.stltoday.com     By Jeffrey Bonner

Fewer than 1,000 Somali wild asses (maybe as few as 700 remain in their native range states of Eritrea, Somalia and Ethiopia, in the Horn of Africa). They live in rocky, arid land, including Danakil, one of the lowest and hottest places on earth. Among mammals, the males have one of the largest territories in the world. The St. Louis Zoo has supported ground and aerial field surveys in Eritrea and Ethiopia and have funded training for conservation biologists in those countries. Tim Thier, St. Louis Zoo’s zoological manager, is the studbook keeper for Somali wild asses in North America. The Zoo's research department has been studying wild ass hormone levels in an effort to understand how they relate to reproduction.  They are working with other scientists at Washington University. Because they are hard to observe in the wild, one study documents the foal's growth rate in comparison to the mother. It's hoped that this will allow field biologists to better estimate the age of young animals.

Yet there is a problem with the animals' name. People have trouble with the A-word. Last year a high school freshman did her Science Fair project at the Zoo. She studied how visitors responded to our Grevy's zebra versus how they responded to our Somali wild ass. About 41 percent of those who visited the wild ass laughed at the name, while none did with the zebra. About 28 percent of our visitors showed interest by staying at the wild ass exhibit and by using their name; 86 percent of the zebra visitors showed interest and said their name. This might seem silly, but what's the Zoo to do? Work like crazy to convince people that it's OK to say "ass" in front of children, or push for a more elegant name. International biologists changed the name of the Siberian tiger to the Amur tiger because the Amur River valley is the last place on earth where they survive. Why not the Somali wild ass as well?  Patricia Moehlman, a fellow of the Zoo's WildCare Institute and a scholar who is, arguably, the world's authority on wild asses, has suggested "Dibokali" — the name the native Afar people use for wild ass in Ethiopia.  Meanwhile, please visit our wild asses. March right up to them and say to those around you, "Hey, there's a Somali wild ass!" If people think you're an expert, they won't question your use of the word "ass." Trust me. I've tried it.

Houston Zoo Web Site Wins Awards

May 30, 2008  www.prweb.com

The Houston Chapter of the American Marketing Association awarded the Houston Zoo a Crystal Award in the Web site - Non-profit category. The Zoo's Web site and overall Web marketing strategy was recognized with an additional Crystal Award in the Maverick category as a favorite of the judges.  Launched a year ago the Houston Zoo's Web site, www.houstonzoo.org, was designed by Schipul in coordination with the Zoo's Marketing Department. The site is powered by the Tendenci® (www.tendenci.com) Web marketing application, which is developed and marketed by Schipul.  Attracting 1.5 million visitors each year and home to more than 4,500 animals in over 200 exhibits, the Houston Zoo encourages appreciation, knowledge, and care for the natural world. The Zoo's Web site brings that world to life online through subtle animation that has a three-dimensional quality and creates a lush look and feel. The site incorporates interactive tools, such as podcasts, really simple syndication (RSS) feeds, online event registration and online membership sign-up, renewal and upgrade.

Akron Zoo’s New ‘Jellies’ Exhibit

May 30, 2008  www.akron.com  By Kathleen Folkerth

WEST AKRON — Jellyfish will be featured in the Akron Zoo’s newest exhibit, Jellies: Rhythm in the Blue, which opens to the public June 7.  The exhibit, housed in the Komodo Kingdom building, will feature seven species of jellyfish in 10 tanks.  Pete Mohan, the zoo’s manager of living collections, said the exhibit will give zoo visitors a close-up view of the life of these unusual sea creatures.  David Barnhardt, director of marketing and guest services for the zoo, said the zoo responded to the public’s request for more aquatic life at the zoo by creating the exhibit. Mohan said the exhibit is the only one of its kind in Ohio. “You would have to go to one of the coastal aquariums to see this,” said Mohan, who worked for Sea World of Ohio for 20 years before joining the Akron Zoo several years ago.  The space, which formerly housed an interactive exhibit about the environment, recycling and conservation, has been completely renovated to accommodate the tanks and equipment necessary to keep them running. Visitors enter near the Galapagos tortoise exhibit and wind through the tanks, which are embedded in blue walls. Educational panels throughout the exhibit explain more about the jellyfish and their traits.  The exhibit will stay for 3 years.

Test Developed for Chronic Wasting Disease in Elk

May 30, 2008  www.aphis.usda.gov

FORT COLLINS, Colo., May 30, 2008--Researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and Colorado State University (CSU) recently completed their third year of evaluating and validating the first live rectal-tissue biopsy method for detecting chronic wasting disease (CWD) in captive and wild elk.  To date, researchers have collected over 1,500 biopsies from captive elk in Colorado and used the technique to find 15 elk that were positive for CWD.  As compared to proven post-mortem diagnostic tests, this live test appears to be nearly as accurate.  “The key advantage to the rectal biopsy test is that it can be performed on live animals.  Until now, there was no practical live test for CWD in elk,” said research wildlife biologist Dr. Kurt VerCauteren “With this technique we can detect CWD in animals not showing any signs of the disease and, thus, remove them so they are not left to infect other individuals and further contaminate the environment.   “The use of this new live test in the initial screening, surveillance and monitoring of CWD will greatly aid in the management and control of the disease in the wild, as well as in captive settings,” said VerCauteren.  CWD has been reported in captive and free-ranging mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk and moose.  CWD has been a devastating disease to the captive elk industry.  An estimated 12,000-14,000 captive elk have been killed in the western United States and Canada in the past 7-8 years to control CWD.  Several thousand free-ranging mule deer, white-tailed deer and elk also have been killed in attempts to reduce the disease in the wild.

Wildlife Areas in Balkans will Expand

May 30, 2008  www.nytimes.com

The governments of Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia have agreed to increase cross-border conservation efforts in an area of Southeastern Europe especially rich in wildlife, including bears, lynxes, wolves and golden jackals. The nations said they would create 13 new protected areas and extend 9 others in the Dinaric Arc, an area that stretches from Trieste in Italy to Tirana in Albania. The area, with large areas of undamaged forest, also has some of the richest freshwater ecosystems in the Mediterranean, according to environmentalists.

S.D. Zoo-Born Pandas Survive China Quake
May 31, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com  By Diane Bell

San Diego Zoo-born pandas Hua Mei and Mei Sheng survived the earthquake that heavily damaged the Wolong National Nature Reserve.  Five pandas escaped, including Hua Mei's oldest cub, but the cub since has been recaptured. As of yesterday, only one of the panda preserve's 83 pandas still was missing, said Dr. Ron Swaisgood, co-director of the San Diego Zoo's Giant Panda Conservation Unit.  All the pandas that haven't already been relocated will be moved to a facility about four hours to the south.  Twelve enclosures were destroyed and 34 more heavily damaged in the May 12 earthquake. Five employees of the Wolong nature reserve were killed. None worked directly with the pandas, said Swaisgood, who has been in contact with colleagues there.  They told him of aftershocks averaging 5.0 on the Richter scale that continue to rock the area almost daily. Last weekend, a 6.0-magnitude aftershock collapsed several more preserve facilities. All buildings, including staff housing, are uninhabitable. “The employees are living in cars and in tents and trying to take good care of the pandas,” said Swaisgood. The S.D. Zoo, working with other zoo groups to raise money, has added a link on its Web site, sandiegozoo.org, to the newly formed Wolong Panda Center Earthquake Relief Fund.

Oregon Zoo Puts Peacocks Up for Adoption

May 31, 2008  seattletimes.nwsource.com  By A.P.

The Oregon Zoo is putting its peacocks and peahens up for adoption to suitable rural homes — just as soon as keepers can catch them.  Peacocks have wandered the grounds for as long as any employee can recall. Mike Keele, deputy director at the zoo says the flock once numbered 30 or more.  But the zoo has steadily reduced the numbers as concerns about disease transmission between free-flying birds and captive animals escalated. Keele says fewer than 10 peafowl roam the zoo today.  The zoo decided to eventually farm out the whole peafowl flock after it became better understood that the birds might be able to transmit salmonella, West Nile virus or other diseases to species confined in exhibits.  An attack last week on a boy at the zoo propelled zoo staff to expedite the plan.  Keepers did gather all the peacocks in 2002 so veterinarians could perform vasectomies. But doing so took a few months: The peacocks swiftly learned to fly off and perch high in fir trees when they saw a uniformed zookeeper headed their way. The birds also tend fly off and on the zoo's grounds whenever the mood strikes them.  Those interested in adopting one or more birds can go to the zoo's Web site: www.oregonzoo.org , click on "Contact us"

Great Leatherback Turtle Race II

June 1, 2008  www.greatturtlerace.org 

The Great Turtle Race II, a unique international sea turtle conservation event bringing together the Chinese Academy of Sciences, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists, Drexel University and other academic institutions, and conservation organizations, It will take place from June 2 to June 16 in a global bid to raise awareness and funds for the critically endangered leatherback turtle.  Eleven institutions and sponsors from America, China, and Indonesia will compete in the Great Turtle Race II and the eleven sponsored turtles, equipped with satellite tags, are “racing” toward the International Dateline (or the middle of the Pacific Ocean) from nesting beaches in Indonesia and feeding areas along the U.S. West Coast.  The leatherback is a 100 million-year-old massive sea turtle that outlived the dinosaurs but is now dangerously close to extinction.  Leatherback numbers in the Pacific Ocean have decreased from about 115,000 two decades ago to fewer than 5,000 today.  This online event will raise funds to protect leatherback turtle-nesting areas in Indonesia and raise awareness about what individuals can do-on both sides of the Pacific Ocean-to help protect sea turtles in our daily actions. Starting June 2nd, race fans will have a chance to choose a favorite turtle to cheer during the race at www.greatturtlerace.com . Throughout the race, viewers can follow each turtle’s journey across the Pacific and learn about the obstacles it will face along the way-fishing lines and nets, plastic bags that look like jellyfish (leatherbacks’ primary food source), and many other human-related hazards.  Activities for fans include a chance to try to pick the winning turtle, an interactive animation of a leatherback’s life, opportunities to ask questions, and sea turtle educational curriculum for teachers. As the leatherbacks surface to breath every several minutes, satellite tags transmit data such as location and water temperature to satellites in space, which then transmit the data back down to computer servers in the U.S.  This data is combined with remotely-sensed information about sea surface temperature, sea surface height, and more to build a comprehensive understanding of leatherbacks’ epic, trans-Pacific migrations. Scientists and managers will be able to use this information on oceanography, animal behaviors, and human pressures to develop innovative ways to conserve leatherbacks and other sea turtles.

Meeting on Reducing Stress in Zoo Animals

June 1, 2008   www.redorbit.com  By Reuters

Experts from zoos and universities met Friday at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo to try to gain a better understanding of how animals feel, and how to reduce  repetitive behaviors that are often believed to be signs of distress.  Visitors who observe a pacing cheetah or a polar bear swimming in circles might believe the animals are stressed by confinement, but instead they may be merely expending excess energy or soothing themselves, said experts during interviews at the  symposium.  "We humans swim laps, and people take comfort in walking in circles. As long is it not injuring the animals, and not causing them pain, it may not be a sign of poor welfare," Nadja Wielebnowski of the Chicago Zoological Society told Reuters. Wielebnowski, who measures stress hormones in zoo animals, is assisting in efforts to reduce stress when animals are moved, exposed to noise or come in close contact with humans.  Wielebnowski suggested zoos might consider exercise equipment for animals to expend excess energy.

"Some species do absolutely great in zoos -- they get great food,  they get it every day, they have great veterinary care. For some species, the zoo trumps the wild," David Shepherdson of the Oregon Zoo.  However, some species do not fare as well, such as bears, elephants and large cats.  Shepherdson conducted a study of polar bears in the nation’s zoos, and found 50 out of 54 bears exhibited behavioral symptoms indicative of stress, even though there were no elevated levels of corticosteroids, hormones that specify stress.  Shepherdson further discovered that close to half the bears reduced their repetitive behavior when given training or toys that helped them mimic their behavior in the wild. He found, for example, that polar bears that were provided a plastic barrel would crush it, just as they would a seal den in their native Arctic habitat.  Experts are also looking at whether certain species, such as leopards, do not belong in zoos at all because they favor remaining out of sight.  "Essentially, we need to go against the knee-jerk human reaction, which is the view that (zoo animals) need companionship, they need a large enclosure, and that they are only interested in the world visually," Vicki Melfi of Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust,said. Melfi runs Britain’s Paignton Zoo.  She said animals sensitive to sounds might be offered a dark, quiet corner for retreat, whereas other animals more sensitive to smell might have their enclosures disinfected less frequently to preserve their scent markings.

Newsweek Cover: Politics of Endangered Species

June 1, 2008   PRNewswire.com

NEW YORK, -- To make it on the Endangered Species list, animals need to be under threat of becoming extinct, but it also takes a good deal of luck. For environmentalists and politicians, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is a powerful political tool. Americans almost universally endorse the lofty goal of the act, but conflicts inevitably arise. In the latest installment of Newsweek's "Project Green" series, Senior Editor Jerry Adler looks at what it takes to make it on the list and how the ESA is now being used as part of the war over global warming.  The effort to place the polar bear, which recently joined the 1,985 species of plants and animals listed as either "endangered" or "threatened", has thrust the ESA into the mainstream of 21st-century environmental politics. It took until 2004 for researchers to demonstrate, with empirically derived climate and population models, that shrinking sea ice was a serious threat to the bears' population. On Feb. 16, 2005 -- the day the Kyoto Protocol to curb greenhouse-gas emissions took effect, without the participation of the United States -- environmental lawyer Kassie Siegel petitioned to list polar bears as endangered. Three years later, under court order to make a decision, USFWS designated the bears as "threatened." 

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne designated the bears as "threatened," a significant concession from an administration that has stood almost alone in the world in its reluctance to acknowledge the dangers of climate change.  But polar bears are not safe yet. "Endangered" species get the highest level of protection; anything that threatens their survival -- or, for that matter, a single individual -- is outlawed. By listing the bear as "threatened", Kempthorne gave the department leeway to decide which level of protection to apply. Specifically, he promised not to allow the Endangered Species Act to be "abused" by environmentalists to affect global-warming policy. "This listing," he warned, "will not stop global climate change or prevent any sea ice from melting."  Authorities on environmental law say the whole point of the act is to protect critical ecosystems, not just species in isolation. If a species is being listed because of climate change, you can't turn around and say, 'We're not going to take climate change into account'." Siegel was disappointed, although hardly surprised, by Kempthorne's position. At least in the short term, the main impact of listing the polar bear will be on American hunters who shoot bears in Canada; they will now be prevented from bringing their trophies back into the United States.

Bachacs (Leaf-cutter Ants) Go to North American Zoos

June 1, 2008  www.newsday.co.tt 

Three North American zoos recently sent a team of their workers to Trinidad to capturing bachacs (leaf-cutting ants) in collaboration with the Zoological Society of Trinidad and Tobago (ZSTT). They will be exhibited at the Toronto Zoo, Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens, and the Toledo Zoo. Small young colonies of the forest “bachac” or leaf-cutting ant (Atta cephalotes) were collected. Trinidadians viewthese insects as serious agricultural pests. However, in natural forest systems they are highly beneficial  The Toronto Zoo in Canada has displayed invertebrates since 1978 and an invertebrate rearing facility was built in 1986 to supply captive raised invertebrates for display. The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, in Ohio, is consistently rated as one of the top three zoos.  It is especially well-known for breeding gorillas, small cats and  Sumatran rhinos. Its highly popular World of the Insect exhibit (or Insectarium) features a diversity of live insects, related  arthropods, and small insectivorous vertebrates (dart frogs, green snakes, etc) from around the world, including several species originally collected in Trinidad (Hercules beetles, zebra bugs, giant tropical roaches). The zoo has also been actively involved with Trinidad’s Blue and Gold Macaw Re-introduction Programme. The Toledo Zoo’s most important conservation projects include the spray toads of Tanzania, the Aruba Island Boa,  and four butterfly conservation programmes including the Karner Blue butterfly which has been successfully re-introduced into Ohio.

Reducing Stress in Zoo Animals

June 1, 2008  www.redorbit.com

Animal enrichment experts from zoos and universities recently met at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo. "Some species do absolutely great in zoos -- they get great food, they get it every day, they have great veterinary care. For some species, the zoo trumps the wild," David Shepherdson of the Oregon Zoo in Portland told Reuters. However, some species do not fare as well, such as bears, elephants and large cats. Shepherdson conducted a study of polar bears in the nation’s zoos, and found 50 out of 54 bears exhibited behavioral symptoms indicative of stress, even though there were no elevated levels of corticosteroids, hormones that specify stress.  Shepherdson further discovered that close to half the bears reduced their repetitive behavior when given training or toys that helped them mimic their behavior in the wild. He found, for example, that polar bears that were provided a plastic barrel would crush it, just as they would a seal den in their native Arctic habitat.

Gorilla Baby at Calgary Zoo

June 2, 2008  www.canada.com  By Kristen Odland

A female western lowland gorilla, which was born May 15, and is in close contact with her mother Zuri and the two other gorillas in the group.  Zookeeper Les Stegenga said staff worked with  12-year-old Zuri prior to the birth so she could practice handing dolls over to staff.  Zuri displayed inappropriate mothering behaviour and disinterest after giving birth. Now, her behaviour has changed and she is protecting and cuddling her baby.  "I think there's a huge learning process for her," said Stegenga. "There is a hormonal change that occurs." Two years ago, she lost her first-born when her half-sister Tabitha took the infant away and Zuri lacked the confidence to take the child back. The infant only lived 12 days. Zuri is now the most dominant female in the group and has gained respect from the 29-year-old male in the troop, Kakinga. For the first five days after the new baby's birth, zoo staff kept all four gorillas together. "The baby's weight gain, its health is good -- so those signs that are positive," Stegenga said, although the baby still requires supplemental feedings from zoo staff.

NSW Tasmanian Devil Breeding Program

June 2, 2008   tamworth.yourguide.com.au  By Debra Jopson

Tasmanian devils are given to phantom pregnancies, but nine days after her species was officially listed as endangered, Patch, a 4-year-old female at the Australian Reptile Park was found to have an unusually large litter of four joeys in her pouch, one for each nipple. Last year the Central Coast park, produced eight of the 13 devil joeys bred on the mainland.  No bigger than a grain of rice when they were born, the joeys are now the size of half a human thumb, NSW is the mainland leader of Project Ark.  Its aim is to create a healthy population of devils as an incurable facial cancer continues to cut into the estimated 100,000 devils remaining in Tasmania. Possibly 200,000 of the marsupials have been wiped out. About 70 Tasmanian devils are now in the "ark" in Tasmania, with almost half of the 70 on the mainland living on the NSW Central Coast.  Devil breeding season from February to June and keeper Brendan Cook says their sex life is as ferocious as their roar.  "During mating they bite each other. The girls develop a fluidy fat roll on their necks. It is a big pin cushion for the boys' teeth. It can be quite amusing. The boys like to hold onto it," he said.  For five to 10 days, the couple neither eat nor drink and the males sometimes lock the females in a den.  The most passive females are the most successful breeders.

Bob Dylan Inspired Exhibit at Chester Zoo

June 2, 2008  www.flintshirestandard.co.uk 

Chester Zoo has a new exhibit.  Hard Rain is a dramatic series of photographs taken by London-based photographer Mark Edwards and set to the lyrics of Dylan's famous 60s protest song, A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall.  Its goal is to inspire action on combating climate change, habitat loss, pollution and poverty, the exhibition features hard-hitting photographs.  The exhibition is touring the world and is accompanied by a Hard Rain book which has been sent to every world leader encouraging them to reveal the policies they are implementing to reduce CO² and other greenhouse gases.The inspiration for the Hard Rain project came in 1969 when Edwards was lost on the edge of the Sahara Desert. He was rescued by a Tuareg nomad who took him to his people and produced a cassette player. A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall was the soundtrack and subsequently set Mark on his project path.  Over the following years, Mark travelled to more than 150 countries to photograph our headlong collision with nature. The result is Hard Rain. The exhibit can be found near the zoo's aquarium where it will remain for 12 months. Copies of the Hard Rain book will also be available for sale in the zoo. 

Listing the Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl

June 2, 2008   www.epa.gov
The USFWS has found that a petition to list the cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl (Glaucidium ridgwayi cactorum) (pygmy-owl) as threatened or endangered presents substantial scientific or commercial information. Therefore, with the publication of this notice, we are initiating a status review of the species, and we will issue a 12-month finding on our determination as to whether the petitioned action is warranted. To ensure that the status review of the pygmy-owl is comprehensive, we are soliciting information and data regarding this species. We will make a determination on critical habitat for this species if and when we initiate a listing action. To allow us adequate time to conduct this review, we request that information be submitted on or before August 1, 2008.  Submit comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov or  U.S. mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn: [FWS-R2-ES-2008-0070]; 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. For further information contact: Steven Spangle, Field Supervisor, Arizona Ecological Services Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2321 West Royal Palm Road, Suite 103, Phoenix, AZ 85021; telephone 602/242-0210; facsimile 602/242-2513

Elephant Pregnancy for Melbourne Zoo

June 2, 2008  www.abc.net.au

Melbourne Zoo’s female Asian elephant, Dukkoon , is pregnant.  15-year-old Dukkoon is part of the of the regional elephant breeding program and this is the first artificial insemination pregnancy at any Australian zoo. The ultrasound examination confirming the pregnancy was carried out on Saturday by fertility experts from Berlin and  the zoo's veterinarians.  Victorian Environment Minister Gavin Jennings said, "With another elephant already pregnant at Taronga Zoo, there is every indication that the regional breeding program is off to an excellent start."   Dokkon is one of eight elephants that arrived in Australia from Thailand in late 2006. The elephant ultrasound showed a black sack of amniotic fluid containing a tiny elephant embryo only 3 millimetres across. The elephant has a lot of growing to do before it reaches ~70 kilos in about 22 months.

Colombia Bug Entrepreneur

June 3, 2008  www.chicagotribune.com  By Chris Kraul

TUNJA, Colombia —German Viasus, 36, is a Colombian entrepreneur who is exploiting the beetle-mania sweeping Japan by raising and exporting hundreds of Hercules, Neptune and Megasoma elephas beetle species to the Asian country.  A male Hercules beetle measures up to 7 inches long and is distinguished by 2-inch-long, dagger-like horns that, in a pincers movement, are used to flip its male competitors in a sort of miniature judo maneuver.  Viasus is part of Colombia's effort to promote the legal exploitation of its biodiversity.  Despite its stunning variety of plant and animal species (second only to Brazil's), Colombia produces only about $17 million in "bio-commerce" a year, mainly in native foliage used in floral arrangements and aromatic, medicinal and cosmetic herbs. That's only a quarter of what neighboring Peru exports.  In a bid to catch up, Colombia's Environment Ministry recently set up a $1-million bio-commerce fund to make loans to businesses such as Viasus' Terra Viva that pursue "green" markets. Viasus ships 300 giant beetles a month that retail for as much as $350 each in Tokyo pet stores.  "The beetles have a personality and know those of us who take care of them," Viasus said. "They are calm around us, but like dogs they get nervous around strangers or if they think someone is going to hurt them."

Dallas Zoo Gorilla Patrick Will Leads a Troop

June 3, 2008   www.dallasnews.com  By CHRIS COATS

DALLAS, Texas – Patrick and Jabari came to the Dallas Zoo in 1995. as 5-year-olds who had been raised together in Toronto. In March 2004, Jabari escaped and injured three patrons before officers shot and killed him. The exhibit was closed until May 2006. Dallas has since completed a $2.5 million renovation and are preparing to have Patrick head a new troop in the new habitat.  2 females are in waiting: 9-year-old Makena from Disney’s Animal Kingdom and 18-year-old Tufani from Pittsburgh. Patrick, now 18, has noticed.  "He's constantly banging his chest and standing tall showing how big he is," said zookeeper, Keith Zdrojewski. "He's doing these power sprints back and forth in the gorilla building. He's lifting up heavy objects. He's putting on a display showing that he's a tough guy and he stands where he can get the best view of them. Tami Jochem, the zoo's senior mammal keeper said "Tufani is very interested in him. Makena is more interested in eating." But both females are on birth control.  Zoo officials are optimistic that the introductions will go smoothly. But there are no plans to further increase the population immediately – in part, due to a recommendation from the American Zoological Association that regulates breeding. Also, the females have not reached the optimal age for breeding, which is 20 to 30.

Scott is New Oklahoma City Zoo Director

June 3, 2008   www.journalrecord.com

OKLAHOMA CITY – Dwight Scott will leave the Tulsa Zoo as assistant director to move back to the Oklahoma City Zoo as its new executive director.  Scott has been at the Tulsa Zoo for two years. Before that, he had spent more than four years as the director of animal management and curator of animals at the Oklahoma City park under Executive Director Bert Castro. Scott began his zoo career in 1994 as a keeper at the Kansas City Zoological Gardens, followed by several years at Disney’s Animal Kingdom as primate keeper night shift zoological manager. Scott also is a graduate of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Professional Development Program. When the Tulsa job opened, Scott said he saw it as “an opportunity to be more involved in zoo management other than just animal collection management.”  Castro went to the Phoenix Zoo.

Zoo Day raises over $94,000 for Indiana Zoo

June 3, 2008   www.wane.com

FORT WAYNE, IN - The Kroger Co.'s Central Division Scott's and Kroger banner stores in Northeastern Indiana celebrated "Kroger Scott's Zoo Day 2008" on Wednesday, May 14th.  Kroger is donating 3% of sales on May 14th to the zoo.  This is an increase from 2% of sales in 2007.  This year 21 Kroger and Scott's banner stores in the region participated, an increase from 18 Scott's stores in 2007.  Kroger customers were given the opportunity to contribute to the zoo in $1, $3 or $5 increments between Thursday, May 8th and Sunday, May 18th.  There was no limit to the total amount a customer could contribute.  In total, the percent of sales and customers donations totaled $94,019.  Since the event began in 1993, cumulative "Zoo Day" support from Scott's and Kroger totals $1,031,561. Fort Wayne Children's Zoo President Jim Anderson said "This donation from Kroger and Scott's will cover the entire food budget for the zoo's animals for the next six months -- and we have a LOT of mouths to feed!  Each year the zoo animals consume 2,400 bales of hay, 9,300 eggs, 8,000 pounds of bananas, 10,000 pounds of monkey chow and 20,000 pounds of frozen fish.  That's not our entire shopping list, but it would fill a lot of grocery carts at Scott's or Kroger.  It is very appropriate for Scott's and Kroger to feed our 1,500 zoo animals.  They are in the business of feeding hungry people every day.  This support from Kroger, Scott's, and all people who shop at their stores is wonderful for our zoo."

Bokito Glasses for all Zoo visitors

June 3, 2008  commercial-archive.com

Last year (May 18) a male silverback named Bokito escaped from his enclosure at the Rotterdam Zoo, attacking one woman in particular.  The woman who was attacked had been a regular visitor to the great apes' enclosure, visiting an average of 4 times per week. She had a habit of touching the glass that separated her from the gorillas, while making eye contact with Bokito and smiling to him, a practice that is discouraged by primatologists, as apes are likely to interpret human smiling as a form of aggressive display. Zoo employees had previously warned her against doing this, but she continued, claiming a special bond with him.  Bokito inflicted more than 100 bite wounds on her as well as several broken bones. The Health insurance company FBTO distributed 2.000 "BokitoViewers" at the entrance to Rotterdam Zoo, to help people avoid eye contact.

Zoo Nebraska May Not Reopen

June 3, 2008  www.omaha.com   BY PAUL HAMMEL

ROYAL, Neb. —  Zoo Nebraska has been closed since 2005, when three chimpanzees escaped and had to be shot and killed in September 2005.  But whether the facility will survive and reopen appears increasingly doubtful.  Federal officials refused to issue a license a year ago and proposed a fine of up to $25,000 due to repeat and chronic violations of animal welfare standards.  Since then, Zoo Nebraska, located in a community of 75 people, has struggled along with volunteer workers and donated food.  Volunteer zoo director Junior Schleuter says donations of dog food, grain and leftovers from livestock auctions help feed the animals at Zoo Nebraska in Royal.  A local attorney, who is working for free, said board members of the nonprofit zoo are ready to give up hope of reaching a settlement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which regulates zoos. The latest offer from the USDA, he said, would require payment of a $5,000 fine and getting rid of the zoo's four Siberian tigers and one African lion. If that happened, he said, the USDA would re-evaluate whether the zoo could keep its one black bear and display any monkeys. Junior Schleuter, a truck parts dealer who has been the volunteer zoo director for three years, said it's doubtful the zoo could survive under those conditions.

Minnesota’s Grizzly Coast Opens June 7

June 3, 2008  www.minnpost.com  by Jeff Achen

Minnesota Zoo Director Lee Ehmke has designed and managed construction of numerous award-winning exhibits, including the Congo Gorilla Forest, the Bronx Zoo's signature exhibit, which opened to international acclaim in 1999.  Now, another of his visions is coming to fruition, and it's not just limited to Russia's Grizzly Coast. The new exhibit, envisioned by Ehmke and designed by The Portico Group of Seattle, Wash., is part of the larger goal Ehmke shares with the Minnesota Zoo Foundation of making the Minnesota Zoo one of America's top 10 zoos.  A $30 million capital project, which includes a family-friendly, $5 million renovation of the zoo's central plaza and the construction of the $24 million Russia's Grizzly Coast exhibit should boost its standing. The new exhibit is the first of its kind to replicate Russia's far East region, landscape, and animal combinations. Taking up 3.5 acres, it's also the largest project to open at the zoo since Discovery Bay in 1997. Starting along the coast, guests will experience sea otters playing in the water among dramatic rock formations. Next is the volcanic land of Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula, second only Yellowstone National Park in terms of geothermal activity. Geysers release, mud-pots bubble and churn, and lava tubes provide a dramatic backdrop for massive Grizzly bears.
The journey continues to a place that is reminiscent of the forests of Minnesota. Heavily wooded, the southern tip of Russia is home to wild boars and two of the world's largest and most endangered cats: the Amur leopard and the Amur tiger. The exhibition then connects with the zoo's Northern Trail featuring additional animals from northern biomes like the Asian steppe, tundra, and taiga.  See http://www.mnzoo.com/guests/RGC/rgc_animals.asp for more information.

One of Taiping Four Gorillas Dies in Cameroon

June 3, 2008  www.iol.co.za 

One of the Taiping Four gorillas flown from South Africa to Cameroon last year has died, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) announced on Tuesday.  The female gorilla, known as Oyin, died of "unknown causes" in Cameroon on Monday afternoon, said IFAW spokesperson Christina Pretorius.  "She had apparently been sickly for about 10 days. At this stage it is unclear what caused her illness and, following an autopsy, blood and tissue samples have been sent to appropriate laboratories to ascertain the cause of death," she said.  The four western lowland gorillas endured an 18-hour flight from South Africa to the Limbe Wildlife Centre in Cameroon, their country of origin, in December after a five-year political tussle.  They had lived in specially constructed habitats at the Pretoria Zoo since 2004 after their confiscation in 2002 by Malaysian authorities who found them being illegally imported to its Taiping Zoo from Nigeria.  The surviving gorillas are known as Tinu, Izan and Abbey.  At the time they were relocated, Pretorius said the gorillas were all tested and declared free of disease.

New Zealand Bird Outwits Alien Predators

June 3, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Dr Melanie Massaro and Dr Jim Briskie at the University of Canterbury have found that the New Zealand bellbird is capable of changing its nesting behavior to protect itself from predators.  This could be good news for island birds around the world at risk of extinction.  The introduction of predatory mammals such as rats, cats and stoats to oceanic islands has led to the extinction of many endemic island birds, and exotic predators continue to threaten the survival of 25 percent of all endangered bird species worldwide. Bellbirds were studied at three sites with varying levels of predation risk: a mainland site with exotic predators present (high risk); a mainland site with exotic predators experimentally removed (recent low risk); and an offshore island where exotic predators have never been introduced (permanent low risk).  It was found that females spent more time on the nest per incubating bout with increased risk of predation, a strategy that minimized activity at the nest and decreased the risk of an exotic predator locating and destroying the eggs. "Parental activity during the nestling period, measured as number of feeding visits per hour, also decreased with increasing nest predation risk across sites, which would further reduce the risk of an exotic predator destroying the nest," Dr Massaro said.  "It shows that such species are not necessarily trapped by their evolutionary history as is generally considered to be the case but they, in fact, have the ability to change their behaviors in ways that appear adaptive. The research is published in this week's PLoS ONE.

Renewable Energy From  the Desert

June 3, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com   By Mike Lee

Speculators have filed applications to develop more than 1 million acres of desert in Southern California with solar, wind and geothermal power plants, setting up a classic clash over land use with environmentalists and off-road enthusiasts.  They have submitted at least 130 proposals with the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees all of the territory, in recent years and especially since 2007. The interest is so hot that even if many of the projects fall through, the remaining ones would change the look of the arid landscape.  California, particularly the southern half, is the epicenter of the nation's push for renewable energy. While some of the bureau's parcels in the state already contain wind and geothermal facilities, the agency hasn't approved any solar project here or elsewhere.  Last week, leaders for the bureau called a timeout in accepting new applications for solar developments, the most active category of renewable-energy proposals. They want to assess the environmental, social and economic impacts of such activity in the Southwest, starting with public meetings this month. For more about the Bureau of Land Management's review of solar projects proposed for its properties in the Southwest, including a schedule of public meetings, go to solareis.anl.gov.  Officials for the Bureau of Land Management said they are trying to balance the mounting demand to tap renewable sources of energy with the traditional value of desert land as habitat for numerous plants and animals. They said the agency has rejected about a dozen energy applications in recent months because  the companies that filed them didn't provide enough information or wanted to use ecologically sensitive lands.  Terry Weiner, Imperial County conservation coordinator for the San Diego-based Desert Protective Council.  Weiner and others worry that utilities will use alternative-energy projects to justify major new transmission lines such as San Diego Gas & Electric's controversial Sunrise Powerlink project.  They said a better solution is to retrofit homes and businesses with solar panels or put large solar arrays in places where farmers and others already have used the land.

Forest Disappears in Papua New Guinea

June 3, 2008 www.nytimes.com   By ANDREW C. REVKIN

A new satellite analysis of logging in Papua New Guinea shows that the country has been losing about 1,400 square miles of rain forest, or about 1.4 percent of its total forest cover, each year. At that pace, by 2021 more than 80 percent of the country’s accessible forest, and more than half of its total forest area, would be badly degraded or cleared, according to the study. It was  conducted by scientists at the University of Papua New Guinea and Australian National University.  Logging and road building are already leading to erosion and fragmentation of ecosystems harboring some of the world’s most varied, and least-studied, wildlife, said Phil Shearman, the lead author and director of the Remote Sensing Center of the University of Papua New Guinea. The study is available online at gis.mortonblacketer.com.au/upngis/

Tiger Population Falls in Viet Nam

June 3, 2008  english.vietnamnet.vn

VIET NAM -- In 1999, the Big Cat Specialist Group reported an estimated 200-300 tigers were living in Viet Nam. But that number has dramatically declined to ~100 due to poaching.  Tiger skins, teeth and bones can be readily purchased in major cities. Last year Ha Noi police seized two live tigers and pieces of frozen meat from four tigers as they busted a smuggling ring in the city, Vietnamese tigers are from the Indochinese tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti) species. In the past, they were widely distributed in great numbers across the country’s forests and mountainous areas. Today they are only found in 24 of the 87 established nature reserves and national parks, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD). But some reserves are quite large, and a comprehensive census is currently underway to establish an accurate count.  As well as the formal consensus on tiger numbers, MARD’s Forest Protection Department has worked out a plan to protect and conserve tigers until 2010.

Zoo Atlanta Lioness has 3 Cubs

June 3, 2008  www.ajc.com  By Leon Stafford

Zoo Atlanta's African lioness, Kiki, has given birth to three lion cubs. They are the first for Kiki and the first lions born at the zoo since 1997. African lions are listed as "vulnerable" Kiki gave birth to her first cub around 1 a.m. Saturday and four others over the next three to four hours. Two of the cubs were stillborn.  The surviving trio are estimated to be between 3 and 5 pounds. One cub is being watched carefully because it is smaller than the others, but is otherwise healthy, Snyder said. Kiki was born in February 2004 at Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens and arrived at Zoo Atlanta in December 2005. Kamau, her mate and father of her cubs, was born September 2004 and came to Zoo Atlanta from the Denver Zoological Garden in October 2005.  Kamau is currently separated from Kiki and cubs, but he will be introduced in about six weeks.

St. Louis Zoo Unveils 25-Year Plan

June 3, 2008  kirkwoodwebsterjournal.stltoday.com  By Shawn Clubb

Zoo officials recently unveiled a 25-year plan to improve the zoo experience.  The plan includes everything from how the zoo campus is lighted to new exhibits for polar bears and grizzly bears. It took two years to devise the plan, which includes seven goals - ensuring high standards of animal care and welfare, building upon the zoo visitors' experience, making the zoo a leader in wildlife conservation and advocacy, developing conversation education for everyone, upgrading the 100-year-old physical infrastructure, making the zoo a better place to work and generating the money needed to sustain the zoo.  The items that have the potential to cause the most interest are planned upgrades of several animal habitats. The plan calls for a new exhibit for grizzly bears and underwater viewing of polar bears. It would combine the sea lion basin and sea lion show into one exhibit, move the spectacled bears to the River's Edge, update the Malayan sun bear exhibit and expand the area for the Asian elephant herd, which grew by two in recent years with the births of calfs. Highlights of the Zoo’s evolution over the years:
1904: Creation of the World's Fair Flight Cage.
1910: Establishment of Zoological Park.
1921: Unveiling of the Bear Pits, Primate House and Reptile House.
1930: Addition of the Bird House, giant pandas, Phil the gorilla and Miss Jim.
1962: Start of the Zooline Railroad and zoo renovation.
1972: Imposition of Zoo and Museum District tax and unveiling of Big Cat Country.
1983: ZMD tax increase, primates move to Jungle of the Apes.
1989: Addition of the Living World and Veterinary Hospital.
1998: Debut of new Children's Zoo.
2000: Zoo adds River's Edge, the Insectarium, Jeffrey Bonner named new zoo president.
2003: Creation of Penguin & Puffin Coast, dedication of Conservation Carousel money to newly formed WildCare Institute, addition of Cypress Swamp and Fragile Forest.

White Rhino Born at Dublin Zoo

June 3, 2008   www.rte.ie

A baby white rhinoceros, made her public debut today at the Dublin Zoo The 70kg baby rhino (left) is the first one born in Dublin in 14 years.  Her mother, Ashanti, is one of six white rhinos at the zoo.  Late last year, zookeepers took the unusual step of adding non-toxic glitter into Ashanti's food to determine if she was pregnant. Both Ashanti and one of the other females, Zanta, had different coloured glitter added to their feed. That allowed keepers to identify Ashanti's dung and test it for increased hormone levels.

Brookfield Zoo Will Get $41 million From Bonds

June 3, 2008  www.rblandmark.com  By BOB UPHUES

The village of Brookfield is issuing $41 million in bonds to fund projects at the Brookfield zoo. While the CZS will benefit from a lower interest rate, Brookfield will also gain from improvements to the zoo. About two-thirds of the zoo is within the village of Brookfield's boundaries, making it a critical sales-tax generator.  The bonds will be paid back over a 30-year period by the CZS.  Some $27 million of those bond proceeds will be used to construct the Great Bear Wilderness, which will incorporate larger exhibit areas for the zoo's bison, bear and eagle collections, a new retail store and a refurbished restaurant. Ground was broken for the exhibit back in February with the demolition of Ibex Island, a mountain-like exhibit built in 1936 for the display of sea lions. Great Bear Wilderness is scheduled to open to the public in the summer of 2009. In addition to Great Bear Wilderness, another $7 million is being set aside for the renovation of the Children's Zoo, a project that likely won't be completed until 2010.  Another $500,000 is eyed for the renovation of the former Reptile House into a conservation leadership center, with the rest of the bond proceeds being used to improve zoo infrastructure, including relining the tank at the Seven Seas Dolphinarium, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2006.

Seven Condors With Lead Poisoning

June 3, 2008  www.nytimes.com   By A.P.

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Seven endangered California condors -- about 20 percent of Southern California's population -- have been found with lead poisoning.  The birds started turning up sick about a month ago during random trappings at Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge in the San Joaquin Valley.  One of the birds died during treatment at the Los Angeles Zoo and four others are still being treated there. A chick and its mother were sent to the zoo to undergo treatment.  There are only about three dozen of the endangered birds in Southern California, and about 200 in the wild overall.  Experts believe lead poisoning is a major factor in preventing the species' recovery.  Under a ban that takes effect July 1, it will be illegal for California hunters to possess or fire lead ammunition when they are in the birds' habitat.

USDA to Adjust User Fees for Vet Import-Export Services

June 3,  2008  www.aphis.usda.gov

WASHINGTON, The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has announced a proposal to adjust the user fees charged for import and export related services provided for animals, animal products, birds, germ plasm, organisms and vectors.  In this proposal, APHIS would increase the user fees incrementally during fiscal years 2008 to 2012 to reflect the anticipated costs associated with providing import and export services each year. Specifically, APHIS is proposing to adjust the fees for the following services:
    * Processing import permit applications;
    * Inspection of live animals at ports of entry;
    * Quarantining pet birds;
    * Inspecting and approving import and export facilities and establishments;
    * Endorsing export certificates; and
    * Other services APHIS provides related to importation into or exportation from the United States of animals, animal products, birds, germ plasm, organisms and vectors.
Consideration will be given to comments received on or before Aug. 4.  Send two copies of postal mail or commercial delivery comments to Docket No. APHIS-2006-0144, 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/component/main?main=DocketDetail&d=APHIS-2006-0144 ; then click on “Add Comments.”  This will also allow you to view supporting and related materials available electronically.

Condor Lead Poisoning

June 4, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com  By Noaki Schwartz

LOS ANGELES – Given that there are only about 34 endangered condors in Southern California, and 7 of them have been found with lead poisoning, USFWS officials are in “crisis mode”.  “This is the highest lead exposure event we've had in 10 years,” said Jesse Grantham, the agency's condor coordinator, who called it “alarming” and said they were in “crisis mode.”  While officials won't know the source of the contamination until next week, Grantham said the birds were likely poisoned by eating tainted carcasses at Bitter Creek, Lake Piru or on Tejon Ranch. Of the three areas, only Tejon Ranch currently allows hunting.  Tejon spokesman Barry Zoeller said the publicly traded landholder is worried. The ranch, which charges anywhere from $900 for individual access to as much as $20,000 for a guided hunt for bull elk, banned the use of lead bullets six months ago.  “We're really concerned about what's going on and we're taking our responsibility very seriously,” he said. “We don't want to stop and wait for what the source is.” Zoeller said Tejon is working with the federal agency to draw up more safeguards, including setting up clean feeding stations for the condors. The ranch will also ban hunting for 30 days until the source of the contamination is found, he said.  A state law prohibiting hunters from using lead bullets in areas where condors live takes effect July 1. The ban was proposed by supporters who said condors are at risk of death and illness from ingesting carcasses of animals killed by lead ammunition.  If the birds were poisoned on the ranch, it could create problems for Tejon's development plans.

Applications for Endangered Species Recovery Permits

June 4, 2008   www.epa.gov

The USFWS announces the receipt of applications to conduct certain activities pertaining to endangered species. Written comments on this request for a permit must be received by July 7, 2008.  Written data or comments should be submitted to the Assistant Regional Director, Fisheries--Ecological Services, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 25486, Denver Federal Center, Denver, Colorado 80225-0486;  Documents and other information submitted with these applications are available for review by any party who submits a request for a copy of such documents within 30 days of the date of publication of this notice to Kris Olsen, by mail or by telephone at 303-236-4256.

    Applicant: Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, Helena, Montana, TE-047250. The applicant requests a permit amendment to add rearing up to 1,500 pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus) in lined, outdoor ponds and to possess 50 pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus) mortalities for educational purposes in conjunction with recovery activities throughout the species' range for the purpose of enhancing its survival and recovery.

    Applicant: Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Lincoln, Nebraska, TE-069300. The applicant requests a permit amendment to allow removal of fin rays from recaptured hatchery reared pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus) in conjunction with recovery activities throughout the species' range for the purpose of enhancing its survival and recovery.

    Applicant: SWCA, Inc., Broomfield, Colorado, TE-047252. The applicant requests a renewed permit to survey for Southwestern willow flycatchers (Empidonax traillii extimus) in conjunction with recovery activities throughout the species' range for the purpose of enhancing their survival and recovery.

    Applicant: U.S. Geological Survey, Colorado Plateau Division, Flagstaff, Arizona, TE-047257. The applicant requests a renewed permit to survey for Southwestern willow flycatchers (Empidonax traillii extimus) in conjunction with recovery activities throughout the species' range for the purpose of enhancing their survival and recovery.

    Applicant: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 6, Denver, Colorado, TE-704930. The applicant requests a renewal of this current permit for take activities for all listed species in the States of Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. This permit will allow Fish and Wildlife Service employees to lawfully conduct threatened or endangered species activities, in conjunction with recovery activities, throughout the species' range for the purpose of enhancing survival and recovery as outlined in Fish and Wildlife Service employees' position descriptions.

    Applicant: Bureau of Land Management, Kanab Field Office, Kanab, Utah, TE-180540. The applicant requests a permit to survey for Southwestern willow flycatchers (Empidonax traillii extimus) and California condors (Gymnogyps californianus) in conjunction with recovery activities throughout the species' range for the purpose of enhancing their survival and recovery.

Puffin Population Declines Off Scotland

June 4, 2008  www.nytimes.com

EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) -- The puffin population off Scotland's east coast has dropped by nearly a third in less than five years, prompting scientists to issue warnings Wednesday about the orange-beaked seabird's future.  Puffin numbers in the Firth of Forth estuary close to Edinburgh have plummeted by 30 percent in the last five years.  Many of the birds likely starved in their winter feeding grounds as climate change reduces the plankton available in the North Sea, said Mike Harris of Britain's Center for Ecology and Hydrology. ''It is clear there is a widespread problem across Europe that is impacting on the population,'' he said. The birds returning from the winter feeding grounds were fewer in number this year and many were not the weight they should be, Harris said. The puffins' main breeding ground is the Isle of May off the Scottish coast. The team first recorded puffin populations in 1975 when it found 2,000 breeding pairs by counting the number of nests in burrows on the island. The population had risen to 69,000 pairs by 2003 and scientists had expected 100,000 this year. But April’s count found only 41,000 pairs.

Adult Sleepover - Wild Fiesta at the San Diego Zoo        

June 4, 2008  www.imperialvalleynews.com

San Diego, California - Wild Fiesta! is a new sleepover program for adults, ages 21 and older, offering the sights and sounds of the San Diego Zoo along with the celebrations of Mexican food and margaritas. Guests will take a private bus tour and meet amazing animals from Latin America before enjoying the Zoo's evening show or an alternate activity. The evening ends with a moonlight walk through the Zoo. After spending the night at the Zoo’s Camp Timbuktu, guests enjoy a hearty hot breakfast, guided Zoo stroll, and a special animal encounter.   San Diego Zoo - 4 p.m. Saturday to 9 a.m. Sunday - August 23 and 30 - Cost: $109 per camper for members, $121 for nonmembers

Probiotic Bacteria Protects Frogs from Chytrid Fungus

June 4, 2008  www.eurekalert.org 

Laboratory tests and field studies conducted by James Madison University (JMU) researchers indicates that probiotic bacteria can be used to help amphibian populations, including the endangered yellow-legged frog, fend off lethal skin diseases.  The latest research, funded by the National Science Foundation, will be presented June 4 by undergraduate biology major Brianna Lam at the 108th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in Boston. Other coauthors of the presentation are Drs. Doug Woodhams and Reid Harris from James Madison University and Vance Vredenburg from San Francisco State University (SFSU).  A year ago, JMU research showed that Pedobacter cryoconitis, a natural bacterial species on the skin of red-backed salamanders, wards off the deadly chytridiomycosis fungus. In late 2004, Australian researchers cited chytridiomycosis as one of the main factors imperiling up to one third of the world’s amphibian populations.  Lam’s research indicates that adding pedobacter to the skin of mountain yellow-legged frogs would lessen the effects of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), a lethal skin pathogen that is threatening remaining populations of the frogs in their native Sierra Nevada habitats.

Mexican Wolf Assessment

June 4, 2008  www.ruidosonews.com

USFWS officials are compiling scientific information on gray wolf recovery that will form the basis for a conservation assessment of the endangered Mexican wolf.  A draft of the conservation assessment will be available for public comment and peer review in the fall. The conservation assessment will provide an up-to-date scientific foundation for the program. It will be a unique document developed in response to the distinctive needs of the Mexican wolf recovery program. The conservation assessment will contain the historical and political history of the Mexican wolf, an overview of species' biology and ecology as well as an overview of the current reintroduction project. It will include a discussion on three key scientific concepts fundamental to the recovery of the gray wolf, population resiliency, population redundancy and genetic representation. Population resiliency means ensuring that populations are large enough numerically and geographically to persist in the foreseeable future. Population redundancy is the need to have more than one population to lessen the species' vulnerability. Genetic representation ensures that genetic diversity is maintained.

Toronto's Zoo Promotes Frog Habitat

June 5, 2008   www.thestar.com  By Peter Gorrie 

The Toronto Zoo is part of a global program to save frogs and toads from the chytrid fungus, but it wants visitors to help with an even bigger threat — loss of habitat. Bob Johnson, the zoo’s curator of reptiles and amphibians says if people create the right conditions in their back yards, they might attract American toads, which are the best adapted to urban living. A few homes need breeding ponds. They should be at least two by three meters in area and half a meter deep, so they reflect enough sunlight — that’s how toads spot them — and discourage raccoons. Other yards should have areas of deep sand or soil where toads can burrow for winter hibernation. The final piece is the abode — simply a shelter for hot days.  You can make one by setting two rows of wood or bricks at least 50 centimeters long on moist soil, about 30 centimeters apart. Then, cover the space with a flat stone or board.  It might take two or three years, depending on how far you live from existing toad habitats, but the creatures should eventually show up. As a bonus, they’ll consume large quantities of earwigs, sowbugs and other pests.

Toronto Zoo’s Frog Breeding Program

June 5, 2008  www.thestar.com  By Peter Gorrie

Toronto's zoo is one of 20 around the world trying to save dozens of  frog species able to live only in cool climates. They are committed to saving the Panamanian golden frogs and lemur leaf frogs among others. About 120 of the world's 6,000 frog and toad varieties have vanished and up to half could be wiped out in our lifetime. But the threat facing the cool-climate species is so imminent and potent that the zoos have launched a last-ditch rescue attempt. It's a fungus called Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. It causes a disease known as chytridiomycosis, which prevents frogs and toads from absorbing moisture and oxygen through their skin — the only way they can take them in. There's no defense against it, and no cure in the wild. The only thing that stops the fungus in its tracks is a warm temperature: It doesn't survive above 34C.  At risk are frogs and toads that live in cool, moist “cloud forests” high in the mountains of tropical and temperate countries. Surrounded by impassable warm lowlands, these isolated, elevated enclaves offer no escape when harm comes calling.

Pittsburgh Zoo Expects Two Elephant Births

June 5, 2008   www.philly.com

PITTSBURGH - Two elephants at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium are expected to give birth within the next week.  The females, Moja and Savannah, are both 25 years old and both about 20 months along in their pregnancies after mating with the zoo's bull elephant, Jackson.  A blood analysis from the two elephants shows it's 80 percent likely that both calves are females.  The zoo is continuing to draw and analyze blood from both elephants to check for progesterone levels. When the hormone level drops, that means birth is imminent.  The Pittsburgh Zoo plans to increase its elephant herd by using a 724-acre conservation center in Somerset County.

Utica Zoo’s “Wine in the Wilderness” Event

June 5, 2008  www.uticaod.com

UTICA —The Utica Zoo will host the eighth annual Wine in the Wilderness from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, June 7.New York state wineries will provide tasting samples and bottles for purchase. An art show provides a colorful backdrop, and there will be food and a mini farmers’ market. The band Simple Props will perform.  Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the gate for the wine sampling. Tickets are $10 for designated drivers. Utica Zoo members must purchase tickets at the Zoo Gift Shop to receive the member discount.  Tickets may be purchased at the following locations: Clinton Wine and Spirits, Lichtman’s Wine and Liquor Store, The Liquor Loft, Lotto Liquors, Gary’s Oneida Street Liquors, Ricco’s Yorkville Liquor Store, Seneca Turnpike Wine & Liquor, The Vineyard and Village Liquors.  Photo ID will be required; no one younger than 21 will be allowed into the event.

Memphis Zoo gets 2 new gorillas from San Diego

June 5, 2008  www.mercurynews.com 

MEMPHIS, Tenn.—The Memphis Zoo has two new additions: a mother gorilla and her daughter on loan from the San Diego Zoo.  Zoo officials hope Penny and her daughter Kebara will acclimate a male gorilla, Mwelu, to the opposite sex.  Their primary job is to get Mwelu in the mood for a family. Then zoo officials will bring in females from other zoos to mate.

Feces Analysis Identifies Otter Genetics

June 5, 2008  www.ufz.de

LEIPZIG, Germany -- Researchers of the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research have developed two new methods, in order to be able to better estimate the numbers of European Otters (Lutra lutra) and their effects on the fish farming industry. Genetic analyses of the faeces could prove to be a promising approach when investigating otter populations, as researchers have written in the scientific journal Conservation Genetics. The new method does not only apply to otters, but also to all vertebrates.  Accurate information on the size of the otter population makes it possible to calculate the quantity of fish eaten per pond and hence the damage incurred to the local fish farming industry. Consequently, appropriate damage compensation would improve the acceptance of otters among the local fish farming industry and thus the protection of this endangered species, as is required by national and international law. For population size estimates, the classical method of MRR (Mark Release Recapture) is enhanced by modern DNA analyses.  The frequency with which an otter visits and hunts in a body of water can be assessed more accurately if the age of the faeces are also taken into account. This second new approach improves considerably the accuracy of otter visiting rates to ponds in many situations and is not limited to the faeces alone, but can also be applied to other kinds of animal traces (i.e. feeding traces, tracks and traces from activity) according to the international researcher team in the scientific journal Journal of Applied Ecology.

World Environment Day

June 5, 2008  www.nytimes.com 

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - The United Nations is urging the world to kick the habit of producing carbon dioxide, saying everyone must act to fight climate change. At an event hosted by the New Zealand City of Wellington,  U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said  "Our world is in the grip of a dangerous carbon habit.  It consumes and controls us, makes us deny important truths and blinds us to the consequences of our actions," World Environment Day, conceived in 1972, is the United Nations' principal day to mark global green issues and aims to give a human face to environmental problems and solutions.  New Zealand has pledged to become carbon-neutral. The country staged art and street festivals to spread the message on how people can reduce carbon usage. In Australia, Adelaide Zoo staged a wild breakfast for corporate leaders to focus on how carbon emissions threaten animal habitats. In Bangladesh's capital Dhaka, people plan to clean up Gulshan Baridhara Lake that has become badly polluted, and in Kathmandu the Bagmati River Festival will focus on cleaning up the river there.  Many Asian cities, such as Bangalore and Mumbai, plan tree-planting campaigns, while the Indian town of Pune will open a "Temple of Environment" to help spread green awareness.  The day was barely noticed in Europe and North America.

Ecological modelling: Animal Movement

June 5, 2008  www.nature.com  By Mark Buchanan

Animal behavior is an endless challenge to mathematical modellers. In this Nature article Mark Buchanan looks at how a mathematical principle from physics might be able to explain patterns of movement. Food is not, in general, spread equally around the world; it comes in lumps. Foragers thus need a strategy for finding those lumps. One appealing option is a Lévy flight — a mathematical concept used in physics. Lévy flights are many-legged journeys in which most of the legs are short, but a few are much longer. They are found in some sorts of diffusion, in fluid turbulence, even in astrophysics. In animal behaviour, the longer the flight, the farther afield a creature will get, offering a way to efficiently exploit food nearby but also to discover sources farther away. “The pattern captures what biologists often notice,” says behavioural ecologist David Sims of the Marine Biological Association Laboratory in Plymouth, UK. “Animals often take lots of short steps in a localized area before making long jumps to new areas.”

Global Database to Support Adaptation Science

June 5, 2008  www.nature.com  By Elvira S. Poloczanska

Cynthia Rosenzweig and colleagues have taken a critical step towards a global synthesis of the biological and physical impacts of climate change (Nature 453, 353–357; 2008). They have expanded the database used in the recent Fourth Assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), but there are still many more studies that could be compiled.  Given the resources and effort required to identify these, it is beyond the scope of a limited number of individuals. It is now time to shift the emphasis from proving climate change impacts to providing key support for adaptation science. This requires a publicly accessible global database to collate research into climate-change impacts research and to allow the scientific community and the IPCC to focus additional efforts on attribution and adaptation. Just as the IPCC endorsed the Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Inter-comparison data repository for model projections, so could it endorse an impacts repository, with researchers able continuously to upload research results that can then be quality-assured by a verification panel. The panel could be selected on the basis of expertise across a range of disciplines, and the repository website hosted by an international body, such as the International Geosphere–Biosphere Programme.

World’s First Rhino Artificial Fertilization

June 6, 2008  www.afp.google.com 

NSW, Australia -- The world's first artificial fertilization of a rhinoceros egg has been carried out at the Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo. German reproductive experts have been collecting eggs from two infertile black rhinoceroses for the past two years, and successfully created an embryo this week - the first ever made in a laboratory. Zoo biologist Tamara Keeley says it is a significant step towards conducting in vitro fertilization to overcome fertility problems for the critically endangered animals.  Keeley said despite the team's success, the technology to implant the egg into a female to carry it for the 14-month gestation period did not yet exist.  Instead, any viable embryos will be preserved in liquid nitrogen until the technology to carry out rhino in-vitro fertilization catches up.  Only 3,725 survive in the wild. "Importantly this development will now enable us to save the genome of critically endangered animals, either zoo-based or in the wild," the Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research's Dr. Thomas Hildebrandt said in a statement. "We can then transport these genes anywhere and insert them back into the population at any time, with the suitable techniques, therefore giving us a real chance to try and reverse extinction rates for some of the most endangered animals on our planet."  Taronga Western Plains Zoo is home to 11 black rhinoceros.

Regent Honeyeater Makes a Comeback

June 6, 2008  www.nytimes.com 

Australian officials say they are having success with a captive breeding program aimed at saving the endangered regent honeyeater.  Twenty-seven of the yellow and black birds were fitted with radio transmitters and released May 1 into Chiltern Mount Pilot National Park in Victoria state. The site, about 300 miles (500 kilometers) southwest of Sydney, was picked because it is home to the box and ironbark forests the birds prefer.  So far, the birds have thrived, with 22 of the 27 sighted daily in the park and only one confirmed dead, park officials and conservationists said Friday. Dave Tyson, a park ranger, said ''There were critical timelines for the survival of the captive-bred birds when they were released,'' he said. ''They are passing all those quite successfully. It appears that one bird so far may have been taken by a hawk. But all the others may still be OK even though they are dispersing.'' The captive-bred birds quickly adapted to their new homes and began interacting with wild populations in the park. In fact, the first wild birds seen in Chiltern in 18 months arrived only after the captive birds were released. Dean Ingwersen, coordinator of Birds Australia's Threatened Bird Network. ''This is a fantastic result and validates all of our hard work. We are now hoping to observe breeding.''

World Needs to Invest $45 Trillion in Energy

June 6, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By A.P.

TOKYO -- The world needs to invest $45 trillion in energy in coming decades, build some 1,400 nuclear power plants and vastly expand wind power in order to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, according to an energy study released Friday.  The report by the Paris-based International Energy Agency envisions a ''energy revolution'' that would greatly reduce the world's dependence on fossil fuels while maintaining steady economic growth.  ''Meeting this target of 50 percent cut in emissions represents a formidable challenge, and we would require immediate policy action and technological transition on an unprecedented scale,'' IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka said.  A U.N.-network of scientists concluded last year that emissions have to be cut by at least half by 2050 to avoid an increase in world temperatures of between 3.6 and 4.2 degrees above pre-18th century levels.  Scientists say temperature increases beyond that could trigger devastating effects, such as widespread loss of species, famines and droughts, and swamping of heavily populated coastal areas by rising oceans. Environment ministers from the Group of Eight industrialized countries and Russia backed the 50 percent target in a meeting in Japan last month and called for it to be officially endorsed at the G-8 summit in July. The IEA report mapped out two main scenarios: one in which emissions are reduced to 2005 levels by 2050, and a second that would bring them to half of 2005 levels by mid-century. The scenario for deeper cuts would require massive investment in energy technology development and deployment, a wide-ranging campaign to dramatically increase energy efficiency, and a wholesale shift to renewable sources of energy. Assuming an average 3.3 percent global economic growth over the 2010-2050 period, governments and the private sector would have to make additional investments of $45 trillion in energy, or 1.1 percent of the world's gross domestic product, the report said. That would be an investment more than three times the current size of the entire U.S. economy.

Indian Scientists Report 96 New Species in 2007

June 6, 2008   timesofindia.indiatimes.com

NEW DELHI -- Indian scientists discovered 67 new animal species, including fishes, spiders and crop eating insects, and 29 plant species, including grass and flower varieties, in 2007 according to the director of Zoological Survey of India (ZSI). He said a majority of the new species have come from western and eastern ghats, Andaman Nicober Islands and northeastern states.  He said ZSI has found 28 species from the eastern Himalayan region and two of them are new fish species. According to ZSI, India is known to have over 7.35 percent of the animal species that the world holds. In absolute numbers, the country is home to 91,212 animal species including 61,151 insect varieties.  M Sanjappa, director of Botanical Survey of India (BSI), said that during 2007, 29 new species of plants were found.

S.F. Zoo Director Quits

June 7, 2008  www.sfgate.com  By Rachel Gordon

SAN FRANCISCO -- Manuel Mollinedo has resigned as the executive director of the San Francisco Zoo, nearly six months after a tiger escaped and killed a teenage visitor.  The announcement comes amid high turnover among zoo employees and what some keepers described as abysmal morale. The San Francisco Zoological Society, the nonprofit organization that oversees zoo operations announced the resignation Friday evening. Tanya McVeigh Peterson, a lawyer who serves on the zoo society board of directors and is an active fundraiser for the institution, has been appointed interim director.  Carl Friedman, head of the San Francisco Department of Animal Care and Control, will be temporarily deployed to the zoo, at least part time, to help with animal welfare and management issues.  Mollinedo became director of the 100-acre facility in February 2004 after running the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks for 1 1/2 years and the Los Angeles Zoo for seven years before that. Mollinedo says he plans to retire in the Bay Area and will stay active in his support of the zoo. "The board greatly appreciates his efforts and wishes him well in his retirement," a statement said.

Oregon Zoo Hatches One Condor and Loses One

June 7, 2008  latimesblogs.latimes.com

Tuesday, keepers celebrated the arrival of spring's fifth and final hatchling. Wednesday, they mourned the loss of another -- an ailing month-old chick that died during emergency surgery. Shawn St. Michael is the zoo's condor curator. The Oregon Zoo's program, which is off-limits to the public because of the birds' fragile status, has produced 15 eggs since it was established. The bird above will serve as foster father to the chick that hatched Tuesday.

3 Condors Released After Treatment for Lead

June 7, 2008  ap.google.com

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Three endangered California condors were returned to the wild Friday after undergoing treatment for lead poisoning at the Los Angeles Zoo.  Three other condors continued to receive treatment at the zoo, said Jesse Grantham, an official of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's California Condor Recovery Program. The birds started turning up sick about a month ago during random trappings at Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge in the San Joaquin Valley.

Chinese Sanctuaries Selling Tiger Bone

June 8, 2008  www.telegraph.co.uk  By David Harrison 

Staff at two "safari parks" a few hours from the capital Beijing offered to sell undercover investigators wine made from the crushed bones of tigers that died in captivity at the sanctuaries. The wine, which it is claimed, helps to cure conditions including arthritis and rheumatism, is advertised openly and sold at the parks.  The revelations that the parks are breaking the law are embarrassing for the Chinese government which is trying to promote a positive image of the country in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in August. International trade in tiger body parts and derivatives is banned under UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Domestic trade is prohibited under national law and reinforced by a special State Council order in 1993. Poaching has reduced the number of tigers in the wild to around 5,000 to 7,000, compared to 100,000 in the early 1900s. At one point in the 1970s, the number fell to 4,000. The UK-based Environmental Investigation Agency found tiger bone wine advertised for sale at the Qinhuangdao wildlife rescue centre.  The price was US$240.00 (£120) for 500ml, with a minimum order of 1500 ml.

Lake Erie Snake No Longer Endangered

June 8, 2008  www.nytimes.com 

KELLEYS ISLAND, Ohio (AP) -- The nonpoisonous Lake Erie water snake – designated endangered by the state and threatened by the federal government almost a decade ago -- has rebounded in recent years, and biologists predict that it will soon be removed from the lists.  The water snake once inhabited 22 islands and rock outcrops of western Lake Erie, part of the Ontario mainland and shorelines of Ohio's Catawba/Marblehead peninsula. But the species fell victim to development and, more specifically, hogs, which were brought to the islands in the early 20th century to kill the snakes. As vacationers crowded the resort communities on South Bass, Middle Bass and Kelleys islands each summer, more of the snakes -- which are known to bite -- were eliminated. Just 1,200 adult water snakes were left about 20 years ago, Northern Illinois University researcher Richard King said. Now there are about 12,000. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reviewing the snake's status.

Editorial: Ban Lead in Bullets

June 8, 2008  www.venturacountystar.com

On July 1, The Condor Preservation Act — authored by Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, and signed last year by the governor — will remove one of the biggest threats to California condors: lead poisoning, which paralyzes their digestive tract, causing them to slowly starve to death. The law will require hunters to use only nonlead bullets and shotgun pellets while hunting game within the California condor range takes effect. Seven birds were recently found to have high levels of lead in their systems. One condor died unexpectedly while being treated. The others are still undergoing treatment.  "Lead is a poison that has no place in our environment," said Graham Chisholm, director of conservation for Audubon California " this ban needs to be enforced rigorously and if it is not enough, then we should consider additional measures." Lead is already banned from gasoline, house paint, children's toys, cookware, etc. It's now time to remove it from the wilderness so the California condor can thrive on its own.

Aukland Zoo’s Amazing Energy Savings

June 9, 2008  www.nzherald.co.nz  By Angela Gregory

Aukland Zoo used to be one of the top-10 water-users in the city.  All its refuse went to landfill and wastewater from the animal enclosures was hosed into Motions Creek. Since setting new environmental goals in 2001, the amount of waste now sent to landfill is well below 1992 levels, having fallen to less than 3 tons each month. The bagging and selling of animal manure alone had diverted 3sq m a week of droppings from landfill. Water use had halved and its quality leaving the zoo downstream averaged what it was upstream. Energy use has been reduced by one-third, she said.  .  Tess Doogue, the environmental co-ordinator, said the sea lion and penguin exhibit required demanding cooling, pumping and injector systems. The water required refrigeration to keep the temperature constant with filtering and cleaning needs. Pipes have been insulated and specialized equipment installed to make better use of the electricity. Different types of animal waste was also a problem as faeces from animals contained bugs that were not destroyed in most composting facilities.  Now such waste is sent to a composting outfit that can generate enough heat to kill the bugs. It can also decompose bamboo scraps left by the elephants.  An industrial-size worm farm, using staff and cafe food scraps, and water tanks were installed in 2004. The zoo's new conservation medicine centre was constructed to be energy-efficient and provide water collection off the roof.  A grid of rat traps has beensuggested to cut back on poison, and staff plans to experiment with spreading tiger urine around the zoo border to help keep rodents at bay.  Finally the zoo is looking at growing animal food supplies and the potential for some on-site power generation.

Caribbean Monk Seal is Extinct

June 9, 2008   www.epa.gov

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), have reviewed the status of the Caribbean monk seal (Monachus tropicalis) and conclude that the species is extinct. As a result, based on the best available information, we propose to delist the Caribbean monk seal under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). DATES:  Comments on this proposed rule must be received by 5 p.m.EST on August 8, 2008. Requests for public hearing must be made in writing and received by July 24, 2008. You may submit comments, identified by the Regulation Identifier Number (RIN) 0648-XG60, via the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov  or by mail to: Assistant Regional Administrator, Protected Resources Division, NMFS, Southeast Regional Office, 263 13th Ave. South, St.Petersburg, FL 33701. The proposed rule and status review are also available electronically at the NMFS website at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/protres.htm

Japanese Zoo Keeper Killed by Tiger

June 9, 2008  www.cnn.com

TOKYO, Japan (AP) -- A Japanese zookeeper,  Atsushi Ito, was attacked by the 330-pound male tiger at the Kyoto City Zoo. A female visitor found Ito lying bleeding in the cage. A Kyoto police official said he had been bitten on the neck, face and head.  "He was cleaning the cage. After the attack, he was rushed to a nearby hospital, but he was already in cardiac arrest," the officer said. Police suspected Ito had failed to lock a door that connected two cages, allowing the 11-year-old tiger to slip into the area the man was cleaning. The male tiger is one of a pair at the zoo, which was closed after the accident.

Madagascar Herps Threatened by Global Warming

June 9, 2008  www.physorg.com

Christopher Raxworthy, Associate Herpetology Curator at the American Museum of Natural History predicts that at least three species of amphibians and reptiles found in Madagascar's mountainous north could go extinct between 2050 and 2100 because of habitat loss associated with rising global temperatures. These species are currently moving upslope to compensate for habitat loss at lower and warmer altitudes and will eventually have no place to move to. Among 30 species of geckos, skinks, chameleons, and frogs, and controlling for sampling effort, an average shift uphill of 19 to 51 meters (62 to 167 feet) was observed over the decade. When these results were compared with meteorological records and climate change simulations, the movement of animals could be linked to temperature increases of 0.1°C to 0.37°C (0.18°F to 0.67°F) over the same decade, which corresponds to an expected upslope movement of 17 to 74 meters (59 to 243 feet). These animals come from five different families of amphibians and reptiles—narrow-mouthed toads, mantelline frogs, chameleons, geckos, and skinks—making it unlikely that a simple phenological change could explain the upward movement. "When you see a general trend across all these groups of organisms, it is likely to be related to a broad explanation like general temperature warming, not something more subtle such as seasonal variation," says Raxworthy.  His paper is published in this month’s Global Change Biology

Diet of Pregnant Sheep Can Influence Gender

June 9, 2008  www.physorg.com

Research published today in BioMed Central's open access journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology has demonstrated that ewes fed a diet enriched with polyunsaturated fats for one month prior to conception have a significantly higher chance of giving birth to male offspring. The study was carried out by a team of researchers from the Division of Animal Sciences at the University of Missouri and led by R Michael Roberts. Polyunsaturated fats are essential nutrients. It is believed that the dietary ratio between omega-3 and omega-6 fats has important biological effects, especially in terms of inflammation, immunity and central nervous system signalling. The omega-6 fats used in this study were protected from digestion by naturally occurring rumen bacteria to ensure that they would be absorbed through the intestines of the sheep.  This is the first experimental study in controlled conditions showing that supplementing maternal diet, in this case by increasing omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid intake, can skew the sex ratio towards males in a farm species."

Yale – Beardsley Zoo Bioblitz

June 9, 2008  www.connpost.com

NEW HAVEN - Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History announced that a rare water bug, a juvenile box turtle, and a water bug that hasn't been seen in more than 50 years were among the species found in the second annual "BioBlitz" on May 30 and 31 in Stratford.  The purpose of BioBlitz was to comb a relatively small geographical area for any and all animal, plant and fungus species present. Scientists from the Peabody joined staff from Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo, and the Stratford Conservation Commission Chairman. Their goal was to identify as many different kinds of organisms as possible in 24 hours. Gregory Watkins-Colwell, coordinated the more than 70 “blitzers” - including participants from Southern Connecticut State University, Connecticut Audubon Society, Sacred Heart University.  .The group found 636 species last year, and this year they found 914 species although there were 11 fewer bird species spotted this year. The 2007 blitz took place when more migrants were passing through, so 2008 mainly had the residents who were staying and building nests.  Larry Gall, a specialist at Yale in lepidopterology said "Last year we caught no flying insects since it was cold and raining. This year the weather was sunny and warm and we caught more than 150 species," Gall said. Entomology blitzing included observing butterflies and dragonflies, aerial and dipnet sampling, along with checking passive and pit-fall traps, which are cans buried in the ground, where caterpillars, beetles, wasps and flies were found. "We had a great time, with lack of sleep and everything," Watkins-Colwell said. "We'll be back to Stratford again soon, probably next summer. We want to catch up on our sleep first."

Golden Lion Tamarin Born at Micke Grove Zoo

June 9, 2008   www.lodinews.com

A baby Golden Lion Tamarin was born at Micke Grove Zoo on May 27 and can now be seen riding on its father’s back.  The mother of the newborn tamarin is Maya, who came to Micke Grove from the Palm Beach Zoo at Dreher Park, in Florida, and the father, Papa, came from Woodland Zoo in Seattle. The zoo also welcomed 11 marbled teal duck hatchlings on June 2. Once common in the Mediterranean region, the ducks are now restricted to a few areas of Spain, northwest Africa, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Iraq

Mouse Lemur Vocalization Study

June 9, 2008  www.earthtimes.org

German Researchers have discovered that mouse lemurs in the rain forests of Madagascar croon at night with subtle variations in dialect and prospective mates can discriminate between the sub-species.  The researchers recorded advertising calls from the three species and then played them back to grey mouse lemurs, noting their responses.  "Grey mouse lemurs reacted more to calls from other grey mouse lemurs than to those of either other species," says Dr. Pia Braune and colleagues from the Institute of Zoology, University of Veterinary Medicine, Hanover University.  Furthermore, the grey mouse lemurs seemed to ignore the calls of golden brown mouse lemurs, who live in the same area and habitat as them, but show some interest in the calls of Goodman's mouse lemur, which they would never normally meet.There research appears in  the journal BMC Biology “this is the first evidence for species-specific call divergence in the communication of cryptic primate species with overlapping ranges." Said Braune.  Until recently, grey, golden brown and Goodman's mouse lemurs were all thought to be the same species. But genetic testing revealed that they are, in fact, three distinct, species so similar that they cannot be distinguished by their appearance - so called cryptic species.

Rattlesnakes in San Diego Have More Potent Venom

June 9, 2008   health.ucsd.edu

For the second year in a row, UC San Diego Medical Center toxicologists are reporting unusually powerful snake bites and unusually extreme patient reactions to those bites.  Since January, several patients have suffered bites with severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, often after a bite from the Southern Pacific Rattlesnake.  “Our victims are showing symptoms of severe weakness, trouble breathing and low blood pressure this year,” said Richard F. Clark, M.D., director of the division of medical toxicology at the University of California, San Diego and medical director for the California Poison Control System (CPCS), San Diego Division, UC San Diego Medical Center.  Within minutes, the victim can get lightheaded, collapse and go into shock.  With some rattlesnake bites, no venom is injected into the wound, but because it is impossible to know if venom has or has not been injected, getting medical treatment quickly is important.  Clark emphasized that while San Diego County is seeing a rise in snake bite cases each year, the more alarming factor recently is the toxicity of the bite.  Toxin levels in rattler venom vary from year to year and season to season but – typically- venom is weaker in winter and stronger in summer because snakes are more active, fighting for food and for survival.

“We really don’t know why the venom is becoming increasingly potent.  Some speculate that with the modern world encroaching on nature it could be survival of the fittest.  Perhaps only the strongest survive,” said Clark.  “UC San Diego will be conducting clinical trials later this summer with a new antivenom for rattlesnake bites.”  The majority of the injuries are on hands, fingers and feet, and the most typical result is swelling and tissue damage that looks like blisters or frost bite. “What exacerbates the problem is that most bite victims are bitten on their dominant hand,” Clark pointed out.  “They’re reaching down a hole, perhaps trying to move the snake or handle the snake in some way, and they do that with their dominant hand.  When a person’s hand or leg is bitten, any movement is extremely painful: swelling occurs and the patient can’t bend the fingers, sometimes for months after the incident.  It can really affect daily life.  The patient can’t sign a check, write a paper for school, or hold a coffee cup.”

Get to the emergency department or a nearby health care facility immediately if you are bitten by a snake.  Administration of antivenom is the most important treatment.  Traditional first aid treatments such as applying ice, using a tourniquet, or applying suction to the wound have little value and may cause more injury. If the victim is in a remote area when bitten by a rattler, first immobilize the wounded area, especially for a hand or arm bite, then proceed slowly to a vehicle.  Moving slowly will keep the heart rate low and help prevent the venom from spreading.  If bitten on the leg or foot, it might be necessary to use that limb to get to the vehicle, unless someone can carry the victim.  If walking is necessary, it is very important to move slowly.  Drive to the nearest phone, call 911 and wait for assistance.  If there is no phone nearby, proceed to the nearest hospital.

New 'Retirement' Home for Chimps

June 9, 2008  seattlepi.nwsource.com

YAKIMA, Washington --Seven chimpanzees from a medical laboratory in Pennsylvania are making a cross-country trip by truck to their new home at the nonprofit Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, an 18,000-cubic-foot facility on 26 acres near Cle Elum.  The six females and one lucky male -- Annie, Foxy, Jamie, Jody, Missy, Negra and Burreto -- range in age from 24 to 34. Plans for the chimpanzee sanctuary were first hatched in 2003. The $150,000 sanctuary, one of nine such chimpanzee sanctuaries in the United States, is being built to give permanent homes to chimps that have been used by the entertainment and biomedical industries.  The seven chimps are being taken to the sanctuary from Buckshire Corp., in Perkasie, Pa., a laboratory and quarantine facility that provides chimpanzees for testing. Five were believed to have been born at the laboratory.  They were mostly used for hepatitis B vaccine studies and have no infectious diseases, according to the sanctuary. The chimps' caretaker at Buckshire, who has been with them for 20 years, will be traveling with them to Cle Elum and will remain there for several weeks while they settle in to their new home. Donations have paid for construction of the facility and will continue to pay for its operation and expansion.  Still to be completed: an outdoor enclosure for the animals. Plans also call for building additional homes for more chimps at the site.

Golden Lion Tamarins Aid Forest Recovery

June 9, 2008  news.mongabay.com

The endangered golden lion tamarin — a flagship species for conservation efforts in Brazil's highly threatened Atlantic Forest or Mata Atlantica — plays an important role in seed dispersal, thereby helping forest regeneration, according to research published in the June issue of the open access e-journal Tropical Conservation Science.  Collecting droppings of golden lion tamarin introduced to Poco das Antas Biological Reserve in Rio de Janeiro state, researchers from the Golden Lion Tamarin Association found that the small primates are efficient seed dispersers, due to the number and variety of seeds consumed and because they help faciliate germination.  "The tamarins deposit the seeds in places more favorable to germination," said Lapenta, lead author of the study and an ecologist at the University of Sao Paulo. "While other animals disperse seeds in the same forests of golden lion tamarins, these species disperse seeds of different sizes and in other quantities," Lapenta explained.  The small primate may actually play an important role in the recovery of the Mata Atlantica, an ecosystem than has been diminished by more than 90 percent due to logging and agricultural expansion.

Woolly Mammoth Gene Study

June 9, 2008  www.science.psu.edu

A large genetic study of the extinct woolly mammoth has revealed that the species was not one large homogenous group, as scientists previously had assumed, and that it did not have much genetic diversity. "The population was split into two groups, then one of the groups died out 45,000 years ago, long before the first humans began to appear in the region," said Stephan C. Schuster, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State University and a leader of the research team. "This discovery is particularly interesting because it rules out human hunting as a contributing factor, leaving climate change and disease as the most probable causes of extinction." The discovery will be published later this week in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).  For more complete information see: http://www.science.psu.edu/alert/Schuster6-2008.htm

The research marks the first time scientists have dissected the structure of an entire population of extinct mammal by using the complete mitochondrial genome -- all the DNA that makes up all the genes found in the mitochondria structures within cells. Data from this study will enable testing of the new hypothesis presented by the team, that there were two groups of woolly mammoth -- a concept that previously had not been recognized from studies of the fossil record.  The scientists analyzed the genes in hair obtained from individual woolly mammoths -- an extinct species of elephant adapted to living in the cold environment of the northern hemisphere. The bodies of these mammoths were found throughout a wide swathe of northern Siberia. Their dates of death span roughly 47,000 years, ranging from about 13,000 years ago to about 60,000 years ago.

Another important finding for understanding the extinction processes is that the individuals in each of the two woolly-mammoth groups were related very closely to one another. "This low genetic divergence is surprising because the woolly mammoth had an extraordinarily wide range: from Western Europe, to the Bering Strait in Siberia, to Northern America," Miller said. "The low genetic divergence of mammoth, which we discovered, may have degraded the biological fitness of these animals in a time of changing environments and other challenges."  Our study suggests a genetic divergence of the two woolly-mammoth groups more than 1-million years ago, which is one quarter the genetic distance that separates Indian and African elephants and woolly mammoths," Miller said. The research indicates that the diversity of the two woolly-mammoth populations was as low centuries ago as it is now in the very small populations of Asian elephants living in southern India. "The low genetic divergence of the elephants in southern Indian has been suggested as contributing to the problems of maintaining this group as a thriving population," Schuster said. Intriguingly, the mitochondrial genomes revealed by the researchers are several times more complete than those known for the modern Indian and African Elephants combined.

Whereas studies before this research had analyzed only short segments of the DNA of extinct species, this new study generated and compared 18 complete genomes of the extinct woolly mammoth using mitochondrial DNA, an important material for studying ancient genes. This achievement is based on an earlier discovery of the team led by Miller, Schuster, and co-author Thomas Gilbert, which was published last year and that revealed ancient DNA survives much better in hair than in any other tissue investigated so far. This discovery makes hair, when it is available, a more powerful and efficient source of DNA for studying the genome sequences of extinct animals. Moreover, mammoth hair is found in copious quantities in cold environments and it is not regarded as fossil material of enormous value like bone or muscle, which also carries anatomical information.

New Global Tiger Initiative

June 9, 2008  news.nationalgeographic.com  By Christine Dell'Amore

A new World Bank-led tiger conservation initiative will involve the International Tiger Coalition, the National Zoo, and the Global Environment Facility as well as many of the world’s nonprofits, governments, and local citizens.  The tiger has plummeted from 100,000 to 4,000 in the past century and now occupy only 7 percent of their original range said Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank Group, at a National Zoo briefing.  The new initiative will look at existing projects in tiger habitats, review existing efforts to combat illegal trade in tiger parts, and develop alternative funding for saving tigers. In addition, a 2010 "Year of the Tiger" summit will bring together the many groups and individuals working to preserve the big cat.  “The great preservers of the past—inaccessibility and poverty—no longer shield tigers from humans, who are poaching and trafficking the animals at an unprecedented rate”, said John Seidensticker, a conservation biologist at the National Zoo. As Asian economies flourish, the demand for tiger meat and parts for traditional Chinese medicine and trophies has wiped out most of the tigers living in reserves.  The big cats, which once prowled most of Asia, have already disappeared from Central Asia and almost all of China.  Actor Harrison Ford, vice chair of the board of directors of Conservation International—one of the participating groups—emphasized that local people should have a say.  "I recognize that these projects work more efficiently and more sustainably when local communities are involved,"  Siberian tigers in the Russian Far East have bounced back to a stable population of about 500 thanks to vigorous conservation efforts. And ASEAN-WEN, a network of Asian countries committed to halting wildlife crime inside their borders, is another promising step.

Fishers Invade Eastern Suburbs

June 9, 2008  www.nytimes.com

Ten to 15 years ago fishers only lived in deep forested areas, like the central Adirondacks, now they are found in farmland and the suburbs.  The fisher belongs to the mustelid family, which includes weasels, otters and wolverines. It has the aggressive, carnivorous temperament of a wolverine and can climb trees like a marten. Like weasels, a fisher will kill multiple animals at a time in a confined space. Fishers are nocturnal and not easily spotted. Humans have been the fisher’s biggest enemy, as deforestation and trapping for its pelt helped push it toward extinction early in the 20th century. Many Eastern and Midwestern states started reintroducing fishers last century to help thin porcupines, which were attacking trees. Vermont was the first state to bring back fishers, releasing 125 in the 1950s. Twenty years later, the species was flourishing.  What biologists did not know was that the fishers were not only thriving, but also moving. The Vermont fishers made their way to southern New Hampshire and north-central Massachusetts, which had ample natural forest, as well as trees planted for suburban developments. More recently, fishers were reintroduced in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Oldest African Elephant in US Zoo Dies

June 10, 2008  ap.google.com

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Petal, the oldest African elephant in an American zoo, died Monday at age 52. The elephant, which usually slept standing up, was found lying in her stall by Philadelphia Zoo staff around 7 a.m. Veterinarians were called immediately, but she died about two hours later.  A video monitoring system showed that Petal's right rear leg buckled suddenly Monday morning, causing her to collapse, said Andrew Baker, the zoo's vice president for animal programs. Results of a necropsy are expected within the next few weeks. The animal, which had lived most of her life at the Philadelphia Zoo, had been in excellent health, showing no recent signs of illness or decline, Baker said.

Atlanta Baby-Proofs Elephant Habitat

June 10, 2008  www.ajc.com   By JAMIE GUMBRECHT

All three of the Zoo Atlanta's female African elephants, Dottie, who is pregnand aunties Kelly and Tara are stuck inside while their yard is being made calf-proof.  Construction workers are welding metal bars to any space that a 300-pound elephant could slip through, draining the pool to make it more shallow and adding 800,000 pounds of dirt to the habitat.  They've cut out the steep hills, filled the moat around the yard and plan to cover a gated area that will give them all more privacy.  Construction should be done by October according to Adam Stone, Zoo Atlanta's assistant curator for large mammals, and will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Right now, the calf is about 20 pounds but when it's born, in April 2009, it will be about 3 feet tall and 250 to 300 pounds.  Dottie is a 25-year-old first-time mother who came to the zoo in November 1986. She is being fed a 60,000-calorie-a-day meal plan - the elephant version of the South Beach diet — more bamboo and celery, fewer sweet potatoes and alfalfa. At 12 months into her pregnancy, Dottie has actually lost about 300 pounds since the start of her pregnancy, but she'll add about 600 by the end of the 22-month gestation period. By then, the calf's movements will be visible to onlookers.

WCS Studies Guanacos in Chile

June 10, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

NEW YORK – The Wildlife Conservation Society has launched a study in Chile's Karukinka reserve on Tierra del Fuego to help protect the Chilean guanaco – a wild cousin of the llama that once roamed in vast herds from the Andean Plateau to the steppes of Patagonia.  Today, the guanaco population has dwindled to perhaps half a million animals that live in highly fragmented populations due to habitat loss and competition from livestock. Tierra del Fuego, especially Karukinka, holds the largest wild population of Chilean guanacos.  Donated to WCS by Goldman Sachs in 2004, Karukinka consists of 740,000 acres of wilderness, including the world's southernmost old-growth forest as well as extensive peat bogs, unique river systems, and grasslands. Goldman Sachs has provided key funding for this guanaco study. Historically, guanacos played a similar ecological role in Latin America as did bison in North America, with vast herds wandering over large landscapes. A team of WCS researchers have successfully equipped eight guanacos from seven family groups with radio collars to better understand their current movements. The researchers are particularly interested in how guanacos adapt to seasonal changes in the landscape and how they are affected by livestock grazing and other human factors outside of the reserve.

Funeral for Panda Killed by Earthquake

June 10, 2008   news.yahoo.com  By Cara Anna

The Wolong Nature Reserve held a funeral Tuesday for a panda that was crushed in the devastating May 12th earthquake.  Nine-year-old Mao Mao, mother of five captive pandas, was found Monday, crushed by a wall of her enclosure when the river behind it swelled with landslide debris.  Ron Swaisgood, who worked at Wolong for seven years, said he'd never seen a funeral service like the one Tuesday. Swaisgood, currently co-heads the Giant Panda Conservation Unit at the San Diego Zoo. Wolong deputy director of research, Huang Yan, said Wolong might not open again until next year. Six pandas have been sent to another reserve in Sichuan, and eight have been sent to Beijing for an Olympics stay at the Beijing Zoo. Unfortunately the quake hit during the 24- to 72-hour window each spring when female pandas are fertile — and 18 females had been artificially inseminated. No one knows what the effects of the quake will be. Also shaken in the quake were the fragile collections of semen from more than 15 pandas, both dead and alive, meant to help the species' diversity. The samples are kept in aging freezers that are still run, like the rest of the center, on a generator — which broke down briefly "The first things they asked for after the quake were freezers," said the director of U.S.-based Pandas International, Suzanne Braden.

Copenhagen’s New Elephant Exhibit

June 10, 2008  arts.guardian.co.uk   By Jonathan Glancey

The Copenhagen Zoo’s Asian elephants new home was designed by Norman Foster and Partners. With grooming rooms, en-suite showers and a double-domed roof.  John Jennings, the chief architect said, "It's been a delight to work on. The experts tell us the animals are clearly happier than they've ever been. With space to roam, their muscles are developing. And they've begun to eat better and to play as never before." Over the past four years, Jennings has become something of an expert in elephant behavior.  For years, the animals were cooped up in an early 20th-century Nordic version of a Greek temple – but now, in these great glass-domed enclosures, the herd can live as a proper extended family, and walking on sand and mud floors means their feet are improving  The Elephant House represents the latest thinking in elephant welfare. Those two glass-domed enclosures - one measuring 45 by 23 meters, for six cows and calves; the other 30 by 15 meters, for two bulls kept in separate pens during the mating season for fear of fights - open out through large steel doors into a landscaped paddock where the animals can take a dip in a pool three meters deep that extends 60 meters along one side. The Elephant House covers approximately 10% of the entire zoo site: elephants need to roam.

Working with the Danish landscape architect Stig L Andersson, the Foster team designed the new Elephant House as an extension of Frederiksberg Gardens, the royal park. A three-metre high wall that once separated the two has been replaced by a simple fence, so that people in the park can now catch a glimpse of the elephants. It means the elephants have distant views, too. The enclosure steps up slowly away from the park, rising to the height of the domes. From a distance, these appear to be buried in the ground, surrounded by ferns, fir trees and late spring flowers.  The Elephant House is a massive, red concrete structure covered in earth. A gently ramped entrance set between the domes encourages visitors down into a shaded internal space. From here, curving walkways take them on a tour of the two domes, through an exhibition space and into a small amphitheatre, where teachers, keepers and curators can talk about elephants.

A forest of red concrete poles ensures that the elephants can't quite reach visitors, even with their trunks fully extended. Keepers, however are able to dodge around the poles to keep themselves out of trouble if an elephant does lose its temper. And although all visitors have fine views of the animals whether inside or outside the domes, no one can feed them.  The facility is climate-controlled. Its massive concrete walls help keep temperatures stable, within 16-22 degrees centigrade. Heaters are built into the walls, while mist is sprayed into the domes to keep humidity high and the elephants' skins good. The glass panels forming the domes are covered in what appear to be random scatterings of white leaves. These are, in fact, computer-generated leaf patterns creating dappled shadows throughout the enclosures, for those times when the elephants wish to be out of the sun. Some of the glass panels can be opened to let in fresh air and breezes.  Hidden behind the walls of the domes are rings of rooms where the elephants can be groomed and treated, and where their vast larders can be stocked. Each adult eats about 75kg of food a day, mostly leaves, hay and root vegetables, along with treats such as bananas and apples, which the keepers hide in the sand for them. They can spend up to 20 hours a day eating, keeping the six keepers very busy indeed.

Zoo Exhibits – Hits and Misses

June 10, 2008  arts.guardian.co.uk  By John Glancey

Failed Exhibits:
· The 1934 penguin pool at London Zoo, by Berthold Lubetkin, is a delightful, Grade I listed building, but the penguins have long gone: the concrete was too hard on their feet. Lubetkin had wanted sympathetic slate and rubber floors, but was overruled.
· The elephant house at London Zoo, by Casson Conder, opened in 1964. A concrete behemoth that looks rather like an elephant itself, it was supposed to resemble a watering hole. The elephants have since relocated to Whipsnade.
· The sea lion pool at Havana Zoo has a reputation as one of the least animal-friendly homes in the world. The sea lions are expected to performs like clowns far too close to visitors, while being pelted with food and shouted at.
· The 1962 ape house at Dudley Zoo, described as a "giant's urinal", is an interesting concrete building - but not so interesting for apes: most have moved on and only the orang-utans remain.
Successful Exhibits:
· Sydney Aquarium, which opened in 1988, is a generously planned attraction: even the shy duck-billed platypuses are active here. The buildings are unpretentious, but underwater tunnels are crossed by sharks and a living re-creation of the Great Barrier Reef.
· Mappin Terrace at London Zoo (Peter Chalmers Mitchell and John James Joass, 1913-14) is an artificial mountain landscape, great for wild goats. The mountains store water, and the aquarium is housed below.
· Tiger mountain at Bronx Zoo (Cetra/Ruddy Architects, 2006) marked a huge improvement for its Siberian tigers, who are now free to roam around a four-acre site.
· The giraffe house, London Zoo (Decimus Burton, 1836-7), is a handsome building built to the right scale for its lofty inhabitants - and is still in use. 

Legislation To Make S.F. Zoo a Rescue Center

June 11, 2008  www.sfgate.com  By Wyatt Buchanan

SAN FRANCISCO -- Legislation has been proposed by Supervisor, Chris Daly, to transform the San Francisco Zoo into a center that primarily houses rescued domestic and exotic animals and those confiscated by law enforcement.  The legislation  would also create an advisory committee to monitor the welfare of animals at the zoo, and closely resembles recommendations from the city's Animal Care and Welfare Commission made earlier this year in response to the tiger attack on Christmas Day  The zoological society and the city are operating under a lease agreement that expires in November 2012. Daly wants to see his legislation implemented over a transition period between now and then.  The animal welfare oversight committee would be an advisory body to the Board of Supervisors. It would consist of five members nominated by the board president and approved by the full board. New animal acquisitions could include gifts - along with rescued and seized animals - and the legislation allows for breeding of species such as Sumatran tigers, African lions, gorillas, giraffes and a handful of others. Deniz Bolbol, of the group In Defense of Animals worked with Daly to draft the legislation, and thinks the board will have to apply pressure in addition to the legislation to force changes at the zoo, which is overseen by the Recreation and Parks Commission.

Gibbon Conservation Center Threatened by Urbanization Projects

June 11, 2008  www.latimes.com  By Ann M. Simmons
Alan Mootnick is the founder of the nonprofit center just outside Santa Clarita, known as the Gibbon Conservation Center.  Professional primatologists say the center is home to the largest and rarest group of gibbons in the Western Hemisphere (~34 apes). The collection includes Hylobates gibbons, the only nonhuman primates to naturally walk on two limbs, which often have a white ring of fur around their faces; tailless Symphalangus, which have two fingers on each hand fused together; hoolock gibbons, distinguished by their bushy white eyebrows; and Nomascus, which have fluffy, light-colored cheeks that resemble sideburns.  But now, encroaching urban development is threatening the health and well-being of the gibbons from Southeast Asia, Mootnick said. He is trying to raise funds to move the zoo-like facility that he founded in 1976 in then-sparsely populated Bouquet Canyon.  Less than 500 feet from the center's front gate, work has begun on the first phase of a $1.8-billion Southern California Edison project to tap wind power and eventually deliver 4,500 megawatts of renewable power to California's grid.  Accompanying the din is the threat of valley fever, a deadly soil fungus spread through the air when the earth is disrupted. Mootnick said that the infection makes it hard for gibbons to breathe and that two years ago, an ape named Chester died from valley fever.  Being constantly exposed to loud noise can also cause reproductive problems in female gibbons, causing them to abort, said Lori Sheeran, a primatologist at Central Washington University. At least one gibbon has aborted at the Saugus center in past years, Mootnick said.

Mootnick wants to buy at least 50 acres in Ventura County, where the coastal climate is better suited to gibbons. He has been hosting fund-raising drives with the aim of securing $1 million to contribute to the expected $2.5-million to $4-million price tag of a new property. He hopes the eventual sale of the Saugus site will cover the outstanding costs. The apes' offspring -- there have been 25 births during a 10-year period at the facility -- have kept the center's gibbon population thriving, Mootnick said. He has also acquired new gibbons through exchanges with zoos as far away as Japan, Australia, France and Russia.  It costs around $150,000 a year to take care of the primates, Mootnick said. He forgoes a salary, he said, and relies on two staffers -- only one of whom is paid -- and an army of volunteers from schools, universities, churches and other groups. Funds to run the nonprofit facility come from state grants, private donations, paid tours of the center and sales of merchandise, such as T-shirts and miniature stuffed toy gibbons.
Several businesses donate landscaping material, equipment and feed, and Mootnick insists that payment he receives for lecturing at universities and other forums go to the center's bank account.

10 More West Nile Bird Deaths in S.D. County

June 11, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com 

10 more dead birds have tested positive for West Nile virus in the past week, bringing this year's total to 29.  Nine crows and one raven were found in Vista, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Del Mar, Carmel Valley, Rancho Peñasquitos, the College Area, La Mesa and El Cajon, the county's Department of Environmental Health said.  Gary Erbeck, department director, said that last year at this time, five dead infected birds had been found.  County officials urge residents to empty standing pools of water where mosquitoes can breed, and wear long sleeves and pants outdoors. They also should use repellents containing DEET, Picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. To report mosquito breeding or dead birds, call County Vector Control at (858) 694-2888.

The New Environmentalism

June 11, 2008  www.enn.com 

Traditional environmentalism has failed to appreciate the importance of incentives in guiding human action  When governments, business, community groups and individuals work together to tackle environmental issues not only are different perspectives and skills brought to the table, greater power can be marshaled to carry out the actions needed.  A survey conducted for Canada Post by Harris/Decima, a leading research firm, suggests the most notable trend is demographic - that the preoccupation with the environment cuts across generations and gender, region, partisan lines and income groups. The survey found that people of all ages (chief among them women in their 30s and 40s and baby boomers) are very focused on environmental issues. How people manage their own lives and maintain their own households is the one part of the environmental equation they can control.  High energy prices have also helped defined the ”˜new environmentalism’ according to the study.  Consumer interest in reducing energy related expenditures and increased attention to energy costs in general serve as an important catalyst for changing public opinion.More than 80% of participants in the survey said that they, industry, and government were equally responsible to address environmental concerns.  In fact, consumers want businesses to be equal partners in the effort to reduce waste and be more environmentally conscious. They want businesses to take action on environmental matters and wanted products with better environmental credentials. More information on the Harris/Decima research program at: http://www.harrisdecima.ca/en/pdf/syndicated_studies/decima_new_environmentalism-en.pdf

Legoland Aquarium Opening Delayed

June 11, 2008  www.nctimes.com  By PAM KRAGEN

Sea Life Aquarium will open Aug. 11, 2008, at Legoland California theme park in Carlsbad. Courtesy photo. The 175,000-gallon aquarium, which will have 50 varieties of sea life, a 35-foot acrylic tunnel that guests can walk through to experience the aquarium from underneath, and more than 73 Lego models, was scheduled to open on July 1, but construction delays have forced the park to move the schedule back by a month.  A preview center and the aquarium's Ocean Journey Cafe will open July 1 as scheduled.  Sea Life Aquarium will require a separate entry ticket.

Mediterranean Shark Numbers Drop

June 11, 2008  www.enn.com 

The number of sharks in the Mediterranean has fallen by 97 percent in the last 200 years, putting the sea's ecological balance at risk, according to a report by the Lenfest Ocean Program.  Data was taken from fishermen's logs, shark landings, museum specimens and visual sightings to estimate the number and size of the Mediterranean sharks over the last two centuries. There was only enough data on five of the 20 big shark species present in the Mediterranean to be useful to the study -- the hammerhead, thresher, blue and two species of mackerel shark, which averaged a decline of 97 percent.  "It will have a major impact on the ecosystem because large predatory sharks are at the top of the food chain," said Francesco Ferretti, the report's lead author. A report last month by the IUCN found 11 kinds of shark faced extinction due to overfishing.

Lincoln Park Chimp is 50-years-old

June 11, 2008  www.chicagotribune.com  By William Mullen

CHICAGO -- Keo is, one of the two oldest male zoo chimpanzees in North America. (There is a female in her 70s in a Florida zoo, but Keo and Cobby, a male chimp also turning 50 this year at San Francisco Zoo, are the oldest male zoo chimps in North America.)  He lives behind the scenes in a non-public area of the Regenstein Center for African Apes, ceding the spotlight to the zoo's second, younger chimp troop. But in honor of his 50th birthday June 26, the zoo this week put Keo back on public exhibit with the three females in his group. He quickly recognized two familiar visitors he last saw more than a year ago, when he was last on display, and rushed over to retired airline pilot Joe Schenke and his wife, Judi, who used to visit him every day.  He planted his lips on the window as if to offer a kiss.  Schenke, said "He will sit with his back against the window and want you to scratch it from the other side of the glass. He'll even turn to look, like he's making sure you're moving your hand, even though he can't feel it."  Born in Africa, Keo was brought to Lincoln Park as a year-old infant, and was raised by humans. Today, importing wild chimps is illegal, and most chimps born in zoos are raised by other chimps.  Much of Keo's childhood was spent in the children's zoo, where he was called upon to wear a hat and preside over pretend tea parties, once a favorite for zoo publicity photos. In his old age, Keo was the first ape in Lincoln Park trained to use a touch-screen computer as a part of cognitive experiments launched t3 years ago by Steve Ross, the zoo's supervisor of behavioral and cognitive research..
"Keo is still in wonderful shape, physically," Ross said "I wish he could talk. If anyone could tell us the evolution of zoos and zoo care, he could."

National Geographic Program: Virunga Gorilla Murders

June 11, 2008  digitalproducer.digitalmedianet.com

WASHINGTON  -- In July 2007, six mountain gorillas were shot in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's (DRC) Virunga National Park. The world responds in disbelief after shocking photographs by photojournalist Brent Stirton were smuggled out. Only an estimated 720 of these primates remain in the wild, and this is one of the worst massacres of mountain gorillas since scientist Dian Fossey began battling poachers 40 years ago in the very same region. On Tuesday, July 1, 2008, at 10 p.m. ET/PT, National Geographic Channel's "Explorer: Gorilla Murders" reports from eastern DRC, with the full untold story behind the massacre. Stirton, a South African war photographer was on-location when the murdered gorillas were found and returned to the park for National Geographic to investigate who was behind the killings. In addition to the world television premiere, Stirton's and writer Mark Jenkins' reporting is the July cover story for National Geographic magazine.

Africa's Deforestation Rate Soars

June 11, 2008  www.enn.com  By Reuters

Africa is suffering deforestation at twice the world rate and the continent's few glaciers are shrinking fast, according to a U.N. atlas.  Satellite pictures, often taken three decades apart, showed expanding cities, pollution, deforestation and climate change were damaging the African environment despite glimmers of improvement in some areas. "Africa is losing more than 4 million hectares (9.9 million acres) of forest every year -- twice the world's average deforestation rate," according to a statement by the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) about the 400-page atlas, prepared for a meeting of African environment ministers in Johannesburg.  Four million hectares is roughly the size of Switzerland or slightly bigger than the U.S. state of Maryland.  Photographs showed recent scars in forests in countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Nigeria and Rwanda. It said forest loss was a major concern in 35 countries in Africa. And it showed that environmental change extended beyond the well-known shrinking of the snows on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa's highest peak at 5,895 meters (19,340 ft), or the drying up of Lake Chad.

Female Frog Courtship Calls : Ultrasonic Communication

June 12, 2008  www.nature.com  By Jun-Xian Shen

Male vocal communication in frog reproduction is well known. Females are typically silent, but in a few anuran species they can produce a feeble reciprocal call or rapping sounds during courtship. Males of concave-eared torrent frogs (Odorrana tormota) have demonstrated ultrasonic communication capacity. Although females of O. tormota have an unusually well-developed vocal production system, it is unclear whether or not they produce calls or are only passive partners in a communication system dominated by males. This article states that before ovulation, gravid females of O. tormota emit calls that are distinct from males' advertisement calls, having higher fundamental frequencies and harmonics and shorter call duration. In the field and in a quiet, darkened indoor arena, these female calls evoke vocalizations and extraordinarily precise positive phonotaxis (a localization error of <1°), rivalling that of vertebrates with the highest localization acuity (barn owls,  dolphins, elephants and humans). The localization accuracy of O. tormota is remarkable in light of their small head size (interaural distance of <1 cm), and suggests an additional selective advantage of high-frequency hearing beyond the ability to avoid masking by low-frequency background noise.

John Ball Zoo’s New Lion Exhibit

June 12, 2008   blog.mlive.com  By Patricia Woolfenden

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan -- The Lions of Lake Manyara is a new state-of-the-art $4.1 million exhibit at the John Ball Zoo. Its design, concept and execution allow visitors to experience lions in a whole new way. Admission: $7.50 for adults, $6.50 for seniors 62 and older, $5.50 for children 3-13, free to children 2 and younger. It's unusual, because it's not a savanna and is one of the largest lion exhibits in the country.  The zoo's three lions -- 3-year-old male Docha and 2-year-old sisters Bakari and Abena -- are given ample room to walk, exercise, play and, of course, sleep.  The design of the exhibit, which mimics the forests of Tanzania's Lake Manyara region, will ensure visitors will be able to spot a lion. Though there are shaded areas and comfy nooks, there are no real hiding spots.  Special features, include a 30-foot artificial climbing tree and a hot/cool rock that appears to pass through one of the viewing glasses.  There are three observation areas, including a nearly three-story, open-air tower that gives a prime view of the lions' habitat. The colossal project was paid for with private funds, including a $1 million donation from Walker-based Bissell Inc. and a $500,000 donation from Peter Cook and his late wife, Pat.

Lions of Lake Manyara is part of John Ball Zoo's efforts to update and revamp the grounds. The zoo this year added a three-story, two-level ropes course to complement the zipline it added last year. Horseshoe crabs have been added to the popular Stingray Lagoon, where visitors can feed and touch cownose stingrays and nurse sharks.  A new frog exhibit showcases exotic, tropical amphibians, including the colorful poison dart frogs.  John Ball Zoo isn't just interested in showing off exotic critters and mammoth beasts. Bylund said the zoo also has added a few areas -- including a new turtle pond -- intended to educate people about animals they are likely to encounter in the wild. It's an attempt to counteract an "ecophobia" that can develop when kids are disconnected from nature.  "We're trying to make kids familiar with the animals they would see around them."

38 Rhea Eggs at Washington Park Zoo

June 12, 2008  thenewsdispatch.com  By Jason Miller

MICHIGAN CITY - Rachel McCline is head of the Washington Park Zoo's bird collection and reports that 6 female rheas have laid 38 eggs.  "They laid so many, they can't even keep them in the nest," McCline said  as a pair of rhea males incubated nearly 30 eggs by sitting on them. The female emu at the zoo has hatched some 20 eggs this season. One emu hatchling and four rhea hatchlings are being kept inside a special building at the zoo until they're ready to be placed into a normal habitat with their parents. Several of their siblings are large enough to be kept in an enclosure inside the petting barn where visitors can view them. 

Whirl raises $1.42 million for Brookfield Zoo

June 12, 2008  www.pioneerlocal.com

More than 700 civic and business leaders from the Chicago area attended the 27th annual Whirl held at Brookfield Zoo on April 26. The black-tie gala, hosted by the Women's Board of the Chicago Zoological Society, raised $1.42 million.  Guests enjoyed cocktails -- including a favorite specialty drink of the evening "The Peackoctail" -- and hors d'oeuvres along the Bear Grottos walkway. They were able to get up-close views of the polar bears and Alaskan brown bears, as well as listen to zookeepers talk about animal behavior and care and about the Society's conservation efforts.  In the main dinner tent located on the Zoo's East Mall this year's theme, "All Eyes on the Whirl," was inspired by the magnificent plumage of the peacock, and floral arrangements featured the colors of the peacock's feathers, along with the actual feathers. The three-course dinner was catered by Food for Thought.  Raffle prizes included the extraordinary opportunity to name one of the picnic gazebos in the newly constructed Pavilions, an outdoor picnic and event complex; a two-night stay in the Executive Suite at The Peninsula Chicago, an Atlas quartz resonator cocktail watch featuring 18K white gold flanked by .48 carats of brilliant round diamonds, courtesy of Tiffany and Co.; a three-night stay in a deluxe ocean view suite at the Dreams Golf Resort and Spa in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, courtesy of the resort, American Airlines, Meeting Incentive Experts and Tropical Catamaran; and an in-home gourmet dinner courtesy of Food for thought.  Proceeds will benefit the zoo's Conservation Leadership Training initiative, which over the last decade has expanded its outreach and programming by working with community groups, libraries, school and community members. The Society was recently honored as a recipient of the 2007 National Medal for Museum and Library Services, the nation's highest honor for community service provided by museums and libraries.

Saving Kelp

June 12, 2008  www.latimes.com 

After years of bureaucratic debate and delay, Southern California Edison is bankrolling the $40-million undertaking as part of an agreement with the state Coastal Commission.  The effort stems from a 1989 scientific report that found that the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station's cooling system had damaged about 180 acres of kelp habitat. An artificial reef composed of 125,000 tons of volcanic rock will create a 150-acre reef to anchor a swaying giant kelp forest, and attract an array of marine creatures.  Located more than half a mile offshore, the reef will stretch 2.5 miles roughly from San Clemente Pier to San Mateo Point, said Edison reef project manager Craig Eaker.  Key to the design is the loose arrangement of rocks in a single underwater layer, said Steve Schroeter, a research ecologist with the Marine Science Institute at UC Santa Barbara. This allows the rocks to jostle with the waves, flushing out competing species such as the pesky sea fan -- which takes longer to recover from swells -- and keeping space available for future generations of kelp. Other kelp reefs, built with stacked rocks, have failed, Schroeter said.

A 22.4-acre experimental reef was built in 1999 for scientists to observe how kelp best survived. Divers attached laboratory-grown young kelp plants to the sea bottom; these plants were quickly overtaken by natural kelp growth. (Google satellite images of these kelp patches appear as glowing red squares.)  Scientists say the comprehensive five-year study -- the basis of the larger reef under construction -- was unique in its rigor. "I would be surprised if there are many projects in the world that have been given as much thought and scrutiny as this reef," said Dan Reed, a research biologist with the Marine Science Institute; Reed and Schroeter studied the first reef for the Coastal Commission. The new reef will fill in around the initial one.

New SeaWorld Promenade for Runners & Cyclists

June 12, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com  By Helen Gao

A new promenade and upgraded paths are now available for runners, walkers and bicyclists to enjoy in the South Shores portion of Mission Bay Park near SeaWorld.  The completion of the six-month project was marked with a celebration Friday. SeaWorld was required by the city to do the work as part of its master plan update. A SeaWorld spokesman declined to disclose the cost. The promenade has two sections and three plazas for gatherings. The western section extends from the South Shores boat ramp west along the shoreline. The east section extends from the South Shores picnic pavilion toward East Mission Bay Drive.  Bike paths in the South Shores area were resurfaced, widened and re-landscaped. New striping was added to delineate two-way traffic and create separate bike and pedestrian pathways.  “We enhanced safety for our cyclists and pedestrians,” said Booker T. Crenshaw Jr. of SeaWorld public relations.  Jacob said that as part of its master plan update, SeaWorld also is obligated to lengthen the right-turn pocket lane from Seaworld Drive to southbound Interstate 5. Construction for that project will begin after the summer.

Evolutionary Bird Study May Predict Extinction

June 12, 2008  www.physorg.com

A new complete evolutionary 'family tree' showing how all British bird species are related to each other may provide clues about which ones are at risk of population decline.  An article in the June 11 Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences compared the new family tree with existing lists of endangered bird species, author Dr Gavin Thomas from the NERC Centre for Population Biology at Imperial College London found that British birds currently suffering population decline were clustered close together on the same branches of the family tree. Because of this the family tree, or 'phylogeny', could be used to predict which species are at risk of decline in the future. Bird species which are not experiencing decline at the moment, but which sit close to species that are declining on the family tree, may be at risk next. This is because closely related species on the family tree share physical traits. Some of these traits such as low reproductive rates or specific habitat requirements may render them less able to cope with climate change or depletion of their habitat and make them exceptionally vulnerable to decline.

Atlanta Aquarium Weedy Sea Dragon Pregnancy

June 12, 2008  ap.google.com

ATLANTA (AP) — A weedy sea dragon at the Georgia Aquarium  is pregnant.  The pregnancy is only the third for U.S. aquariums. The aquarium's sea dragon has about 70 fertilized eggs — which look like small red grapes — attached to his tail. He is expected to give birth in early to mid-July, said Kerry Gladish, a biologist at the aquarium.  Sea dragons, sea horses and pipe fish are the only species where the male carries the eggs, "We know there's something biologically or environmentally that triggers them to want to reproduce, but in the aquarium world, we're not sure what that is," Gladish said.  The aquarium recently changed the lighting and thinned out the plants in the sea dragons' tank to give them room to court each other.  The aquarium has seven of the 18-inch sea dragons, which resemble Dr. Seuss characters with long aardvark-like snouts, colorful sea horse bodies and multiple paddle-like fins.  During mating, the female lays dozens of eggs and then transfers them to the male's tail.  In the wild, the survival rate for sea dragon babies is low, but in captivity it's about 60 percent.. The fish is on the IUCN's list of threatened species, mostly because of pollution and population growth in its native Australia. Only about 50 aquariums worldwide have sea dragons.

Forests and Climate Change

June 12, 2008  www.nsf.gov 

There are roughly 42 million square kilometers of forest on Earth -- almost a third of the land surface, and those wooded environments play a key role in both mitigating and enhancing global warming.  In a review paper appearing in this week's Forest Ecology special issue of Science, atmospheric scientist Gordon Bonan of the Natinoal Science Foundation's National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., presents the current state of understanding for how forests impact global climate.  The teeming life of forests, and the physical structures containing them, are in continuous flux with incoming solar energy, the atmosphere, the water cycle and the carbon cycle--in addition to the influences of human activities. The complex relationships both add and subtract from the equations that dictate the warming of the planet.  "In the Amazon, tropical rainforests remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere," said Bonan. "This helps mitigate global warming by lowering greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. These forests also pump moisture into the atmosphere through evapotranspiration. This cools climate and also helps to mitigate global warming."  As studies have explored the mechanisms behind these effects, and the effects themselves, researchers have come to recognize that calculating the specific harm from a specific local impact is a highly complicated problem.  Bonan's review paper, an additional video interview and other supporting materials for the June 13, 2008, forest ecology issue of Science are available through their website: http://www.sciencemag.org/forests/ .

Tiger’s Roar Will be Topic at Acoustical Society Meeting

June 12, 2008 www.eurekalert.org

In Paris, Edward Walsh from Boys Town National Research Hospital, Douglas L. Armstrong from the Henry Doorly Zoo, and their colleagues will present the most recent findings of the Omaha Tiger Project, one of the first and most detailed analyses of the auditory properties of tiger calls and tiger hearing. The research has confirmed the previously determined notion that the dominant frequency in at least some tiger calls is in the low frequency range of 200 Hz to 300 Hz. A question of interest to biologists is whether tigers produce calls in the infrasonic ranges, frequencies below 20 Hz that humans are not capable of hearing. The research has shown that although tigers are in fact capable of making these types of calls, and that they may be used when tigers are communicating over long distances, infrasonic energy is not a common feature of most calls studied thus far.  The greater goal of the Omaha Tiger Project is to contribute to ongoing efforts to conserve free ranging tigers. Because effective conservation strategies require an accurate knowledge of the number of individuals living in a given territory, and because existing census numbers for tigers are inaccurate, the group plans to develop methods to identify individual animals in the wild on the basis of the acoustic properties of their calls on July 3.

Major Bee Study

June 12, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

In the first global accounting of bee species in over a hundred years, John S. Ascher, a research scientist at the American Museum of Natural History, has identified more than 19,200 described bee species, more than all bird and mammal species combined. This new species inventory documents 2,000 more described, valid species than estimated by Charles Michener in the first edition of his definitive The Bees of the World published eight years ago.  The World Bee Checklist project is led by the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History and is available online (www.itis.gov).  A primary goal of this project is to document floral and distributional records for all bees, including now obscure species that may someday become significant new pollinators for our crops. The vast majority of known bee species are solitary, primitively social, or parasitic. These bees do not make honey or live in hives but are essential pollinators of crops and native plants. Honey is made by nearly 500 species of tropical stingless bees in addition to the well-known honey bee Apis mellifera. Honey bees are the most economically important pollinators and are currently in the news because of colony collapse disorder, an unexplained phenomenon that is wiping out colonies throughout the United States.The checklists compiled by Ascher and colleagues facilitate ongoing databasing of the Museum's worldwide collections of more than 400,000 bee specimens, research that was possible due to the generous support of Robert G. Goelet, Chairman Emeritus of the Museum's Board of Trustees. The Discover Life bee checklist : www.discoverlife.org/mp/20q?guide=Apoidea_species

Lions Headed for Extinction in Kenya

June 12, 2008  news.nationalgeographic.com  By Nick Wadhams
Lions once numbered 500,000, which at the time made them one of the most populous mammals on the planet. Now they're barely hanging on, with estimates ranging between 16,000 and 100,000 in the wild.  At least one group estimates that fewer than a hundred lions remain in the Amboseli area, down drastically from the 1980s. The lions are often victims of Maasai tribespeople who kill the big cats out of fear for their cattle. Richard Bonham, who owns a tourist lodge near Amboseli and runs the Maasailand Preservation Trust conservation group claims lions are hard to find now. The National Geographic Society will provide a U.S. $150,000 emergency grant to Bonham's preservation trust to fund a program that compensates Maasai for livestock lost to lion attacks. The compensation programs are aimed at changing the attitudes of the traditionally nomadic, cattle-herding Maasai toward lions.

Lizard Bipedalism Study

June 13, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Birds have converted their forelimbs into wings, and primates have better things to do with their hands. But its harder to explain why some lizards have gone bipedal? Perth researchers, Christofer Clemente and his colleagues collected 16 dragon lizard species, ranging from frilled neck lizards to the incredibly rare C. rubens, and ran them on a treadmill, filming the reptiles until they were all run-out.  When Clemente analysed the lizard running footage he realised that running on hind legs was more energetically costly, and the bipedal runners were no faster than the quadrupeds. Knowing that Peter Aerts had suggested that lizards improved their manoeuvrability by moving their centre of mass back towards the hips, Clemente wondered whether the lizards' front legs were leaving the ground because of the position of their centre of mass. Maybe they were 'pulling a wheelie'.  Through modeling he found that there was a strong correlation between the lizards' acceleration and their front legs pulling off the ground. Clemente explains that by moving their centre of mass, a turning force acts on the lizards' torso; lifting it off the ground making them run upright. So running on two legs is a natural consequence of the lizards' acceleration. Clemente adds that 'some dragon lizards have exploited the consequence and chosen to go bipedal because it gives them some advantage, but we have no idea what that advantage is'. More information is at: http://jeb.biologists.org

Analyzing Species Risk

June 13, 2008  www.adelaide.edu.au

A new study published in the Journal of Ecology.provides good evidence that we can take any group of species and predict how individual species will respond to changes in the environment through events such as climate change or habitat loss.  Researchers, led by Corey Bradshaw, from the University of Adelaide's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, analyzed life-history and ecological traits in more than 8900 species of the legume, or the Fabaceae, plant family and found a correlation between evolved species' traits and a particular susceptibility to a species becoming threatened or invasive. "Developing evidence-based rules of thumb for categorizing poorly studied species according to their susceptibility will aid decision makers in choosing best ways to allocate finite conservation resources." Lists of `species to watch' - both threatened and potentially invasive - should be expanded based on ranking of `susceptibility traits', Associate Professor Bradshaw says. Associate Professor Bradshaw is also employed by the South Australian Research and Development Institute as a senior scientist.  "Our results are particularly valuable where there is sustained habitat loss or fragmentation, especially given the predictions that climate change will simultaneously promote the expansion of invasive alien species and greater extinction rates in others," he says.

New Rollercoaster Ride at SeaWorld

June 13, 2008   www.sdbj.com  By Connie Lewis

SeaWorld’s splash-down coaster ride, which the park built in 2004, Journey to Atlantis, is 90 feet tall, but got an exception from the City Council.  SeaWorld did not report the cost of that ride, but public records show its price tag at $35 million.  Now, plans for another rollercoaster between the Mission Bay 4-D Theater and the Shipwreck Rapids where Flamingo Cove currently sits has been reported at http://screamscape.com  The new attraction, scheduled to open in 2010 will be a magnetic linear motor launch ride similar to the Revenge of the Mummy coaster at Universal Studios.  Dave Koontz, a spokesman for the amusement park, neither confirmed nor denied such a plan.  San Diego City Councilwoman Donna Frye, whose district includes SeaWorld, had no knowledge of the ride and expressed concern that if one is in the works, it could exceed the city’s 30-foot height limit for coastal development.

At some point, SeaWorld is going to have to wrestle with the question of whether they want to continue the focus on education, such as the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, or move more and more into the adventure side of things,” said Carl Winston, director of SDSU’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. SeaWorld doesn’t report its admissions or revenues, but officials acknowledged that a recent estimate of 4.7 million visitors for 2007 from an industry source was credible. They also said that the 4.5 million attendance figure reported in the San Diego Business Journal’s 2008 Book of Lists for 2006, an estimated derived from industry sources, was also credible.  Meanwhile, SeaWorld opened the “Sesame Street Bay of Play” with three new kiddie rides in late May. The cost was not revealed, but Andy Fichthorn, SeaWorld’s general manager said earlier that it is “a multimillion-dollar attraction.”

Possible Sale of Busch Theme Parks

June 16, 2008  www.bizjournals.com  By Matt Allen

Belgian brewer InBev could generate as much as $4.4 billion by selling Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc.'s theme parks and its packaging companies to help fund its proposed $46.3 billion takeover offer.  One analyst estimated that InBev could receive about $2.9 billion if it sold Busch Entertainment Corp., the family entertainment division of Anheuser-Busch that owns Busch Gardens and SeaWorld and operates nine theme parks across the country. The company also announced in February that it planned to open four additional parks to be built in Dubai. InBev Chief Financial Officer Felipe Dutra said in a Thursday conference call that the company is considering selling non-core assets to help fund the purchase. He said InBev is evaluating both companies, not just A-B, in making their decision on which non-core assets to sell.  Busch Entertainment announced in October that it would move its corporate headquarters from St. Louis to Orlando by July.

Interview with National Zoo Nutritionist

June 16, 2008  www.washingtonpost.com

The Washington Post is beginning a new series called “Zoo Tales” with a profile of animal nutritionist Karen Lisi.(former San Diego Zoo Nutritionist)  Lisi was online Monday, June 16 at 11 a.m. to take questions about the care and feeding of the National Zoo's animals. The transcript was published June 16. One individual asked “Which animals are the trickiest to feed, or require the most care and attention to their diet?” Lisi explained: Diets for our animals are formulated using science-based nutrition principles. Diets meet the nutrient and energy requirements, and are relatively uncomplicated. In terms of animals that are more challenging, these are our occasional hospital patients and our geriatric animals that may require special foods, or processing of their diets (for example, creating tube feeding formulas or making gruels).  Another caller asked what kind of formula is fed to babies whose mothers reject them.  Karen said “Milk composition across mammals is highly variable. We must first search the literature and then formulate a milk replacer as close to mom's milk as possible. We also contact colleagues at zoos and wildlife facilities for information. This is a particularly timely question in that we just successfully hand-reared a northern tree shrew, our involvement spanned about 3 weeks and now the animal is back at the Small Mammal House.

Przewalski Horse Vasectomy Reversed

June 16, 2008  www.wjla.com

The Prezewalski Horse, native to China and Mongolia,  was declared extinct in the wild in 1970. There are approximately 1,500 of these animals maintained at zoos throughout the world and in several populations in Asia. A Prezewalski horse came to the National Zoo in 2006. He had been vasectomized in 1999 at a previous institution. Unfortunately, a reverse vasectomy had never been performed on an equid, let alone a critically endangered species, according to Dr. Budhan Pukazhenthi, a reproductive scientist at the National Zoo's Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, Va.  They asked Dr. Sherman Silber, a St. Louis-based urologist who pioneered microsurgery for reverse vasectomies in humans and had been successful in reversing vasectomies in South American bush dogs at the St. Louis Zoo to assist.  The operation was successful and Dr. Luis Padilla, associate veterinarian at the Conservation and Research Center said they hope to pair the horse with a female from  Minnesota in July.

Zoo’s Thick-Billed Parrot Gets Cancer Treatment

June 16, 2008  www.cbsnews.com

BROWNSVILLE, Texas -- Gladys Porter Zoo’s famous thick-billed parrot, Elvis, was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma on his beak a few weeks ago.  The Texas Oncology Center has agreed to treat him with radiation therapy, according to Amanda Guthrie, an associate veterinarian at the Gladys Porter Zoo. Five days a week, he is sedated and carried to the oncology center's radiation ward, on a makeshift Styrofoam stretcher. A beam of radiation strikes the bird's penny-sized tumor for thirty seconds. His amber eyes remain open during the treatment, which the Texas Oncology Center is providing without cost. The treatment is experimental, and could provide insight into the reaches of veterinary science. But for oncologists and zoo personnel, it has become a more personal crusade. Veterinarians say Elvis, who was abandoned in front of the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in 1998, could be anywhere between 11 and 60 years old.  His melanoma could be the result of a life spent in the sun, or it could reveal something hitherto unknown about avian biology. "We don't expect that this will be curative," Guthrie said of the therapy. "We'll have to reassess after he's completed his 20 radiation sessions."

Toledo Zoo’s $94M Renovation

June 16, 2008  toledoblade.com   By GABE NELSON

Thanks to an influx of money from a levy approved by voters two years ago, the Toledo zoo has begun several major projects, as well as hundreds of smaller repairs and improvements. Construction began in April on Nature's Neighborhood, a re-imagined version of the Children's Zoo that aims to teach children about wildlife in an interactive way.  Anne Baker, the zoo's executive director, said the area will include stations where children can help take care of animals and others where they can imitate animals.  For instance, to get to an exhibit on spiders, kids can crawl across a mesh spiderweb.  "It will be constructed in such a way that kids get into the concept of being that animal," Ms. Baker said. "Truly, this is a place for kids to use their imagination."  Nature’s Neighborhood is scheduled for completion in June 2009. It will cost $7.54 million.  Public parking lot improvements will add 150 parking spaces and is scheduled for completion October 2008  Cost of the project is $3.95 million   The parking lot will have light-emitting diode streetlights, which use less electricity than light bulbs. It also will include a rain garden, allowing rainwater to drain directly to the water table, Ms. Baker said. "People don't think of a parking lot as being green, but this is about as green as you can make a parking lot," she said.

Ms. Baker, who has emphasized environmentalism during her tenure as director, said many of the projects will use green technology to conserve energy. Zoo officials are researching solar panels and wind turbines for power and geothermal wells that draw heat from the earth to help heat the zoo's aquarium and greenhouse. Aquarium improvements, due for completion in May 2016, will cost. $25.53 million.  The Elephant/Rhino/Hippo area improvements will occur in 3 phases.  Completion targets are:  October 2009/May 2011/ May  2012.  The cost is expected to be $16.67 million.  $4.86 million will be spent annually on seasonal exhibits.  (amphibians, tigers, butterflies, etc.)  Many other projects are hidden from view - such as a $900,000 boiler replacement at the aquarium and greenhouse - others are more visible, such as the. Over its 10-years, the 1-mill, capital improvement levy will generate about $86 million. One mill equals $1 of tax for every $1,000 of assessed property value, meaning the zoo's levy costs the owner of a $100,000 home, $30.62 annually.

Melbourne Zoo Keepers Protest Pay

June 16, 2008  www.theage.com.au  By Lorna Edwards

MELBOURNE zookeepers and horticulturalists say their salary of $41,000 is 30% below the national average and that zoo management is exploiting their passion for working with animals. Some dressed in monkey, tiger and gorilla suits and handed out peanuts to visitors in a protest outside the main entrance of Melbourne Zoo yesterday after rejecting a management offer of a 4% pay increase. The Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union, which represents zookeepers, horticulturalists and maintenance staff at Melbourne and Werribee zoos and the Healesville Sanctuary, said the offer was effectively a pay cut as it was below the inflation rate.  But Zoos Victoria chief executive John Wills denied there were plans to cut wages and said the union allegations were "disappointing, untrue and clearly directed to cause alarm". The dispute will go to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission this morning. It follows a troubled year for Zoos Victoria, with allegations of animal cruelty.

Mass Extinctions Influenced by Ocean

June 16, 2008  www.nature.com 

A new study, published online today (June 15, 2008) in the journal Nature, suggests that it is the ocean, and in particular the epic ebbs and flows of sea level and sediment over the course of geologic time, that is the primary cause of the world's periodic mass extinctions during the past 500[sc1] million years. Shanan Peters, a University of Wisconsin-Madison assistant professor of geology and geophysics is the author of the new Nature report.  Since the advent of life on Earth 3.5 billion years ago, scientists think there may have been as many as 23 mass extinction events, many involving simple forms of life such as single-celled microorganisms. During the past 540 million years, there have been five well-documented mass extinctions, primarily of marine plants and animals, with as many as 75-95 percent of species lost.  In the case of the demise of the dinosaurs, scientists have a smoking gun, an impact crater that suggests dinosaurs were wiped out as the result of a large asteroid crashing into the planet. But the causes of other mass extinction events have been murky, at best.  The new study establishes a clear relationship between the tempo of mass extinction events and changes in sea level and sediment: The new Wisconsin study does not preclude other influences on extinction such as physical events like volcanic eruptions or killer asteroids, or biological influences such as disease and competition among species. But what it does do, he argues, is provide a common link to mass extinction events over a significant stretch of Earth history.

AZ-NM Wolf Re-introduction Poll

June 16, 2008   www.signonsandiego.com  By Sue Major Holmes

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. --There were 52 Mexican gray wolves in the wild in January, the last count by Fish and Wildlife, which began releasing wolves along the New Mexico-Arizona border 10 years ago. The goal is to re-establish the species in part of the historic range where it was hunted to the brink of extinction in the early 1900s. Wildlife biologists had hoped to have 100 wolves in the wild by 2006, but the 2007 count was seven fewer wolves than the year before. A recent 19-question scientific survey was commissioned by the Arizona Zoological Society, New Mexico Audubon Council, Southwest Environmental Center and Parson's organization, the Rewilding Institute. 1,000 registered voters were telephoned, half in each state.  77 percent of Arizonans and 69 percent of New Mexicans support or strongly support reintroducing wolves on public lands in their states, while 21 percent of New Mexicans and 13 percent of Arizonans oppose the program.  Dave Parsons, former coordinator of the program for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, believes the high support ``represents a societal change over time, where people more and more identify with and value nature and wild animals.''

Endangered Species Research Permits

June 17, 2008   www.epa.gov

The public is invited to comment on the following application to amend an existing permit to conduct certain activities with endangered species.  We must receive your written data or comments by July 17, 2008.  Send to: Program Manager, Endangered Species, Ecological Services, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 911 NE. 11th Avenue, Portland, OR 97232-4181. For further information contact Grant Canterbury, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, at the above address or by telephone (503-231-2063) or fax (503-231-6243). Please refer to the permit number for the application when submitting comments.

Permit No. TE-043638
Applicant: U.S. Army Natural Resources Center, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. The applicant requests an amendment to an existing permit to remove/reduce to possession (collect pollen and seeds) Hedyotis coriacea (kio'ele) and to take (collect eggs, rear in captivity, capture adults, photograph, release, and collect voucher specimens) the Hawaiian picture-wing flies Drosophila aglaia, D. hemipeza, D. montgomeryi, D. obatai, D. substenoptera, and D. tarphytrichia, in conjunction with research on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, for the purpose of enhancing their survival. This permit currently covers removal and reduction to possession of Chamaescyce herbstii (akoko), Hesperomannia arbuscula (no common name), Phyllostegia kaalaensis (no common name), and Schiedea kaalae (no common name); and take of the Oahu tree snails (Achatinella spp.) and Oahu elepaio (Chasiempis sandwichensis ibidis), for which notices were originally published in the Federal Register on July 20, 2005 (70 FR 41786), August 6, 2006 (71 FR 47242), and November 16, 2007 (72 FR 64665).Chinese

Officials Assess Quake Damage

June 17, 2008  www.iht.com

BEIJING: Cao Qingyao, a spokesman for the State Forestry Administration announced Tuesday that the giant panda’s main preserve in China's Sichuan province was devastated by the massive May 12 earthquake.  Forty-nine nature reserves that are home to pandas and other endangered species, including the Wolong Nature Reserve, were damaged.  He said about 80 percent of Sichuan panda habitat suffered some degree of damage, but the number of pandas killed is unknown.  David Wildt, a panda expert who is chief scientist at the National Zoo in Washington, called Cao's 80 percent damage figure a "guesstimate.  "A high priority would be to get field scientists into those preserves to make an accurate assessment of damage to habitat," Wildt said. "We really have no clue as to how any animal is going to respond in anticipation of an earthquake," Wildt said.  Yu Jinping, director of China conservation and education at Zoo Atlanta, said it could take years to accurately estimate the damage done to the panda habitat in the quake zone. Yu said that most of the wild pandas are likely to survive because they can travel to find other sources of bamboo. The 7.9 magnitude quake killed almost 70,000 people and left 5 million homeless.  Cao said it also badly damaged forestry resources in the affected areas. Direct economic losses to the forestry business were 23 billion yuan (US$3.3 billion) and 232 forestry workers were killed, he said.

Polar Bear Discovered in Iceland

June 17, 2008  www.physorg.com

A polar bear has been discovered on Iceland, hundreds of kilometres its natural habitat. "The bear is in the north of Iceland near the town of Saudarkrokkur," said photographer Rax Axelsson, “and living off eggs and birds"  It and does not appear to be hungry, he added.  Polar bears are rare sightings on Iceland, since they have to swim hundreds of kilometres through icy waters to reach the island from their natural Arctic habitats.  This is the second bear spotted on the island in the past two weeks, and could lend credence to warnings from experts that climate change is creating a more perilous environment for the majestic Arctic animals.  Icelandic authorities shot and killed the polar bear discovered in the Nordic country two weeks ago, claiming they were not equipped to safely apprehend the animal.  Zoo spokesman Bengt Holst said  "The plan is to catch the bear today," he said, adding that the Danish veterinarian would attempt to get close to the animal to dart it.  "Then the Icelandic authorities will make their decision what they are going to do with the polar bear," Holst said, adding that the bear could be sent to Greenland or Denmark. Icelandic multi-millionaire Bjoergulfur Thor Bjoergulfsson meanwhile said Tuesday his investment firm Novator was willing to pay for saving the bear and transporting it to a safe environment.

Northern White Rhino Near Extinction

June 17, 2008  www.physorg.com 

The northern white rhino of central Africa is on the verge of being wiped out.  There are four surviving specimens of this rare subspecies and they have not been seen since August 2006, said Martin Brooks of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which compiles an annual list of the world's most endangered animals.  The rhinos, which lived in Congo's Garamba National Park, were the last remaining northern white rhinos in the wild.  Other rhino species have fared better in recent years, according to IUCN. The number of southern white rhinos in Africa increased to 17,480 last year from 14,540 in 2005. African black rhinos increased to 4,180 in last year from 3,730 in 2005.  "They are still classed as critically endangered and face increasing threats of poaching and civil unrest," said Richard Emslie, a rhino specialist working for IUCN. "There is no room for complacency."

WildEarth Seeks Emergency Protection for 32 Species

June 17, 2008  www.physorg.com

WildEarth Guardians is asking Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and USFWS director Dale Hall to list 32 species from across the West - ranging from flowering plants to snails - to ensure they do not disappear. "The species we have chosen are all at the knife's edge of extinction," the petition states. "Given the location of these species on either no or only one known site on earth, a single event - whether from drought, flood, habitat destruction, pollution, exotic species, or other factors - could literally erase them from the world." WildEarth Guardians said the species in the petition were selected from a list of 674 the group had sought standard endangered species listing for in a pair of petitions filed last summer. The group followed up with a lawsuit in March, charging that Fish and Wildlife failed to act on the initial petitions.  The emergency petition is an attempt to turn up the pressure on the agency, said John Horning, executive director of WildEarth Guardians.  He says the endangered species listing program has nearly ground to a halt, adding that all of the listings under the Bush administration have been prompted by either citizen petitions or legal action. 

Clawed Frog Rediscovered in Cameroon

June 17, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By HENRY FOUNTAIN

David C. Blackburn, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard was doing frog studies in Cameroon when he was clawed by a specimen he was handling.  Back at Harvard, he and colleagues consulted the literature, and examined museum specimens and realized something even more unusual: the claws on the Cameroonian frog, and some related frogs from the same region, are normally contained inside the toes, but pop out through the skin when needed.  The anatomical feature was mentioned in a paper more than a century earlier, but had been little commented on since. Through dissection, the researchers discovered that the claw is the last bone of the toe — sharp, small and curved, and attached to an even smaller bony nodule that in turn is attached to a sheath of collagen. When the frog flexes a certain tendon, the bone pulls away from the nodule and pierces the skin. The anatomy is described in a paper in Biology Letters.  The researchers think that at some point the claw settles back inside the foot and the skin heals. “It really is a traumatic wound,” Dr. Blackburn said, and for that reason he thinks the frog doesn’t extend its claws frequently — probably only when threatened.  But so little is known about these frogs that the researchers aren’t even sure what threatens them — other than Cameroonians, who eat them and who know enough about the claws to have devised a special long spear to catch them without being scratched.

Endangered Wildlife and Plants; Permits

June 17, 2008   www.epa.gov

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), invites the public to comment on the following application to amend an existing permit to conduct certain activities with endangered species. We must receive your written data or comments by July 17, 2008.  Send comments to: Program Manager, Endangered Species, Ecological Services, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 911 NE. 11th Avenue, Portland, OR 97232-4181. Please refer to the permit number for the application when submitting comments For further information contact:  Grant Canterbury, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, at the above address or by telephone (503-231-2063) or fax (503-231-6243).

Permit No. TE-043638
Applicant: U.S. Army Natural Resources Center, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. The applicant requests an amendment to an existing permit to remove/reduce to possession (collect pollen and seeds) Hedyotis coriacea (kio'ele) and to take (collect eggs, rear in captivity, capture adults, photograph, release, and collect voucher specimens) the Hawaiian picture-wing flies Drosophila aglaia, D. hemipeza, D. montgomeryi, D. obatai, D. substenoptera, and D. tarphytrichia, in conjunction with research on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, for the purpose of enhancing their survival. This permit currently covers removal and reduction to possession of Chamaescyce herbstii (akoko), Hesperomannia arbuscula (no common name), Phyllostegia kaalaensis (no common name), and Schiedea kaalae (no common name); and take of the Oahu tree snails (Achatinella spp.) and Oahu elepaio (Chasiempis sandwichensis ibidis), for which notices were originally published in the Federal Register on July 20, 2005 (70 FR 41786), August 6, 2006 (71 FR 47242), and November 16, 2007 (72 FR 64665).

Why Galapagos Seabird Chicks Kill Their Siblings

June 18, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

The Nazca booby, a Galápagos Island seabird, emerges from its shell ready to kill its brother or sister. Wake Forest University biologists and their colleagues have linked the murderous behavior to high levels of testosterone and other male hormones found in the hatchlings.  The study appears in the June 18 PLoS ONE : http://www.plosone.org/doi/pone.002460 .  The elevated levels of male hormones, called androgens, increase aggression in both male and female chicks and prepare the birds to fight to the death as soon as they hatch, said David J. Anderson, professor of biology at Wake Forest and project leader.  "The older of two Nazca booby hatchlings unconditionally attacks and ejects the younger from the nest within days of hatching," Anderson said. Because Nazca boobies have difficulty raising more than one chick, it is important for the older chick to vanquish the younger one in order to increase its own chances of survival. According to the study, the high hormone levels also cause the surviving chicks to behave like bullies after they grow up. They frequently seek out nestlings in their colony, and during those visits they often bite and push around the defenseless youngsters.

Nitrogen Fixing Paradox and Climate Change

June 18, 2008  www.nature.org

Nitrogen is essential to all life on Earth, and determines how much carbon dioxide ecosystems can absorb from the atmosphere. You would expect that nitrogen-fixing species would have a competitive advantage in ecosystems where nitrogen is in low supply, but not where nitrogen is abundant, because fixation is energetically very costly to an organism.  That is the way it works in oceans and lakes. But in mature temperate forests, where the soils have limited amounts of nitrogen, nitrogen-fixing tree species are scarce. And in the tropical lowland forests, which are nitrogen-rich, nitrogen-fixing trees often are abundant.  U.C. researchers Benjamin Houlton, Peter Vitousek, of Stanford found the explanation lies in the key roles played by two other factors: temperature and the abundance of another key element, phosphorus.  Temperature affects the activity of a nitrogen-fixing enzyme called nitrogenase. In cooler, temperate climates, more of the enzyme is needed to fix a given amount of nitrogen. This higher cost would offset the benefit of nitrogen fixation in temperate forests, despite low-nitrogen soils.  In tropical forests, it's the link between nitrogen and phosphorus that explains the abundance of nitrogen-fixing species. Many tropical forest soils are severely depleted in phosphorus, even where nitrogen is relatively abundant. The extra nitrogen added to the soil by nitrogen-fixers helps mobilize phosphorus, making it easier for roots to absorb. That stimulates the growth of these plant species and puts them at a competitive advantage, despite the energetic cost of nitrogen fixation.

Great Apes Think Ahead

June 18, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Mathias and Helena Osvath’s from Lunds University Cognitive Science in Sweden, provide the first conclusive evidence of advanced planning capacities in non-human species. Their findings are published online this week in Springer’s journal, Animal Cognition. http://www.springer-sbm.com/index.php?id=291&backPID=13182&L=0&tx_tnc_news=4529&cHash=6600a009c6
In humans, planning for future needs relies heavily on two mental capacities: self-control or the suppression of immediate drives in favor of delayed rewards; and mental time travel or the detached mental experience of a past or future event.  In a series of four experiments, Mathias and Helena Osvath investigated whether chimpanzees and orangutans could override immediate drives in favor of future needs, and therefore demonstrate both self-control and the ability to plan ahead, rather than simply fulfill immediate needs through impulsive behavior.  Two female chimpanzees and one male orangutan, from Lund University Primate Research Station at Furuvik Zoo, were shown a hose and how to use it to extract fruit soup. They were then tempted with their favorite fruit alongside the hose to test their ability to suppress the choice of the immediate reward (favorite fruit) in favor of a tool (the hose) that would lead to a larger reward 70 minutes later on (the fruit soup). The apes chose the hose more frequently than their favorite fruit suggesting that they are able to make choices in favor of future needs, even when they directly compete with an immediate reward.  New tools the apes had not encountered before were then introduced: one new functional tool which would work in a similar way to the hose, and two distractor objects. The apes consciously chose the new functional tool more often and took it to the reward room later on, where they used it appropriately, demonstrating that they selected the tool based on its functional properties. According to the authors, this indicates that the apes were pre-experiencing a future event i.e. visualizing the use of the new tool to extract the fruit soup.

Hairy-Nosed Otter in Cambodian Zoo

June 18, 2008  www.sciencedaily.com

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AFP) — A young male hairy-nosed otter named Dara has found a new home at Phnom Tamau Zoo, located near Phnom Penh.  "Scientists recommend establishing of a breeding population in captivity to ensure survival of this species," said Annette Olsson, a Conservation International researcher in Cambodia.  "Dara could be the founder of such a captive population, if and when we find him a wife, of course," she said.  The animal, a member of the rarest of otter species, was first rescued when its mother was killed by a fisherman in Cambodia's Tonle Sap Lake, Olsson said.  Dara then lived at the Angkor Zoo in Cambodia's tourist hub Siem Reap, but authorities closed the zoo last year after scores of rare animals disappeared or died.  Hairy-nosed otters were thought to have been extinct until they were re-discovered less than a decade ago. They are now known to live in a few areas in Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Sumatra, and are threatened by illegal fur trade and loss of habitat due to climate change.

Birds Habitat Selection Influenced by Song

June 18, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Some migratory songbirds figure out the best place to live by the singing of others that successfully have had baby birds – a communication and behavioral trait so strong that researchers playing recorded songs induced them to nest in places they otherwise would have avoided.  This suggests that songbirds have more complex communication abilities than had previously been understood, researchers say, and that these "social cues" can be as or more important than the physical environment of a site.  The discovery was just published in a professional journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, by scientists from Oregon State University, along with collaborators from Wellesley College, Queen's University and Trent University in Ontario, Canada.  Matthew Betts, an OSU assistant professor of forest science and expert on avian ecology. Said "The common wisdom is that these birds select sites solely on vegetation structure. If a bird selects a site for its nest that doesn't have the appropriate cover and food supply, it most likely won't be able to successfully breed. But now we know that young birds can listen to the songs of more experienced and successful birds and use this to help decide where they will nest the next year."

Sumatran Tiger Triplets at Aukland Zoo

June 18, 2008  tvnz.co.nz

Three Sumatran tiger cubs have been born at Auckland Zoo. Eight-year-old Molek is the mother and two-year-old Oz, is the father. Keeper Sandra Rice, says all three cubs appear healthy and that the zookeepers are absolutely ecstatic, especially as there are fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers in the wild and just 160 in zoos.  Auckland Zoo's participation in a regional breeding programme for the critically endangered animal is vital and news of their arrival has spread worldwide.  But it will be three months before the cubs are ready to go on public display.

Genome of Moth Agricultural Pest

June 18, 2008  www.csiro.au

Scientists from CSIRO, the University of Melbourne in Australia, and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, are on the brink of a discovery which will facilitate the development of new, safe, more sustainable ways of controlling the world’s worst agricultural insect pest – the moth, Helicoverpa armigera. The announcement was made at the BIO 2008 International Convention in San Diego, California.  The genome sequence should be complete in about four months.  The moth is resistant to nearly every class of chemical pesticide and threatens the long-term viability of transgenic crops which are reliant on the biological pesticide, Bt.  The moth causes $225 million of damage a year in Australia – $5 billion globally – to crops such as cotton, legumes and vegetables. 

3 New Interactive Exhibits at Queens Zoo

June 18, 2008  www.queenscourier.com BY ADAM MISCH

Three new exhibits, or Conservation Quests, give any Queen’s zoo visitor a chance to gain learn about and interact with methods of helping save plants, trees, animals and ultimately the earth.  The first exhibit is called Take the Migration Challenge. At this interactive jungle gym, the children learn the ups and the downs of bird migration process.  This colorful and shaded area has a full jungle gym with two slides, a bridge, monkey bars and information on every part of the gym about the development of how these birds migrate, and what challenges await them.  The 2nd is called “Backyard Invaders”. In this exhibit, all zoo-goers take a deeper look into the life of non-native animals, plants and microbes like the Asian long-horned beetle and Snakehead fish. Visitors read the facts about non-native invaders and are then led on a mission to see if the Asian long-horned beetle has already burrowed its way into the heart of a central tree.  The final quest is the “Saving Animals Conservation Station”. Here, kids find out how to save endangered species and learn prevention methods for the future. Besides endangered species facts, this zone has an owl cage, endangered species climbing wall, and a bald eagle research station.

Insecticide 'killing Kenya lions'

June 18, 2008 news.bbc.co.uk

Environmentalists in Kenya are worried that an insecticide is being used by farmers to kill lions and other predators. Carbofuran is a very powerful and toxic insecticide. Spread in the soil, it destroys bugs in the ground and is taken up by plants and kills insects which feed on the sap or foliage. It is so powerful and toxic that it has been banned in Europe.  In the U.S. it cannot be used in granular form, and the US Environmental Protection Agency is seeking a total ban. But in Kenya, carbofuran can be bought across the counter without restriction. According to world-famous naturalist Dr Richard Leakey, it is being bought not by farmers wanting to control bugs and insects, but mainly by herdsmen who use it to kill lions, leopards and other predators. Among the latest incidents two lions were poisoned and killed in the Maasai Mara game reserve after eating the carcass of a hippo that had ingested carbofuran.

Chimp’s Sex Calls May Reflect Calculation

June 18, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By NICHOLAS WADE

Researchers report that the distinctive calls made by female chimpanzees during sex are part of a sophisticated social calculation.  These copulation calls can betray the caller’s whereabouts to predators so they must confer a significant evolutionary advantage. The leading explanation involves the way female primates protect their offspring. Male chimps and baboons are prone to kill any infant they believe could not be theirs, so females try to blur paternity by mating with as many individuals as possible before each conception. A side benefit is that by arranging to have sperm from many potential fathers compete for her egg, the female creates conditions for the healthiest male to father her child. By advertising a liaison in progress, biologists assumed, females stood to recruit many more partners.  But a new study by Simon Townsend, Tobias Deschner and Klaus Zuberbühler, shows that in making calls or not, the females take the social situation into account.  The researchers monitored seven female chimps in the Budongo Forest of Uganda, making audio recordings of nearly 300 copulations. In two-thirds of these encounters, they found, the female made no sound at all. This finding undermines the thesis that the principal purpose of copulation calls is to instigate rivalry among males, the researchers reported online Tuesday in the scientific journal PLoS One.  Unlike female baboons, who give a staccato whoop at each copulation, the chimps seem much more aware of the social context. Chimps are particularly likely to be silent and conceal their liaisons when higher-ranking females are nearby. They were most acoustically exuberant when cavorting with a high-ranking male.

Kansas City Zoo $1M Fund Raiser

June 19, 2008   www.kansascity.com

KANSAS CITY -- The 19th annual Jazzoo fundraiser this month broke the $1 million barrier in gross receipts. Expenses are still being tallied, but organizers say net income for the Kansas City Zoo and the Zoo Learning Fund will be at least $850,000.

Winnepeg Zoo has 16 Markhor Goat Newborns

June 19, 2008  winnipegsun.com  By SIMON FULLER, SUN MEDIA

Assiniboine Park Zoo has 16 newborn Afghanistan Markhor goats on exhibit. There are usually around 9 new kids each year but zoo curator Bob Wrigley said the record number is partly due to the dry weather during birthing season.  "Nobody can walk past the enclosure without stopping and watching them," said Wrigley. "They're just so charming." There are 26 highly endangered Markhors in the zoo's enclosure, which is piled with a mound of large rocks to resemble their natural habitat. "Of all the 410 species at the zoo, I think they are the best jumpers and athletes," said Wrigley. "And I'm including kangaroos in that." There are less than 2,000 in the wild. Wrigley said the main reason is excessive hunting for their meat and hides.  Markhor means "snake horn" in Persian and refers to the serpentine coil of horns on the male, which can grow up to 1.5 metres in length. Since 1976, the zoo has produced 136 surviving kids. 

Madagascar! Opens at Bronx Zoo

June 19, 2008  www.nydailynews.com  By Howard Kissel

Madagascar!, a 20,000-square-foot space opens featuring more than 150 animals from 30 species, all native to the world's fourth-largest island opens today at the Bronx Zoo.  Among the animals on display are a wide variety of lemurs, two huge Nile crocodiles, several lemur predators, the fossa and the mongoose, rarities like the tomato frog and the radiated tortoise, and an insect not likely to win the hearts of New Yorkers - the Madagascar hissing cockroach.  Each species is displayed in an environment designed to reproduce its natural habitat. As you enter the darkened building, the first things you see are two Coquerel's sifakas named Christine and Philip.  They are in a vertical setting that gives them plenty of branches at odd angles to indulge their unusual gifts for acrobatic leaping.  Christine was bred at Duke University. Philip, was bred at the Los Angeles Zoo. It is hoped the pair, whose official designation is, will mate successfully.

The Wildlife Conservation Society, the umbrella organization that runs all of New York's zoos, has been working to save Madagascar's biodiversity since the early '90s.  With the help of the government of the country, it has created a landmark agreement in which Madagascar will offer for sale more than 9 million tons of carbon offsets to help protect the Makira Forest, which, along with the Masoala National Park, make up the country's largest contiguous protected area. Two years ago, the building itself, the 1903 Beaux Arts landmark Lion House, received the NYC Green Building Award from the NYC Department of Environmental Projects. The award was for the use of green technology - like skylights that maximize daylight and modulate temperates and geothermal heating and cooling systems that reduce use of fossil fuels.

New World-Class Ahmedabad Zoo Planned

June 19, 2008  timesofindia.indiatimes.com

AHMEDABAD, India -- The Ahmedabd Municipal Corporation (AMC) has already begun a frantic search for land for the new zoo in the city, to be spread over 100 acres. At present, the areas — near the Science City in Sola, Pirana and Hathijan — are high on the priority list.  The new zoo hopes to have orangutans and pandas, as well as lions from Gir, the African elephant and the Himalayan Yak. “There is a proposal for a zoological park of international standards. We are looking for land which will be easily accessible, will be a noise-free zone and environment-friendly,” said deputy municipal commissioner ZA Sacha.  The existing Kamla Nehru Zoological park in Kankaria is spread over 31 acres and has 1,500 birds and 350 animal species. The zoo sees around 20 lakh visitors a year but the animals and birds have been at the receiving end for long because of its location with heavy traffic around, pollution and nearby railway yard. The new facility will be an “open zoo” with animals placed in large, spacious areas, amidst natural beauty in green landscapes.

Association of Zoo & Aquarium Docents Meets

June 19, 2008  www.zwire.com

SCOTTSBLUFF, Nebraska  - Riverside Zoo is gearing up to host the 2008 Business Meeting of the Association of Zoo and Aquarium Docents, June 19-22. This organization is a growing international not-for-profit association whose purpose is to facilitate communication and the exchange of information between zoo and aquarium docents. AZAD promotes this free exchange of ideas between members to enhance educational presentations and to renew enthusiasm for the invaluable service docents contribute to their individual institutions.  On June 21 docents will tour Riverside Zoo in the morning.

Red River Hog Piglets at San Diego Zoo

June 19, 2008  www.imperialvalleynews.com

SAN DIEGO -- Four red river hog piglets at the San Diego Zoo are receiving solid food, including milk pellets and fruits from animal care managers as part of their weaning process. Born on April 27, the two male and two female piglets resemble brown striped watermelons and are often seen playing together on exhibit in the Ituri Forest area of the Zoo.  “These red river hogs are very smart,” said Nerissa Foland, San Diego Zoo senior keeper. “We estimate they have the intelligence of a 3-year-old human. To keep them engaged and active, keepers smear items like baby food and spices throughout the exhibit for the pigs to enjoy.” While red river hogs are mostly active at night in the wild, visitors to the San Diego Zoo can see them throughout the day as they forage for food hidden in enrichment items such as balls and barrels.

Zoo Thousand & Eight Music Festival

June 19, 2008  www.independent.co.uk

From July 4th – 6th the Zoo Thousand and Eight (ZOO8) music festival will be held at the beautiful Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in The Garden of England.  Accommodating 20,000 guests with onsite camping, Zoo Thousand and Eight will cater to all musical tastes - featuring indie, dance, UK hip-hop, drum and bass and chart hits - with the line-up including:  Mark Ronson & The Version Players, Dizzee Rascal, The Rumble Strips, British Sea Power, Ash, The Hives, Athlete and Funeral For A Friend... and many more  And keeping in mind its location, ZOO8 will be one of the greener festivals on the calendar! Port Lympne Wild Animal Park is run by registered charity The Aspinall Foundation and the festival is making a donation to the Foundation to help pay for the upkeep of the animals and their enclosures.  While the animals will be kept at a safe distance from the crowds and artists in the 600-acre site, festival-goers will be able to visit the Animal Park for a reduced price, and there will even be the opportunity to take the African Experience Safari, where giraffes, rhinos, wildebeest, ostrich antelope roam free.

New Zealand Zoos Work to Save Frogs

June 19, 2008  www.scoop.co.nz

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the World Conservation Union have declared 2008 Year of the Frog. The national Year of the Frog campaign was launched at the annual ARAZPA NZ Conference in Paihia yesterday and will run until June 2009. Collectively, members of the Australasian Regional Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria (ARAZPA) seek to raise A$ 400,000 – representing $0.03 per paying visitor. Hamilton Zoo is home to a group of Hochstetter’s frog – one of the only four living species of frog native to New Zealand. Historically this species were found throughout the North Island and part of the South Island, however are only now found in the northern half of the North Island. While they are the most widespread of our remaining native frog species, they are still threatened with extinction – they are listed as ‘Vulnerable’ in IUCN’s Red List 2006.  New Zealand once had seven native frog species but three became extinct after human habitation. The four remaining species are Archey’s, Hochstetter’s, Hamilton’s and Maud Island. New Zealand frogs belong to an ancient and primitive group and have changed very little in millions of years. They are small, nocturnal and have superb camouflage. Unique features include: • No tadpole stage – eggs are laid and fully formed froglets eventually hatch. • They do not croak or live in water. • No external eardrums. • They have round, not slit eyes.  Three introduced Australian species are also found around New Zealand: Green and Golden Bell, Southern Bell and Brown Tree Frogs. These frogs could spread the amphibian chytrid fungus disease and the public are encouraged not to move these frogs between ponds, lakes or wetlands.

Ocean Temperatures & Sea Levels 50% Higher than Predicted

June 19, 2008  www.nature.com 

LIVERMORE, Calif. — New research suggests that ocean temperature and associated sea level increases between 1961 and 2003 were 50 percent larger than estimated in the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.  The results are reported in the June 19 edition of the journal Nature. An international team of researchers, compared climate models with improved observations that show sea levels rose by 1.5 millimeters per year in the period from 1961-2003. That equates to an approximately 2½-inch increase in ocean levels in a 42-year span.  The ocean warming and thermal expansion rates are more than 50 percent larger than previous estimates for the upper 300 meters of oceans.  Although observations and models confirm that recent warming is greatest in the upper ocean, there are widespread observations of warming deeper than 700 meters.  Results were compared with recent estimates of other contributions to sea-level rise including glaciers, ice caps, Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, and thermal expansion changes in the deep ocean. The oceans store more than 90 percent of the heat in the Earth’s climate system and act as a temporary buffer against the effects of climate change.

WCS, Panthera and ZSL Save Iran’s Cheetahs

June 19, 2008  www.enn.com  By Reuters

KUH-E BAFGH PROTECTED AREA -- Iran is believed to have the only 60 - 100 Asiatic cheetahs left in the wild. Some eke out a living in a forbidding terrain of jagged peaks, deep gorges and bone-dry plains in the Kuh-e Bafgh protected area in Yazd province in central Iran. These cats once roamed between the Arabian peninsula and India, but their number in Iran is estimated to have fallen by roughly half in the last three decades.  Iranian and Western wildlife experts are working together to save rare cheetahs from extinction in this arid, mountainous region, despite a nuclear row between their governments.  U.S.- and British-based conservation groups are backing a campaign spearheaded by Iran's Department of Environment (DoE) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to prevent the endangered Asiatic cheetah from dying out.  The United States, which severed ties with Iran after its 1979 Islamic revolution, is leading efforts to isolate the Middle Eastern country over nuclear work Washington suspects is aimed at making bombs, a charge Tehran denies.  But Luke Hunter, an Australian, and executive director of Panthera, an NGO in New York said he believed "both Iranians and Americans realize that we cannot afford to allow politics to affect the cheetahs. If we did, we could lose them."  Iran's Department of Environment and the UNDP joined forces to launch the cheetah project in 2001, with the help of well-known U.S. wildlife biologist George Schaller. His recommendations included increased anti-poaching efforts and the appointment of new game guards. Panthera and the WCS provide funds, expertise and training, while the Zoological Society of London also gives money. In early 2007, the WCS introduced a program to trap up to eight of the cheetahs and fit them with radio-tracking collars to follow their movements and learn more about them.

Crocodile Zoo Opens in Czech Republic

June 19, 2008  www.praguemonitor.com

PROTIVIN - - Croc breeder Miroslav Prochazka has established the first Crocodile Zoo (2nd largest in Europe) with 25 crocodiles of 12 species from all continents.  In 11 enclosures, American alligators, caymans and gavials saltwater crocodiles and the critically endangered Philippine crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis) can be found. "We also have the largest group of Malayan gavials outside Asia -- six males and four females," Prochazka said. The oldest male is only 5 years old and will only start to breed around age 20.  "Our goal is to breed all 23 species living in the world, or about 100 specimens," Prochazka said.  He has bred crocodiles for nine years now.  Three years ago he was the first in Europe to breed young of the Cuban crocodile, and the family of three offspring was joined by another six last year.  Prochazka plans to extend the number of enclosures to 30 and keep "all species of crocodiles from eggs, to the young, to adults.  He also wants to open a small zoological museum featuring crocodile skulls and skeletons.  Prochazka cooperates in reproducing the endangered species with the zoological garden in Dvur Kralove, east Bohemia, and he also participates in the gavials protection programme run by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria.

New Findings on Amphibian Immune System

June 19, 2008  www.ufz.de

Unlike mammals, little has been known about the immune defense of amphibians. Globally, amphibian populations are in an unprecedented decline, largely because of rapidly spreading infectious diseases, such as the fungal infection Chytridiomycosis.  Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) genes produce proteins that are crucial in fighting pathogen assault. The crucial role of the MHC in the immunity of mammals is well recognized. The discovery in tailed amphibians, however, shows that the genetic variation in MHC is important for this group as well: Researchers from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow and from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) have now characterized genetic variation and detected more than one MHC class II locus in a tailed amphibian. During the mating season early in the year, the males of the Alpine newt (Mesotriton alpestris) exhibit blue colouring on their backs. The Alpine newt (Mesotriton alpestris) is the only known tailed amphibian with more than one MHC II locus. Therefore future conservation strategies for amphibians could benefit from knowledge about species-specific adaptations indicated by MHC variation, say the researchers writing in the journal Molecular Ecology.

2 Amur tigers from Syracuse Move to Alaska

June 20, 2008  ap.google.com   By MARY PEMBERTON

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Two Amur (Siberian) have been flown to the Alaska Zoo from the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse.  They both recently turned 4 years old, and weigh about 450 pounds each.  The tigers, named Korol and Kunali, will inhabit a half-acre exhibit that includes a hill, wooded area and pools.  Alaska Zoo Director Pat Lampi said they will be introduced to the public on Saturday, the summer solstice, when the zoo will be open until midnight.  There are believed to be about 400 of the critically endangered cats in the wild.  Lampi said Alaska's climate is ideal for the big cats. It is similar to where they live in the Russian Far East. Russia's tigers and a handful in neighboring China are called Amur tigers because they live in the Amur River Basin.

Kansas City Zoo Cheetah Enrichment

June 20, 2008, www.redorbit.com  By Matt Campbell

KANSAS CITY, Missouri -- The Kansas City Zoo has installed a motorized rope and pulley device that pulls a light-colored rag at high speed at grass level through the cheetahs' exhibit. Like housecats drawn to a mouse on a string, the world's fastest land animals were quick to the chase. In seconds they reached the limits of their hilltop enclosure and then bounded back in the other direction.  It's a way to enrich the lives of the captive animals and give them exercise -- as well as to offer people an exciting show. The zoo plans to repeat it at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and at the same time on the second Saturday of every month through November.  An observation tunnel with a picture window offers a prime and shaded spot to view the animals, which are all females from the same litter born three years ago at a preserve in Texas. They came to the zoo last year.

Taronga Zoo Rescues Fiji Iguana Colony

June 20, 2008  www.news.com.au

There is only one secure population of the critically endangered Fijian crested iguana.  Experts fear the colony of ~6000 individuals faces the same fate as those on two nearby islands, where the populations have been dwindled to less than 30.  Sydney's Taronga Zoo has inaugurated a rescue program, one of eight wildlife programs to receive between $5000 and $8500 from Taronga Conservation Society Australia.  Taronga's reptile chief Peter Harlow said an encroaching goat population in Fiji was just one threat to the tree-dwelling reptiles.

New Report on Ecosystem & Climate Change

June 20, 2008   www.climatescience.gov

WASHINGTON, DC --  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released a report that can help reduce the potential impact of climate change on estuaries, forests, wetlands, coral reefs, and other sensitive ecosystems. The report, entitled Preliminary Review of Adaptation Options for Climate-Sensitive Ecosystems and Resources, identifies strategies to protect the environment as these changes occur. To develop this assessment, scientists studied national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, wild and scenic rivers, national estuaries, and marine protected areas – all protected by the federal government. The report takes a unique approach by using the management goals set for each protected area to understand what strategies will increase the resilience of each ecosystem – in other words, increase the amount of change or disturbance that an ecosystem can absorb before it shifts to a different ecosystem. Using these strategies, managers can maintain the original goals set for these ecosystems under changing climatic conditions. The strategies will be useful to federal agencies and can also be broadly applied to lands and waters managed by other government or nongovernmental organizations.

The report finds that climate change can increase the impact of traditional stressors (such as pollution or habitat destruction) on ecosystems, and that many existing best management practices to reduce these stressors can also be applied to reduce the impacts of climate change. For example, current efforts to reverse habitat destruction by restoring vegetation along streams also increase ecosystem resilience to climate change impacts, such as greater amounts of pollutants and sediments from more intense rainfall. Our country's ability to adapt to climate change will depend on a variety of factors including recognizing the barriers to implementing new strategies, expanding collaboration among ecosystem managers, creatively re-examining program goals and authorities, and being flexible in setting priorities and managing for change. The peer-reviewed report provides the best-available science to date on management adaptations for ecosystems and resources. More information is at: http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/cfm/recordisplay.cfm?deid=180143
The Office of Research and Development's Global Change Research Program: http://www.epa.gov/ord/npd/globalresearch-intro.htm

Birds Migrating Earlier

June 20, 2008  www.blackwellpublishing.com

Many birds are arriving earlier each spring as temperatures warm along the East Coast of the United States. However, the farther those birds journey, the less likely they are to keep pace with the rapidly changing climate.  Scientists at Boston University and the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences analyzed changes in the timing of spring migrations of 32 species of birds along the coast of eastern Massachusetts since 1970. Researchers at Manomet gathered this data by capturing birds in mist nets, attaching bands to their legs, and then releasing them. Their findings, published in Global Change Biology, show that eight out of 32 bird species are passing by Cape Cod significantly earlier on their annual trek north than they were 38 years ago. The reason? Warming temperatures. Temperatures in eastern Massachusetts have risen by 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1970. Species, such as the swamp sparrow, that winter in the southern United States are generally keeping pace with warming temperatures and earlier leafing of trees. They migrate earlier when temperatures are warm and later when spring is cool. Birds that winter further south, like the great crested flycatcher, which spends its winters in South America, are slow to change, though. Their migration times are not changing, despite the warming temperatures in New England.  There appears to be good reason for the difference between the short- and long-distance migrants. Because temperatures are linked along much of the East Coast of the United States—an early spring in North Carolina is generally an early spring in Massachusetts—the short-distance migrants can gain insight into when it will be warm further north. They can follow the flush of leaves and insects all the way to their breeding grounds each year. Long-distance migrants, though, do not have any good cue for whether it will be an early or late spring on the northern stretches of their migrations. Weather in South America has little to do with weather in New England.

Review of Bronx Zoo’s Madagascar!

June 20, 2008  www.nytimes.com

After six years and $62 million the Bronx Zoo’s Lion House has been transformed into Madagascar! - a prime example of the contemporary zoo’s altered vision. Architects FXFowle, also carved a catering hall and meeting space out of the building constructed in 1903. The cartoon graphics clash a bit with the building’s limestone lions, but inside, the visitor moves along what is called a “Conservation Trail.” Habitats of cliffs, caves and forests in this mock Madagascar contain extraordinary lemurs. “Only in Madagascar,” the labels proudly proclaim, next to descriptions of animals like the spiny-tail iguana, the radiated tortoise or the red fody.  But, the message continues, “when people first arrived, over 1,500 years ago, Madagascar’s larger unique species began to go extinct.”  A cartoon strip on an explanatory panel explains that after an era of seemingly uneventful coexistence, crocs began to attack humans aggressively. The Wildlife Conservation Society helped the villagers, showing that the problem arose because of a diminished food supply because of overfishing; after the river’s resources were better managed, we are told, “things went swimmingly!”

As for an environmental crisis in Madagascar, “there is hope,” a label explains, because of the zoo and conservation society. In stressing this theme, of course, the zoo is confirming how thoroughly its central preoccupations have changed. Zoos have a complicated history, their early aristocratic menageries giving way to public bourgeois spectacles in the 19th century. The “Madagascar!” exhibition is another confirmation of that transformation, since even its subject was chosen because of the work done by the Society, which has been involved in Madagascar for more than 20 years, helping to protect and manage its endangered wild places, including the country’s largest tract of rain forest and one of the largest coral reef systems in the world. The society has also just announced that it is helping Madagascar sell more than nine million tons of “carbon offsets,” raising money to help preserve the country’s wildlife-rich Makira Forest.

Environmental principles are being applied at home as well. The renovation of the Lion House, we are told, is meant to be a model of “green” construction: the building’s heating and cooling systems are aided by the circulation of 55-degree water from five geothermal wells dug a third of a mile deep; its toilets flush using recycled water from sinks’ drains.  So here is the zoo’s new drama in its latest form. The display of animals is not an assertion of mastery or power; it is an assertion of care and conservation. The threat does not come from the uncanny forces on display, but from humans interfering with them. And arrayed with the animals against less-enlightened humanity, is the zoo as conservation society.  The message is self-consciously virtuous and explicitly self-promotional. And though much environmental concern is justified, the message here also feels overly intrusive and too elementary. I wanted to know more about these creatures than I was told, all the more so because some are endangered; videos incorporate some facts, but they couldn’t convey information without immediately justifying it: “Studying animals contributes to conservation.

Lemur Scent Study

June 23, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke University researchers, using sophisticated machinery have analyzed hundreds of chemical components in the ringtailed lemur's distinctive scent, "We now know that there's information about genetic quality and relatedness in scent," said Christine Drea, a Duke associate professor of biological anthropology and biology. The male's scent can reflect his mixture of genes, and to which animals he's most closely related.  Ringtailed males have scent glands on their genitals, shoulders and wrists, each of which makes different scents. Other lemur species also have glands on their heads, chests and hands. Add to these scents the signals that can be conveyed in feces and urine, and there's a lot of silent, cryptic communication going on in lemur society. Wearing a scent-based nametag declaring one's genetics is probably useful in avoiding aggression with closely related males, Drea said. It's also quite likely to help prevent inbreeding by signaling family relationships to females, but the research to prove that is still ongoing. For this study, Drea and postdoctoral fellows Marie Charpentier and Marylène Boulet focused solely on male ringtailed lemurs living at the Duke Lemur Center.

The males have a gland and spike on each wrist that is used to scratch and mark saplings with highly aromatic scents. A pair of glands on the shoulders "like misplaced nipples" manufacture squalene, a scent molecule that works like glue to keep the more aromatic compounds in place longer. Males can be seen dabbing the wrist gland on the chest gland and then scratch-marking. The wrist glands are also central to the "stink fighting" of ringtails, in which they rub the glands along the length of their bushy tails, and then push them into each others' face to express dominance. Most importantly, the male also has a scent gland on his scrotum that becomes critical to marking territory and advertising fitness during mating season. He does a handstand and rubs this gland directly onto a tree trunk to let any interested lemurs know who he is. Female ringtailed lemurs have just one scent gland in the genital area, but their scent is more complex than the males'. Via scent, females may advertise not only their fertility, but the presence of a pregnancy and how far along it is, Drea said.  Using a gas chromatograph and mass spectrometer,  the lemur’s musk was found to contain at least 203 different chemical compounds in a complex mix that varies not only by season, but by an individual's genetics as well. The research paper "Smelling Right: The scent of male lemurs advertises genetic quality and relatedness," appears online in the journal Molecular Ecology (http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/toc/mec/0/0 ) and was funded by the NSF

Another Lemur Scent Study

June 24, 2008  www.nature.com  by Matt Kaplan

Lemurs produce two distinct scents – a different one on each hand - perhaps to dupe rival troops into thinking they are more numerous than they are.  Leonardo Dapporto at Florence University, Italy, analysed the secretions released by seven male ring-tailed lemurs and compared their make-up at different stages of their breeding cycle. As Dapporto reports in the journal Naturwissenschaften, not only were the chemical signatures of the individual lemurs quite different from one another, but the secretions produced by each of the lemur’s two hands were often as distinct from one another as from another individual. “It is striking that the lemurs produce scents with unique chemical composition from the same gland type on either side of the body,” comments Ron Swaisgood, a behavioral ecologist at the Zoological Society of San Diego, California. “It may be the first time anyone has ever looked for such bilaterally distinct odors.”

“Despite the multitude of bilateral glands among mammals... to my knowledge no one has looked at the similarity of their odors. This is a good first step,” adds biologist Jill Mateo of the University of Chicago. However, Mateo cautions that with such a small sample size, further study is needed. “With a larger, more representational sample, there might not be compositional differences between the glandular odors,” she says. Even so, the finding raises questions about why a 'double-scented' trait would appear. The simplest answer is that having two scents is merely a way of creating a more complex, and thus more unique and easily identifiable, smell that other lemurs can use for recognition. But something more might also be happening.  “Are double-scented lemurs perceived as two distinct individuals?” asks Swaisgood. Dapporto thinks this might be the case but left such commentary out of his paper as hard evidence for this theory has yet to be collected.

Lemurs live in groups that are in competition and use scent to mark their territories, Dapporto explains. They probably assess the strength of neighbouring groups by the number of different individual scents found at boundaries, and make decisions on whether to invade based upon what they smell. “Having two individual scents may represent a trick for giving a false signal of greater numbers,” Dapporto suggests. This would not be the first example of an animal using deception to intimidate a rival. “Frogs use deep-pitched vocalizations to sound bigger to rivals, giant pandas do handstands to deposit their scents high above the ground, and burrowing owls mimic the rattle of rattlesnakes when threatened. Animal conflict is all about bluffing, probing and detecting cheaters,” comments Swaisgood.  

Climate Change and California Native Plants

June 24, 2008  www.plos.org

BERKELEY -- The native plants unique to California are so vulnerable to global climate change that two-thirds of these "endemics" could suffer more than an 80 percent reduction in geographic range by the end of the century, according to a new University of California, Berkeley, study.  Because endemic species - native species not found outside the state - make up nearly half of all California's native plants, a changing climate will have a major impact on the state's unparalleled plant diversity.  Professor David Ackerly said  "The magnitude and speed of climate change today is greater than during past glacial periods, and plants are in danger of getting killed off before they can adjust their distributions to keep pace." In response to rising temperatures and altered rainfall, many plants could move northward and toward the coast, following the shifts in their preferred climate, while others, primarily in the southern part of the state and in Baja California, may move up mountains into cool but highly vulnerable refugia.  Coast redwoods may range farther north, while California oaks could disappear from central California in favor of cooler weather in the Klamath Mountains along the California-Oregon border. Many plants may no longer be able to survive in the northern Sierra Nevada or in the Los Angeles basin, while plants of northern Baja California will migrate north into the San Diego mountains. The Central Valley will become preferred habitat for plants of the Sonoran desert.

California Sea Otter Growth Slowing

June 24, 2008  www.usgs.gov

The recovery rate of the southern sea otter of California, a threatened population on the Endangered Species list, appears to have slowed. USGS scientists say the latest 3-year average (2,826 sea otters) was 0.3 percent higher than last year's 3-year average, representing a slower rate of increase than they have seen in recent averages. For southern sea otters to be considered for delisting, the 3-year running averages would have to exceed 3,090 for 3 continuous years, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Southern Sea Otter Recovery Plan. Differences in weather conditions, otter distribution and other factors contribute to the year-to-year variance in survey numbers.  "The population dynamics are actually quite variable across the range," said Dr. Tim Tinker, lead scientist for the USGS sea otter research program in California. "Over the last 5 years we have seen relatively high growth rates at the southern end of the range, and to a lesser extent at the northern range periphery, but we have seen very low or negative growth in the center portion of the range where sea otter densities are highest and where most of the reproduction occurs."  The spring 2008 California sea otter survey was conducted May 2-24 over about 375 miles of California coast. Survey results are at : http://www.werc.usgs.gov/otters/ca-surveys.html 

Hogle Zoo Needs $85M for Improvements

June 24, 2008  www.sltrib.com   By Jeremiah Stettler

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah -- Hogle Zoo is asking the city council for permission to place a 85M initiative on the ballot this November, and the council may be ready to allow the zoo to push publicly for one of the largest renovations in its 77-year history. Hogle failed to sway a single Republican vote last summer when pitching its proposal. The council's four Democrats supported the initiative.  Hogle's vision remains intact - a lifelike African savanna with rhinos, giraffes and a pride of lions;  a bigger, better animal hospital; and an expansive arctic exhibit that would feature polar bears, seals and other cold-weather critters. The cost: $85 million ($65 million from taxpayers, $20 million from private donations).  The county's Debt Review Committee signed off on the zoo's financial plan last year as a "safe" investment. Historically, the zoo has proved a winner at the ballot box. County residents twice have funded the Zoo, Arts and Parks tax - in 1996 and 2004, with Hogle as one of the biggest beneficiaries - and Salt Lake City voters backed a $10 million bond in 2003 for new elephant and big-cat exhibits.

Calgary Zoo Will Charge for Parking

June 24, 2008  www.canada.com  By Kim Guttormson

The Calgary Zoo will move ahead with plans to expand its north parking lot -- and charging a daily $5 fee.  Construction begin in April 2009.  The lot will have an additional 500 stalls, and should be finished by July 2009.  Members and other special groups will be exempt from the fee.  The City Council  approved spending $1.96 million for the lot expansion because it will include 500 spots dedicated for LRT riders who use it as a park-and-ride. It also approved a loan guarantee for the zoo to borrow the remaining $5.04 million.  Zoo attendance has doubled since the stalls were put in 25 years ago.  The parking lots over capacity at least 40 days a year costs the zoo about $450,000, officials told a civic committee earlier this month.

Technologies Inspired by Nature

June 24, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com

BALBOA PARK: A free lecture, “Learning From Nature's Best Technologies: An Introduction to Biomimicry,” will be held tonight at the San Diego Zoo.  Dayna Baumeister, co-founder of The Biomimicry Guild based in Montana, will demonstrate technological and commercial designs inspired by nature. The lecture will provide real-life examples of how biodiversity has changed the way things are designed. The lecture is from 6 to 8 p.m.

Bald Eagles at Assinborne Zoo

June 24, 2008  winnipegsun.com  By BRENLEE COATES

WINNIPEG, Canada -- the Assiniboine Park Zoo's bald eagles have hatched another pair of chicks this spring, bringing the couple's total number of offspring to 23.  The pair are at least 40 years of age. For these birds to survive up to 30 in captivity, let alone continue to procreate, is extraordinary. Zookeeper David Curtis said they have  raised more birds than any on record and doubled their life expectancies -- reaching the human equivalent of 110 years of age. Both eagles were donated to the local zoo when they were injured and incapable of life the wild. Eagles mate for life and are sexually mature at five or six years of age, but these birds took nine years to start a family. Since then they have laid eggs every year. The newest additions were hatched on June 4 and 7.    

Boy Falls into Basel Zoo Wolf Exhibit

June 24, 2008  www.iht.com  By A.P.

BASEL, Switzerland: A 10-year-old boy on a school field trip fell into a wolf enclosure at Basel Zoo and was bitten on the head.  The Basel prosecutor's office says it is unclear how the boy fell into the moat that surrounds the wolf exhibition.  The boy was pulled out of the moat by a tourist while a zoo assistant used a backpack to beat the wolf away. Authorities are investigating Monday's incident. The boy is being treated in a hospital but none of his wounds are severe.

New Conservation Legislation : H.R. 445

June 24, 2008   www.centredaily.com 

Currently, most species conservation efforts administered by USFWS focus on the protection of individual species: African elephants, rhinoceroses, tigers, Asian elephants, great apes and marine turtles. FWS also maintains regional programs, which focus mainly in Latin America, Mexico and the Caribbean, as well as global programs, which provide support for the implementation of international conventions and treaties that promote conservation. A new bill, H.R. 4455 would codify these three distinct efforts into one Wildlife Without Borders program. Tom Dillon, senior V.P. for field programs at World Wildlife Fund testified before the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday in favor of the bill saying, "We see great value in tying the three programs together in that it will foster greater synergy among the programs and greater consolidation and coordination of efforts toward international species conservation within the FWS."  However, Dillon told the Subcommittee, the increasing threat of species extinction requires a broader, more comprehensive strategy than would be provided under H.R. 4455. "Major threats to species - such as climate change, invasive species and emerging diseases like Ebola, bird flu and SARS - need to be addressed in a comprehensive manner."

In the joint statement released today, WWF and WCS said current FWS conservation programs have been extremely successful in protecting biological diversity, despite significant budget restraints and should therefore provide the basis of a larger biodiversity conservation effort. " We believe that a broader program can yield significantly greater successes."  Specifically, WWF and WCS are urging new legislation that would provide "an incentive-based, non-regulatory approach to protecting global priority species modeled after existing programs, and more comprehensive in scale, with a more strategic design, and an order of magnitude larger increase in funding." During his testimony, Dillon provided the Subcommittee with a white paper that details how such legislation should be developed.  His testimony coincided with a Senate briefing at which Edward O. Wilson and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr. Eric Chivian, provided moral, economic and human health arguments for strengthening biodiversity protection. Jason Patlis, WWF's vice president for U.S. government relations, said WWF has also been working with Senators Biden, Snowe, Boxer, Lugar, Menendez, Specter, Kerry, Brownback, Stabenow, and Feingold on a sense of the Senate resolution recognizing the importance of biodiversity, which is expected to be introduced in the near future.

Paignton Zoo’s Gardener Grows Giant Waterlilies

June 24, 2008  www.redorbit.com 

Catherine Mortimer has been head gardener at the Paignton zoo for three years, and her team of seven gardeners has recently cultivated giant water lilies for the zoo's latest attraction, the Crocodile Swamp with its Nile crocodiles, Cuban crocodiles and Australian salt-water crocodiles. The giant waterlily, Victoria Cruziana, comes from the upper reaches of the Amazon and has leaves which are two meters in diameter with up-turned edges. Underneath, the leaves are purple and covered with a peach-like fuzz and razor-sharp teeth. Catherine, said: "Normally, one would grow them as annuals and sow in January or February. However, we wanted a plant of reasonable size for when we opened the exhibit in April, so I have experimented by sowing earlier and trying to boost the plants on."  The seeds came from Oxford Botanic Gardens and were planted in October last year. They were grown in an insulated heated 1,000 liter galvanised tank. The plant collections at the zoo contain around 5,000 specimens representing about 2,500 different plants. Records of all these plants are held on a computer database which holds information on plant origin, identification and cultivation. This database is available on the Zoo's website www.paigntonzoo.org.uk  which also has comprehensive information about the zoo and its activities.  The zoo's nursery also supports plant and animal conservation work and the scientific research of students. On a special event, July 3rd, guests will take a “green finger' adventure exploring the gardens and discovering what plants survive in a crocodile swamp. Wine and appetizers will be served and the zoo's panel of experts will be on hand for a Gardens Question Time.

Zoo Animals are Focus of United Way Project

June 24, 2008  www.courierpress.com  By LYDIA X. MCCOY

The "Art of Caring." a United Way of Southwestern Indiana project.  Previous projects have included carousel horses, fish, butterflies, hot rod cars and ottomans and chairs. This summer it’s Zoo Animals.  Eleven pieces are being designed and created by local artists and sponsored by businesses to benefit more than 100 programs supported by the United Way. The pieces will be auctioned in October.This year's project will be done in conjunction with Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Garden's Amazonia exhibit, which is expected to open in late July.

Last Dallas Zoo Elephant Will Move

June 24, 2008  www.chron.com

Jenny, Dallas Zoo’s only elephant is headed for Mexico’s African Safari Park to join three other elephants. Her former companion, 39-year-old Keke, had to be euthanized in May. The drive-through African Safari Park, about 80 miles southeast of Mexico City in Puebla state, is accredited by the AZA.  The Dallas Zoo's elephant exhibit will be turned into a giraffe habitat and should open next spring.

Beijing Zoo Enriches Panda’s Environment

June 24, 2008  www.chinaview.cn 

BEIJING, June 24 (Xinhua) – To enliven the pandas visiting the Beijing Zoo for the Olympics, an enrichment campaign has been launched.  "For example, keepers play hide-and-seek with some animals at mealtime to stimulate them to explore for potential food and fun and to interact with their surroundings," according to Zhang Yizhuo, a zoo official in charge of the enrichment.  In the newly-erected Panda Hall, the eight "Olympic pandas" now have to pluck their bamboo branches at mealtime from newly planted bamboo shoots.  They are provided with wooden toy trees, a mural, a swimming pool and a lot of new toys designed by the zoo workers.

Biomimicry: Japanese Beetle Sex Pheromones

June 24, 2008  www.nsf.gov

The Japanese beetle's sense of smell helps it avoid enemies and zero in on a mate. Meanwhile, the potential mate is programmed to release sex pheromones in exactly the right proportions. Like cheap perfume, there is such a thing as too much: Excessive pheromones can get the attention of a passing fly, leading her to the beetle. The fly can then lay her eggs on the beetle's back, setting up emerging fly larvae for their first meal (fresh Japanese beetle). Even more challenging the male beetles have to track females while they're both flying. This requires a mechanism within the males that loses the pheromone scent from a moment before and picks up the latest scent as the females move through the air. Walter Leal, a chemical ecologist at the University of California, Davis, with NSF funding has isolated, identified, cloned and expressed a pheromone-degrading enzyme that allows receptors in the beetle's nose to lose the pheromone scent from the female's earlier locations as she moves to new places. Isolating this enzyme can potentially eliminate the beetle's reception of the pheromone scent, making them unable to find females, mate and reproduce. This potential could be useful to agricultural pest control, since the Japanese beetle is an invasive species responsible for millions in damages to crops each year.

Zoos Struggle to Pay Rising Food Bills

June 24, 2008  www.kansascity.com  By MATT CAMPBELL and LYNN HORSLEY

Some of the Kansas City Zoo’s produce is donated by grocers, but costs for food the zoo must buy are climbing steeply, driven by energy and transportation costs. Liz Harmon, the general curator at the Kansas City Zoo has seen her animal chow budget swell by nearly 43 percent in the last two years to where it is now more than $375,000 a year. The zoo’s seven elephants together do consume 715 pounds of grain pellets, hay and produce each day, and the pellets have risen 13 percent in cost just since January while hay is up 7 percent.  So far this year, the price of bananas also has risen 31 percent — and zoo critters peel through 360 of them every week. The price for mice, medium size, is up 4 percent. Reptiles, birds of prey and some of the smaller cats eat those.

The San Antonio Zoo busted its food budget by 39 percent in May, and the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, Ariz., reports feed costs up 20 percent over last year.  The increases can largely be blamed on rising energy and transportation costs. Every food delivery to the Kansas City Zoo now comes with a gasoline surcharge. The animals’ food consumption, based on industry nutritional guidelines, must be precise. Kansas City Zoo Director Randy Wisthoff said “You have a lifelong commitment to these animals.” He’s got four gorillas, and together they put away 42.5 pounds of ape biscuits, fruits and vegetables every day. Overall, the zoo’s animals weekly eat 350 apples, 245 oranges, 350 carrots, 105 sweet potatoes and 125 bunches of kale. Everything is human-grade produce. A commissary staff member collects bids weekly from three different suppliers to get the best deal.

The zoo’s carnivores — including wild dogs, tigers, jackals and even some birds — wolf down about 128 pounds of meat every day. The 10 lions, appropriately, get the lion’s share of that, 53.5 pounds a day.  The zoo buys frozen beef now that the last horse slaughterhouses in the country have been shut down under pressure from animal activists, legislation and court rulings. The switch added about 4 percent to the zoo’s meat budget.  The zoo’s amphibians are also carnivores, requiring Express Mail delivery of live crickets about once a week.  Each of the zoo’s three sea lions consumes about 110 pounds of fish every day. The zoo buys frozen mackerel, capelin and herring for its sea lions and otters. That order will go up when the polar bear exhibit opens in 2010.  The overall food budget will also go up when the zoo opens its new tropics building next spring, adding several monkeys and other animals.

The zoo produces some of its own animal feed, including mealworms for birds and bamboo for the red pandas. The Omaha, Neb., zoo just 188 miles away is too far north to grow bamboo and must ship it in. Several zookeepers here tend small garden plots on the grounds to provide some extras for the animals in their care, but they don’t have time for extensive farming. Even a staple such as hay is a budgetary issue these days. Fewer suppliers want to produce the rectangular 60-pound bales of hay, preferring the 300-pound round ones that are impractical for the zoo to move around. Harmon still has a couple of suppliers in Kansas who produce bales but they come at a premium, she said.

Animal Sounds Analyzed at Acoustics '08 Paris

June 25, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

The Acoustics '08 Paris meeting, to be held Monday June 30 through Friday July 4 at the Palais de Congrès in Paris, France.  Among the 3,500 presentations at the meeting
1) How Noise Affects Marine Mammals
2) Birds Changing Their Tune
3) Hyena Giggles and Groans
4) Chinese Frogs Go Ultrasonic
5) Better Recording of Animals in the Wild
6) Bats Can Direct Their "Gaze"
7) How Bats Compensate for Ranging Errors
8) A Sonar System for the Blind
9) Taking Aural Cues from Flipper
10) Acoustic Techniques for Monitoring Bird Migration
11) Conservation and the Tiger's Roar

Hyena Vocalization Study

June 25, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

A hyena's laugh might be less telling than its groan, according to researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, who have studied the acoustic properties of various vocalizations of the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), The laugh (or giggle) of the hyena is a vocalization used more frequently in competitive situations, such as haggling over prey, while loud whooping calls are used for long-distance communication. However, groans are the most common type of vocalization for communicating in short-range settings among this highly social species. Types of groans vary from a growling noise to more tonal sounds, according to UCB's Frederic Theunissen (theunissen@berkeley.edu).  To decipher the meaning of these vocal signals, he and his colleagues, Suzanne Page and Steve Glickman, presented adult hyenas with three objects: unfamiliar spotted hyena cubs, meaty bones, and the empty transport cage used to contain bones or cubs on other experiments. The cubs elicited more groans from more hyenas than other objects, and the groans elicited by other objects were less tonal in nature, with lower fundamental frequency. The researchers conclude that hyena groans can be classified into different groups, based on acoustic characteristics, and that the hyenas modulate the sounds they produce in response to different behavioral contexts.  However, the exact meaning of specific types of groans remains unclear. The groans directed to the cubs might be friendly if produced by a mother toward her cub, or it might be a warning signal for an unrelated cub. The number of recorded interactions is still too small to draw definitive conclusions.

Better Recordings of Animals in the Wild

June 25, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

It can be quite challenging for researchers to record and analyze animal sounds in the field because of obstructions, odd sound wave propagation patterns, the diversity of bioacoustic sources, and ambient noise. To address this problem, a team of researchers led by MIT's Lewis Girod (girod@nms.csail.mit.edu) and Samuel Madden, along with UCLA's Daniel Blumstein, has developed VoxNet, a hardware and software platform for distributed acoustic monitoring applications. The hardware must be robust enough to survive deployment in the field, and it must operate wirelessly. Wired connections are logistically difficult in the field: cords become tangled, connectors fail, and wildlife may chew on the wires.  Furthermore, the network and the sensors must be able to configure and calibrate themselves for orientation, instead of relying on GPS, which is often not available in heavily shaded environment. Using many nodes can complicate matters even more, since all must be maintained individually and in sync. Girod's objective is to develop a system that does not need to be programmed up front, collecting data and analyzing it later in the lab. "Our vision is to make VoxNet an interactive tool for use in the field," says Girod. "A scientist should be able to note something that just happened a second ago, and immediately 'drill down' on that event with an interactive signal-processing tool box."

Acoustic Techniques for Monitoring Bird Migration

June 25, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Most bird migration occurs at night, and presently there are almost no reliable or robust techniques for identifying which species are passing as they migrate. By recording the unique flight calls of birds as they fly by night, researchers can develop migration maps for each species that depict the routes and timing of migration. Knowing about these migration patterns is crucial for bird conservation because any plans to conserve birds' stopover habitats require detailed knowledge of the timing and location of their passage.  Andrew Farnsworth (af27@cornell.edu) of Cornell University's Laboratory of Ornithology has been using acoustical techniques to study bird migration patterns since 1991. For the past three years, a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program has enabled his team to make great strides in the field.

Australian Researchers Environmental Report

June 25, 2008  www.frontiersinecology.org

Researchers from the University of Adelaide have published a new report in the Ecological Society of America's journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.  Lead author Corey Bradshaw, from the University of Adelaide's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, says tropical forests support more than 60% of all known species. But up to 15 million hectares of tropical rainforest are being lost every year and species are being lost at a rate of up to 10,000 times higher than would happen randomly without humans present.  "This is not just a tragedy for tropical biodiversity, this is a crisis that will directly affect human livelihoods," says Associate Professor Bradshaw. "This is not just about losing tiny species found at the base of big trees in a rain forest few people will ever see, this is about a complete change in ecosystem services that directly benefit human life.  "The majority of the world's population live in the tropics and what is at stake is the survival of species that pollinate most of the world's food crops, purify our water systems, attenuate severe flood risk, sequester carbon (taking carbon dioxide out of the air) and modify climate."

Twin Red Panda Cubs at Fargo Zoo

June 26, 2008  www.in-forum.com  By Helmut Schmidt

Fargo’s Red River Zoo announced Wednesday that one of its breeding pairs of endangered Chinese red pandas has produced twin cubs, a male and female.  Zoo Executive Director Paula Grimestad said the pandas were born June 10 and are thriving.  The news was welcomed by the Species Survival Plan, based at the Cincinnati Zoo, Grimestad said. Only one Chinese red panda cub born in captivity survived last year. The Red River Zoo cubs are the first reported this year. “This is the pair that we really wanted (to produce cubs),” Grimestad said. “They’re a new bloodline and very valuable. The population in captivity is aging, and we really needed to bring in some young pandas. Lead panda keeper, Marcy Thompson said “The mother, Shan Tou is a first-time mom. She’s been very, very good. She’s been very protective.” The father, Yukiko, was introduced to the cubs without a problem, though the mother is protective and has at times chased him away. Hope remains that another breeding pair, Jiao Mei and Rusty will still produce babies.  They been observed mating, Thompson said.  The last time the Red River Zoo had panda cubs was in 2002. Tsaka, a panda now at the National Zoo in Washington, also gave birth to twin cubs, Thompson said. Estimates vary widely, but scientists feel there may be as few as 2,500 mature Chinese red pandas in the world, making them rarer than the more famous giant panda, according to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park.

Lowery Park Zoo Opens “Gator Falls”

June 26, 2008  www2.tbo.com  By LENORA LAKE

TAMPA - After a nearly two-week delay, Gator Falls, Lowry Park Zoo's newest ride and exhibit, has opened.  The $1.5 million water flume, set amid fauna, most of it native, features six log-shaped cars seating up to four riders each. The 90-second ride rises to about 30 feet above the park's Florida section and drops, with riders getting splashed with water. The ride also takes visitors over the zoo's newest exhibit, two albino alligators. The ride and the exhibit replace the bison that previously roamed the area.  Zimmerman said the addition of the ride is "is almost entirely due to exit surveys and focus groups."  He said play areas with water, such as the manatee fountain, are well-liked by visitors.  The alligators are a 5 to 6 year old male weighing 70 to 80 pounds and a 3 to 4 year old female weighing 50 to 60 pounds.  John Than, assistant curator for herpetology and aquatics, said the tricky part is keeping them warm but out of the sun. Gator Falls requires four tokens (at $1 each) during regular zoo hours. It and other rides are free with admission during some special events, such as Summer Safari Nights, which will be from 5 to 8:30 p.m. Fridays during the summer.

Hyena Cubs at Denver Zoo

June 26, 2008  origin.denverpost.com   By Kieran Nicholson

A pair of spotted hyena cubs born in March have been kept behind the scenes at the Denver Zoo bonding with their mother, but are now playing in a den on view to the public. Kubwa, the female, was born with a bigger head and her name means "big," in Swahili. The male was named Kidogo, which means "little."  Their parents, mother Ngozi and father Kibo, round out the family.  The cubs and their pack rotate use of their yard with African wild dogs and lions.  In the wild, hyenas are mostly found south of the Sahara Desert, excluding the southern tip of Africa and the Congo Basin, according to the zoo. The spotted hyena is the largest of the four hyena species and can grow up to 4 feet tall and weigh up to 250 pounds.

Nyíregyháza Zoo Will Build Green Pyramid

June 26, 2008  www.caboodle.hu

Nyíregyháza Zoo will invest in a unique, pyramid-shaped green hall for tropical plants and animals that will be unique in Central and Easter Europe. Construction begins in autumn and will be completed by 2010.  Half of the Ft 1.6 billion (€6.4 million) investment will be covered by the EU, and the other half by the Nyíregyháza local government. Zoo manager László Gajdos says the hall will be 15 meters high and cover 5,000 square meters. It will be all green, with terraces on each level. Tropical plants such as bamboos, bromelias, palms and orchids will be introduced, and an ocenarium will be built its base while adventure paths and open elevators will lead to the top.  Gajdos has recently returned from Indonesia where he negotiated the exchange of a pair of Komodo monitors and two Sumatran elephants in exchange for Madagascar lemurs, clawed monkeys and weeper capuchins. Indonesian zoo experts will also be coming to Hungary to learn about programs running in European zoos.

Zoo Vet: Endangered Animals Simulation Game

June 26, 2008  www.gamershell.com 

Legacy Interactive’s Zoo Vet: Endangered Animals simulation game is now available for download. It is available  http://www.gamershell.com/download_28204.shtml

S.F. Garter Snake Gets Habitat Makeover

June 26, 2008  www.contracostatimes.com  By Julia Scott

San Francisco International Airport's planners and environmental engineers are preparing for a 10-year, $4 million project to redesign two urban storm water canals that also happen to be prime habitat for the San Francisco garter snake.  The snake has been listed as endangered since 1967, its wetland habitat threatened by development while its prey, the red-legged frog, became correspondingly rare (it is now listed as a threatened species and in 2005, five pairs of snakes were transported from the Netherlands to San Francisco.  A few pockets remain, mostly in select coastal areas of the county and in parts of coastal Santa Cruz, but the largest known population now exists in the narrow "West of Bayshore" area owned and maintained by SFO. A USFWS study, conducted this spring, that found between 400 and 500 San Francisco garter snakes inhabit both canals. Only the fact that SFO bought the land in the 1920s spared their habitat. The new construction project, will begin in mid-August, by dredging four miles' worth of canals that provide flood control for the airport.  The canals will be re-engineered — creating sediment traps that will minimize the need to dredge as often, and widen the canals to create still pools for the red-legged frogs to lay their eggs in. The next time they have to maintain the canal a decade hence, SFO officials hope the snake and frog populations will have rebounded so strongly that getting a permit won't be quite so complicated.  "It's like expanding their subdivision. There's more space for them to set up their burrows close to the water," said Ernie Eavis, deputy airport director and chief engineer.

Largest Study of Bird Genetics

June 26, 2008  www.sciencemag.org

CHICAGO—A new study of bird genetics has completely redrawn the avian evolutionary tree. The study challenges current classifications, alters our understanding of avian evolution, and provides a valuable resource for phylogenetic and comparative studies in birds. For more than five years, the Early Bird Assembling the Tree-of-Life Research Project, centered at The Field Museum, has been examining DNA from all major living groups of birds. Thus far, scientists have built and analyzed a dataset of more than 32 kilobases of nuclear DNA sequences from 19 different locations on the DNA of each of 169 bird species. The results of this massive research, which is equivalent to a small genome project, will be published in Science on June 27, 2008. The results of the study are so broad that the scientific names of dozens of birds will have to be changed, and biology textbooks and birdwatchers' field guides will have to be revised. For example, we now know that:
       Birds adapted to the diverse environments several distinct times because many birds that now live on water (such as flamingos, tropicbirds and grebes) did not evolve from a different waterbird group, and many birds that now live on land (such as turacos, doves, sandgrouse and cuckoos) did not evolve from a different landbird group.
       Similarly, distinctive lifestyles (such as nocturnal, raptorial and pelagic, i.e., living on the ocean or open seas) evolved several times. For example, contrary to conventional thinking, colorful, daytime hummingbirds evolved from drab nocturnal nightjars; falcons are not closely related to hawks and eagles; and tropicbirds (white, swift-flying ocean birds) are not closely related to pelicans and other waterbirds.
       Shorebirds are not a basal evolutionary group, which refutes the widely held view that shorebirds gave rise to all modern birds.
       Hummingbird : Contrary to conventional thinking, colorful, daytime hummingbirds evolved from drab nocturnal nightjars
       Falcon  : falcons are not closely related to hawks and eagles, as was previously thought.
       Parrot : there is a close relationship between perching birds, on the one hand, and parrots and falcons on the other. This novel relationship will fundamentally change science's understanding of perching birds, the largest order of living birds.
       Flamingo : There are only six species of flamingos, so discovering this order's correct place on the evolutionary tree of birds continues to prove difficult. Nevertheless, the new research confirmed a close relationship between flamingos and grebes. More surprising, however, is the discovery that flamingos and some other aquatic birds did not evolve from waterbirds. This indicates that birds adapted to life on water multiple times.
       Hornbill  : Several birds that look very different, including woodpeckers, hawks, owls and hornbills are all closely related to perching birds, the largest order of living birds, representing more than half of all avian species.

Annual Naming of Baby Gorillas

June 26, 2008  www.huffingtonpost.com

Rwandans and foreigners alike gathered in the thousands to celebrate Kwita Izina -- the annual naming of the baby gorillas. Just 30 years ago, it seemed implausible that there could ever be such an event. The gorilla population in 1978 had dwindled to 262. Today's population is up over 400. Bill Weber and his wife Amy Vedder, who lived with the gorillas in the 1970s, are central to today's success. They chronicled their experiences in the wonderful book, In the Kingdom of Gorillas. Both worked with Diane Fossey. Vedder spent over 2,000 hours studying and habituating the gorillas to human observation, while Weber considered the bleak challenges faced by the small population. Ultimately, the then-controversial conclusion Weber reached was that tourism could potentially save the gorillas and would certainly not do any more harm than was already occurring at the time. Time has proven Weber right and resulted in one of the great conservation success stories of our time. In 1978, the gorilla park saw about $5,000 in revenue from tourism. This year, 18,000 people will come to Rwanda to see the gorillas for $500 per ticket and generate $25,000 in daily revenues. More compellingly, while Weber still advises the conservation efforts in Rwanda through the Wildlife Conservation Society, there are dozens of capable Rwandans who lead the programs on the ground. Local capacity has been built and the numbers look better and better; 23 babies were named last year and attracted a crowd estimated at 10,000.

California’s Ambitious Climate Plan

June 26, 2008  www.enn.com  By Reuters

LOS ANGELES – The state of California is adopting an ambitious plan for clean cars, renewable energy and stringent caps on big polluting industries. The plan aims to reduce pollutants by 10 percent from current levels by 2020 while driving investment in new energy technologies that will benefit the state's economy, is the most comprehensive yet by any U.S. state. Mary Nichols, chairman of the influential California Air Resources Board (CARB), said the proposals would become law in 2012, with some measures going into effect two years earlier.  The initiatives include implementing a cap-and-trade program on carbon dioxide emissions that will require buildings and appliances to use less energy, oil companies to make cleaner fuels, and utilities to provide a third of their energy from renewable sources like wind and solar power.  The program will also encourage development of walkable cities with shorter commutes, high-speed rail as an alternative to air travel, and will require more hybrid and hydrogen-fueled vehicles both to move goods and people.  Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s landmark 2006 law aimed at reducing the state's greenhouse gas emissions prompted CARB's plan.

9 Vietnam Species Now Extinct

June 26, 2008  english.vietnamnet.vn

According to Vietnam Red Book 2007, the nine newly extinct species in Vietnam comprise four forest species (two-horn rhino, tapir, water civet and grey ox); four aquatic species (Vietnamese carp - Procypris merus, Japanese eel - Anguilla japonica, Cyprinus multitaeniata and Lilac crocodile - Crocodylus porosus); and one plant species (Vietnamese paphiopedium). The latest Red Book reveals the number of endangered species has risen dramatically: 900 species of endangered wild fauna and flora in 2007 compared to around 700 in 1992-1996. The good news is that some species that are thought to be extinct in Vietnam are living in neighbouring countries, such as the grey ox, two-horn rhino, tapir, etc. Some endangered species are recovering thanks to Vietnam’s preservation efforts, such as the white-headed langur, python, some species of pheasants, among others.

Mustang – America’s Wild Horse

June 26, 2008  www.economist.com

A new book by journalist Deanne Stillman, chronicles the history of the mustang in the U.S. By the turn of the 20th century some 2m wild horses roamed the American wilderness. Only about 25,000 remain today, most of them on Nevada’s vast swathes of public land, where wild horses have flourished beyond the reaches of man. Velma Johnston, better known as “Wild Horse Annie”, launched a campaign to give mustangs federal protection and finally succeeded in 1971, after a 20-year struggle, when President Richard Nixon signed the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, banning inhumane round-ups of mustangs and donkeys on public lands and preventing their sale for slaughter.  Special interests have since chipped away at that legislation. In late 2004 Conrad Burns, the then Republican senator for Montana, introduced a controversial amendment removing all protection for wild horses over the age of ten (which is not that old for equines) and those that have not been adopted on the third attempt under the government’s controversial Adopt-a-Horse programme. Between 1971 and 2006, 200,000 mustangs were taken from the wild by Department of the Interior agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which administers America’s 264m acres of public land.  Around 30,000 mustangs are now kept in government holding facilities—more than those that still roam free. Some are due to be sold for adoption as “living legends”, some will be sent to long-term pastures in Kansas and Oklahoma, where cattle ranchers are paid by taxpayers to keep them. Approximately 8,000 will end up at the slaughterhouse.

Ultimate Ocean Census is Underway

June 26, 2008 www.washingtontimes.com   By Jennifer Harper

The breadcrumb sponge has 52 other names. It has more names than anything else that swims, scuttles, clings or burrows in the sea. Researchers announced Wednesday that scientists over the years have given multiple aliases to nearly a third of all species cataloged in a massive new inventory of marine life. "Convincing warnings about declining fish and other marine species must rest on a valid census," said Mark Costello, of the University of Auckland. Costello is a lead scientist with the Census of Marine Life, an 80 country collaboration that should be completed by 2010. This census "will eliminate the misinterpretation of names, confusion over Latin spellings, redundancies and a host of other problems that sow confusion and slow scientific progress," he said. So far the census has validated the names of 122,500 species, 56,400 of which had extra aliases. The basking shark, for example, had 39 names, a single species of sperm whale had four. The same snail appeared on endangered and unendangered lists - with different names.  In two years, the group expects to have assembled about 230,000 valid names to comprise the first Census of Marine Life. The consortium also announced that there are "three times as many unknown (unnamed) marine species as known, for a grand total that could surpass 1 million." The world's largest land-based census of wildlife, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, began June 11 in Namibia. The first 30,000 pages of a massive online Encyclopedia of Life, tracking close to 2 million species, were released in February. Funded by a $10 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation, the project is a collaboration among Harvard University, the Smithsonian Institution, the Field Museum of Chicago and 29 other institutions.

NY Zoos Want More Public Contact with Animals 

June 26, 2008  www.syracuse.com   By John Mariani

Rosamond Gifford Zoo Director Chuck Doyle said he and counterparts from Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester, the Bronx Zoo and The Buffalo Zoo have met with state Department of Environmental Conservation officials to work out an accord to allow the public to once again pet elephants and have contact with other endangered species.  DEC officials in April reminded zoos with Endangered/Threatened Species licenses about a 3-year-old license provision that forbids contact between the public and the licensed animals.  "I appreciate the DEC officials taking the time today to meet with our team and we made good initial progress," County Executive Joanie Mahoney said. "We look forward to working with the DEC to reach an agreement that keeps in mind the best interests of our animals while allowing our education programs to proceed."

SF Zoo Response To Tiger Feeding Report

June 26, 2008  cbs5.com

The following is a statement from the San Francisco Zoo in response to a CBS report suggesting that Tatiana that tiger may have been underfed at the time of the fatal 2007 attack at the zoo: The San Francisco Zoological Society wants to acknowledge and confirm, per the necropsy report, that Tatiana was in "good nutritional status at the time of death" on December 25, 2007. Dr. Jacqueline Jencek, chief veterinarian, states that she was in beautiful shape and her appearance, behavior and energy level were all in line with that of a Siberian tiger of her age. Tatiana was well cared for and had adequate fat stores at necropsy. An animal that is chronically underfed would not have these fat stores as she did. Every animal at the Zoo is assessed daily by keepers and curatorial staff and diets are adjusted accordingly based on each individual animal's needs.  The animal keepers and veterinary caretakers at the San Francisco Zoo pamper and love these animals, as if they were a member of their own family. To hear the KCBS report that Tatiana was underfed and not cared for properly is incredibly disappointing.

Toledo Zoo's Tuataras Get New Exhibit

June 27, 2008  toledoblade.com 

The Toledo Zoo's three tuataras are moving to a new exhibit in the Toledo Zoo’s historic Reptile House.  The exhibit features den-like enclosures for the tuataras along the front window. Habitat loss and invasive species in New Zealand have led to the tuatara being classed an endangered species. Some individuals live more than 100 years.  The Toledo Zoo's tuataras are part of a research and conservation effort in cooperation with the Dallas Zoo, the Wellington, N.Z., Zoo, and the New Zealand government.

New Report on U.S. Ecosystems

June 27, 2008  www.enn.com  By Worldwatch Institute

A new report has been released by the federally funded federally funded environmental think tank The Heinz Center, entitled “The State of the Nation's Ecosystems”  The report states that U.S. freshwater resources are being continually depleted and polluted. Between 1960 and 2000, freshwater withdrawn for consumption increased 46 percent. Meanwhile, drought and melting glaciers have reduced the flow of many water sources. Contaminants, such as pesticides, fertilizers, and medications, have been detected in "virtually all" freshwater streambeds, the report said. Streams are contaminated above benchmarks set to protect aquatic life in 57 percent of farmland and 83 percent of urban and suburban areas. These pollutants have contributed to growing "dead zones" where aquatic life cannot survive. Contaminants at concentrations above the benchmark for human health are found in 7 percent of urban and suburban streams. Nitrate, a runoff of agricultural fertilizers, exceeds federal drinking water standards in 20 percent of farmland groundwater wells.

On a more positive note, many ecosystems, especially forests, have remained intact due to conservation and sustainable management. Timber growth has exceeded harvest-half of U.S. timberland is younger than 60 years old-which has allowed forests to store more of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in recent years than a decade ago.  However, wildlife within those ecosystems faces widespread threats. One-third of native plant and animal species, excluding marine species, are at risk of extinction. Global warming is shifting the climate outside the threshold that many native species can tolerate, which provides an advantage to invasive species that have more general survival requirements.  Invasive species are also out-competing native species for resources. More than half of U.S. freshwater watersheds contain at least 10 non-native fish species, and only two watersheds have no reported invasives, the report says.

Foreign Tourists Threaten Snow Leopards

June 27, 2008  www.enn.com  By Reuters

KABUL, -- Despite a complete hunting ban across Afghanistan since 2002, snow leopard furs regularly end up for sale on international military bases and at tourist bazaars. Foreigners have ready cash to buy the pelts as souvenirs and impoverished Afghans break poaching laws to supply them. Asked if it was easy to send the furs back home, one shopkeeper said: "We hide the fur inside blankets and send it back to your country." (Anyone caught knowingly transporting a fur across an international border is liable to a large fine. In the United States, it could result in a $100,000 fine and one year jail term.)  It is hard to know the exact numbers of snow leopards left in Afghanistan after the last three decades of conflict, said Dr. Peter Smallwood, Afghanistan country director for the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).  But experts believe that only 100 to 200 remain in Afghanistan. In comparison, Bhutan has the same number but has three times less the area of habitat.  The estimated number of snow leopards in the wild worldwide is between 3,500 and 7000, according to the International Snow Leopard Trust (ISLT).

Virginia Aquarium Will Release Sea Turtles

June 27, 2008    www.wric.com

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - - Three sea turtles are returning to the Atlantic Ocean after undergoing rehabilitation at the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center. Frosty, a small green sea turtle, and Randall, a Kemp's ridley, are both species on the federally endangered species list. Atlantis is a loggerhead. The aquarium says Frosty stranded in Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge on Christmas Eve. Randall was caught on a fisher's hook from Little Island Fishing Pier May 5. Atlantis stranded in New Jersey in October and was brought to the aquarium.  They will be released Monday at Chick's Beach.

Australian Crocs Poisoned by Cane Toads

June 27, 2008  environment.newscientist.com

Dead freshwater crocodiles in Australia's Northern Territory were once a rare sight. But since 2005, locals have witnessed mass die-offs. Researchers now say the toxic and invasive cane toad (Bufo marinus) is to blame.  Two surveys, in 2005 and 2007, suggested that the mass croc deaths have progressively moved inland from the mouth of Victoria River, at a pace that matches that of the cane toad invasion. The toads secrete a milky-white toxin which is lethal to many predators from glands behind their eyes and on their backs.  Mike Letnic of the University of Sydney and his team say a massive 77% of some populations of freshwater crocodiles – or "freshies" – have died since 2005.  Letnic, worries that removing top predators like freshwater crocodiles (Crocodylus johnstoni) can boost the number of their prey and trigger a cascade of ecosystem changes that are difficult to predict.  Cane toads were introduced to Queensland in northeast Australia in 1935 to combat the cane beetle, a sugar cane pest, and have been steadily marching westward across the continent since. The invasive species has already decimated populations of Australian monitor lizards and certain species of snakes.  Letnic’s study is published in the journal “Biological Conservation”

Review: Dining Well at Disney World

June 27, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By FLORENCE FABRICANT

The clever, sophisticated details and the intelligence with which many of the Disney World’s attractions are designed, especially in the Animal Kingdom, are impressive. Almost insidiously, Disney is able to defuse the potential for cynicism on the part of well-traveled adults. The biggest surprise is the quality of the food. There are fine wines, and graciously professional service, as well as an accommodating attitude toward children. We stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and walking from the elevator after we checked in, we could see ostrich, zebras, gemsbok, giraffes, cranes and big-horned African Watusi cattle from the hallway windows. Thrilling.  We had the same savanna scene from our room as in the corridor. To see lions and crocodiles, there is the Kilimanjaro Safari, with about three dozen people sitting in what might be called a stretch safari vehicle.  The ride takes only about 20 minutes, but we saw elephant families, hippos, white and black rhinos, crocodiles, gazelles, even cheetahs. Lions lazed among rock outcroppings that mimicked the kopjes of the Serengeti. At dinner, our 2 young girls ordered macaroni and cheese from the kid’s menu, then proceeded to help out with our ostrich schnitzel, pulled lamb rolled in phyllo, spice-crusted pork tenderloin and filet of arctic char with golden “mealie” pap (a kind of polenta). We kept the wine to ourselves, a richly elegant 1999 Paul Sauer Kanonkop ($90), from a deep reserve list of South African wines, which augmented the regular South African list of nearly 70 wines, $29 to $75.

Endangered Species Permit Requests

June 27, 2008  www.epa.gov

The public is invited to comment on the following applications to conduct certain activities with endangered species.  Comments must be received on or before July 28, 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, telephone: 760-431-9440; fax: 760-431-9624).

Permit No. TE-097845
Applicant: Mantech SRS Technologies, Lompoc, 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; and take (survey by pursuit) the El Segundo Blue butterfly (Euphilotes battoides allyni) in conjunction with surveys in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, California for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Permit No. TE-069171
Applicant: National Park Service, Thousand Oaks, California. The applicant requests an amendment to remove/reduce to possession the Astragalus brauntonii (Braunton's milkvetch) from federal lands in conjunction genetic research and taxonomic status studies throughout the range of the species in California, for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Permit No. TE-147533
Applicant: Jeffery J. Mitchell, San Francisco, California. The applicant requests an amendment to take (survey, capture, collect biological samples, and release) the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) in conjunction with biological research throughout the range of the species in California, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-185595
Applicant: Kelly E. Buja, Sacramento, California. The applicant requests a permit 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 andiegonensis), 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.

Melbourne Tiger Keeper Quits Over Tiger Death

June 28, 2008  www.theage.com.au  By Steve Butcher

A senior supervisor at Melbourne Zoo has resigned claiming zoo management demanded that he take sole "accountability" for the drowning of 16-month-old tiger, Nakal in a moat. Nakal's body was pulled from the moat in the public exhibit on March 13. But new information shows that a plastic enrichment ball was in his mouth when a keeper found his body. Its presence is pivotal to the dispute between zoo management, whose confidential final report focuses on the ball's involvement, and Mr Turner, who said the "dangerous" moat was the main contributing factor to the tiger's death.  Another detail — absent from the zoo's final report — is that keepers found paw marks near where Nakal was found, indicating that he tried to climb out of the moat.  Mr Turner, who resigned from Melbourne Zoo earlier this month after three years' service, has warned that the moat is too steep and too deep and, if not modified immediately, endangers Nakal's two siblings.

It has been a difficult year for Zoos Victoria. The Age has reported allegations of animal abuse and mistreatment; there has been a furor over plans for a theme park at Werribee Open Range Zoo, and staff threatened to strike in a pay dispute that was settled this week.  The three cubs, Melbourne's first in 16 years, were born in 2006 as part of the international captive breeding program for the endangered Sumatran species.  Mr Turner, recruited in 2005 after 20 years with Wellington Zoo, supervised the breeding of the cubs' parents, Ramalon and Binjai. He said this week that he loved the zoo, its people and his job, but had no choice but to resign when told to put in writing that he accepted sole accountability for Nakal's death.

Denver Zoo Plans $50M Elephant Facility

June 28, 2008  www.rockymountainnews.com  By Julie Hutchinson

DENVER, Colorado - The Denver Zoo will start building a $50 million exhibit for its elephants next year at a time when five major U.S. zoos are closing their elephant houses.  Officials say their planned Asian Tropics exhibit —which could house up to 12 elephants and will greatly improve the herd’s living conditions. The elephants will share Asian Tropics with other  Asian species, including tapirs and rhinos, rotating daily among five outdoor habitats. Plans call for an elephant skywalk that will allow visitors beneath to watch the animals as they move through the exhibit. At the same time the Denver Zoo will continue to fund and participate in elephant conservation projects in countries where elephants live in the wild, including Sumatra, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

But animal-rights activists and others say keeping elephants in captivity is barbaric. “Zoos just can’t meet the needs of these animals,” said Marc Bekoff, author, researcher and former University of Colorado biology professor. “Their social relationships are enduring, and they’re complex,” Bekoff said. “They’re big, emotional, smart animals with phenomenal memories. You just can’t plop an animal here and there and form a group. “I hate to say it, but the Denver Zoo doing what major zoos have decided not to do makes absolutely no sense at all,” said Bekoff. Denver Zoo President and CEO Craig Piper responds that elephants in the wild are dying out—due to poaching and habitat destruction—and that zoos may be the species’ last, best hope. “When people see elephants up close, It hits them in their hearts,” said Piper. “If we can hit them in their hearts, their heads follow. This is a launching pad for a lot of our conservation programs.” Asian Tropics — funded in part by a bond issue passed by Denver voters in 1999—will be state of the art, Piper said. “We’re going to invest in both field conservation and creating a stable population in the zoo community.”

A recent survey of the AZA’s 210 member organizations indicated that 22 have upgraded their elephant habitats since 2003 and another 39 are in the process, says Steve Feldmen, senior vice president of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the accrediting agency for the zoo industry  “Some institutions have chosen to invest their resources elsewhere,” Feldman said. The care of captive elephants is an evolving science that has improved dramatically in recent years and will continue to improve, he said.

Arguments for keeping elephants in zoos:
* Zoos have evolved from entertainment venues to conservation centers.
* Maintaining a healthy population of elephants in zoos helps keep elephants alive in the wild by increasing scientific knowledge and by educating generations of people who develop empathy for the animals.
* Asian Tropics will provide a state-of-the-art facility for housing and breeding endangered Asian elephants.
* Elephant exhibits in approximately 38 accredited U.S. zoos are being updated.
* Elephants that are well cared for in zoos do not need the equivalent amount of range used by elephants in the wild.
*Life expectancy for elephants in captivity is about the same as it is for elephants in the wild that have been studied.

Arguments against keeping elephants in zoos:
* In nature, elephants are highly intelligent animals that live in strong, matriarchal societies of up to 30 animals. Their complex social needs cannot be met in zoos.
* Zoos use captive animals to draw paying visitors.
* Captive breeding programs are failures.
* Extinction is preferable to life as a captive.
* When Philadelphia and The Bronx Zoo closed their elephant exhibits, zoo officials stated the decisions were made out of concern for the animals' well being.
* Elephants in zoos develop foot and joint problems because of the lack of adequate range.
* A 2002 study showed elephants in European zoos weighed up to 50 percent more than their wild counterparts.
* A 2002 study showed African elephants in European zoos on average lived only half as long as those in the wild.

Asian Tropics Overview:
* Cost: $50 million, funded by a bond issue passed by Denver voters in 1999 and another $25 million in private donations.
* Area: 10 acres on the zoo's southern edge just east of Duck Lake. Elephants will share the space with rhinos and tapirs.
* Range: Five areas for the animals to exercise their minds and bodies.
* Barn: 18,000-square-foot barn for eight to 12 elephants
* Breeding: The zoo plans to become a national leader in the breeding of Asian elephants by housing "a significant group of bull elephants," according to the zoo's Web site.

*284 The number of African and Asian elephants living in 79 U.S. zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
*6 tons. Weight of an adult male Asian elephant.
*65 years. Average life span of an Asian elephant.
*10,800 pounds. Weight of Denver Zoo's senior elephant, Mimi, as of June 16. The Denver Zoo's two elephants, Mimi and Dolly, are Asian elephants.

Zoos expanding elephant exhibits:
* Oklahoma City Zoo: New Asia exhibit, $23 million
* Raleigh, N.C.: $8.5 million elephant exhibit opened April 2008 that can house seven animals
* Los Angeles: $40 million expansion to 3.7 acres or up to 10 animals
* National Zoo, Washington D.C. $30 million Asia Trails exhibit under construction

Zoos closing elephant exhibits:
* Bronx Zoo: Officials announced in 2006 they would not replace the three elephants.
* Philadelphia Zoo: called off a $22 million project for its elephants in 2006.
* Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago: Following the deaths of three elephants in 2004 and 2005, zoo officials said the elephants would not be replaced.
* San Francisco Zoo: closed its elephant exhibit in 2004 and sent its two elephants to a sanctuary.

Solving Honey Bee Hive Collapse

June 29, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Scientists have made an important discovery about the transmission of a common bee virus. Deformed wing virus (DWV) is passed between adult bees and to their developing brood by a parasitic mite called Varroa destructor when it feeds.  Deformed wing virus has been linked to the collapse of honey bee colonies in Britain and in recent years the prevalence of the virus has increased globally in colonies infested with Varroa. It is widely accepted that the virus replicates in the mite and is then transmitted to bees when it bites. However, researchers at Rothamsted Research and the University of Nottingham have found that the virus does not replicate in the mite, suggesting an alternative means of transmission. "The presence of deformed wing virus in large amounts in mite faeces suggests it is picked up during feeding on an infected bee," said Professor Santillan-Galicia. "However, one important question remains – how is the virus transmitted to bees?"

One possibility is that the mouthparts of the mite could become contaminated with the virus during feeding, but this is an unlikely answer. Varroa mites cannot regurgitate their gut contents as there is a membrane in the oesophagus that acts as a non-return valve, so they could not pass the virus on this way either. Unfortunately, not enough is known about the anatomy of the mite, or their feeding mechanism, to suggest other routes of transmission.

"It is likely that the amount of virus acquired by the mite plays an important role in the interaction between deformed wing virus and the Varroa mite," said Professor Santillan-Galicia. "Full understanding of the interaction between deformed wing virus and the Varroa mite will provide basic information for the future development of more sustainable control strategies against the mite and the virus. Our work provides elements of understanding but further research in this area is needed."

RITZ at the San Diego Zoo

June 29, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com

As always, the R.I.T.Z. sold out fast and raised a lot of money –  well over $700,000.  Chairing it were Stephanie McGuire, Janet Traver and Caroline Wohl.  They called it “Silver Safari: A Sophisticated Adventure” because it was the party's silver anniversary. Jordan, the Temecula designer who paints marvelous animals on couture clothes, painted the gorgeous animal murals in the outdoor ballroom last year and again this year. She also designed outfits for Zoo President Berit Durler, a dress with a winged owl; for Audrey Geisel,  a flamingo coat; for Judy Wheatly, a rhinoceros on blue jersey; Joan  Pollard, a snow leopard jacket; Dianne York-Goldman, a tiger on red silk; Katherine Kennedy, an unthreatening gorilla; Sandra Stone, a leopard; Elaine Lipinsky, a coat with pandas; Dixie Unruh, red feathers; and for Jeanne Jones, a vintage Jordan dress with a giraffe that had been retouched with silver in recognition of the 25th 

Lead Bullet Ban Protects Condor

June 30, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com

A lead bullet ban has been enacted to keep condors from being poisoned after feeding on carcasses of animals shot with lead ammunition. Lead residue is suspected of killing one condor and sickening several others in southern Kern County last month.  The ban goes into effect July 1 in condor territory, generally along the coast from Santa Clara to Ventura and some stretches inland from Merced south to San Bernardino County.  The broadest impact will be felt beginning Aug. 9, when as many as 50,000 hunters are eligible to head out in search of deer and other game.  Violators subject to fines of up to $500.  Hunters also worry that alternative ammunition,  mostly copper, will not be readily available in some areas. Generally, copper bullets can cost about $1 more each. But the law has encouraged major makers to offer more copper rounds, potentially driving down the price as those bullets become more available.  A quarter-century ago, California condors were on the brink of extinction with only 22 known to exist. Fortunately, the bird breeds well in captivity and an aggressive effort – in which the San Diego Zoological Society played a prominent role through its program at the Wild Animal Park – has boosted those numbers. Today, there are nearly 300 condors, with about half flying free, according to Defenders of Wildlife.  The condor, which has a wingspan of nearly 10 feet, can soar above 14,500-foot Mount Whitney and travel as far as 150 miles in a day. The bird's average life span is 60 years.  More information is at dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/hunting/condor/

N.M. Zoo Works to Breed Bolson Tortoise

June 30, 2008  www.lcsun-news.com  By Tom Schneider

CARLSBAD, N.M.—A program at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park is helping the endangered Bolson tortoise.  Sixteen young tortoises are expected to be transported to a ranch in western New Mexico to mature before being released into the wild. The project is a cooperative effort between the Living Desert and The Turner Endangered Species Fund, which raises and studies the tortoises on media mogul Ted Turner's Armendaris Ranch east of Truth or Consequences.  The group of tortoises, known collectively as a creep, was hatched last year at the Living Desert, the product of two mating pairs of Bolson tortoises in the zoo's permanent residence.  The reptiles now are on display in a specially constructed cage adjacent to the enclosure housing the four mature tortoises at the Living Desert. Only inches long—they can be observed moving around in the shade provided by the grasses and the rocks in the cage, or moving slowly through one of the many tunnels they have burrowed throughout the shelter.

SF Zoo Update

June 30, 2008  www.sfgate.com  Marisa Lagos

It's been six months since a tiger escaped and  killed at the San Francisco Zoo and nearly a month since director, Manuel Mollinedo resigned and Tanya Mc Veigh Peterson, a member of the fundraising board of directors, has taken over as interim director. Carl Friedman, the city's longtime animal care and control director, was asked to temporarily oversee animal welfare at the zoo. While he acknowledged the need for updated exhibits, Friedman said the animals appear to be well cared for.  Friedman is very optimistic about Peterson, and believes that staff morale is beginning to improve.  Joe Lanthier, principal officer at the union that represents zookeepers, agreed.  "I really feel it's a new day out there," Morale said to be improving.  Zoo membership, fell to 25,000 during the fiscal year that ends today, after a record 32,142 during the previous year. Attendance at the zoo, which has generally climbed over the past 15 years, also fell significantly in the months after the tiger attack, although it bounced back to set a record in March.

The scope of the zoo's immediate financial challenges isn't entirely clear because the Zoological Society has postponed the release of its budget for the fiscal year beginning Tuesday. The budget is expected to be out on July 17.  The attack and subsequent costs forced officials to cancel a dinosaur exhibit that might have brought in more visitors. And the institution had to spend $600,000 more than its annual $1 million maintenance budget on a litany of safety improvements after the fatal incident. The zoo has long been criticized by animal welfare advocates for its outdated enclosures and the fact that it spent much of a $48 million bond measure, passed by voters in 1997, on visitor amenities. Some of those amenities, zoo officials point out, were required by federal disability laws; others are meant to bring in visitors and more money.  The institution had faced animal problems before the tiger escape, including the deaths of two elephants in 2004 and threats to its accredited status.  Criticisms of the zoo's facilities often include mention of the concrete, decades-old bear grottoes, as well as the small, plain hippo and rhino exhibits. 

San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly, who has proposed legislation that would drastically change the zoo's mission by turning it into a animal-rescue center. Daly believes the zoo should focus on fewer animals and "high-quality rescue work." The funding mechanisms have not been worked out, though.  Many city officials, including some Recreation and Park commissioners and Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, whose district includes the zoo, oppose that legislation and instead promote better communication as a way for the city to improve zoo conditions. Those officials have seemed reticent to exercise more control over the institution, but said they would like to know more about its operations, management and the feelings of employees, as well as the search for a new director. 

Lioness Kills Eagle at Greater Vancouver Zoo

June 30, 2008  www.canada.com  By Tim Lai

VANCOUVER - - Animal rights critics are questioning the Greater Vancouver Zoo over its safety measures after a captive golden eagle was killed and eaten by a lion on Friday in front of horrified visitors. One eye witness estimated that the distance between the raptor show and the lions' cage was 100 metres. The four-year-old eagle flew into the enclosure after a mid-air fight with a flock of aggressive crows.  "Two of the lionesses snuck up on it, and  jumped on the log attempting to attack the eagle, but missed. The eagle managed to fly away, but right into the waiting jaws of a third lioness, who pounced on it.  Gary Worley, master falconer at the zoo, said that while he's mourning the bird's death, he accepts that animals have natural instincts. The golden eagle, raised in captivity and sent from Ontario to the Greater Vancouver Zoo barely a year ago, was a star performer in the raptor show. The eagle's trainer continued to give the raptor show over the weekend.  A zoo spokeswoman said the only way to prevent such an incident would be to cancel the raptor show. "If you leave the birds caged, they're worse off, and if you free them, this kind of thing happens in the wild all the time. It's just a tragedy, in a year when we've had to deal with a few tragedies too many already."

Dennis Pate Elected to AZA Board

June 30, 2008  www.northfloridanewsdaily.com

JACKSONVILLE, FL - Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens announced the election of its Executive Director, Dennis Pate, to the 2008/2009 Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Board of Directors. The AZA is America's leading accrediting organization for zoos and aquariums and accredits only those institutions that have achieved rigorous standards for animal care, education, wildlife conservation and science. Pate joins the ranks of those representing some of the most prestigious zoos in the nation, including San Diego, Lincoln Park in Chicago and Walt Disney World. The Board Members are responsible for policy setting for the more than 200 AZA zoo and aquarium members, and they play a key role in finance, legal services and management of the organization. . Pate holds a B.S. degree from the University of Illinois and a M.S. degree from Northeastern Illinois University

Rebuilding Wolong & Chenghdu Panda Facilities

June 30, 2008   todaysfacilitymanager.com

The AZA,  in cooperation with The Giant Panda Conservation Foundation (GPCF), has joined the Chinese Ambassador to the United States, Zhou Wenzhong, in announcing a $165,000 donation to the China Wildlife Conservation Association to support panda conservation in the wake the earthquakes that occurred this past May.  “Accredited zoos are essential to the conservation of the giant panda,” said Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong. “We are grateful for this assistance and for the strong conservation partnership with zoos in the United States.”  The joint fundraising effort of AZA and GPCF will assist reconstruction efforts at panda conservation facilities in Wolong and Chenghdu after the devastating earthquakes in Sichuan Province where they are located. These facilities experienced significant damage and the staff has met with hardship, requiring urgent assistance to support their ability to care for the highly endangered giant panda population. AZA-accredited institutions making significant contributions include: Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park, San Diego Zoo, Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, Zoo Atlanta, Memphis Zoo, Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens, Zoo New England, and Audubon Zoo. “I am proud that AZA members rose to the occasion to help our international partners recover,” said AZA President and CEO Jim Maddy.

Melbourne Zoo’s Workshop for Spider Haters

June 30, 2008  www.news.com.au

Adults with a fear of spiders can enroll in a workshop at the Melbourne zoo to help them with their arachnophobia.  The half-day workshop starts July 19 and aims to educate and enlighten people about spiders, including the golden orb, pictured, in a safe environment with zoo experts.  Psychologist and anxiety expert Merryn Snare and zoo keeper Patrick Honan will conduct the course, which includes hypnotherapy and a chance for one-on-one time with the creatures if participants are feeling game.  The workshop costs $250 and runs from 12.30pm until 5pm. For more information contact Dianne Gordon on (03)5957 2857

Smart Camera Follows African Penguins

June 30, 2008  www.enn.com

A computer system on a South African island can identify individual birds from subtle differences in their plumage.  The technology could help researchers monitor threatened populations without using more invasive methods that can distress or harm the birds. There were 1 million African penguins at the beginning of the 20th century, but that number has plummeted to around 170,000.  Studying the remaining penguins is important to conserve the population, but the usual practice of tagging flippers with metal bands can reduce breeding performance and human contact stresses penguins. Tilo Burghardt and Peter Barham, both at the University of Bristol, UK, think their remote camera system is the answer.  The camera can identify individuals from the unique black chest markings on each bird and is currently being tested on the 20,000 African penguins on Robben Island, South Africa.

Labord’s Chameleon Has Amazing Life Cycle

June 30, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

RANOBE, Southwestern Madagascar -- Unique among the 28,300 vertebrate species, Labord’s chameleons (Furcifer labordi) spend up to three-quarters of their life in an egg. Even more unusual, life after hatching is only 4 to 5 months.  Most mammals, reptiles, birds, and amphibians (all tetrapods) typically live 2 to 10 years, an average bracketed at the upper end by some long-lived animals (for example, turtles and humans that can live for a century) and at the lower end by a handful of animals that only live for about a year. The males in nine species of marsupials die off after a year, for example, as do most adults in about twelve species of lizards. But the chameleon described here, Furcifer labordi, not only has a brief, yearly life cycle, but the bulk of that time is spent incubating inside an egg. Once outside of the egg, all individuals in the population die within 4 to 5 months. The new research is reported in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Kristopher Karsten, a graduate student from the Department of Zoology at Oklahoma State University, discovered the unusual life cycle almost by accident. "I showed up late in the season and found something weird," recalls Karsten. "There were no juveniles. But by February, I found carcasses all over with no signs of mutilation or predation. The population plummeted—we've never seen this with other lizards."  Now, after five seasons of data and sightings of nearly 400 individuals, the life cycle of F. labordi can be described. Hatching begins with the rains in November, and, once emerged, the chameleons develop rapidly, growing up to 2.6 mm (0.1 inches) a day—up to two orders of magnitude greater than other known lizard growth rate. In less than 60 days, for example, there can be a 300%-400% increase in body size for males to reach adulthood. After reaching maturity, the population reproduces, and females burrow through about 138 mm (5.4 inches) of sand to lay their eggs. Once covered, the eggs wait out the dry season for the next 8 to 9 months, and all adults die.  "It is amazing to think that for most of the year, this chameleon species is represented only by developing eggs buried in the ground," says Christopher Raxworthy, Associate Curator in the Department of Herpetology at the American Museum of Natural History. "This species really illustrates just how much there is still to discover about the natural history of Madagascar." Karsten agrees, adding: "We've identified a species that does something really different from the others, but what is driving this system? One bad year could wipe out these chameleons."

San Diego Zoo’s Aussie Adventure

June 30, 2008  www.imperialvalleynews.com

SAN DIEGO – “An Aussie Adventure” will be the theme of the San Diego Zoo’s Celebration for the Critters, the largest gourmet food and beverage tasting event in San Diego. Tickets for the Sept. 20 fund-raiser go on sale July 1. This annual fund-raiser will be presented by Cymer, Inc. The San Diego Zoo is home to the largest breeding colony of koalas outside of Australia, and the  Zoo's research division, Conservation and Research for Endangered Species (CRES), is studying koalas here and in the wild.  Part of the proceeds from Celebration for the Critters will be directed to conservation and research projects underway, including monitoring koala habitat use with GPS collars. In addition to great food and drinks, there will be live music, up-close animal presentations and special entertainment. The event kicks off at 7:30 p.m. and continues until midnight on Sept. 20. General admission is $90 per person ($100 after Sept. 5). Guests who want to be the first to sip and nibble can purchase early admission tickets for $150. An exclusive VIP "Champagne with the Critters" experience is $300 per person. Purchase tickets at www.sandiegozoo.org or visit the San Diego Zoo in person.

Endangered Species Permit Applications

June 30, 2008   www.epa.gov  

The following individuals have applied for scientific research permits to conduct certain activities with endangered species.  Written comments must be received on or before July 30, 2008. Submit 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, at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 500 Gold Ave., SW., Room 4102, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Please refer to the respective permit number for each application when submitting comments.  For further information contact: Chief, Endangered Species Division, P.O. Box 1306, Room 4102, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87103, (505) 248-6920.

Permit TE-1817501
Applicant: Paul Stone, DeRidder, Louisiana. Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys of red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis) within Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

Permit TE-181762
Applicant: Jeffrey George, South Padre Island, Texas. Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys of the following species: Kemp's Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii), leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), and hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) within Texas and the Gulf of Mexico.

Permit TE-821356
Applicant: U.S. Geologic Survey, Southwest Biological Science Center, Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center, Flagstaff, Arizona.  Applicant requests an amendment to a current permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys of razorback sucker (Xyrauchen texanus) within Arizona.

Permit TE-814933
Applicant: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin, Texas. Applicant requests an amendment to a current permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence / absence surveys of Rio Grande silvery minnow (Hybognathus amarus) within Texas.

Permit TE-183429
Applicant: Bureau of Land Management, Tulsa, Oklahoma. Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence / absence surveys of the American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) within Oklahoma.

Permit TE-056119
Applicant: Marlin Sawyer, San Antonio, Texas. Applicant requests an amendment to a current permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys of the following species: whooping crane (Grus americana), northern aplomado falcon (Falco femoralis septentrionalis), southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus), and interior least tern (Sterna altillarum) within Texas.